Guaranty Trust Holding Company (GTCO) received a final approval for its payments unit HabariPay Limited from the banking industry watchdog Central Bank of Nigeria, the financial services group said in a note seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Friday.
The milestone, which marks the latest effort at deepening financial inclusion in Africa’s biggest economy, gives GTCO the leave to venture into the largely untapped market of Nigerians underserved by financial services and could open up the informal sector and the rural economy to an array of financial products ranging from consumer banking (excluding lending) and card services to pension, insurance and mobile money.
“Payments are central to the development of financial services globally and represent a key growth area for the group,” said CEO Segun Agbaje.
“With HabariPay, we have successfully created another pathway towards enhancing the service experience for our customers and creating more value for our stakeholders.”
At 38 million, Nigeria’s population of adults without access to formal financial services offers a vast and promising market to operators looking to venture into terrains conventional banking cannot reach in a bid to capture a chunk of the market.
But that is putting commercial banks on their toes and has put them head-to-head against telecom firms, hoping to leverage their digitalisation prowess to achieve that end in a fiendish competition that could make financial services fees as competitive as possible.
This week, GTCO, Nigeria’s second biggest lender by market value, launched a fintech unit named SquadCo, which eases the path for it to offer services and products including, e-commerce, payment gateway and Soft POS. SquadCo is a product of HabariPay.
Rival Access Holdings completed its evolution to a holding company in April, a move that will enable it to branch out into payments and other financial services while Sterling Bank is on track to adopt a similar structure.
“Our vision is an Africa where every payment is digital, and we hope to achieve this by increasingly leveraging technology to improve access to financial services for individuals and empower businesses across Africa with the right digital tools to thrive,” Mr Agbaje said.
Early in February, GTCO announced purchase of Investment One Funds Management Limited and Investment One Pension Managers Limited as the group diversified into pension and asset management at a time earnings from its core banking business were becoming inadequate to sustain profit growth.
The group’s profit after tax for last year slumped to its lowest in four years at N174.8 billion.
Shares in GTCO were trading by 0.22 per cent at 11:58 WAT on Lagos’ Customs Street on Friday.
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