Blog: Advans view on digital financial inclusion

By taking a high-tech and high-touch approach to financial inclusion, Advans aims to ensure that our clients understand, use, and benefit from our services throughout their customer journey. Learn more about our take on a hybrid approach to ensure that we continue to offer accessible and responsible services to our clients.

What is the current digital context for microfinance operators?

Digitalisation is booming in developing countries, and especially on the African continent. This represents an enormous opportunity for financial service providers like Advans to scale up operations and reach out to new clients. Microfinance customers nonetheless remain a specific target, with often lower use of technology, lower connectivity, lower financial education and literacy and trust issues to be considered. These are essential factors to take into account in the multilevel customer relationship we develop with clients, and justify the need for a personalised, high-touch approach in the microfinance sector.

What is Advans’ stance on digital financial inclusion?

After integrating digital technology into customer interactions over the past few years, Advans has come to a strong conclusion: while the traditional brick and mortar model is not sufficient in today’s context, digital as a stand-alone channel is not enough to create a meaningful and sustainable relationship with our clients. We therefore aim to take a high-tech and high-touch approach to ensure that our clients fully benefit from our financial services. Our omni-channel strategy relies on implementing diverse and complementary channels adapted to the profiles, business activities, financial needs and digital footprints of our different customer segments. We are convinced that this will remain a strong differentiating factor when compared with 100% digital providers.

How have Advans affiliates implemented this high-tech and high-touch approach?

We can give three key examples where our approach is adapted to the different digital profiles and clients’ needs.

The first example would be our mobile teller services which are deployed in Amret (Cambodia), Ghana and Nigeria. This is essentially a high touch channel, where mobile savings officers go out on to the field and collect cash directly from clients at their place of business, so that clients don’t have to take the time out of their busy schedule to travel to the branch. The mobile savings officer credits the client's account directly via a tablet/mobile application connected to the core banking system. This high-touch service delivered thanks to a digital channel helps customers who are still working mainly in a cash ecosystem to deposit regularly and build good savings habits.

The second example is more tech based, offering services to clients through their mobile phone which they are used to using daily. In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire our subsidiaries have developed USSD self-service menus available on a basic mobile phone (non smart phone) enabling clients to check their accounts where and when they want, perform transfers and access cash through mobile money services. One of the keys to the success for the Mobibank service in Ghana is ensuring that clients with lower financial literacy are trained on the self-service menu from the beginning. This approach has been successful so far with 33% of the total transactions at Advans Ghana performed via Mobibank in 2018. Meanwhile in Côte d’Ivoire Advans has hired a network of financial inclusion field agents in order to sensitise, train and support its cocoa farmers in using the mobile service. This shows that even with self-service tools, some of our clients still need education and support especially in their first steps.

The final example is one where customers already have an existing digital footprint, as is the case of the vendors in Advans’ partnership with the web market place Jumia in Côte d’Ivoire. This partnership is based on a fully digital data exchange and onboarding process. Advans offers loans to eligible vendors who have a minimum sales rating and history with Jumia, with Jumia presenting the loans to its sellers then sending a list of interested eligible vendors to Advans. Advans then confirms its decision on the loan and the client’s loan is disbursed. This initiative has enabled Advans to reach out to a new client segment and given the Jumia vendors the possibility to access affordable short term loans.

What are the future challenges for Advans?

We aim to use new technologies to offer innovative services to our customers while ensuring that we continue to serve our core target clients, small businesses and under-served populations, in a sustainable and responsible manner. Some of the challenges that lay ahead will involve the need to increasingly integrate digital technologies into our customer experience due to changing customer expectations and changing markets. Our main concern remains understanding customers’ needs in order to be able to design and offer services which are in line with their everyday reality, to ensure client uptake and regular use. This will mean getting that perfect balance between tech and touch.  

Our blogger: Fanny Serre, Group Head of Marketing, Advans Group

Fanny Serre is Advans’ Group Head of Marketing and focuses on improving the client experience across all channels. In addition to marketing and digital, she has an expertise in the field of responsible investment and is fundamentally driven by making an impact for customers.