Diamond Bank has always believed in the fundamental principle of inclusive growth. In 2012, an estimated 64 percent of Nigerians were unbanked and had never accessed any formal financial services or products, a number that was even higher for women: nearly 73 percent of all Nigerian women are unbanked.
We wanted to reach out to these ‘unbanked’ mass market customers. I hold great respect for women; they are the home makers and the decision makers. I believe, if you give a woman a loan to start or grow her business, and provide her with a convenient, confidential savings account then that woman can draw a sustainable path out of poverty for herself and her family.
Women for me are highly bankable and thus, I make sure that a considerable effort is made to involve them in the process of development. Diamond Bank along with Women’s World Banking embarked on this very beautiful journey to encourage banking for woman and called it the “BETA” project.
Women value confidentiality, convenience, and safety. For over 35 years, Women’s World Banking has been studying the lives of low-income women—not just how they earn their income but how they live, how they see themselves, what their goals are, and the constraints within which they operate. Their surveys told us that 80% of Nigerian women take financial advice from their friends or family members.
At, Diamond Bank we learned, that it is not that Nigerians do not want to keep their money at a bank, but that they need more convenient services than banks have previously offered. So we made efforts to ensure that women were part of the bank’s growth strategy – BETA (meaning “good” in pidgin English.) Hence, I and my team at Diamond Bank came up with this innovative network of “BETA Friends.” “BETA Friends” comprised of a sales and service team.
“BETA friends” visit potential clients in the market and at home to promote “BETA”, open accounts and manage all transactions. We made sure that “BETA Friends” team members are recruited from within the community among the clients’ peers. This made sure that they were ‘real’ people, one amongst themselves, whom the woman could easily build their trust on.
What more? We made the entire process very simple and quick. A BETA account can be opened in less than five minutes and has no minimum balance and no fees. I have a great respect for entrepreneurs, and hence the account is greatly targeted at self-employed market women and also men who want to save frequently (daily or weekly). Because, we know that these customers, especially women, value convenience above everything else.
Technology along with traditional methods made this possible for us. BETA is built around serving women in the market where they work. They never thought that banks could come to them and they need not. So now savings in a bank were as easy as making a phone call on their mobile phone.
Our agents or BETA Friends, visit a customer’s business to open accounts and handle transactions, including deposit and withdrawal, using a mobile phone application.
To embrace this new phase I had to make extra efforts even internally to eschew the traditional course of baking. We reworked the entire set up of existing ideas and policies and came up with the technological breakthrough. It was very necessary to come up with an app that was in sync with their understanding and access. So, we had to pass many hurdles in order to come up with a successful project.
Our success was loud and clear in March 2013, the BETA savings account rolled out in 21 of Diamond Bank’s 240 branches. 38,600 accounts were opened during the six-month pilot, 40 percent of them belonging to women, exceeding the goal of 16,000 accounts. 74 percent of BETA clients transact more than once a month, saving an aggregate $1.5 million (US) in deposits in the first six months from the pilot launch.
We at Diamond Bank along with Women’s World Banking, supported by Visa want to make sure that banks reach out to the un-bankable. And we did that by creating an innovative and relevant savings product that crosses the barriers preventing low-income Nigerians from accessing formal financial services.