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United Bank for Africa transforms its technology platform

United Bank for Africa transforms its technology platform

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When the United Bank of Africa needed a state-of-the-art banking platform to support its transformation plans it turned to Infosys Finacle. The platform would need to enable the bank to consolidate its strategic positioning as well as capitalise on the extensive opportunities in the African market. Key benefits include creating a strong technology architecture to provide a top-class customer experience while accelerating innovation across all business models.

United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading financial services group in sub-Saharan Africa, with presence in 20 African countries, as well as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and France. From a single country operation founded in 1949 in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, UBA has emerged as a pan-African provider of banking and other financial services, to over 15 million customers globally, through one of the most diverse service channels in sub-Sahara Africa; over 1,000 branches and customer touch points, 2,400 ATMs, 13,500 PoS and a robust online and mobile banking platform. UBA was the first Nigerian bank to make an Initial Public Offering (IPO), following its listing on the NSE in1970. It was also the first Nigerian bank to issue Global Depository Receipts (GDRs). The shares of UBA are publicly traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and the bank has a well-diversified shareholder base, including foreign and local institutional investors as well as individual shareholders.

Overview
In April 2014, UBA embarked on a major system upgrade to the latest version of Finacle to simplify its processes and significantly improve customer experience across all channels. The ambitious project envisaged a big bang implementation in phases across UBA’s operations in 19 countries. The project involved a lot of complexities, such as: migrating a data of 14TB for Nigeria alone, migrating 5,000+ customisations, multilingual deployments (English, French and Portuguese), and training more than 11,000 users spread over the African continent. The first country went live on Finacle within a year of project commencement. The remaining 18 rollouts in as many countries were completed in the next 14 months. The extremely quick implementation was a result of meticulous planning, enabling simultaneous roll outs across four countries.

Key Business Drivers
UBA realised it needed a state-of-the-art banking platform to support its transformation plans, which would enable it to consolidate its strategic positioning and capitalise on the extensive opportunities in the African market. The chosen platform would not only have to provide the desired functionality but do so in several languages. The multilingual, multi-entity features of Finacle made it an ideal choice.

Implementation Highlights
The project scope covered implementation of core banking, online banking and treasury systems for the bank’s 19 country operations. UBA was keen on a short timeline, especially for the core banking and online banking implementations. The 19 implementations – 10 French, one Portuguese and eight English – were grouped into 5 multi-entity deployments. The bank was recommended to leverage a data replication tool to replicate data to ensure that they didn’t have to go through an intermediate migration cycle. The latter allowed UBA to undertake a big bang migration to the latest version of Finacle. Standardisation of migration, porting and testing activities enabled optimum utilisation of human and other resources. Everything was meticulously planned and particular attention was paid to predicting major risks, their mitigation and backup plans. A secure, shared portal was used for tracking all requirements and issues online helped to keep the rollout on track, despite problems such as fuel shortages. The bank’s internal team comprised a cross functional permanent core of 48 staff and another 65 members from key departments such as; Operations, Information Technology, Audit, Internal Control, Finance, Trade, Risk Management, E-banking and Treasury, who pitched in when required. There were also representatives from other African countries (besides Nigeria) on the core team. The Finacle team comprised of 20 members along with the 10 members from the alliance partner Computer Warehouse Group. The fact that all three teams – UBA, Finacle and CWG – worked as one was instrumental in the project being delivered in a record time of 26 months. The Finacle Core Banking and Online Banking implementations at UBA were a huge success. Finacle Treasury was implemented in Nigeria and other subsidiaries even before Finacle Core Banking.

Business Benefits
The speedy rollout in about 26 months saved UBA considerable time and money. Continuous delivery and testing of customisation, porting line items by the bank ensured smooth SIT/UAT/Rollout phases. The implementation allowed UBA to discontinue many old systems and thereby save US$350,000 per annum. The project automated processes and integrated information to significantly lower the transaction processing time by over 30%. The time to open a new account is now just two minutes. With a single view of customer information, the bank has improved the turnaround time and customer sales and sales capability. The system also enables document capture to digital images reducing paper dependence. There were also several qualitative benefits, such as the closing of regulatory and compliance gaps, avoidance of regulatory sanctions, as well as addressing technological obsolescence.

Quantitative Benefits
• Increase in customer base: UBA experienced a quantum leap in its customer base with an increase of over 28%.
• There was an increase in the number of new products that were introduced into the market
• Faster time to market for new products: Launching a new product and rolling it to the market takes just one week whereas it used to take a month earlier. In addition, social media integration has contributed to faster roll out of products with fewer resources employed.
• Increased revenues: UBA has seen an increase in revenue with the bank introducing contemporary value adding products and service offerings
• Faster customer service: With the advantage of 360-degree view of the customer, the customer service time has dropped drastically by 67%.
• Greater operational e¬fficiency: The bank has witnessed immense operational benefits due to process optimisation. For instance, the time to open a new account has decreased by over 67%, while the cost of transaction across channels has reduced by 80%, post core transformation.
• Greater agility: United Bank for Africa is now able to launch new branch in a single day vis-à-vis four days it used to take earlier.
• Achieving greater scalability: The transaction peak load capacity has now increased by over 25%. The average number of transactions processed in a day has also more than doubled since go live.
• Optimisation of cost across channels: The unification of various touch points with a digital engagement platform has helped UBA better understand customer behaviour across segments, as well as their product and channel preferences. The upgraded Finacle solution helped them optimise channel usage and migrate low cost transactions to low cost channels.

Kennedy Uzoka, Group Managing Director, UBA Group, said: “At UBA, we have always looked to drive greater financial inclusion across Africa. It has become vital for banks to have a strong technology architecture in place to provide a customer experience at par with digital disruptors across channels while accelerating innovations across new business models. With Infosys Finacle, we now have a strong digital suite that enables the bank to drive growth while providing an exceptional banking experience to our growing retail, SME, institutional and corporate customers.”

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