LBDI’s new platform targets youth, expands agent network across Liberia
With high unemployment rate in the country, the president of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) has announced new development that will initially target 500 agents across country to support customers’ services.
John B. S. Davies, III made the disclosure at a news conference over the weekend in Monrovia. Mr. Davies said the bank has invested in a brand new state-of-the-art modern banking system, which will make LBDI the third bank in West Africa to transition to such banking system.
“We have chosen to invest millions of [U.S.] dollars into the latest version of FLEXCUBE 14, which is aimed at helping the bank to transition to the new phase of banking that will ensure that customers do not have to go to the bank to deposit or withdraw,” he said.
FLEXCUBE is a banking enterprise software platform that provides a comprehensive, integrated, interoperable, and modular universal banking solution that enables banks to manage evolving customer expectations. The solution addresses a bank’s core banking needs, empowers knowledge workers and improves agility.
According to Davies, LBDI is upgrading to latest version of the software, FLEXCUBE 14, which helps the bank to put aside its perception as “an old-fashioned bank” and increase its relevance with millennials (young adults). According to Mr. Davies, banks in Liberia must all transform themselves or they will be like dinosaurs.
Mr. Davies said the new development is part of the bank’s new five-year strategic plan, approved in 2018, and will begin deployment (roll-out) come November 2019, with the expansion of its agency banking strategy.
“We are going to recruit the first 500 agents across the country with emphasis on LBDI’s database analysis with focus on customers location.”
In order for the bank to launch FLEXCUBE 14, Mr. Davies said seventeen of LBDI’s staff were sent to India for training on the new banking system and have returned with several Indian FLEXCUBE experts to conduct training, testing and work with the LBDI team to ensure a smooth transition to the new platform.
A key benefit of the new banking platform is that it will enable LBDI to put full control of customer activities with regard to their accounts fully in the hands of the customers. The bank’s agency outlets will be equipped with LBDI Points of Sale (POS), which enable deposits and withdrawals in places where the bank does not have a presence. By these POS, LBDI aims to grow its agency banking network to about 3,000 agents in the next three years.
LBDI also aims to install at least 40 automated teller machines (ATMs) across Liberia, coupled with various kinds of bank (prepaid, debit and credit) cards.
One of the more impressive functions of the new platform is the enhanced automation of the banks services and this will become more pronounced by the way LBDI gives out loans. The loan function comes with a 3-phase automated credit appraisal system, with real-time updates on the progress of a customer’s loan application. This would include loan applicants to upload their loan requirements, including collateral documents and others. The bank will still quire submission of the original documents in person, but the automated process aims to set standards in the loan application process. This, Davies explains, will streamline the lending process and allow the bank to be more customer sensitive, especially for customers at the lower level.
With these features, benefits and more, LBDI aims to win additional 250,000 to 500,000 new customers, many who have heretofore remain unbanked and now have a reason to securely save, transact, and access their money when they need it.
He said “under the new system, customer will not have to go to the bank. You have the LBDI’s master card, which is currently in prepaid and debit, and credit. Aspects of it will be available next year. You do not need to put it in certain machines; just show it to the ATM machine for recognition. LBDI’s Point of Sale or (PoS) will be available in various communities.”
Mr. Davies said LBDI is prepared to flood the market with POS, which means LBDI will have agents in the various communities, thereby avoiding the stress long lines and “slow” systems at the bank for transactions.
“We want an LBDI that customer can only visit any of the POS and make a withdrawal and not a system or LBDI that will take students five (5) hours just to pay tuition by standing in the line. Every school that is part of the LBDI deposit program will have a POS, and the online capacity,” Mr. Davies said.
He continued: “The system will transition to automated tellers. The banking hall will no longer have eight windows opened but with only four tellers operating as in the past. The system will have total control of convenience. The LBDI staff will only assist customers in putting their deposits through.”
With these developments, Mr. Davies drove home his point that LBDI is not closing, contrary to two media reports a week ago.
“This year will make LBDI 54 years old,” Davies said. “We have the fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the legacy of the bank continues. We owe our customers, staff, shareholders, government and others a fiduciary responsibility to have the capability and capacity to thrive for another 54 years and beyond.”
With the new system, he said, “any institution that is on the bank’s direct deposit scheme that says today is pay day, everyone scheduled to be paid will get an immediate alert.
“The new system will ensure that Human Resource (HR) head of each institution that has a deposit with LBDI has the full link to the bank’s system. So if the HR presses the button and declares pay day, simultaneously every staff that is within the direct deposit system, will get the alert. You will only need to move or go to the nearest POS with your card. We will increase the ATM across the country,” he said.
He said only LBDI and Ecobank-Liberia will be using FLEXCUBE 14 in Liberia, as the bank remains committed to serving the people of Liberia.
Mr. Davies said the development of Liberia including economically, socially, politically, and technologically will depend greatly on how the “we as a country sell ourselves, project ourselves to international community and how much Liberians are in sync with the rule of law.”
He said if Liberia must develop, private sector actors should not be press shy, indicating that “we have to see the press as partner in progress and have to ensure that the greatest positive dimension also complete for equal space.”