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First National takes banking to the un-banked
Posted on: 04-Jun-2013         Source: thebftonline.com
First National took the pioneering step of adopting the Mobile Point of Sale System (MPOS) system in 2012 to improve cash mobilisation, enhance efficiency, ensure reliability of its services and, most importantly, minimise fraud.

The Mobile Point of Sale is a system that makes use of a portable device to synchronise accounts and customer databases to provide complete and integrated banking solutions. Compelling features such as transaction input, daily cash declaration, revenue control and manual synchronisation aid in streamlining office operations of First National to maximise efficiency and profits.

After introduction of the MPOS system, First National has minimised the level of fraud, strengthened customer confidence, improved cash mobilisation and increased the total number of unbanked population who benefit from the company’s products and services.

This version of the MPOS device known as XPDA-S uses GPRS, WiFi and can operate in both an online and offline mode. The device consumes electricity as well as data cards from service providers, namely Tigo and Vodafone. Each device has to be charged to 100% overnight, to enable its efficient use throughout the day. The MPOS device is operated by the field-teller who serves as an intermediary between First National and its un-banked customer.

One of the main problems that propelled First National to introduce the MPOS system was fraud. Previously, both the customers and field-tellers manipulated cash books and falsified transaction information. This was easy and less likely to be noticed since every transaction in the cash book was done manually and presented to the field-teller, who in turn reported the information back to their superiors.

These manipulations made it difficult for the arbitrator back at the office to keep track of accurate information on clients and amounts contributed. The MPOS device, however, has the ability to load and preview existing customer balance, issue receipts of every contribution made, as well as keeping track of the number of customers who contributed to a total amount per day. Mobilisng all these features, accurate information is gathered and reflected on the internal database daily to aid in minimising and preventing fraud.

“I prefer this new device because every contribution I make shows up clearly, unlike handwritings that are sometimes difficult to read under the manual method.” --Samuel, Driving Instructor.

The MPOS system has aided First National in achieving the objective of enhancing its customer base and increasing the total contribution level. Prior to the adoption of this system, a field-teller could bring a not-too-respectable amount from only a handful of customers. Due to this, dishonest field-tellers would work toward getting a huge amount from visiting only a few customers.

This served as an advantage to the tellers since it reduced working hours and at the same time served as a disadvantage to the company since it reduced productivity. Since every transaction is recorded on the device and reflected on the company’s database immediately the transaction is performed, field-tellers are obliged to report the total number of clients visited and total contributions collected.

The nature of this system provides an avenue for analysing the true performance and efficiency of field-tellers. As a result, field-tellers are motivated to bring in more clients and increase their visits to existing customers, in order to increase the daily contribution level.

“The system makes work faster and easier. Now, I am more productive since I am able to visit several clients a day.” -- Lilian Dedjor, Field-Teller.

Most importantly, the MPOS system has been very useful in restoring trust and reliability in First National’s products and services. Since its introduction, a significant number of clients who lost confidence in the company due to misreporting and misappropriation of funds by field-tellers have reactivated their accounts.

The company has also been able to revive dormant accounts over the past year by promising security, administration and transparency to customers, using the MPOS system. By increasing and maintaining the confidence customers have in First National, a significant number of the un-banked population as well as account holders who are usually too busy to come to the company branches benefit from the MPOS system and now have more trust in the company. It has also aided in increasing the company’s customer base by increasing its number of un-banked customers.

It is significant to note that for the first quarter of 2013 new accounts opened using the MPOs increased by 15.8% compared to same period last year. MPOs system has provided First National Savings and Loans Company the easiest opportunity to sell their Wo Daakye, Susu Savings, Microfinance products to most Ghanaians who view banking as elitist. This innovation increased First National’s bottom line significantly this quarter.

“The device is just like a cell phone and simple to use. It has greatly helped in improving the professionalism and image of First National.” -- Edward B.A. Antwi, Coordinator.

“This device provides security since it issues a receipt that serves as proof of transactions made, and this has boosted my confidence in the company.” -- Naomi, Secretary in a private firm.

As the first financial institution to aggressively integrate this system into its operations in Africa, the MPOS system has equipped First National with a competitive edge in the industry. There are 481 devices in use in some of the 53 branches nationwide, and an additional 195 have been ordered with the target of reaching a total of 700 devices.

“The company plans to expand the coverage of this system by purchasing more-advanced MPOS devices to be used in all its proposed 34 mobilisation centres with 10-15 field-tellers and 11 Money Kiosks” -- Hilda Nkansah, Relationship Manager.
First National aims to purchase more advanced MPOS devices that will be able to provide on-field payments, enable transfers and use of ATM cards -- all in anticipation of abolishing the use of passbooks and other unreliable physical documents.

Despite the fact that the company greatly benefits from use of the MPOS system, it also faces some challenges such as fluctuations in data communications from service providers and weak battery sustainability. These shortfalls cause low connectivity and delay in synchronising the device with the database, as well as shorter usage of the device before close of day. This leads to delays in operations of the field-tellers and is a potential threat to productivity.

In conclusion, the MPOS system has helped to enhance cash mobilisation by making it faster and easier to record customer transactions; ensured efficiency, especially on the part of field-tellers; and above all has helped in strengthening confidence by decreasing fraud associated with savings and loans.