Friday, June 10, 2022 9:49 am
Fragmentation in the Nigerian payment space has served more as a constraint than an enabler; Squad by GTCO positions to lead with innovation and efficiency.
Without a doubt, digital payment is the next growth frontier for financial services. Amongst other extenuating factors, growing digitalisation, mobile penetration, and evolving consumer behaviour have accelerated the shift towards cashless thereby creating entirely new business models and solutions built around payments.
Given the key role digitalisation plays in the financial lives of many people today, electronic payments are at the core of the payment ecosystem. As is the case with all things economic, Nigeria remains a most attractive market. Over the past years, we have seen largely foreign investors make a play to participate in the Nigerian technology and financial sector with considerable investments in FINTECH companies creating so-called “unicorns” of these establishments. This is helping to generate needed cohesion within the payment landscape and putting it at the forefront of innovation. The gains from the payment sector will serve to spur the global remittance industry as well as enhance financial inclusion. Increasingly, it is expected that newer, more efficient form factors and product offerings will look to enhance the digital payment experience for consumers and merchants alike.
Despite this trend, a more critical assessment of the payment industry shows that existing FINTECHs are merely scratching the surface of the payment landscape and its massive potential for financial inclusion. If anything, the fragmentation of the merchant-facing payments value chain has served to dampen the massive prospects of this sector. Available research point to the fact that asides security and privacy concerns, a major challenge presently facing the mobile payment ecosystem is the high level of market fragmentation as seen in multiplicity of platforms and the different service configurations on offer. With consumer adoption stalling, mobile payments still represent a small portion of total consumer payments. The complexities around payments and the rapid evolution of merchant services require a re-evaluation of business focus and value propositions.
It is against this backdrop that the launch of Squad, a full-service digital payment company conceived by Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO Plc), is a most welcome development. For one thing, GTCO Plc is renowned for its strong corporate governance culture, bias for innovation and superior financial performance. Few financial institutions in Nigeria, and indeed Africa, can boast of GTCO’s impressive credentials. From its humble beginnings in 1990 as a pureplay banking institution, the company has morphed into a fully-fledged financial services powerhouse in a little over three decades. Underpinning this remarkably successful transformation is GTCO’s rich history of firsts: from pioneering industry-wide innovations in Online/Mobile Banking, USSD Banking, Instant Card issuance, and Fingerprint Banking to creating free business platforms to support small and medium-sized business owners in the food and fashion industries and revolutionising consumer lending with QuickCredit, GTCO has differentiated itself from other financial institutions by a mile.
With the launch of Squad, GTCO Plc aims to deploy its trademark efficient operations and innovative capacity to drive adoption in payment services and enhance financial inclusion. With the overarching goal to be the most efficient off-line and online merchant acquiring platform in all of Africa, Squad is well positioned to serve four important enterprise verticals namely: micro- businesses (kiosks), online sellers, digital natives, and corporates.
Reinventing the in-store payment experience, no longer limited to POS
Squad’s top offerings will include a payment gateway and the Soft POS. While most are familiar with the functionalities of payment gateways, the Soft POS solution is as cutting-edge as it is simple-to-use.
The Soft POS is a multiform-factor white-label solution that enables a smartphone to function as a merchant acceptance device. Essentially, the Soft POS allows any mobile phone with the NFC feature to be used as a point-of-sale. While this service is enjoying growing acceptance and use in other parts of the world like America, Europe, and Asia, Squad will be amongst the very first financial payments service in Africa to introduce this unique payment functionality. Merchants who have traditionally accepted cash payments or struggled with the sub-optimal nature of physical POS terminals, now have a simpler and more secure way to manage their transactions.
The solution effectively addresses the needs of micro and small businesses as it provides a cost-efficient card acceptance solution as well as complete visibility of merchant transactions making reconciliation and decision making faster and easier. With Soft POS, the consumer experience is elevated as it facilitates line-busting to streamline check out queues and eliminates friction. How does the Soft POS work? Quite simple and fast. Sellers can start accepting contactless payments in just few minutes by downloading the app from Google Play Store and completing the registration process.
Squad would also be offering other high-impact, value-adding services to merchants and corporates in various sectors of the economy to enhance their business operations and propel wide-scale growth.
What makes Squad unique?
As the name suggests, Squad denotes the power of a TEAM. The team at Squad is peopled by young, dynamic professionals who have imbibed GTCO Plc’s culture of innovation and efficiency to power next-generation payment solutions. If GTCO’s track-record of trailblazing achievements is anything to go by, Squad will in no time set the marker for merchant and customer fulfillment in payments. Squad is backed by a successful ‘Proudly African, Truly International” brand in GTCO Plc and is run by well-trained, digital-savvy minds with a keen understanding of market needs and trends. This is markedly different from what currently obtains where one or two founders set up and struggle to balance vision with ambition, and ultimately, falter off-course.
With no less a visionary than Segun Agbaje leading the Holding Company, we can be sure that values like transparency and integrity, which have become synonymous with the Guaranty Trust brand, will come on to define the payment space resulting in more clarity of purpose and extensive trust in the reliability of digital solutions. In a recent forum to review GTCO Plc’s prior year financial statements and projections for the 2022 financial year, Mr. Agbaje pledged to disclose the performance of the Group’s new businesses on a quarterly basis. This is a rarity in today’s clime. It is exactly what one would expect from a brand looking to champion Africa’s growth as it serves to enhance competitiveness and value creation for all stakeholders. You would recall that the Group recently started Guaranty Trust Fund Managers Ltd and Guaranty Trust Pension Managers Ltd to compete in the Asset Management and Pension sectors. These, alongside the new payment company, will certainly add to the viability of GTCO Plc long-term.
The future of payments is digital
To reference one of Segun Agbaje’s seminal submissions, ‘the future of payments is digital.’ The launch of Squad is timeous if Nigeria, and indeed Africa, must ride the wave of continued cash displacement and go on to drive digital payment adoption and financial inclusion. And, if there is a question of how to radically transform Africa’s payment space, Squad is the answer.