StanChart enhances platform to support government payments

06Aug 2020
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
StanChart enhances platform to support government payments

An interview with Christopher Vuhahula, Chief Operating Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania

Christopher Vuhahula, Chief Operating Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania

The move to the Government Electronic Payment Gateway platform, GePG, is now largely completed with all government payments being made via this platform - How is your bank supporting this move?

Firstly, let me start by highlighting the fact that the move to implementing GePGhas significantly contributed in making the government payments process easy for clients. The GePGhas resulted into the creation of a central platform through which all Government Agencies are connected. One must remember that there are about 600 Government Agencies and the centralization of the payment process therefore means an amalgamation of all the Agencies.

And what does this amalgamation result to?

Let me highlight two main advantages – firstly, the reconciliation process becomes more easier and time saving, and secondly, there’s no room for errors. The system automatically validates the payment transactions and any errors result in the transaction being nullified. This fully eradicates the room for errors.

On the other hand, I am happy to note that this move ties in very well with the Bank’s Strategy of Digitization. We have invested a lot of resources in enhancing our Digital Capabilities both from a Banking Platforms perspective to our Digital Products and Services. We are moving from ‘places where people go to Bank’ to ‘brands clients choose for financial transactions’, which means clients will have more choice and banking will be more convenient.

In the light of the move towards GePG, which was announced in 2018, the Bank immediately started to make the infrastructural investments which were geared towards ensuring that our platforms were made compatible to the changes that were going to happen in the space and process of government payments. We worked very closely with the Authorities to understand the new processes and we are grateful for their support.

Specifically, for Tax Payments, Standard Chartered Bank processes about 20% of the country’s tax collection. Previously our clients used our State-of-the-Art and Award Winning Straight2Bank platform, which was not only seamless but also ensured that there were no errors in the transactions given a thorough validation process.

Tell us more about the solution and how your clients have adopted it this far?

The Straight2Bank NextGen solution is an upgrade of our award-Winning suite of electronic channels that enable clients to securely and effectively run their cash management services which include government payments. Our clients can access the platform round the clock as long as they have registered with us for usage and have internet connection.

In this age of changes in technology, availability of a number of digital banking solutions and many competing priorities both from business and personal levels, the Straight2Bank NextGen platform has become an integral part of our clients’ business activities.

With the Straight2Bank NextGen Solution our clients are able to make real-time credits to Government Institutions. As soon as the payment is made, the user receives an instant payment notification. In addition to being an end to end automated process thus avoiding human error, the Solution also has an auto-reconciliation capability that is linked to the government accounts thereby ensuring real-time reconciliation of payments.

I am also happy to highlight that Standard Chartered Bank is one of the first Banks to have successfully complied with the changes on Government Payments as well as the recent TRA migration to GePG.

As is with any technology and or enhancements, there are usually some hic-ups before stabilization, how are you ensuring a faster understanding of the changes and utilization by your clients?

With every change there must be an investment in making the users, both internally and externally, understand the new platform(s). We have spent time with our staff from relevant departments who need to understand the changes made so as to ensure that they, too, support our clients in understanding the changes. We have also been running training sessions for our clients on the changes in addition to providing user-friendly step-by-step manuals to be used by clients.

We have also launched online training material with ‘how-to’ guides that help our clients to familiarize themselves and understand the changes. Also, in order to ensure that our clients go through the change smoothly, we had a team of staff members who were on standby to hand-hold our clients as they went through making their first transaction via the upgraded platform.

I must, however, highlight that the changes from Straight2Bank to Straight2Bank Next Gen are minimal and given that our clients were already used to the previous platform, it has not been a big challenge for the new platform to be understood and adopted. There has, therefore, not been any major issues from an operations’ perspective.

In your opinion, is the Tanzanian market ripe for more digitization in financial services?

Tanzania is on a different platform when it comes to digitization. It is one of the earliest countries to launch mobile money in 2007. According to one of the studies on Digital Finance in Tanzania, done by the Financial Services Deepening Trust, FSDT, upon the introduction of the mobile money platforms in the country in 2007, take up grew steadily to over 40 million registered accounts, and over 20 million active users by the end of 2016. In 2015, Tanzania accounted for a third of Mobile Money Accounts in East Africa, with individuals and organizations transacting the equivalent of over 50% of Tanzania’s GDP each month.

One of the attributes to this growth was a relatively young population who were more likely to adopt new technology quickly. The demographic outlook is currently still the same. Based on the latest United Nations population data, 52 percent of Tanzanians are in the age bracket between 15 and 64. This, therefore, means a continued uptake in digital financial services.

I would also like to give a real example from our bank. In February last year we launched a Full Digital Bank on Mobile that enables users to open accounts fully via the SC Mobile Tanzania App. Within 16 months we have more than quadrupled the number of accounts that we originally had before the launch. This shows a growing understanding a leverage of digital banking capabilities by Tanzanians. In addition to that, currently over 90 percent of our clients’ transactions are done digitally by both individual and corporate clients. Part 2 of this interview will publish in The Banker next Thursday.

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