Agent networks are at the core of agency banking for financial inclusion. In our three-part blog post, we explained how agent networks can be built, starting from their recruitment after which they are onboarded onto the platform and subsequently managed.
Agency banking is the crucial link in the distribution of digital financial services (DFS) to people who live in remote areas and do not have access to the traditional brick-and-mortar bank branches to transact, nor possess an ‘assumed’ financial/digital literacy needed to use these services to their own benefit and agent networks are the critical enablers for its progress. An agent network is made up of agents or field officers who deliver these services using software, like Waynbo.
Cash-in-cash-out (CICO) services are one of the primary activities of agent networks. Cashing out, which involves the agent disbursing cash to the customer in exchange for e-money, is the primary activity at agent locations (agents are more or less seen as mobile ATMs after all). Agents have become the front-line service delivery channel with responsibilities encompassing customer service and trust building. They are the missing human element that creates a suitable entry point for the economy.
In this piece, we will address how Waynbo was built to overcome the traditional agent network pain points. What makes Waynbo unique?
Traditional Agent Networks
Most traditional agent network software are primarily transaction-based software supported, with limited access to data and use-cases, hence, they tend to have limited features with little to no priority to how the agent interacts and uses the solution. This has led to 75% of agents facing challenges with failed transactions and 59% stopping work due to technical issues.
Nigeria Interbank Settlement (NIBSS) data showed that out of 307,000 POS machines deployed, only about 167,000 are still active and majority malfunctioned on trial. If this continues, the cost of active agents will steadily increase which may cause a decline in the number of act agents willing to work. There is a better way to adapt efficient capabilities into agent networks and now is the time to act for the fruit of financial inclusion.
Operational pain points
Transaction-based agent journey
Because the primary activity of most agents in rural areas is CICO, traditional agent network software tends to focus on the transactional parts of their solution, focusing on account balancing, and debt repayment, and not fully immersing the agents in the entire journey. Lack of cash and e-float management tools breaks the operational process not allowing for the necessary service resilience. Agents having too much cash also makes it a security risk as they need to halt their activities to make a deposit at the bank.
When the user journeys of agents and end-users are not fully considered, it leads to a break in the process. It might start online, but due to undefined business rules, other offline methods will need to be applied. This disintegration discourages agents from committing to the process.
Regardless of the remarkable strides digital banking and financial services have made, most people are still reluctant to technology. They find the process complicated, complex, and confusing. Most traditional agent networks still tend to offer offline onboarding, resulting in errors and KYC penalties.
Multiple interfaces, broken network support, inactive network, difficult usability, and data costs updates borne by agents, all these factors make it difficult for the agents and financial operator to sustain the value proposition offer needed for the digital economy.
High churn rate
One of the biggest problems in the agency industry is unstable networks. The churn comes as a consequence of the lack of support and needs of agents not being resolved, making them unprofitable in the long run. This, together with the acquisition cost (half of POSs are not used) makes the operation unsustainable.
As a result, there is an erosion of customer and agent motivation and agent attrition.
The lack of adequate support and access to educational, financial and digital literacy content for both agents and customers to enable them detect fraud attempts, claims and failed transactions has made them vulnerable to fraud attacks and reduced their interest and operations frequency.
Another factor that limits operations is when customers do not have IDs for verification or agents do not support account opening for new customers.
Strategic pain points
Mismatched strategic goals of the Financial Service Providers when rolling out agent networks thereby creating confusion, inconsistencies and low buy-in among the team on the need for agents. FSPs can create value for agents and customers if they are to benefit from increased transactions. They would be able to increase usage through digitising local use-cases and by enhancing the user experience.
Misinformed use cases
Inadequate teams, unclear roles and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for managing agent network performance, as well as a lack of short and long-term objectives are just a few examples of misinformed or misunderstood use cases that can cause operational difficulties.
A general preference for top-down strategies developed at the executive level, instead of bottom-up market-led strategies that take into consideration on-ground realities.
Waynbo is an agent-led, process-based software that can integrate seamlessly with your core system to create an effective agent channel for service distribution.
Float is the money within the banking system that is briefly counted twice due to time gaps in registering a deposit or withdrawal. When float breaks occur, agents’ operations are stifled because they are unable to consolidate their transactions. They blame it on poor internet, lack of money to transact, etc. About 60% of agents run out of float/cash weekly and this disrupts their operations.
Waynbo software also monitors balances and provides agents with overdrafts (digital money), re-floats, and a physical location where agents who run out of physical cash can get some to continue their operation. This encourages continuity and allows an agent to process more transactions.
Low/No Data Costs
One of the primary challenges that agents face is the high cost of internet and data in their operations that can reach up to 10% of their OPEX. Waynbo works offline in low network areas at no data costs to the agents so that they can proceed with their transactions. Using the automatic USSD on the app is also relatively cheaper than the cost of the internet, saving agents money spent on operational costs.
Due to our robust AI biometric and ID verification capabilities, we can monitor fraud attempts by ensuring that all agents go through adequate screening and documentation. Financial service operators can control remotely suspicious activity and block agents from a distance.
Supports digital literacy
Waynbo training area allows dissemination and resources to assist the agents while they work. Configuring journey tips, in-dept content adjusted to agent profiles and a built-in communication tool for promotional content.
Most agents who operate on the field have Android smartphone, with WhatsApp installed. From the agent onboarding process to daily inquiries, agent support provides instant WhatsApp support to agents/groups to guide them on how to use features, claims management or other support needs such as broken devices. Unlike the traditional software, which requires rigorous processes, some even requiring agents to visit the bank branches or await for the monthly visit from a territorial manager, we provide a complete digital experience.
No-code back office
30% of agent networks request more portfolio capacity to support their areas, financial (insurance, pensions, etc.) and non-financial (e-commerce delivery points, e-government, etc.). This allows agent networks to add new services or mini-apps to scale their agent-as-a-service portfolio as they partner with other fintech or local government services. Easy customization, integration and service management is the way to scale business and prevent substitute providers to pitch to your busy agent network.
Other capabilities include automated bookkeeping and receipts for all transactions, integrated-tiered biometric enrolment and ID verification, index errors and offline validation rules, receipts, claims & reverse transactions integration and white labelling.
The Way Forward
This is the best time to implement software that thinks about the agent’s user journey and how it affects their daily operations. Putting them first and delivering a holistic experience with embedded finance.
Agency banking is now beyond its transactional features, as agents have become an integral part of financial inclusion by building customer relationships, trust-building, and branding themselves to adequately represent the service providers. Agents bridge the gap to retain customers in a controlled environment and otherwise inaccessible market. Their efficiency is dependent on how prepared they are for the market, their willingness to adapt and the compatibility of the tools (agent network software) that they use to deliver financial services.