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FinTech is The Future of Banking, Other Sectors —Aina

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  • FinTech is The Future of Banking, Other Sectors —Aina

The Chairman, FinTech Associates Limited and a past president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Dr. Segun Aina, has spent decades in leadership roles in the banking sector. He tells OYETUNJI ABIOYE about the future of financial technology in Nigeria and the forthcoming National FinTech Conference.

How has your experience in the banking sector led you into what you are doing now in the FinTech space?

I have been somebody who has taken a lot of interest in technology generally, going back to my days as a general manager and later executive director in Ecobank Nigeria. Ecobank was reputed then as a leading bank in technology and we used one of the newest technologies at a time for our banking operations and I was heading the efforts to do that. And of course, when I moved on to become the chief executive officer of Fountain Trust Bank, what we focused on was using technology to drive our business and we were able to create some new products, which included the online result checking for examination candidates, which has now become a thing for everybody. We were the first bank to do it, before we then set up a technology company from the bank to do that. And that company still remains till today, operating both in Nigeria and some parts of Africa. Apart from working in the banking industry to a CEO level, I was at one time President of the Nigerian Chapter of the West Africa Bankers Association and later the regional vice-president of the same association. I later became the President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria. These leadership positions gave me the general overview of what the industry needed.

Rather than talking about the bank I worked, I was looking at the entire industry, the drivers of growth for the entire industry and what would determine the future of the industry; and how Nigerian banks and bankers could plug into what was happening globally and take the leadership role. And that was why, based on my experience as a banking professional with technology experience (somebody who knows how to use technology to enable things,) I decided to establish a company when I left the banking industry. That is FinTech Associates Limited, a company which promotes local technology. That was the time when FinTechs had no meaning to anybody; but today all over the world, FinTech is the watchword. So that means we actually saw the future and we were able to set up the company. And this has created a platform for me to be a key player, not only in Nigeria but even at the international level. I am part of the global FinTech community, and this gave me the opportunity to know what is going on in any part of the world. I have relationship in almost every part of the world. I get invited to events and conferences, whether to speak or to moderate, and that has expanded my own horizon and knowledge; and I am using that to also benefit the entire banking industry and the general economic environment, because everybody is affected by FinTech; not only the financial services industry; every industry is affected. Whatever I am doing now is just part of my own contribution to ensuring that Nigeria and Nigerian industries, students and start-up companies benefit from the future that FinTech offers.

What is the vision behind the establishment of the FinTech Association of Nigeria?

I looked at the FinTech environment in Nigeria and saw that a lot of institutions are doing great things (banks, FinTech hubs, technology hubs, payment system companies, technology companies and even students in the schools). The government and agencies are doing great things as well. But we did not see coordination in terms of what we were doing, and we did not see integration in terms of efforts. Different groups are just coming up to do things. I then saw the need to have a cross-sectoral platform where everybody could talk to each other; where everybody that uses FinTech across the industries can talk to each other and have a common agenda in terms of how we can push FinTech to get the best we can. I consulted with a few leaders in the FinTech industry — some bankers, FinTech companies and people who are well known in the industry for what they are doing — and they supported the idea that we needed an association for financial technology in Nigeria. We saw an association that would not only educate, but also serve as a source of network, advocacy and provide support for government and regulatory authorities. It will also support up and coming entrepreneurs who want to use technology to become businessmen. So it cuts across every sector. We set it up in June 2017 and in the first meeting that we had, I was elected as the President. We have seven members of the Governing Council, including an Associate Professor at the Lagos Business School; the Managing Director of SystemSpecs, Mr. John Obaro; the Managing Director of Proshare, Mr. Femi Awoyemi; the Managing Director of Accion Microfinance Bank, a top management staff of Ecobank, a partner at a law firm and Tunji Eleso of Co-Creation Hub. You can see that these people cuts across several sectors.

So, that was what informed the founding of the association. Even before it was fully established, I made sure I had a handshake with the world by registering it as a member of the Global FinTech Federation, which has opened us up to what is happening in not less than 70 countries across the world.

FinTech Associates, international partners and the CIBN Centre for Financial Studies held the first edition of the National FinTech Conference last April. The success of that conference led to the second edition that is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. What exactly is the focus of this second edition?

Last year, we had a conference in collaboration with the CIBN CFS and our Canadian partners, Digital and Finance Institute. It was very great and was beyond what we expected. And since we said it was going to be an annual event, we fixed the second one for this year and we are now working with another international partner, FinTech Stage. So we are working with them and the CIBN CFS and many other partners, because we believe that a thing like is not for one or two groups in one industry. We are partnering not only the CIBN CFS, but also the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, Project Management Institute, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and other groups. We get the best from everywhere and with everybody playing their role. So we are expecting this to be much bigger than last year’s. In fact, it is now three days because one day is for pre-conference programme, while the main conference itself is for two days. Already, we have 72 speakers confirmed, compared to 49 last year. Already, we have people who have already registered from 20 countries, and we are expecting a lot more than that. The subjects are now more diversified and focused on real life issues and solution-driven, not just talking theories; because in most conferences, people go there and talk theories and at the end of the day, nothing happens. We have to be able to evaluate what comes out of this, what is in it for everybody; and before the next year’s conference, we want to be able to say some of the things we said would happen had happened, some of the things we are working on, this is where they are. Just like last year, we promised that before the next year, we would have set up the FinTech Association of Nigeria. That has happened and the FinTech Association of Nigeria is now an integral part of this conference and it will continue to be and even play a bigger role in the future.

Are there other things you are doing to position the Nigerian FinTech companies in the global arena?

Yes, indeed. The first step was for us to have the association, which like I said, is for advocacy, knowledge event, hand-holding and coaching of start-ups and to provide a platform for them to display their enterprise and knowledge; we want to support regulators and governments. We have engaged various ministers who are relevant to what we are doing; we have engaged regulators across the board. We have engaged with the National Assembly. They just came back from recess and we are getting some appointments to come and see the various committees and the heads of the National Assembly. That is that for local. We are now moving towards Africa, because we want to make Nigeria the leader of FinTech in Africa. We are the biggest in Africa so why is it that when you talk of technology and FinTech, you hear of South Africa and Kenya before Nigeria? Some time, you even hear of Uganda before Nigeria. If you look at the number of technology hubs in Africa, Nigeria is number five in terms of the numbers. South Africa has the highest technology hubs, almost 60; followed by Egypt, Kenya, Uganda or so and Nigeria is number five with just about 20 something hubs. That is not good enough. We have the need for such things better than those countries. So what we are doing now is that as part of the side events to this conference, (a day before the conference), we have invited FinTech leaders from some selected African countries to form a roundtable of not more than 40 people. We want to tell them what we have done at the FinTech Association of Nigeria, and to collaborate with similar associations in those countries, and where they don’t exist, we encourage them to set it up so that at the level of national FinTech associations, we can be meeting to look at what are the peculiar African problems, how do we get peculiar African solutions, and to look at how do we promote indigenous solutions that come from these countries, so that if a Nigerian develops a product, he will not see it as restricted to Nigeria; if he is thinking of a problem, he is not thinking again only of Nigeria alone. What is the problem that is peculiar in Africa that I can create a solution, which can make me to sell my product, not only in Nigeria but in Africa? How can we create that market access for those products? How can we improve the lives of people all over Africa? If we do this successfully, Nigeria would have positioned itself as Africa’s FinTech leader.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Jumps to $67.70 as OPEC+ Extends Production Cuts

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Oil Jumps to $67.70 as OPEC+ Extends Production Cuts

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose to $67.70 per barrel on Thursday following the decision of OPEC and allies, known as OPEC+, to extend production cuts.

OPEC and allies are presently debating whether to restore as much as 1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil in April, according to people with the knowledge of the meeting.

Experts have said OPEC+ continuous production cuts could increase global inflationary pressure with the rising price of could oil. However, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said “I don’t think it will overheat.”

Last year “we suffered alone, we as OPEC+” and now “it’s about being vigilant and being careful,” he said.

Saudi minister added that the additional 1 million barrel-a-day voluntary production cut the kingdom introduced in February was now open-ended. Meaning, OPEC+ will be withholding 7 million barrels a day or 7 percent of global demand from the market– even as fuel consumption recovers in many nations.

Experts have started predicting $75 a barrel by April.

“We expect oil prices to rise toward $70 to $75 a barrel during April,” said Ann-Louise Hittle, vice president of macro oils at consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “The risk is these higher prices will dampen the tentative global recovery. But the Saudi energy minister is adamant OPEC+ must watch for concrete signs of a demand rise before he moves on production.”

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Gold

Gold Hits Eight-Month Low as Global Optimism Grows Amid Rising Demand for Bitcoin

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Gold Struggles Ahead of Economic Recovery as Bitcoin, New Gold, Surges

Global haven asset, gold, declined to the lowest in more than eight months on Tuesday as signs of global economic recovery became glaring with rising bond yields.

The price of the precious metal declined to $1,718 per ounce during London trading on Thursday, down from $2,072 it traded in August as more investors continue to cut down on their holdings of the metal.

The previous metal usually performs poorly with rising yields on other assets like bonds, especially given the fact that gold does not provide streams of interest payments. Investors have been jumping on US bonds ahead of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, expected to stoke stronger US price growth.

We see the rising bond yields as a sign of economic optimism, which has also prompted gold investors to sell some of their positions,” said Carsten Menke of Julius Baer.

Another analyst from Commerzbank, Carsten Fritsch, said that “gold’s reputation appears to have been tarnished considerably by the heavy losses of recent weeks, as evidenced by the ongoing outflows from gold ETFs”.

Experts at Investors King believed the growing demand for Bitcoin, now called the new gold, and other cryptocurrencies in recent months by institutional investors is hurting gold attractiveness.

In a recent report, analysts at Citigroup have started projecting mainstream acceptance for the unregulated dominant cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.

The price of Bitcoin has rallied by 60 percent to $52,000 this year alone. While Ethereum has risen by over 660 percent in 2021.

 

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Extend Gains to $64.32 Ahead of OPEC+ Meeting

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Oil Prices Rise to $64.32 Amid Expected Output Extension

Oil prices extended gains during the early hours of Thursday trading session amid the possibility that OPEC+ producers might not increase output at a key meeting scheduled for later in the day and the drop in U.S refining.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigeria oil is priced, gained 0.4 percent or 27 cents to $64.32 per barrel as at 7:32 am Nigerian time on Thursday. While the U.S West Texas Intermediate gained 19 cents or 0.3 percent to $61.47 a barrel.

“Prices hinge on Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s preference to add more crude oil production,” said Stephen Innes, global market strategist at Axi. “Perhaps more interesting is the lack of U.S. shale response to the higher crude oil prices, which is favourable for higher prices.”

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, together known as OPEC+, are looking to extend production cuts into April against expected output increase due to the fragile state of the global oil market.

Oil traders and businesses had been expecting the oil cartel to ease production by around 500,000 barrels per day since January 2021 but because of the coronavirus risk and rising global uncertainties, OPEC+ was forced to role-over production cuts until March. Experts now expect that this could be extended to April given the global situation.

“OPEC+ is currently meeting to discuss its current supply agreement. This raised the spectre of a rollover in supply cuts, which also buoyed the market,” ANZ said in a report.

Meanwhile, U.S crude oil inventories rose by more than a record 21 million barrels last week as refining plunged to a record-low amid Texas weather that knocked out power from homes.

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