Dotun Akolade, a digital payment expert, who is also an Associate Director at Opay, a top payment services firm, talks about the growth in digital payments services in Nigeria. Riding on his impressive experience in successfully selling payment solutions and SaaS products to large corporate organisations, local chain stores, closing deals with closed deals with the likes of Microfinance banks, Insurance Companies, large retail stores, logistic companies, and transport companies amongst others; he projects into the future of payment services in the country in this interview.
Q. Digital payment platforms or fintech witnessed a surge in capital injection recently. What are the factors facilitating this impressive capital injection?
A. No doubt legacy banking institutions in Nigeria have made a massive investment in closing the gap between those who have access to banking services and the unbanked. Despite the $9 billion investment channel into the sector many segments especially people in rural environments who had little access to banking services due to infrastructure challenges, and the SME segment which insistently aspired to conduct trading and receive payments beyond the brick and mortar structure across different time belts were underserved. As of late 2021, around 36% of the local adult population was unbanked. Meanwhile, as internet connectivity and mobile telephony networks extended coverage miles, the novel fintech firms rode smoothly on their backs to bypass the infrastructural gap that had long prevented the legacy banks from penetrating the rural spaces or successfully catering to the strong SME segment. A fitting policy framework was also developed at the regulatory level to enhance the effective operation of these fintech firms. Considering the large SME segment and the rural population that the fintech firms leveraged to pilot their services, growth was quick. Besides, the COVID-19 restrictive guideline policies also accelerated digital payment services uptake locally. Of course, investors value high-growth market segments. As it stands, sustained growth momentum in digital payment services will continue to aid financial inclusion and MSME thrust – as well as attract more capital injection in the space.
Q. Considering the robust capital injection into fintech firms lately, what is the performance level of digital payment services currently?
A. There has been an impressive uptake in digital and real-time payment services in Nigeria. E-commerce especially is thriving in the country because of the widespread e-payment or digital payments infrastructure provision enabling their trading activities. You must have also noticed the growth in the number of roadside POS merchants around the urban and rural areas. They keep creating jobs for the unemployed. Without the democratization of banking services through the licensing of new digital payment platforms this robust economic contribution wouldn’t have been possible. Reportedly, the country has been able to unlock $3.2 billion in economic activity which represents 0.67% of the GDP through the activities of the digital payment services providers.
Q. What does the future of digital payment services in Nigeria look like?
A. Digital payment service providers have extended their product offerings beyond processing payment transactions for users. These firms now offer savings, wealth management, retail lending, personal financing, investment management, and MSME lending services. There are over 200 payment services solutions providers besides fintech services offered by banks, operating in Nigeria. A growing youth population and an evolving regulatory environment to curb bad practices would see the payment services ecosystem continue to thrive.
Q. You have a firm grasp of the payment services landscape. Can you tell us briefly about your background in the industry?
A. I’m currently an Associate Director Offline of Merchant Acquiring at Opay. Before I joined Opay, I had worked in three commercial banks. I joined Opay in 2019 as a Manager. I contributed to the building and management of the OWealth savings product portfolio. I grew the business by 25% within 6months. I was able to attract different business owners to invest in our long-term savings scheme and the savings product is still one of the best in the industry due to its flexibility and good ROI. In September 2021, I was part of the team that birthed the Offline Merchant Acquiring team and led the Lagos team of 90 members. I was responsible for selling our payment solutions and SaaS products to large corporate organisations and chain stores. I closed deals with the likes of Microfinance banks, Insurance Companies, large retail stores, logistic companies, and transport companies amongst others.
I have onboarded over 20,000 merchants generating transaction volume to the tune of N48bn ($96m) today which represents 45% of the total offline merchant acquiring business in Paycom Digital Services Limited. After the success in Lagos, I was assigned to start an offline merchant acquiring business in 5 different states in the country. I built the team structures, jointly designed CRM tools for staff efficiency and closed numerous high-ticket transactions across different industries within short timelines. In February 2022, I was promoted to Associate Director based on my immense contribution to building the merchant acquiring business.
Q. Finally, what is your long-term goal in the industry?
A. My long-term goal is to be one of the leading business experts in the Financial Technology industry of the World. I intend to offer my wealth of experience and deploy the business skills I have acquired over the years to grow as many start-ups as I can