Thursday, February 25, 2016 8.00AM / Olufemi AWOYEMI
One only needs to recall that there was once a time when electronic calculators were cutting edge: to imagine a world without them in finance was difficult; yet here we are today.
Anticipating, forecasting, planning and managing change is no longer something we do as a separate management activity where we go for strategic management retreats, it who we are and what leaders and managers are called to do.
The reward and punishment for not doing this is instant; just as the shelf life for product development continually gets shorter and in some cases, more intense. It’s a new world and I believe Nigeria, despite its limiting challenges is quietly notching up the indices, especially in its private sector.
As a company, we get this and embraced it as a cultural attribute yet found out that each cycle gets shorter due to advancements occurring at virtually all points of the economic, social and business value chain; from regulatory, management practices, technology and social interaction.
The question thus became, how do we see the changes that is set to happen and how do we plan to meet not just today’s challenges but tomorrow’s trends? What and where are the signs?
The signs are everywhere
This change is easily discernible in the way our social interaction has been altered, in such fundamental ways that cultural barriers and self-limiting sentiments are giving way to new approaches and solutions despite the noise.
It is said that you can only see the stars in darkness and this current social and economic disruption phase we are going through will unleash innovation amidst infrastructural limitations that will alter what and where value resides.
The generation of consumers, tomorrows new market is almost shaped – they are discerning, well informed with multiple sources of information and dissemination, able to control how they are marketed to, have more access to service and product options including global alternatives and more importantly, have developed an ecosystem of peer review that creates influencers in a more engaging manner rather than stay under the control of static messages or advertising.
These set of consumers, especially at the retail end has also embraced alternative payment options that should help them better manage their financial flows which should serve as a trigger for convergence based solutions that integrates C2C, C2B and B2B interrelationships in a common denominator.
Our service providers are now seeing technology based solutions not as a “should have” but a “part of their “service value” which is being deployed in some case through an enterprise resource application and in others, as a cost efficiency and service effectiveness response.
From entities like the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), FMDQ, NASD, CSCS, NIBSS, all the way to the Insurance automation services, pensions services, treasury and registrar services; these changes are slowly but steadily coming together. The online service offering of the stock broking firms will naturally be followed by agency brokerage services which would extend to the banking sector who will have no choice but to open the market for proper mobile money play beyond the out-dated cashless mantra.
The key game changer must be the Treasury Single Account (TSA) whose adoption and execution will naturally energize the Efficiency Unit of the Ministry of Finance and lead to the changes in the Procurement business of government as well as efficiencies in budget planning and research as the inevitable integration which REMITA affords finally kicks in.
One other change that went under the radar was the linkage between the BVN for individual bank account owners and signatories and the TIN No. for corporate entities which allows a proper linkage necessary for the improvements in the operations of a credit bureau and building of a mortgage industry. Needless to say, a less obstructive change at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) modeled after the Company House UK will deliver the convergence needed to match individuals with entities and create a much needed layer for a legal basis for managing annual returns and tax returns thus increasing the tax base without much disruption and encourage the FBIR and State Internal revenue boards to discard mundane tax administrative practices that only promotes leakages and corruption. There is more.
The overall adoption of these changes in the public sector ensures that it is only a matter of time before the missing link between our monetary and fiscal approaches can be bridged as issues related to taxation, customs list of prohibited items, incentives and considerations of/for waivers can be better determined.
These changes are quietly being driven by internet service providers and communications firms, telecommunications companies, ICT firms and they have opened up a new economy on their own from software to hardware businesses.
Yet, there is so little coverage of the key value additions at this stage as we are mostly at the consumption end of the ecosystem in such a huge market. That can only give room for hope.
So how does this affect financial information services?
Simple! By 2014, it was clear that the market was in need of a new direction relative to the economy. The changes occurring required a different thinking, approach and engagement to retain value and relevance. Only this time, it was not just different; it was compelling.
The change was triggered by the perfect storm around the economy that altered the way users, consumers and everyday citizen(s) were reacting and what was generally agreed to be meaningful information.
The shift in value definition meant that what these seemingly distinct activities and perhaps organized confusion did was to signpost a new age; which lost in translation could be seen as a step back or step down rather than as the platform for a new market.
We get that and adopted the position that this was a change in emphasis and the opportunity for a direct linkage between markets, businesses, technology and the economy.
Two fundamental approaches however remained; and are important to us, forming the core of our thinking about the marketplace, viz:
1. The individual – his personal finances and his aspirations – either in employment or in business; and
2. The market – their interrelationships and how they are linked i.e. regulator, technology, finance, business and markets.
While these distinct offerings offer room for a niche, we recognized our decade long experience in the market and the depth of our network to deliver on the needs of the individual entity and the market by creating a hub that allows a seamless linkage for the user, consumer and market itself - creating a two-way bridge between the consumer and the market whereby they can interact freely and take the best advantage of the possibilities discernible.
To achieve this is not impossible, indeed it is inevitable.
It’s a whole new world out there and we are willing to find out what lies beyond today’s problems.
Come February 29, 2016; we will launch the Proshare 10.0 phase 1 project which will deliver the following:
· A new website that delivers a better handheld platform experience;
· Redirect/migrate all our other platforms into the site at different stages of developments;
· Deploy a sitemap and user aids to help manage the transition; and
· Follow through on all beta stage related issues arising.
Phases 2 -4 will cover the funding, market and people engagements as well as the enterprise phase that should see us evolve to solution support providers.
Surviving against all Odds
The lesson for these times was well horned during the building process and permit me to share a few lines on the critical lessons.
The say it is darkest before the dawn breaks; and this could not be truer but for the team leaders whose commitment was not only tested but was stressed far and above the call of duty.
Given the imperatives for change, the company assembled an ambitious project team to take us through this journey of rebirth leveraging on the knowledge and experience of our two pioneer drivers – Reshu and Alero.
Proshare engaged Terraville Limited (Nigeria) to handle project conceptualization and management, Perizia Solutions New Delhi, India as project technical and integration managers for the entire project and Spot Studios UK on best practice and the migration to a digital experience/brand harmonization.
The project meet too many hurdles that we could not have envisaged especially the actions of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that limited and disrupted financing arrangements and pushed us back many months with serious consequences to both existing operations and the project commitments we lost. The dream was never going to happen it seemed and with each day, the cloud got darker, the demand for more sacrifices grew and it seemed the bottom will drop on the new project. Staying the current course looked easier but it was never an option.
Through it all, character and passion came through for us and we learnt so much more of ourselves as we did of our commitment to something new. The most important lesson was how everyone pulled together and crossed functional and operational lines to offer a hand.
The support from our subscribers, clients and users energized us and as we switch over, we dedicate this new service to the spirit of the Nigerian people and hope it teaches us how we can and should persevere during this challenging period.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Welcome to a new dawn!