Nigeria’s banking industry has evolved considerably over the last two decades. A new democratic order in the country’s political landscape ushered in a period of growth within Nigeria’s economy, driven by reforms in the banking sector. These so-called “Soludo Solutions” focused on the consolidation of banks through mergers and acquisitions and forced banks to increase their capital base from 2 billion naira to 25 billion naira. 89 banks within the sector became 25, and two banks emerged from this period of reconstruction with what appears to be a similar set of ideas expressed in very different art forms. GTBank and Access Bank are two brands that have become synonymous with Banking in Nigeria. Observers sometimes argue that they are two sides of the same coin. Not only do they have a similar history, but the majority of the people who envisioned what we now know as Access Bank earned their banking stripes from their early days at GTBank. Both banks are run by incredibly ambitious leaders who superintend …In this battle for supremacy, which brand is currently leading?
AUDIENCE & TARGET MARKET CONSIDERATIONS
In the past, financial institutions struggled to define their core customer base. At some point, it seemed like there was no rhyme or reason to targeting audiences- all banks spoke to “all the people”. GTbank was one of the first to buck this trend by defining a target audience and tailoring its service offerings to suit the needs of its customers. The bank successfully positioned its brand as accessible and “digital”, quickly gaining popularity amongst Nigeria’s millennial middle class. The bank intensified it’s “New Age bank” identity by pioneering numerous lifestyle initiatives aimed at engaging diverse segments of its audience.
From its early incursion into high-value entertainment products to fashion and food festivals, the bank managed to make the arduous task of niche marketing seem undemanding. Access Bank, on the other hand, appeared to adopt a “wait-and-capture” approach to its audience profiling. In its early days, it appeared to be embroiled in an identity crisis surrounding whether to target retail customers or not. When it became clear that focusing on its corporate and high-value clients could not sustain its ambitious targets, Access Bank began to intensify its efforts at establishing a clearly differentiated niche. These efforts culminated in the merger with Diamond Bank, a move which has propelled the Bank to the number 1 position in terms of the customer base.
DIGITIZATION OF BANKING
As technology continues to evolve, the financial landscape continues to advance as banks leverage technology to champion innovative products and services. A report by Mckinsey notes that Africa’s banking customers are more connected and online than their counterparts in other parts of the developing world. In Nigeria especially, 59% of customers prefer digital compared to 15% who favour going into the bank. The urgency to go digital is intense, and both banks have leveraged the incredible power of digital as a strategic advantage.
The Global Finance magazine lauds GTBank for using a digital-first strategy to enhance the customer experience. Taking the lead in innovative financial products, the full service 737 USSD code allows customers and non-customers alike to access banking services on their phones by simply dialing *737#. Few years after GTB released the code several other commercial banks have also launched USSD banking services into their product offerings. If any other bank had released this service first, it would have been interesting to see if they would have been able to experience the roaring success GTB enjoyed.
In addition, in 2018, the bank launched Habari, Nigeria’s largest platform for music, shopping, and lifestyle. The jury’s still out on the success of this product, but the point is GTBank has been the clear leader in digital innovations in Nigeria.
Especially since its merger with Diamond Bank, Access bank has since been on a mission to enhance its digital banking capabilities. Prior to this, the bank also followed GT’s lead and launched its USSD service- 901 which allows customers to carry out many banking functions without the need to access the internet. The Bank also pioneered a lifestyle technology solution, PayWithCapture, which allows customers to make and receive payments from across any banking platform with relative ease.
INNOVATION, MARKETING, AND CAMPAIGNS
Access Bank has geared its initiatives towards health, environmental & women empowerment initiatives while GT bank has established itself as a lifestyle influencer. In line with its sustainability and environmental initiatives, Access Bank is well known to be the major sponsor of the Lagos City Marathon. Since Access bank became the sponsor in 2016, the marathon has recorded over 20,000 athletes in attendance, ranked 2nd in Africa and 71st amongst over 1000 international marathons globally (all-athletics.com).
Access bank has also set the tone when it comes to women empowerment. So much so that the bank has a division dedicated to women, offering loan facilities to women at low-interest rates. The bank also forms strategic partnerships to enhance its cause to provide its SME customers the opportunity to expend their access into the market and increase their visibility to potential customers. One of such partnerships is with She Leads Africa, where over 500 women from different parts of Nigeria have been trained with the necessary skills needed to scale up their businesses. In a bid to empower small business and expand the creativity of entrepreneurs, GT bank champions both the GT Fashion Week and GT Food and Drink Festival.
The GT Food and Drink festival is arguably Africa’s biggest culinary event that brings together small businesses in the food industry as well as food lovers. Since its launch in 2016, the festival has hosted over 500,000 people, featured dozens of entrepreneurial masterclasses and propelled the business of many foodpreneurs. Moreover, the GT Fashion weekend has become a major event saved in the calendars of many influencers and fashion lovers & enthusiasts. As a consumer-focused event with over 250,000 attendees, that places African fashion on the global stage, the event brings together fashion pioneers from around the world and small fashion businesses to interact and enhance the African fashion value chain.
NDANI VS ACCELERATE TV
The year 2014 saw the rise of content marketing platforms by Nigerian banks. GT Bank was the first to launch its online video content vehicle, NdaniTV. Since its launch, Ndani has become a household name with over 10 million views and over 200,000 subscribers on Youtube. From award-winning web series like Oga Pastor & Skinny Girl in Transit to authentic Ndani music studio sessions and relevant information about the bank’s products and services, Ndani not only provides its audience with entertaining and engaging content but has also raised the bar so high for other content generating platforms.
Imitation is the best form of flattery and in this regard, Access bank followed GTB’s example and launched “Accelerate TV” in a bid to “target the country’s youth population”. The platform which serves as a blog and video content channel feature an array of stimulating shows like King Woman, latest trends, entertaining articles as well as key information about the bank. Accelerate Tv also launched the filmmaker project initiative for aspiring filmmakers to be trained, mentored and funded to create their own short films. With over 200,000views and 34,000 subscribers, accelerate tv remains an exciting interactive platform for youths.
SOCIAL MEDIA & ONLINE ENGAGEMENT
Customers evolve every day and individual habits of modern consumers have changed the landscape in which marketing campaigns are launched. Customer retention is key, especially in the fast-paced financial sector where if you snooze, you lose.
As such, brands have seen the need to get out of their comfort zones and engage their customers through comprehensive digital strategies. Beyond having media channels, active brand listening and responsiveness is key, and these are some of the traits GTBank has embodied well. In 2016, GTBank executed the singular most successful digital campaign ever done by a bank with the rollout of their 737 USSD banking platform. The campaign strategy and execution were so precise that years after the catchy tunes and assets used still resonate deeply with audiences. Although Access bank has leveraged social media platforms like Twitter when they launched the #wewillgotheextramile campaign which reinforced the banks’ stance on delivering excellent customer service and remaining at the forefront of their customer’s minds.
On the digital platforms of both banks, we see traditional campaign materials being pushed in online friendly versions and distributed freely. They have effectively converted their media channels into online communities where current and potential customers make complaints, inquiries and receive quick and timely feedback. Instead of controlling the conversation and restricting negative comments, they hit the goal of delivering solutions to challenges and inspiring customer loyalty.
Judging by the numbers, and marketing activities of both banks, one can decide which bank is leading. Nonetheless, both banks boast of a different customer base, similar products and varying initiatives that aid in positioning them as strategic industry leaders in the lives of their consumers. GT banks’ ever-growing achievements over the year have enhanced the fact that the bank remains one of the most profitable banks in Nigeria and one of the fastest-growing on the continent.
Access bank’s merger with former Diamond bank has positioned the bank to be the largest bank in Nigeria and Africa’s leading bank by customer base. As digital-focused banks, championing disruptive innovation both banks are at the top in terms of assets, loans, deposits and branch network. Still, the banking giants are not backing down in the fight for the throne.