Leveraging ecosystem partnerships for digital success

Eunice R. Gatama discusses the secrets to a successful digital transformation strategy.

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African Banker: I&M Bank has credited ecosystems partnerships for its impressive digital transformation over the last few years. Can you expand on how important these partnerships are for the bank? 

Eunice Gatama: As we strive to be Eastern Africa’s leading financial partner for growth, an important element in our current strategy is to become a market leader in ecosystems, supporting our agenda of scaling in the retail & MSME market. We have taken a two-pronged approach, looking at organic growth within ecosystems anchored by our corporate customers, and new ecosystems anchored by strategic partnerships in different sectors. 

In the last year and a half, we established several key ecosystem partnerships that have validated that this approach is worth exploring. Fintechs have been a key focus for us, and we have worked with several, supporting them to fulfil their objectives, centred around serving the unbanked. We have intentionally made it quick, clear and simple for fintech entities to engage with us for various financial services. Access to affordable local currency financing was the biggest play as most fintechs continue looking to de-risk foreign currency fluctuations and to find alternatives to expensive funding from foreign investors. We have been able to review fintechs and centred our analytics on the nature of their unique ecosystems and have structured financing which they then use to run their businesses. 

Ni Sare Kabisa is another great example. As we all know, Kenya runs on mobile money and through our unmatched campaign we have been able to reduce the impact of the economic pressure on the customer wallet with free bank transfers to M-PESA and Airtel Money. We see an opportunity to do more with telcos and are exploring the delivery of various propositions to the ecosystem end-users. 

To enable us to grow and play a key role in the ecommerce sector, we have partnered with E-commerce platforms and payments gateways which enables secure and efficient online transactions for our customers and merchants, enhancing the overall digital payment experience. 

Our partnership with robust technology providers has been crucial in implementing cutting- edge solutions such as AI-driven analytics and cybersecurity measures, which have played an integral part in optimising operations and improving customer service. 

African Banker: What is I&M Bank Group’s approach to creating seamless omnichannel experiences for today’s digital-savvy customers?

EG: An omnichannel experience is simply seeing your business through the eyes of your customers. With this in mind, we see a great opportunity in providing contextual financial solutions at the customer’s point of need through ecosystem partnerships without requiring the customer to go onto another platform, e.g. lending at point of purchase, integration to bank accounts at the point of making a payment, etc. 

One of the key strategies I&M Bank has also implemented to not only meet but exceed customer expectations is the development and continuous improvement of all our channels: Online Banking via the I&M. Bank On The Go (OTG) App and Web platforms, SMS, E-mail and Host to Host integrations for Corporates, all geared towards ensuring a user friendly, secure and feature rich experience.  

Continuous use of data analytics has enabled us to offer personalised banking services tailored to an individual’s needs through customised product offerings, proactive customer support and personalised financial advice. 

To empower our customers, especially the more savvy segment, we have expanded our self-service options which enable them to independently open accounts online, make instant loan applications and fulfill all payment needs – all easily accessible on our digital platforms.

 We have also implemented multi-factor authentication, real-time fraud detection and regular security audits to protect both our digital platforms and ensure the security and privacy of our customers. 

Overall, we value our customers and hence seek continuous feedback to better understand their needs and pain points, which helps us make continuous improvement. 

African Banker: What role do the ecosystem partnerships you mentioned play in enhancing your service offerings and the customer experiences you want to create?  

EG: Partnerships have enabled the bank to offer a diverse range of innovative, secure, and accessible services, significantly enhancing the customer experience and ensuring our relevance in an ever-evolving digital world. 

 All this is made possible by leveraging data, payment rails, customer channels, strong value chain relationships, enabling the bank to access potential opportunities, optimise customer acquisition and minimise the risks and costs associated with offering financial services.

For example, mobile money platform integrations have extended our services to reach a wider geography without having to be present there. Similarly, our collaboration with e-commerce platforms and other payment gateways has facilitated secure and efficient online transactions, providing our customers with reliable payment options enabling more seamless collections for their businesses.