In an increasingly dynamic and ever-changing world, digital is transforming today’s enterprise through more efficient processes, as businesses leverage digital technologies that enable new operating models. At the end of a transformation process, successful industrial companies become true digital enterprises, with physical products at the core, augmented by digital interfaces and data-based innovative services. Organizations can then offer products, services and value to customers, patients and citizens that were not even imagined just a few years ago. These digital enterprises work together with customers and suppliers in an industrial digital ecosystems. In both developed and the emerging markets, developments are fundamentally changing individual companies and transforming market dynamics across a whole range of industries.

With the disruptive impact of digital technology, companies, organizations, and governments are being forced to reimagine traditional functions – everything that drives a connected enterprise across business functions including finance, HR, operations, and more. Disruptive digital business models are often focused on generating additional digital revenues and optimising customer interaction and access. A truly digital enterprise does not just embrace new technology, it replaces its old operating models with digital ones that can be incorporated into product platforms and analytics. Successful enterprises use the Industrial Internet of Things (IITA) to capture new growth by increasing production and creating new hybrid business models to boost revenues, exploit intelligent technologies to fuel innovation, and to transform their workforce.


In the provision of products and services, digitalization promises lower costs, improved production quality, flexibility and efficiency, faster response time to stakeholders’ requests and market demands, and it also opens up new and innovative business areas.

Big data and the Industrial Internet of Things are changing the way things are actually produced. Data and digital channels are becoming vital tools for connecting with the customer, and they’re also providing new product and services opportunities for those switched on enough to innovate. Companies in manufacturing, energy, and other traditional industries have been investing to digitize their physical assets, bringing us closer to the era of connected cars, smart buildings, and intelligent oil fields. The essence of “Big Data” is not limited to size, but filled with opportunities to generate innovative ideas through new and emerging data and content in order to activate solutions that might initially be considered beyond reach.

According to the International Data Corporation, the market size of the third IT platform (big data, cloud computing, mobile Internet and social business) will reach US $5.3 trillion by 2020. And from 2013-2020, 90% of the growth in IT industry will be driven by the third IT platform. With conclusions taken from McKinsey’s analysis of over 250 engagements covering a five-year period, companies that put data at the centre of the sales and marketing decisions improved their marketing Return On Investment (ROI) by 15 to 20 per cent. In Nigeria, the availability of big data has not proved to be very economically useful.

For product companies, digital technology can be leveraged across the entire supply chain – from production to distribution. It can be applied in optimizing material and equipment flow, testing to improve anticipation of failures, increasing mechanization through automation, and monitoring performance in real time. Using advanced analytics have also had the highest impact on manufacturing processes in areas of quality control, predictive maintenance, and supply-chain optimization.

For service companies, innovation centres on customer engagement, service delivery via a hybrid of channels, leveraging analytics to drive sales and effective relationship management. To adapt to market changes and technological trends, service companies must embed service innovation across the business into the company’s services strategy, investment cycles, sales, and operations.

Companies do not only need to master data mining and application of the latest analytic techniques, but also marrying those capabilities with insights from efficient service representatives, third parties, and customers to provide relevant product and service offerings to the customers. Companies should combine technology with process improvements to make service delivery simpler, more convenient and more customer focused.

Digital transformation is redefining businesses within an industry, aiding transition from a product-centric approach to an ecosystem-centric one. There is also an expansion of industry boundaries, with seamless integration across diverse industries, leading to co-existence of competition and cooperation. For example, an automobile manufacturer, in addition to focusing on its product, may have to collaborate with various stakeholders such as telecom operators, device manufacturers and insurance providers to create a connected car ecosystem. A bank may need to collaborate with telecom operators, retailers and FinTechs to create a digital product, e.g MCash recently launched by NIBSS (owned by Nigerian banks) which allows cardless micropayments via the use of USSD is a good example.

Some forward-thinking banks now adopt Application Programme Interface (APIs) to allow creation of new product propositions, enhance digital capabilities and enable seamless partnerships with FinTechs. This is expected to create a shift to open platforms which enables dynamic, value-driven ecosystems across areas such as payments, lending, personal financial management, trade finance and supply chain.


As digital transformation continues to shift control to consumers, companies are being compelled to adapt to the new reality, or risk becoming irrelevant for consumers. Banks should develop the ability to anticipate and respond to business needs quickly and automatically as part of the organizations digital evolution, the company noted. Predictive analytics helps in offering targeted products and effectively carry out cross-selling, up-selling and bundling of products.

Banks should change their approach from company-focused to a customer-centric one. This requires a shift in decision-making approach from leveraging solely historical or real time data to big data analytics which now allows banks to be more proactive than reactive to customer needs. There is a need to maximise return by leveraging more powerful analytic tools and capabilities to drive “smarter” decisions, better sales targeting and service delivery. Digital (social, mobile and online) helps in customer acquisition, engagement and retention, including brand advocacy.

Analytics drives better customer experience by assessing customer lifetime value through demographic and transactional evaluation. It helps in ascertaining success rates of marketing campaigns and new products, product design and marketing communications.

Social media helps enterprises in maximising outreach while optimising marketing spend. Banks are increasingly adopting differentiated branch formats to better target different customer segments, using analytic-based network management to maximise outreach across different customers.


Customers are demanding ubiquitous multichannel experience. Consequently, omni-channel transactions will become commonplace in future, where the customers can start transactions on one channel and continue with subsequent steps on others.

Analytics-driven customer segmentation also helps enterprises offer unique channels to different customer groups.


Digital Technology is at the centre of excellence in organisational operations, especially in the current global market. Technology is rapidly changing traditional business models – the shift to digital is a significant transformation being experienced by all industries today. “Adapt or die” is the new order of the day for businesses, especially those with traditional business models. The opportunities for growth investors are limitless and tremendous as exciting products and entirely new categories of services are emerging. The paradigm shifts in consumer behaviour are also contributing to the growing competitive threats and raising risks in the marketplace.

M-Changa, a Kenya-based fundraising and crowdfunding platform that brilliantly fused modern mobile payment systems, SMS, social network and credit card payments, also reflects the Harambee-culture in Kenya and other countries in East Africa. This platform affords rural Kenyans an opportunity to raise funds and pool funds together to achieve a specific objective or purpose.

With over 28,000 users in Kenya and increased application in other east African countries, M-Changa is changing the way Africans raise funds. Technology advancements are significantly changing business strategy across industries by altering customer behaviour and expectations, competitive landscape and business models – the banking industry is no exception. The world as we know it is changing and this is all enabled by technology and delivering excellent customer experience.

Paypal, which was just an online payment service years ago, now has the Paypal Working Capital, thereby proving loans for paypal merchants with an opportunity for flexible payments. Paypal also launched the reloadable prepaid card with a no-cost direct deposit service, a service which does not require users to have a bank account or go to a bank to sign up for the program.

Through Google Wallet, google account holders can send money through their email service (Gmail) and join their “crowdlending” service, where individuals are able to lend money through a platform.

Amazon is becoming a bank for their financial distributors through their Amazon Lending Program.

Traditional banking was basically “brick and mortar” – a large network of big physical branches, large number of tellers, long queues and plenty of paper work. Due to digitalization, banking is truly no longer “a place where we go” but “something we do”, and this has led to a shift in business strategy and models, customer engagement and service delivery.

With technology advancements and changing customer trends, banks are embracing digital for several reasons:

  • Cost savings potential via the use of technology.
  • Identification of new revenue streams.
  • Increasing customer base through wider reach enabled by technology (leveraging mobile, internet).
  • Enhancing customer experience by managing entire business from the customers’ perspective.
  • Rethinking legacy business models for better efficiency, agility, flexibility to adapt to constantly changing market trends.
  • To achieve the agility and flexibility necessary to thrive in the digital world, banks will need to invest heavily in modern solutions.
  • Investment prioritization for smart banks needs to be robust technical foundation for digitalization, including multichannel customer experience platforms, CRM, customer communication solutions, cybersecurity, collaboration tools, storage technologies, analytics, modern core systems, and risk management.

Beyond these, banks must prepare to undergo a deeper modification of their business and culture. Innovation needs to be at its core, with the use of data to create new business, revenue and customer engagement, through the development of new services and offers while creating competitive advantages. The constant emergence of technologies has revolutionised banking lifestyles and created innovative channels through which banks can deliver effective services to their customers. More directly, consumer banking demands, with a focus on speed and quality, have led to invention of different technologies that offer new opportunities for service delivery, such as apps, mobile Internet browsers, geo-location, and even biometric input as unveiled on smartphones.

A research paper recently released by the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) estimates that retail banks that are unable to adopt a digital model may see a drop in return-on-equity (ROE) by around 18% over a five-year timeframe, mainly due to pressure from FinTech firms and progressive banks. However, retail banks that are able to reinvent themselves could see a substantial increase in ROE of around 18%, largely driven by the lower cost of serving customers and the efficiencies they will reap.


Union Bank – A Simpler, Smarter Bank: Preparing for a Digital Future

In 2014, Union bank embarked on a transformation journey – having defined its strategy at the end of 2013. This transformation was primarily centered on people, process and technology.  Launching our new identity in 2015, we reinforced our efforts to reposition Union Bank as a strong player in the Nigerian banking sector – A Simpler, Smarter Bank.

Simpler, smarter banking for us meant a different approach to what we traditionally know as banking. It meant embracing technology as a critical enabler for our business. It meant:

  • Transforming our touch points from being physical branch-focused towards a leaner network, with160 branches transformed though renovations, relocations, closures, and establishments.
  • A stronger push towards alternative channels via ATM, mobile and online while maintaining a seamless experience across channels.
  • Making smarter investments in the right technology and platforms i.e. upgrading our core banking platform, launching a robust payments and collections platform as well as a trade portal, rolling out a central processing centre, etc.
  • Streamlining our processes for better efficiency in terms of turnaround time, cost optimization, accuracy & reliability – e.g. our account opening, card issuance & retail loan issuance processes are evidence of our simpler, smarter banking commitment.
  • Our CPC now processes repetitive, high volume and time consuming transactions such as account opening, funds transfer, etc. allowing our branch staff to focus on sales and service delivery to our customers.
  • Realigning our talent base – hiring, training and retaining the right skillset across the bank.
  • Investing in strategic partnerships and ecosystems, including start-up companies, suppliers and the community at large.
  • Embedding sustainability principles into our business operations and activities – recycling project, sustainability e-learning course, launch of women network – weHub.
  • Giving back to our community via several CSR efforts e.g. 2016 Rio Olympics (#TeamUnion), LEAP camp, the Internally Displaced People (IDPs), etc.



Our Employees

As banks shift towards digital, it becomes imperative to find the right talent in areas that can’t be automated by robotics i.e. non-redundant or repetitive tasks. As digitalization continues to evolve, banks will continue to embrace low cost channels, which could mean fewer tellers at the branches. This would mean that skills can be better tailored to more value added tasks. For example, areas such as strategists, innovation teams, DevOps, data analytics and digital marketers who can think creatively about new business designs and product or service offerings

This also means our investments in our people continues to be critical – our hiring methods, training programmes and performance management framework now reflects our commitment to being a simpler, smarter bank. Our work culture needs to also reflect “simpler and smarter” – we are embracing teleconferencing across key regional branches, leveraging Skype for Business and promoting work-life balance with technology as an enabler (i.e. more flexible working hours, employees are also encouraged to work from home sometimes)


Customers are embracing digital; they no longer fit into typical age-based demographics. For example, not all millennials are tech-savvy and connected, while the so-called ‘silver surfers’ (age 50 and above who are regular internet users) might prefer online interactions over physical ones.

Our channel strategy caters to both segments, leveraging our branch network of ~300, ~760 ATMs and ~2,700 POS (compared to 340 branches, 270 ATMs and ~1,000 POS in 2012). Our push to virtual banking channel penetration has also seen our active e-channel usage grow by 3x in 2016 alone. We have a shift from single channel (branch only), to multichannel (branch, ATM, POS, virtual banking) and now to an omni-channel approach to ensure a consistent and seamless experience across all our customer touchpoints.

At Union Bank of Nigeria, we are committed to taking the hassle out of banking, allowing customers focus on what matters most to them. This has required a shift in our customer engagement. What we do now is segment our customer base along several patterns – customer needs, preferences, background and lifestyle to create tailored services that are relevant. For example, we have specific offerings for our mass retail customers – we have designed innovative savings products – UnionKorrect, UnionGoal, UnionFuture, UnionBetta to meet their needs, while simplifying the onboarding process to ensure it is hassle-free.

Recently, we launched our elite segment, with lounges in two of our branches in Lagos and Abuja – where our affluent customers have dedicated RM service and can enjoy pre-negotiated discounts at preferred retails across the country


With our simpler, smarter banking promise comes the need for strategic partnerships that will allow for better efficiency as a bank, faster speed to market while increasing our revenue generation capabilities. We launched a new ERP / procurement system to streamline procurement across the bank and also optimized our vendor selection process to ensure alignment with our strategy and commitments as a bank.

For technology suppliers, we work with those who are aligned with our strategic direction, understand the trending technology choices of consumers and can anticipate the future needs of customers.  We are also increasingly selecting suppliers and partners who are “sustainable” in their practices.


“Simpler and smarter” for us also means “giving back” and empowering our community for success – we want to be seen as a partner for our community. Our commitment to sustainable banking and CSR are evidence of our promise to become a simpler, smarter bank. This is reflected in our product development initiatives – we recently launched UnionBetta – a savings products where customers can earn as high as 7%, and we make a donation of their behalf to a charitable cause.

Internally, we launched an internal campaign to raise N15m to donate to the IDP camps in the North. Furthermore, our unwavering commitment to Agriculture for food security, job creation and wealth creation for our country reflects in our awards and participation in several thought leadership forums.

  • “Best Participating Bank in Nigeria” – CBN Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund.
  • “Best Commercial Agriculture Bank” – Nigeria Agriculture Awards.

In addition, we commenced our recycling initiative with a few branches, which will be rolled out nationwide next year, as we continue to adopt schools for financial literacy mentoring and also support social innovators through partnerships with NGOs such as LEAP Africa.