Standard Chartered to Halve Nigeria branches

Standard Chartered Plc is closing about half of its branches in Nigeria in a move toward digital banking as mobile money providers make inroads in the West African country’s finance industry.

As of December, the local branch of the London-listed lender has already begun closing some offices, with 13 branches remaining after previously operating 25.

In order to reach new customers and process cash deposits and withdrawals in Africa’s largest economy, Standard Chartered is enhancing mobile banking and recruiting agents.

StanChart’s switch echoes efforts by Nigerian lenders to embrace digital banking amid a fintech boom that has put much of Africa at the forefront of the mobile money revolution. 

To reduce costs, Access Bank Plc and First Bank of Nigeria are building networks of authorized agents, or salespeople within communities, in place of opening additional physical branches. 

Standard Chartered Bank has been focusing its efforts in Nigeria on corporate banking since 1999. 

However, it is looking to expand its retail business and plans to grow its customer base fivefold by using digital technology to onboard clients faster in 2019 rather than waiting two years.

The lender plans to roll out digital lending to increase retail credit as well as speed up the process for small loans.

With over 200 million citizens, over a third of whom lack access to financial services, Nigeria has witnessed an explosion in the demand for payment and lending solutions outside of traditional banking as businesses build on the rapid spread of mobile phones. 

Additionally, financial-technology companies have benefited as customers have sought to reduce physical contact during the pandemic.

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