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Fragmentation in the Nigerian payment space has served more as a constraint than an enabler; Squad by GTCO positions to lead with innovation and efficiency

Without a doubt, digital payment is the next growth frontier for financial services. Amongst other extenuating factors, growing digitalisation, mobile penetration, and evolving consumer behaviour have accelerated the shift towards cashless thereby creating entirely new business models and solutions built around payments.

Given the key role digitalisation plays in the financial lives of many people today, electronic payments are at the core of the payment ecosystem. As is the case with all things economic, Nigeria remains a most attractive market. Over the past years, we have seen largely foreign investors make a play to participate in the Nigerian technology and financial sector with considerable investments in FINTECH companies creating so-called “unicorns” of these establishments. This is helping to generate needed cohesion within the payment landscape and putting it at the forefront of innovation. The gains from the payment sector will serve to spur the global remittance industry as well as enhance financial inclusion. Increasingly, it is expected that newer, more efficient form factors and product offerings will look to enhance the digital payment experience for consumers and merchants alike.

Despite this trend, a more critical assessment of the payment industry shows that existing FINTECHs are merely scratching the surface of the payment landscape and its massive potential for financial inclusion. If anything, the fragmentation of the merchant-facing payments value chain has served to dampen the massive prospects of this sector. Available research point to the fact that asides security and privacy concerns, a major challenge presently facing the mobile payment ecosystem is the high level of market fragmentation as seen in multiplicity of platforms and the different service configurations on offer. With consumer adoption stalling, mobile payments still represent a small portion of total consumer payments. The complexities around payments and the rapid evolution of merchant services require a re-evaluation of business focus and value propositions.

In comes Squad by GTCO

It is against this backdrop that the launch of Squad, a full-service digital payment company conceived by Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO Plc), is a most welcome development. For one thing, GTCO Plc is renowned for its strong corporate governance culture, bias for innovation and superior financial performance. Few financial institutions in Nigeria, and indeed Africa, can boast of GTCO’s impressive credentials. From its humble beginnings in 1990 as a pureplay banking institution, the company has morphed into a fully-fledged financial services powerhouse in a little over three decades. Underpinning this remarkably successful transformation is GTCO’s rich history of firsts: from pioneering industry-wide innovations in Online/Mobile Banking, USSD Banking, Instant Card issuance, and Fingerprint Banking to creating free business platforms to support small and medium-sized business owners in the food and fashion industries and revolutionising consumer lending with QuickCredit, GTCO has differentiated itself from other financial institutions by a mile.

With the launch of Squad, GTCO Plc aims to deploy its trademark efficient operations and innovative capacity to drive adoption in payment services and enhance financial inclusion. With the overarching goal to be the most efficient off-line and online merchant acquiring platform in all of Africa, Squad is well positioned to serve four important enterprise verticals namely: micro- businesses (kiosks), online sellers, digital natives, and corporates.

Reinventing the in-store payment experience, no longer limited to POS

Squad’s top offerings will include a payment gateway and the Soft POS. While most are familiar with the functionalities of payment gateways, the Soft POS solution is as cutting-edge as it is simple-to-use.

The Soft POS is a multiform-factor white-label solution that enables a smartphone to function as a merchant acceptance device. Essentially, the Soft POS allows any mobile phone with the NFC feature to be used as a point-of-sale. While this service is enjoying growing acceptance and use in other parts of the world like America, Europe, and Asia, Squad will be amongst the very first financial payments service in Africa to introduce this unique payment functionality. Merchants who have traditionally accepted cash payments or struggled with the sub-optimal nature of physical POS terminals, now have a simpler and more secure way to manage their transactions.

The solution effectively addresses the needs of micro and small businesses as it provides a cost-efficient card acceptance solution as well as complete visibility of merchant transactions making reconciliation and decision making faster and easier. With Soft POS, the consumer experience is elevated as it facilitates line-busting to streamline check out queues and eliminates friction. How does the Soft POS work? Quite simple and fast. Sellers can start accepting contactless payments in just few minutes by downloading the app from Google Play Store and completing the registration process.

Squad would also be offering other high-impact, value-adding services to merchants and corporates in various sectors of the economy to enhance their business operations and propel wide-scale growth.

What makes Squad unique?

As the name suggests, Squad denotes the power of a TEAM. The team at Squad is peopled by young, dynamic professionals who have imbibed GTCO Plc’s culture of innovation and efficiency to power next-generation payment solutions. If GTCO’s track-record of trailblazing achievements is anything to go by, Squad will in no time set the marker for merchant and customer fulfillment in payments. Squad is backed by a successful ‘Proudly African, Truly International” brand in GTCO Plc and is run by well-trained, digital-savvy minds with a keen understanding of market needs and trends. This is markedly different from what currently obtains where one or two founders set up and struggle to balance vision with ambition, and ultimately, falter off-course.

With no less a visionary than Segun Agbaje leading the Holding Company, we can be sure that values like transparency and integrity, which have become synonymous with the Guaranty Trust brand, will come on to define the payment space resulting in more clarity of purpose and extensive trust in the reliability of digital solutions. In a recent forum to review GTCO Plc’s prior year financial statements and projections for the 2022 financial year, Mr. Agbaje pledged to disclose the performance of the Group’s new businesses on a quarterly basis. This is a rarity in today’s clime. It is exactly what one would expect from a brand looking to champion Africa’s growth as it serves to enhance competitiveness and value creation for all stakeholders. You would recall that the Group recently started Guaranty Trust Fund Managers Ltd and Guaranty Trust Pension Managers Ltd to compete in the Asset Management and Pension sectors. These, alongside the new payment company, will certainly add to the viability of GTCO Plc long-term.

The future of payments is digital

To reference one of Segun Agbaje’s seminal submissions, ‘the future of payments is digital.’ The launch of Squad is timeous if Nigeria, and indeed Africa, must ride the wave of continued cash displacement and go on to drive digital payment adoption and financial inclusion. And, if there is a question of how to radically transform Africa’s payment space, Squad is the answer.

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Police launch manhunt for Sterling Bank staff for Stealing customers’ N300m

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The Delta State Police Command on Sunday says it has begun search for a female staff of Sterling Bank in Effurun Branch, Delta State for allegedly disappearing with customers’ money to the tune of N300 milion.

 

Police Public Relations Officer in the State, DSP Bright Edafe who confirmed this to our correspondent, said that the suspect, a female staff (name withheld) allegedly defrauded customers of the bank she works in the sum of N300million, adding that the police were seriously looking for her.

 

DSP Bright Edafe said that the female banker was said to have approached some account owners to grant her permission to be using their money for business while she would be giving the customers certain percentage every month, adding that this was not to be as it was discovered last week by one of the customers that the woman stopped coming to work and an attempt to reach her on phone was unsuccessful as her lines were switched off.

 

It was gathered that on getting to her house around Living Faith Church at Water Resources, Effurun where she lived, it was alleged that she had also absconded as one of her colleagues said that the female banker did business with customers’ money with their consent while it backfired when many people she gave money to refused to pay back, a situation that had kept her hiding from the people.

 

Edafe said that the police will do everything possible to arrest her, disclosing that her co-workers denied her whereabouts when the incident happened upon police investigation, adding that there has been palpable tension laced with threats to sack her co-workers who assisted her to ensure that she was allowed to be using the funds when they pleaded with the owners of the money.

 

He also revealed that her husband had been invited for questioning.

 

Kontongs Bello, Police Public Relations Officer, who confirmed this to journalists, said that the suspect is wanted for many cases that bothered on robbery, stealing among others, adding that the police will do everything possible to smoke him from his hideout.

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Oriental Energy in 4m Dollar Debt Mess

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The Federal high court sitting in Lagos, south west Nigeria has adjourned till 28 of September,2022, when hearing will commence in a case of debt recovery of USD4,143,856.70 filed against Oriental Energy Resources Company by Borr International Operation drilling company,being an alleged outstanding approved and unpaid invoices for the drilling services rendered in accordance with Contract for the provision of Jack-Up Drilling Unit and Drilling Rig Services rendered in the Defendant’s Ebok Field in OML 67.

 

 

The drilling company in a suit filed by its lawyer, Barrister,Gabriel Uduafi is also praying the court for interest on US$ 4,143,856.70 million based on the current London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), one month interest rate increased by 5 percent and calculated pro data on a daily basis from 6th October, 2021, till the date of liquidation of the judgement debt.

 

In its statement of claim, the Plaintiff stated that by the relevant provisions of the contract, the Drilling Operations, which the Plaintiff was engaged to carry out was required to be done within the Firm Term of 120 days.

 

It stated that going by the relevant provisions of the Contract, there was no fixed-or set target that the Plaintiff was obligated to achieve, as the Contract was not a turnkey but a day rate’ contract; and to this effect, Clauses and Schedule of the Contract explicitly set out the various rates to include Operating Rate, Standby Rate, Repair Rate, . Force Majeure Rate, Redrill Rate, Moving Rate and Zero Kate.

 

The plaintiff stated that the Lump Sum payments under the contract are the Mobilization cost of $450,000 and the

Demobilization cost of $250,000, a sum Which become due and payable upon the completion of the contract.

 

However,following the default in making payment as stipulated under the Contract, the plaintiff wrote to the Defendant both by mail and letters, demanding for the payment of the outstanding and approved invoices and that the Defendant wrote replies raising issues and points that are completely alien to the Contract as its reason for not making the payment.

 

The Plaintiff contended that in setting up a completely ridiculous claim, the Defendant claimed spread cost for nonproductive time (NPT) in the total sum of US$3,437,500.00 where there is no provision in the Contract to support such claim.

 

The Plaintiff added that following series of engagement , it was compelled to instruct its lawyers to issue a demand for the payment of the invoices, and by a letter dated 19th January, 2022 the Plaintiffs Solicitors delivered a formal demand for the payment of some of the outstanding invoices in the sum of US$2,533,749.12 net of taxes.

 

Rather than simply honour its payment obligation under the Contract and credit the Plaintiff with the value of the invoices, the Defendant caused its Solicitors to reply the Plaintiff’s formal demand by the letter dated 26th January, 2022 by which the Defendant now seeks to claim the sum of $10,511,754.00 as spread cost for non-productive time (NPT) and consequential loss, as against the sum of US$3,437,500.00 initially set up by the Defendant in its earlier engagement with the Plaintiff.

 

The plaintiff added that in accordance with the provisions of the Contract, the same came to completion on 10th October, 2021 when the Plaintiff’s Drilling Unit left the Defendant’s Ebok Field OML 67.

 

Plaintiff avers that by the Completion Date, the lump sum Demobilization Rate of US$250,000 became due and payable.

The reasons given by the Defendant in refusing to honour its payment obligation under the Contract are flimsy, frivolous, vexatious and ultra vires, the provisions of the Contract between the Parties, and having approved the invoices, the defendant is obligated to make the payment within the stipulated 30 days under the Contract.

Consequently,excuses given by the Defendant in failing to honour its contractual obligations to the Plaintiff are simply provocative, as same are not supported or derived from the Contract.

The Plaintiff is being denied of the payment due to it in respect of the services rendered to the Defendant

as a result of which the Defendant is indebted to the Plaintiff to the tune of US$4,143,856.70 as stipulated under Clause 11.2 of the Contract.

It will be in the interest of justice to grant all the reliefs claimed in this suit adding that except the Court intervenes and grant the reliefs sought, the Defendant will continue to default in the payment of the invoices which have been duly approved for payment by the Plaintiff.

In its defence, Oriental Energy Resources Limited stated that the company is not indebted to the Plaintiff in the manner alleged in it’s claim or in any manner whatsoever as the invoices upon which the alleged debt purportedly arose are disputed by the defendant.

 

The Defendant stated that the Plaintiff misled it into agreeing to the mobilisation of the drilling rig to commence the contract, by fraudulently misrepresenting to the Defendant that its drilling rig, Borr Natt, was suitable for the Defendant’s Drilling Programme.

 

In an affidavit deposed to by Abraham Faga, a Well Engineering Manager in the Defendant company, he stated that the Defendant is not indebted to the Plaintiff in the way and manner alleged in its claim or in any way and manner whatsoever as the Defendant is disputing the invoices upon which the purported debt arose.

 

He averred that without the Plaintiff’s fraudulent misrepresentations, the Defendant would never have commenced the contract and approved mobilisation of the drilling unit, hence the issue of Plaintiff’s invoices which were issued within the contract would never have arisen.

 

He added that the Defendant would, be claiming for a refund of all payments it has so far made to the Plaintiff as the payments were fraudulently obtained.

 

He claimed that due to the Plaintiff’s fraudulent misrepresentation, the purported execution of the contract was completely appalling with non-productive time of over 25 days attributed to rig related repairs which is unprecedented in the industry for drilling operations.

 

He stated that the Plaintiff hastily commenced this suit under undefended list to mislead the court into believing that the Defendant has no defence to its claims.

 

The deponent further stated that Justice will be better served if the Defendant is allowed to defend the suit.

 

He urged the court to transfer the suit to Ordinary Cause List for a complete and holistic determination of all issues in controversy.

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