By Wycliffe Natweeta
COVID-19 has paved the way for digital transformation as businesses shift operations to cope with office closures, restricted movement and supply interruption.
Inevitably, most industries are operating in a constant state of flux, and businesses are rapidly adapting strategies to evolve with rapidly changing consumer behavior. In many cases, we have seen the utilization of virtual streaming to replace meetings, online conferences and events, online purchases replacing physical transactions. As many individuals manage with the new measures, organizations are coming up with more productive ways to support the evolving developments and in the end achieve a holistic positive ripple effect.
Housing Finance Bank is one of the financial institutions that has in recent years embarked on its digital transformation journey and has since delivered a range of digital products, services and solutions. We caught up with the Bank’s Head Distribution Channels and Customer Experience, Mr. Wycliffe Natweeta to further dissect digitization during and after COVID-19 and how the Bank is positioned to meet the evolving changes to suit their respective customer needs and requirements:
Tell us about Housing Finance Bank and digitization?
Housing Finance Bank was founded in 1967 as a housing finance company. The company became a fully licensed commercial Bank in November 2007, after acquiring a commercial Banking license from the Bank of Uganda. Housing Finance Bank is the leading mortgage lender in the country. In 2013, the Bank embarked on its digital transformation journey. This saw the automation of many systems that later fed into the launch of a range of digital products in 2018. To date, the Bank has a variety of digital channels that range from HFB Mobile Banking, Internet Banking, HFB MasterCard Service and Agent Banking.
How convenient are the services offered as part of the HFB digital channels?
Housing finance bank is one of the fortunate banks to have been digitally ready to continue serving customers when the lockdown struck in late March 2020. As previously communicated, a year ago, we launched our digital channels which positioned us to be the bank of choice before, during and after COVID-19. Our internationally accepted MasterCard service for example spells convenience because of its wide acceptance hence one can use it for a range of services both online and at various merchant points. This is just one of the many other channels that include both retail and corporate internet banking, Agent banking, HFB Mobile banking among others. All these services come in conveniently at a time like this when we have more restrictions on movement, accessibility and physical transactions. Everything can be done online from making payments, deposits, checking balances and cash transactions altogether. Even better, our transaction charge waivers for our customers during this period have made it easier to utilize these services.
They say, the future is digital: how would you say The Bank has positioned itself to fit well into this future?
Digitization of operational processes has been on the radar for most companies and organizations hence the saying above: “the future is indeed digital. As a Bank, this journey has been one that we embarked on since 2013. This is all hinged on providing an improved customer value proposition through the provision of reliable, convenient and affordable services and solutions. With this rapid evolution of digital processes we are positive for the new mindset that is aligned towards digital utilization focusing on the future with an openness to serve our customers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Customer self-service and experience is a trend that has developed long before COVID-19, how has this accelerated the Bank’s solutions to provide a smooth customer journey?
Customer experience has and will still remain top priority on our list. We have made deliberate efforts to tailor-make our solutions to suit our customer’s needs. Even when the human factor remains present for verification, we have still endeavored to digitize most of our customer processes and transactions. Our customers can reliably check their balance, place orders, and make payments within different locations with our range of digital channels.
Technology is the glue that keeps operations running in these times of uncertainty and the actions businesses take now can reduce the recovery period once trading returns to normality. As priorities shift in with the hit of COVID-19, we remain committed to setting the foundation to ensure and reap long-term benefits of customer engagement and loyalty.
How will your digital strategy adopt to protect the customers information against fraud?
We are in a period of rampant cybercrime and we acknowledge there are growing concerns about the massive amount of personal information that customers provide to the Banks and the vulnerability that it creates, however, this information aids us to design our solutions based on the information available so as to serve our customers better. We have put in place measures to ensure that our customer’s information is protected, remember, security of any kind in the Bank can no longer be primarily seen as a backend prevention function but as a function is well monitored in a regular basis.
Any last words for the customers and everyone else out there?
The bank has strategically positioned itself to fit in the lives of customers. We have personalized our services to serve a wide range of customers both retail and corporate. We are also aware of the impact Covid-19 has created most especially within the service sector which has made it next to impossible to have a face to face interaction with customers. Due to the current situation, we have seen steady growth in the number of customers who are signing up and utilizing our digital platforms during this time. However, we are also aware that we have a section of customers that have not enrolled onto our digital platforms, and wish to further advice that, our digital solutions are easily accessible. One can open an account with us and enroll immediately or download our HFB Mobile app on Google play store, I-store or by dialing *225#. Our internet Banking is a self-service feature that can be accessed by following this link https://ebanking.housingfinance.co.ug/iportalweb/iRetail@1
or simply visiting our website, www.housingfinance.co.ug. I therefore call upon our customers and everyone else who has not enrolled onto any of our platforms to do so and enjoy a wide range of convenient, hassle-free solutions.
We have also embarked on our journey for digital account-opening and onboarding solutions to enable both retail and business customer applicants to open accounts in just minutes and thus making digital account origination, onboarding and cross-selling a simple, smart and secure process.
Remember that you can also reach us through our customer contact center on 0417-803000 for further inquiries and also acquaint yourselves more on how best you can utilize our digital channels and processes.