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SMW Lagos Day 1: UBA’s chatbot LEO now boasts of over 1 million users

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Chatbot

United Bank for Africa (UBA Group) kicked off the first session of the week-long Social Media Week Lagos 2019 with the announcement that its chatbot Leo now covers 17 African countries and has one million subscribers.

Leo was launched in January 2018 to enable customers of the bank have access to select banking services including account opening, loan applications, account balance checking, cheque confirmations, bill payment, account freezing, and instant notifications.

Described as an “alpha version” by digital enthusiasts, Leo has surpassed one million users on the bank’s mobile app, in just 12 months because of its numerous benefits and acceptability, a feat its close rivals have not been able to attain.box

The AI-driven virtual assistant, which also has Facebook and WhatsApp banking capabilities, was first unveiled in January and today, one year later remains the preferred chat banker in Nigeria and across Africa where UBA is present because it has clinically leapfrogged others in every sense of it. 

“The formulation of this product is consistent with the bank’s customer-first philosophy, where we are doing things not the way we like, but focusing on what the customer want, where they want it and in the exact platform they want it,” Kennedy Uzoka, UBA’s managing director said at the unveiling of the chatbot in 2018.

The bank’s head of online banking, Augustine Abolusoro, in a presentation titled Game of Bots at Social Media Week 2019 disclosed that Leo is not just the first artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot in Africa; it is also a multi-lingual chatbot with capability to speak languages like English, French, and Portuguese. The company plans to include Yoruba and other Nigerian languages very soon.

“Leo was developed with best in class AI technology: Natural language processing and machine learning,” says Abolusoro. “It enables financial inclusion.”

He continued, “As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even give them increased value as Leo clocks one,” Abolusoro added.

 

This milestone reflects the bank’s continued focus on providing industry-leading digital capabilities as part of its high-tech, high-touch client experience.

 

Everything learnt over the last one year of Leo’s work will help UBA improve on its digital offerings, says Abolusoro, Head of online banking, who assured customers  of “nothing short of the very best innovation in the coming months”.

In May 2018, Mark Zuckerberg thrust Leo into global limelight when he used the chatbot as an illustration of how businesses were leveraging Facebook to connect better with their customers.

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“Leo is doing incredible things,” Zuckerberg had said of Leo during his presentation.

Abolusoro noted that as a result of the feature, Leo which is also available on Facebook-owned WhatsApp has gained one million subscribers. Till date it has hosted 70 million conversations.

While 5 per cent of the subscriber population is within the age of 65 and above, an overwhelming 72 per cent are between 18 and 34 years.

“The Leo platform has the same kind of authentication you find on all our digital platforms,” Abolusoro said regarding concerns around privacy and cybersecurity.

In 12 months since he was launched, Leo has won several awards, including the Euromoney Award which aptly validates his dominance in the digital banking space. Euromoney is a globally renowned organisation which appraises more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class awards and the best Banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.

How Leo won a million hearts in 12 months

 

With ever-increasing customer expectations of quick service and near real-time transactional support, United Bank for Africa (UBA) committed resources to Artificial Intelligence (AI) a year ago, birthing Leo, a Banking Chatbot that helps customers carry out key banking transactions anywhere, using mobile devices and personal computers. 

 

Leo can be accessed via Facebook or WhatsApp.

 

“Our customers are increasingly asking for mobile services that make their lives easier, and Leo is becoming a growing choice for his convenience and personal solutions,” says Austin Abolusoro, who heads Online Banking at UBA.

 

Leo combines the latest technology in AI; predictive analytics and natural language, to be a virtual financial assistant to customers, who can interact with it any way they choose, including texting or tapping options on their screen. Leo has proven to be an important financial assistant, helping users to search for transactions, view account history and balance, pay bills, as well as track spending trends. Leo is also developing interest in other aspects of users’ lives and currently helps them to check football scores and weather information. Leo will continue to learn and become more involved in the lives of users to better meet their needs and address their queries.

 

“As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even give them increased value as Leo clocks one,” Abolusoro adds.

 

This milestone reflects the bank’s continued focus on providing industry-leading digital capabilities as part of its high-tech, high-touch client experience.

 

Everything learnt over the last one year of Leo’s work will help UBA improve on its digital offerings, says Abolusoro, Head of online banking, who assured customers of “nothing short of the very best innovation in the coming months”.

   

Leo is set to become a financial control centre for its wide range of users, offering them accessible and intelligent ways to manage their money. It will also be recommending ways to save money and automatically switch to the best value products available to the user.

 

Leo who speaks multiple languages and is extremely user-friendly, has become the preferred Banking Chatbot in Nigeria and the only available AI banking chatbot in 15 other countries across Africa, including Cameroon, Zambia, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Congo DRC, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and UBA’s latest subsidiary, Mali.

In 12 short months since he was launched, Leo has won several awards, including the Euromoney Award which aptly validates his dominance in the digital banking space. Euromoney is a globally renowned organisation which appraises more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class awards and the best Banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.

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FIRSTBANK PARTNERS EVENTFUL TO SUPPORT SMEs IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY

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Fashion

As part of efforts to provide access to market and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Small Medium Scale Enterprise (SMEs) of the fashion industry, First Bank of Nigeria Limited partnered with Eventful Nigeria Limited on its event, fashion souk, a platform that creates an opportunity for players in the fashion industry to exhibit and sell their wares to the thousands of event participants.

The Runway

Speaking at the event held in Lagos recently, the Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communication, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, said the bank has over the years, since its founding, been very supportive of the entrepreneurial space and SMEs, adding that the role of the bank is that of an enabler.

“FirstBank has been involved in every sector of the economy since 1894, so if you think about that there is no sector we have not been involved in, in fact this particular fashion souk, we are the pioneer sponsor and we sponsored it right from when it started.”

Zaccheaus, Osibanjo and Ibru

Ani-Mumuney explained that the fashion industry over the years has grown incredibly and added that it has helped to grow other businesses.

According to her, “Just like Nigerian music, the fashion industry is still in its infancy. We have great talents and potential in the fashion industry. Let’s consider the developed fashion industry of Italy for instance and the entire value chain of fashion, it tells you that there is a lot to be done. We still need to have fashion zones in core Cities and States, so that within a particular zone, you could have the cutters, button hole creation and others.

“The great thing is that we have a market here, but beyond that is that we could easily become the fashion hub for Africa, especially its export across continents. The fashion industry is diverse and versatile with many roles carried-out by individuals with uniquely different skill-set. Some persons could focus on finishing; some could focus on sketching, garment making and other areas. Indeed, Nigeria are fashion freaks, with a large and diverse market.

Also at the event was Nollywood actor and producer Kunle Afolayan whom had his clothing line Ire Clothing, displayed. Afolayan, the Chief Executive Officer of Ire Clothing said he started the clothing line with just the Kunle Kembe, and presently, it has expanded to about five, six collections.

He also stated that what inspired Ire clothing is because of his love for arts and anything that deals with the Nigerian cultural heritage and helps to document culture, “so with Ire clothing, we use Africa fabrics, Anakara, Adire and others.”

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Afoloyan explained that he has modified the old Yoruba Kembe style to something that is now pop culture so that the younger generation can also wear it, adding that there are T-shirts and Kunle’s Dansiki which is a bit smaller than the traditional Dansiki, and face caps.

According to him, “The brand story we are trying to tell is that we want people to embrace their own culture and tradition; use it to their advantage and use it to the world. I think the fashion industry is striving and it’s been here for a very longtime and it is doing better because a lot of our people are exporting our clothing abroad.”

In his remarks, veteran comedian, Atunyota Akpobome, popularly known as Ali baba, said the fashion souk is a platform of opportunities and a collage of business ideas, providing a platform for people to network and express business innovations.

According to Ali baba, “To expand the frontiers of the fashion industry, there is need for exposure and the social media is helping a great deal to improve the employment needs of Nigerians. Once the employment statistics increases there will be higher purchasing power and people will tend to invest and spend more in fashion. In a country of about 200 million people, one should be able to do one million sales in months. But I think we will get there someday. We need to grow our textile industry and revamp the textile companies, which implies that we have to revive the production of cotton so that players in the industry can have access to raw materials, thereby cutting down production cost.”

Also speaking at the event, popular television presenter and model, Uti Nwachukwu, expressed satisfaction with the event, commending the organisers for creating an avenue to convene fashion vendors under one roof to provide their wares at discounted and affordable rates, while giving customers the opportunities to patronize their brands.

He further stated that the fashion souk gives the vendors an opportunity to showcase what they have to sell and creates opportunity for them to advertise their products.

Nwachukwu added: “A lot of vendors and customers here are happy. It is a give and take situation that works well. The fashion industry in Nigeria is the most underrated industry; there is so much potential, and greatness in the fashion industry.

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“We have great designers that will shine in any part of the world. It is a great gesture the bank is making by supporting the industry. I just wish the bank can help these designers to get to international level of exposure. Our designs are wonderful, African prints are in fashion in different parts of the world. Finance and exposure are the key challenges facing the industry, if it is properly addressed, things will work out well.”

About FirstBank

 

First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is the premier Bank in West Africa and the leading banking services solutions provider in Nigeria for 125 years. With some 15 million customer accounts, FirstBank provides a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services with over 750 business locations. The Bank has international presence through its subsidiaries, FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBNBank in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing.

Since its establishment in 1894, FirstBank has consistently built relationships with customers focusing on the fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, optimised risk management and leadership. Over the years, the Bank has led the financing of private investment in infrastructure development in the Nigerian economy by playing key roles in the Federal Government’s privatisation and commercialisation schemes. With its global reach, FirstBank provides prospective investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities that are available in Nigeria, an internationally competitive world-class brand and a credible financial partner.

FirstBank has been named “Most Valuable Bank Brand in Nigeria” six times in a row (2011 – 2016) by the globally renowned “The Banker Magazine” of the Financial Times Group; “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria” for seven consecutive years (2011 – 2017) by the Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards and “Best Bank in Nigeria” by Global Finance for 15 years. Our brand purpose is to always put customers, partners and stakeholders at the heart of our business, even as we standardise customer experience and excellence in financial solutions across sub-Saharan Africa, in consonance with our brand vision “To be the partner of first choice in building your future”. Our brand promise is to always deliver the ultimate “gold standard” of value and excellence. This commitment is anchored on our inherent values of passion, partnership and people, to position You First in every respect.

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Zenith Bank Launches Style By Zenith 2.0

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Zenith Bank

Leading financial institution, Zenith Bank Plc, has announced the launch of Style by Zenith 2.0.

Style by Zenith 2.0 is the second edition of its flagship lifestyle fair dedicated to intentionally celebrating the ‘small’ things that make ‘big’ differences in our lives.

The concept which was first launched in 2018, was created with the objective of supporting and creating value for customers by focusing on various aspects of their lifestyle.

This year, Style by Zenith 2.0 themed “Style the Life you Desire” is aimed at encouraging Nigerians to live their best lives and be extraordinary. The platform seeks to inspire people to be authentic while showing them that with ordinary talent and extraordinary effort they can thrive and make a real change in this world.

Speaking on the rationale behind Style by Zenith 2.0, Executive Director of Zenith Bank Plc., Dr Temitope Fasoranti, said: “Banking, for Zenith Bank means going that extra mile to be present in the lives of our customers. Driven by a culture of excellence and providing cutting edge solutions, the bank is championing this cause to enable individuals and businesses to grow wealth.”

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He added that “beyond providing financial solutions, Zenith Bank Plc seeks to be a reliable partner to her customers, ensuring that they excel on every front. With Style by Zenith 2.0, the bank continues in her commitment to empowering individuals and entrepreneurs by celebrating real talents. We will be helping people do what they know how to do best and repositioning them for greater levels of success in their various endeavours.”

This year’s programme includes an interesting line up of activities all culminating in the 3-day Lifestyle Fair taking place at the end of 2019.

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Kicking off the array of activities is the Style by Zenith 2.0 Fitness Walks to be held in conjunction with Mass Medical Missions, a non-profit organisation, and Venus Medicare Ltd, a leading health management organisation in the country.

The fitness walk will serve as a platform to promote Mission Pink Cruise – a project of Mass Medical Missions supported by Zenith Bank, aimed at taking holistic cancer prevention and health promotion to various communities across the country using Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC) nicknamed Pink Cruises, the first of its kind in Nigeria.

Scheduled to hold in August, these fitness walks and cancer screening exercises will hold in five cities across Nigeria – Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Onitsha.

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FIRSTBANK PROMOTES FINANCIAL INCLUSION THROUGH DIGITISATION IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

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Cashless

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has announced its organisation of a Joint Seminar with sub-Saharan African Banking and Telecom Regulators to promote financial inclusion through digital innovations in sub-Saharan Africa. The event which was held in Lagos recently was themed “Advancing ePayment and Digital Innovations in Africa- Evolution of Nigeria’s Payment Systems”.

The seminar was organised to provide key officers of regulatory authorities in these Markets – notably locations with FirstBank subsidiaries; Ghana, Senegal, DRC, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – a platform to get familiar with developments in the Nigerian Payment Systems and Digital Products Industry thereon replicating and adopting the learnings from the seminar with a view to bolster the finance industry in their respective countries.

Key players and regulators in the finance and digital banking ecosystem at the event included: Agada Apochi, Managing Director/CEO, Unified Payment Services Ltd; Mike Ogbalu, CEO, Verve International; Musa Jimoh, Deputy Director, Payments System Policy and Oversight, Central Bank of Nigeria; Premier Oiwoh, Managing Director, NIBSS; Bashirat Odunewu, Group Executive, International Banking Group, FirstBank and Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited amongst others.

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Speaking on FirstBank’s leading role in promoting digital banking and financial inclusion across the country, Adeduntan said, “FirstBank by any measure has been a success story as far as digital banking is concerned. Today, we have more than 8.5million people on our USSD *894# banking platform, more than 3 million people on our Firstmobile platform. We are the only Bank in Nigeria that has issued cards in excess of 10 million in Nigeria. When you are looking at that institution that has achieved a lot in terms of digital payment, it is FirstBank. More than 80% of our transactions are carried out on our digital channels.”

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“We have been very aggressive with our FirstBank Agent Banking network. Today we have over 27000 agents spread across the nooks and crannies of the country, indeed second to none as far as Nigeria is country. At FirstBank, the economic growth and development of our host communities is important to us; assisting Nigeria and the continent at large address poverty is very imperative and that is why for us financial inclusion is a key part of our business strategy.” he concluded.

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