The banking sector is one of the pillars of the Nigerian economy. According to the Nigerian Development Plan (NDP), the financial sector added a total of N44.2 trillion to Nigeria’s GDP from 2017 to 2020. And while technology is rapidly taking center stage, the banking sector is one of its main adopters.
However, Nigeria is heavily dependent on imports, and this habit affects its taste for technological solutions. Nigeria spends $2.16 billion a year on foreign technology consulting, and only 23% of the software used in Nigeria is indigenous.
But the problem with foreign software is that it is designed to conform to international best practices and with a global perspective. This means that they do not take into account the distinct characteristics of the different markets they must serve. Therefore, banks have to spend a lot to customize their software to meet local requirements.
Union Systems, a leader in the financial software industry, is tackling this problem by creating software products tailored to the local needs of Nigerian banks. Following the success of several products such as kashasi Trade financee Software and Optimus Company portal, it launches a new product – Egora cash management software. Egora is a cash management solution that allows banks to process and manage all their financial instruments end-to-end in one place.
In an interview with Ventures Africa, Seun Adeleye, Head of Professional Services and Delivery at Union Systems, and Ndubuisi Ofoegbu, Product Manager at Egora, discuss international software issues and how their product solves them. as well as the future of Nigerian technology.
VA: What inspired the team to create Egora?
USL: Most cash management software in the African market are designed for the international market and do not meet the unique requirementlocal market. Jhey are also very expensive and in most cases, to buildyou in silos, bring people to use disparate systems to complete a transaction process. Due to these challenges, we decided to drinkild a built-in Front-to-back cash management application that not only addresses the functional peculiarity of the region, but it is also less expensive to implement.
VA: Impressive. Solving all these problems with one product must mean that it has many features. What feature of Egora are you most excited about?
USL: In most foreign countries cash requests you will normally have front office, middle office and back office all sitting in silos like different systems. Egora is an integrated front-to-end cash management application where the front, middle and back office are in one systemreport, reconcile and obtain accurate and timely information Informationrmation from the easy dashboard. The ability to configure Egora to meet unique regulatory requirements specific to a particular region put this one in front of the others.
VA: How do your customers receive news about this product? Are they as enthusiastic as you?
USL: Egora is still in beta phase, so we haven’t officially launched it. But we’ve talked about it with our customers because we understand their pain points. We know what great players go through because we have worked with them for a long time. And yes, of course, they are delighted. They are happy to have a local solution to their problems and no longer have to worry about their work conforming to the standards set by foreign solution providers. They are delighted to finally see solutions adapted to their needs. Their enthusiasm has generated a lot of buzz around Egora, and the market is eagerly waiting for us to launch it. We have presented the software to some organizations and received a lot of positive feedback. But right now, we’re still listening to what our customers want and refining our product accordingly.
VA: What have we heard that Egora is fully CBN and IFRS compliant?
USL: In Nigeria, banks must provide reports to regulators at regular intervals, daily, weekly and monthly. These reports often have tight submission deadlines. But when they have to connect to different apps to get separate bits of data, they’ll likely have time lags. So we help them to have a single system to generate their reports in one click and meet the requirements of CBN. In addition to getting timely and accurate reports, they can use Egora to monitor their cash reserve needs. The system also helps them produce reports that comply with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). For example, users can easily separate their financial instruments based on their fair value through the income statement.
VA: Interesting. Let’s talk a bit about your business. You recently won the BAFI award as Trade Finance Solutions Provider of the Year. What does this mean for you at this point?
USL: We consider it a testament to the work we have done over the years. Winning this award was a crowning achievement for the entire organization. It shows that we are at the top of our game and the industry recognizes it. Although we are now venturing into another aspect of transaction banking, we do so with this zeal. It also inspires us to continue to be excellent at what we do.
VA: Your company is a strong supporter of blockchain and big data initiatives. Does Union Systems intend to integrate them soon?
USL: You are right to say that we are supporters of blockchain and big data. We already have products that follow the big data line, which we will release soon. One is a multi-bank international trade finance platform we piloted with a few banks and corporates in anticipation of an impending crisis launch. We also have multi-bank variants for Egora, which will bring players in this space closer to us. We also plan to port some of our existing core solutions to blockchain technology. We seek out and collaborate with organizations outside of Nigeria to guide us on how to do this.
VA: Union Systems has been around for a while now. According to you, what are your most significant discoveries concerning your industry?
USL: It’s true. We have been around for two decades now. Over the years, we have seen a recurring problem of lack of specialization, which makes it difficult for people to patronize locally developed technology solutions. We see too many people who don’t want to focus on one area of technology, but rather deal with as many products as possible. The goal should be deep specialization over time – to continually hone your skills to meet the needs of a particular industry – not to meet all of them. That’s what we did. Over time, we’ve learned everything it takes to create a successful product in the space we operate. Many organizations want to do it all and end up sacrificing product quality over quantity. The truth is that once the market perceives that it is not getting the best out of you, it will leave you for someone else. This is a problem that has plagued our IT industry in the past. But that narrative is changing today. Companies like Union Systems have set the tone for excellence among indigenous technology solution providers.
VA: We are in the third quarter of the year. What are your most notable achievements so far?
USL: We have had quite a few accomplishments this year. For example, we have incorporated Wema Bank, Keystone Bank, Signature Bank and Loyalty bank as new customers and are at various stages of implementing solutions for them. OWe have also helped some of our existing customers in launch of their unique banking version of Optimus. A lot of work goes into convincing a customer, but we’ve already added several big names this year, and that’s a huge win for us. This year, we also helped our customers launch the Optimal solution. Also, the reception of Egora has been tremendous this year, and we see this as an important milestone. We expect this to be the achievement that caps off the final quarter of the year.
VA: Are there any projects we should anticipate this year or the next?
USL: Yes of course. There are other products in our stable. We have a compliance accelerator for the new ISO 20022 financial messaging standards set for global mandatory adoption in November 2022. Indeed, the Central Bank of Nigeria asked banks to move their RGTS (real-time gross settlement) to this format. We have created a product that allows banks to quickly adapt to this standard instead of spending a lot of money upgrading their existing systems. Keystone Bank is listed on the Sakobia Software will simplify its SWIFT ISO 2022 migration and other pending transactions. You can expect big announcements later this year.
VA: What do you think of the current state of technology in Nigeria, and where do you see it going in the next five years?
USL: There has been an influx of investment into the Nigerian tech space over the past five years. If you look closely, you’ll see that the bulk of that investment has gone into fintech. Investors inside and outside Nigeria are betting on fintech, and many of these ventures have become success stories. On another side, there is are companies like Union systems that have grown organically. So whatever their scale, there’s a lot of technology awareness in Africa today – that’s the stage we’re in right now. This means that we are entering this phase where we can start exporting our solutions. Africa is already attracting a lot of attention, and in the next 5 to 10 years, this sector will be mature enough to be globally competitive.