• Monday, July 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

GTBank to challenge Flutterwave, Paystack with new payment system

GTBank to challenge Flutterwave, Paystack for payment with HabariPay

On Wednesday, as the fintech ecosystem in Nigeria was busy celebrating Flutterwave’s $170 million Series C funding raise, GTBank was out hunting for fintech talents.

The bank is shopping for talents for its soon-to-be payment company, Habari Pay. In a vacancy advert BusinessDay found on LinkedIn, GTBank described HabariPay as a young start-up on the path to building a truly pan-African payments unicorn.

“We know we can do it – with a high-impact founding team and the backing from a multinational financial services company,” the bank noted.

Interestingly, Flutterwave’s $170 million raise shoot up its valuation above $1 billion making it the second unicorn fintech company in Africa after Interswitch.

Paystack is also among the startups in the eye-sight of GTBank. The payment gateway was acquired in 2020 by global payment company Stripe in a deal valued at $200 million.

Read Also: GTBank, Cadbury, Vitafoam commence closed periods ahead of results releases

GTBank, Sterling Bank, and Access Bank have all applied for a holding company structure licence and they are expected to take-off at least by the second quarter of 2021.

When approved, the three banks will be joining the likes of UBA, First Bank, and Stanbic IBTC which already operate holding company structures. The difference will be in the individual objectives of the institutions.

Segun Agbaje, CEO of GTBank has never made a secret of the bank’s ambitions for the payment services in Nigeria. Hence, the licence is expected to unlock the tap for big investments in payment services.

For Agbaje there is no limit to how far GTBank is willing to go to secure a prime share of the payment market in Nigeria and Africa. This is likely to include acquiring the top-of-the-class technology equipment to ensure that HabariPay hits the ground running from day 1.

“You will have access to best-in-class engineering tools and resources to enable you to solve truly complex problems and develop game-changing payments solutions for the African market. We prioritise agility, we fail fast, we invest faster and we drive value for customers,” GTBank noted in the vacancy position for Product Owner.

Some experts however say the bank’s ambitions and willingness to deploy enormous resources may not necessarily see it through to unicorn status nor controlling the major share in the payment market in Africa.

One major barrier is Agbaje saying Habari will go it alone which could test GTBank’s ability to deploy quickly and meet high customer expectations doing so. Traditional banks do not have the best record for moving quickly and getting things done as fast customers demand them.

GTBank does not have an impressive record in managing customer expectations. Its bank branches across the country still overflow with customers who often leave with different experiences. But the bank has had a long experience in growing electronic payments.

In the first half of 2020, the bank said its USSD segment reached 356.4 million in volume although the value dropped as a result of the pandemic. Also, the total revenue from USSD service declined by 32.2 percent following the reduction in transfer fees to N10 for transactions below N5000, by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). About 50 percent of all USSD transactions are below N5000. GTBank, however, welcomed 600,000 new USSD customers. So far, it has seen 356 million unique USSD transactions carried out by 5.4 million active users as of June 2020.

Haven ruled out acquisitions because the bank believes the valuations are overpriced from the ground-up, it is doubtful whether the bank would allow investment from outside for HabariPay. Even when it does, would it be willing to share controlling equity with investors like startups are doing?