One of the Nigerian dreams is to be able to perform basic banking transactions with ease and on time. And some dare to want to do this away from banking halls.
In January, the United Bank for Africa(UBA) launched UBA Leo its ‘Chat Banker’. Leo is an artificial intelligence (AI) powered bot that performs banking transactions on Facebook.
According to an official statement, with UBA Leo, “customers will be able to open new accounts, receive instant transaction notifications, check their balances on the go, transfer funds and airtime top up. Confirm cheques, pay bills, apply for loans, freeze accounts, request for mini statements, amongst other things.
I decided to test out these features and see if Leo is anything close to “changing the face of e-banking” as UBA promised.
Leo is available inside the web and mobile versions of Facebook Messenger. Just type “UBA ChatBanking” into the search area of the messenger app and click on the icon.
At first encounter, Leo looks and feels like any financial services bot in terms of interface, experience and intuition (AI). Its header and display image are a combination of the red UBA colours and a male cartoon character that is Leo.
Though it claims to ‘typically respond instantly’, most replies from Leo sometimes take up to 5 seconds.
Some of Leo’s services include Sending Money, Airtime Topup, Mini Statements for accounts, Checking Account Balance, Customer Care, Opening New Accounts and Linking New Accounts.
Opening a new UBA account with Leo is important for two reasons. Firstly, it is one of the only unique factors that truly distinguishes this bot. Secondly and most importantly, you need a UBA account to access Leo.
To open a live account, Leo required I input my Bank Verification Number (BVN), date of birth, contact address, email and phone number. All the regulars for a normal bank account.
But the only problem is all the other details provided have to be in sync with the information on your BVN. If they do not tally, you get an error message.
I do not remember the exact address and phone number on my BVN registration so I wasn’t able to open a bank account. I wasn’t alone, out of 20 people I introduced Leo to, 15 couldn’t remember this details too.
Most people do not remember the exact information in their original BVN registrations.
Leo should be made to collate all the other information immediately you give him from your BVN.
Until I’m able to figure out information on my BVN or go to a UBA branch as it advised, I “borrowed” an account to continue.
After linking accounts, I typed “Hi” and Leo told me everything it can do.
Airtime recharge processes across all networks are seamless and the same.
Leo just asks whether I want to recharge mine or a third party number, airtime amount, and then does the transaction.
The only seeming snag with airtime purchase is the part where Leo wanted to know what method to use for airtime payment.
This verification aspect is very complicated and a user experience hitch because it can take time figuring out.
Another cool feature is that after one recharge of a third party number, Leo saves that number and lets you automatically select without entering the number again.
Sending money to bank accounts was as smooth as inputting recipient name, account number and hitting send then supplying Leo with the OTP.
It is free to send money to UBA accounts, but other banks cost ₦52.50 for every transaction.
This fee is the same for UBA’s USSD banking — Magic Banking. Considering its value proposition, Leo should be cheaper to use.
I can check account balance and pull up mini bank statements with Leo.
Clicking on ‘Check Balance’ just showed my balance only without any frills — except an ad — which was neat.
The ‘Mini Statements’ on the other hand pulled up my last 5 transactions with details. This is cool too except I felt it would be easy to remember 5. Ten should be the minimum number of last transactions.
This area greatly piqued my interest. How was Leo going to give actual customer care replies?
When you select this option, Leo provides a link that directs to the UBA Group and promises you chat with a “human agent”.
Even though its byline promised instant reply, the human agent has still not replied till now. Even after reading my messages.
Leo does not do everything it promises. There was no provision to pay bills, apply for loans, confirm cheques or freeze accounts. It will be really cool to be able to at least pay bills.
Nevertheless, it is still an innovative banking solution in terms of ease of operations. And the fact that a One Time Password (OTP) is sent to your phone for every transaction makes it super secure to a large extent.
Leo pronounced an OTP incorrect because of a dialler spacing between the numbers. After deleting the spaces, it accepted the number. This is ironically counter-intuitive and should be fixed.
Apart from small snags here and there, Leo is truly easing banking operations. With small fixes and additions it can truly change the face of e-banking in Nigeria.
Please take this online self-screening test to help ensure you are safe from the COVID-19 pandemic here.
Nigerian startups raised $377m in 2019, more than twice what they did in 2018. Find out more when you download the full report.