As small and medium enterprises (SME) operators look forward for some relief in 2017, Sterling Bank Plc has assured that it will do all within its power to encourage them because of their strategic importance in the national economy.
The bank which recently entered into partnership with the Bank of Industry (BoI) for the pilot phase of the N140 billion Government Enterprise Empowerment Program (GEEP), said micro business owners such as market women, traders, artisans and farmers need all the encouragement they can get now especially coming from a very difficult year in 2016.
The programme is targeted at over 16 million beneficiaries to foster financial inclusion and economic activity at the micro level and there are indications that the appointment of the bank may have been informed by its commitment in serving this segment of the population via its Agent Banking Scheme.
Agent Banking is a process of providing limited scale banking and financial services to the underserved population through engaged agents under a valid agency agreement, rather than a teller/ cashier. It is the owner of an outlet who conducts banking transactions on behalf of a bank.
Under the pilot phase, Sterling Bank would disburse loans ranging from N10,000 to N100,000 per beneficiary covering up to 15,000 beneficiaries. Target beneficiaries include market women and traders, artisans, enterprising youths and farmers.
It would be recalled that Sterling Bank was the first financial institution to flag-off the financial inclusion and Agent Banking initiative in 2014 at Makoko, a Lagos suburb. The bank also currently runs a national Medium, Small, Micro Enterprise (MSME) Academy where small business owners are equipped on how best to manage their business successfully.
The bank in a statement made available to The AUTHORITY in Lagos confirmed that disbursement has commenced, adding that the introduction of the mobile agent banking scheme using the BankOne solution provided by Appzone would facilitate easy disbursement of the fund to the beneficiaries.
“We will also be leveraging on our agent network outreach, robust technology solution and the scalability of its operational scope”, the bank added.
The bank explains how it works: “The fund is being provided by BOI and a collection account has been opened for BOI with the bank. BOI, through selected aggregators, enumerates beneficiaries from pre-registered market or trade associations in selected locations across the nation based on set qualifying criteria
“The list of successful beneficiaries is sent to the bank and our agents will open accounts for them via our mobile agent banking application. A loan request is logged on the Credit Assessment system and successful requests are submitted to BOI for approval for disbursement. BOI will therefore advise with the list of beneficiaries approved to receive the loans based on set criteria and bear all financial liability associated with the loans issued under this scheme”.