Nigerian fintech startup Sparkle has raised $3.1 million in funds and plans to use the fund to develop its services. The neobank or challenger bank was founded by Uzoma Dozie, a former CEO of Diamond bank which was later merged with Access bank and is providing cheaper and more personalized banking services for Nigerians and Nigerian businesses.
Neobanks, challenger banks or digital banks as they have been also called are becoming a fast trend in Africa, where opportunities that they can leverage abound. Their unconventional and personalized banking systems make them the first point of call by users who are on the run from the hassles associated with accessing financial services from commercial banks. Trends and studies have shown that people would rather use digital banks which are readily available on their mobile devices to access services that they do not compulsorily need a bank to access than visit a traditional bank. This is because traditional banks are associated with long queues, filling of forms, stringent banking policies, regrettable loan experiences and epileptic online services, inefficient service delivery, etc. These “inadequacies” of traditional banks are what these challenger banks are leveraging and thriving on.
Their aim is to provide services in a way that allows customers to enjoy –personalized, convenient and timely banking, and they have been on the right path with helping to narrow the financial inclusion gap in Africa.
Sparkle is one fintech that is bringing convenient banking to the tables of everyone. The platform combines unconventional but user-focused models to provide its services. Speaking about Sparkle, CEO Uzoma Dozie said that “we’re quite different in a way because instead of separating financial services from lifestyle, we’ve tried to bring them together, especially as we’ve seen that more people are beginning to lead more digitally-led lives. It means that we don’t see our customers from accounts, payments, deposits or credit perspectives, but from how can we help them do what they want to do at any particular time”.
Sparkle does not only provide personalized banking services. It also has packages designed for businesses. Its Sparkle Business targets small and medium scale businesses and claims that this has caught on well with this category of users. With Sparkle Business, the fintech provides services related to inventory and invoice management, payroll and employee management services and tax advice. All businesses need to do to access the features of Sparkle business is to register with an email address and a tax identification number (TIN).
The fintech launched last year and claims to have at least 40,000 individual customers using its services as well as 2,000 businesses using its service. The business recently began charging individual small fees to keep their accounts running and plans to introduce small fees for businesses.
“As a small business, I’m not carrying my bank account on my mobile. I’m carrying my business. So we are bringing everything about your business into one place so that you can do business wherever you are. For individuals, we’re bringing everything into one place so that you can do what you want to do quite easily wherever you are. But the bottom line is that we’re providing you with the information that you need to take spontaneous decisions”, Sparkle’s CEO added.
According to its CEO, Sparkle has quite a handful of features that gives it an edge over other fintechs. He said that the fintech can allow individual customers to pin their search and check their transaction history with a particular beneficiary instead of having to go through their whole bank statement, among other things. The platform is tailored to how Nigerians live and operate, he says.
The fintech’s strongest point may be its CEO who oversaw corporate, commercial and retail arms while he worked at former Diamond bank, and has a huge influence in the financial world.
With Sparkle, the CEO plans to continue his dream of expanding the capabilities of the Nigerian banking and retail sectors. It is important to know that Sparkle has a microfinance license and a partnership with payments giant Visa to allow digital payments. The fintech will use the investment to scale its services, build and maintaining automotive processes and hiring talents needed to push the startup to greater heights.