Bank of Industry is the oldest, largest and most successful development finance institution in Nigeria. Over the past six years, it has provided financing to more than four million businesses, helping to create more than seven million jobs and diversifying Nigeria’s economy away from reliance on the volatile oil and gas industry. BOI’s CEO and CEO is Olukayode Pitan. He explains the role Bank of Industry can play in improving financial inclusion, how the bank supports women and young entrepreneurs, and the role local fintech plays in the bank’s transformative mission. He can also watch the first half of this interview, where he talks about that mission in more detail.

World Finance: I want to talk to you about financial inclusion, which is still a challenge in Nigeria; What role do development finance institutions like the BOI play in addressing this issue?

Olukayode pitan: The Central Bank of Nigeria, one of the things they want to do is make sure that we have more than 90 percent inclusion. Financial inclusion in Nigeria requires a lot of financial technology. But BOI has been able to develop a platform that leverages technology, big data, biometrics, and the presence of physical agents on the ground.

The government uses that platform to distribute NGN 75 billion, about $160-170 billion, through BOIs, to about 1.2 million people. That same platform is now being used for the World Bank’s program to alleviate poverty caused by the coronavirus. Thirty out of 36 states in Nigeria are using us. We have reached millions of people; in fact, that platform recently won an award. That is what we are doing to promote financial inclusion.

World Finance: Has products specifically targeted at underserved groups, for example, women and youth. Tell me about the work that BOI is doing here.

Olukayode pitan: Most of the small businesses that we have in Nigeria are actually owned by women.

What we have done at Bank of Industry is to create a gender group, targeting women and women-owned businesses. Because most of the lenders didn’t want to lend to women. But lending money to women is good business! Because one, when you look at the reimbursement ratio (women vs. men), women do much better. And then when you give money to women, the whole family benefits.

Also, Nigeria has a lot of youth. Many of them have no guarantee, because they just got out of school. So we take a risk with these young people, who have an entrepreneurial spirit. We can see what they want to do, they can borrow money at single digits from the bank. So we’re being innovative in funding the areas where there’s a need.

World Finance: The bank has become an official signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Banking; How are you incorporating this strong commitment to sustainability in your operations?

Olukayode pitan: One of the first things we did was make sure our staff are trained so that we can actually do what we’ve committed to do.

For the new clients that come to the bank, we want to make sure that what we are financing is responsible, we are not going to create more problems for the environment.

We’re also going to help customers that we’ve already funded to have that transition to ensure that they reduce carbon emissions.

World Finance: As the industry becomes increasingly automated or digital, how do you keep abreast of technology trends to ensure you can continue to deliver this vital work well into the future?

Olukayode pitan: Most of the things we do are digital. For example, we raised $1 billion in March 2020 and €1 billion in December 2020 – it was all done virtually and online.

So the platforms are there. They are good. But you also need good people. And that is now a problem! Because your skills are required all over the world.

So we have designed a product to invest in fintech, putting 18 million dollars of our own resources. It will be a fintech fund of 75 million dollars. We are also building technology centers. We have built 10 as part of our corporate social responsibility. There are four that are ongoing. But the goal is for every state in the country to have a technology center donated by Bank of Industry.

In Nigeria today there are some companies that have become unicorns. They were small Nigerian companies that are now playing in the global sector and are worth over a billion dollars. There are many more smart Nigerians who can create businesses that can become unicorns in the future. We are part of that dream.

World Finance: Mr. Pitan, thank you very much.

Olukayode pitan: Many thanks.