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Lessons on Leadership: Turning Banking Upside Down

Brian Richardson is not only the founding director and CEO of WIZZIT. He also works as a frontline agent, or WIZZkid, as his company calls it.

“I’m still opening accounts for unbanked people on a daily basis almost,” Richardson said in a recent interview with CGAP. “So I’m very in touch with the market, I’m aware of the issues, the challenges, the questions, objections that that market may have.”

Financial service providers that seek to operate in a truly customer-centric way, he said, must not try to be “all things to all people.” It is important to hone in on a market segment and to deeply understand – from the frontline sales force to the CEO – the needs of that market.

WIZZIT is squarely focused on the unbanked and underbanked. It launched in 2004 in South Africa, and was the first to offer cell phone banking that works across all networks, phones and SIM cards. Today, more than 6 million customers are on the WIZZIT International Platform processing millions of transactions not only in South Africa, but also in emerging markets in Central America, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere in Africa.

Richardson, a panelist at the inaugural CGAP Leadership Series event on customer-centricity in New Delhi, said one of the challenges to embedding customer-centricity is ensuring all parts of the organization work together. WIZZIT’s compliance department, for example, may block or freeze a recently banked customer’s account on payday because he or she doesn’t meet the requirements of the law as the compliance agent interprets it. At that point, it can be difficult to get the customer back.

“It’s turning banking upside down within a highly regulated environment that is very challenging,” Richardson said.

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