In 2018, I saw for the first time how difficult it is to verify an address in Nigeria.
It was a hot Wednesday afternoon and I remember jotting down numbers in my journal when an unknown call came in.
âMy name is Isaac from Bank X, I came to check your address. Are you home? âThe person on the other end asked.
What followed was a 20 minute conversation where I had to explain that I was at work and wouldn’t be available so that he didn’t give a negative check. What surprised me most was the fact that he told me he was booked for the whole month, when I asked to postpone. I ended up doing the check 3 weeks later.
Like me, thousands of Nigerians have had to overcome the discomfort associated with verifying addresses. However, the challenges associated with verifying physical addresses aren’t exactly caused by banks or businesses.
Every month, banks and businesses welcome hundreds of thousands of new customers who require address verification as part of Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements and run a very inefficient process.
In a conversation with Technext, Galen Crawley, Commercial Director of OkHi, an intelligent addressing platform, explained the challenges companies face with address verification and how intelligent systems are helping to solve them.
He explained that what is lacking in the current process is that it is always manual. This involves people and documents which can be cumbersome considering the large number of on-board clients.
According to him, replacing the process with an intelligent system through a business application allows all financial departments to do all of their KYC digitally, including the addressing part, which makes it easier and faster.
Why is KYC important?
Identity verification or Know Your Customer (KYC) is a process that new users and businesses face. While the process is a mandatory requirement for businesses to onboard customers, it is often an unwanted chore for new users.
Galen explained that the importance of KYC is more important for the company. âKYC literally means Know Your Customer and that translates into trust. If you can trust your customers, you can provide more and better services to them. “
However, the Central Bank of Nigeria says this is important because it helps to check the risks and determine whether or not there is an element of money laundering, fraud and other corruption related activities.
As a business expert, Galen agrees with the regulator. He believes that knowing where someone lives is an important part of who they are and having confidence in who they are.
For example, if a bank or fintech wants to offer someone money or a loan, they have to trust them. They need to know where they live. Otherwise, the risk is too high.
Galen Crawley, Commercial Director, OkHi
The different types of KYC
There are several types of processes used for KYC, from ID card verification to address verification and biometrics.
When asked if one is superior to the other, Galen explained that they are all used for different purposes in a sense and are not comparable in value.
âFor example, address verification becomes an important requirement when you serve a customer of a level 3 account, that is not the case for a level 1. For level 1, you may need to complete a biometric identity verification, âhe added.
Why smart addressing is better than older methods
Focusing on address verification, the current method used by businesses is paper-based. They ask the customer to write their address, name and house number. However, this method in itself is quite imprecise if an addressing scheme does not exist.
Mr Crawley explained that there are few options used by companies to verify this method. The first is to get the utility bills for that address. However, this is a problem because a lot of people don’t have utility bills and if they do, it’s often not in their name – so it’s a painful and unreliable way to check. an address.
The other as I related earlier is the use of agents to verify the address physically. The problem with this method is that it is extremely expensive and non-scalable, and can also be painful for the client. The problem with both is that if someone moves addresses at any time, the previous address becomes obsolete and therefore unnecessary. It’s a broken system. For this reason, he pointed out that some companies avoid it altogether, which puts them at risk.
However, several technological innovations are created to improve the process. The Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) has created an Address Verification System (AVS) to address the physical addressing gap in Nigeria.
The AVS platform is an upgrade from the old agent-based system that uses paper information. The platform is designed to allow agents to login, geotag and take photos, generating a digital address for anywhere in Nigeria to verify.
Another breakthrough is the digital address verification system created by OkHi. It is the first of its kind and it allows businesses to collect customer addresses and verify them easily without agents.
All the customer needs to do is drop a map pin on the address collection product just like uber, click on their door photo using Google Street View, and enter the text of the instructions and their address is created. Verification is done by matching their phone’s GPS to their OkHi address.
This means agents can lose their jobs, but it also presents a great deal of ease for businesses and clients.
According to Galen, this essentially checks their address digitally and remotely so neither the customer nor the company has to do anything.
Asked what happens when an area does not have an official address system, OkHi’s business manager says it is possible to essentially eliminate the need for street names and numbers.
He explains that the GPS point with the pin that drops the pin is the equivalent of a street address, the photo of the entrance to the building is like a street number and the text instructions saying something like Apartment 4A brings someone at the front door.
“The GPS + Photo + text instructions make the address 100% accurate”
Galen Crawley, Commercial Director, OkHi
Galen says the new verification product is about to go live with Quickteller, Kuda Bank and other leading fintechs.
Lower integration rate and faster scaling
When the CBN banned the use of BVN for KYC verification, the cost of onboarding users through other alternatives like address verification was among the concerns raised by companies.
According to Crawley, sending an agent to verify an address costs between $ 3 and $ 5 (about N2,000). But the OkHi system is significantly cheaper than that and much more scalable.
He explained that companies can use their product by integrating it into their app. He added that they needed a mobile app because the verification system uses the business app.
The onboarding or onboarding process technically takes about a day or two, but can be shorter depending on the capacity of the business and the resources of the team.
With an OkHi integration, businesses can collect and verify customer addresses in their app.
For those who don’t have an app, Galen says they can use the OkHi app on Play store, which can collect and verify addresses.
OkHi has partnered with Interswitch to help market their verification system among their large customer base. Interswitch was a key investor in its latest fundraising of $ 1.78 million.
Smart addressing allows businesses to easily verify customer addresses through their smartphones and replace the need for utility bills and physical visits.
Galen believes the future of KYC (biometrics and address verification) is entirely digital. He explained that the future is very near as companies like Smile Identity provide digital identity verification through biometrics. And OkHi has now solved the digital address verification part, where everyone can basically verify who they are using their smartphone.
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