Nigerian Banks Get New Competition as CBN Grants Approval-in-Principle to Bloc MFB

Nigerian Banks Get New Competition as CBN Grants Approval-in-Principle to Bloc MFB

  • The Central Bank of Nigeria has issued an approval in principle to Bloc Microfinance Bank
  • The emerging bank has operated as a financial technology services firm, providing payment solutions to its customers
  • Bloc said when fully operational, it will offer virtual account numbers and virtual debit cards

Pascal Oparada has over a decade of experience covering Tech, Energy, Stocks, Investments, and Economy.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued an approval in principle to Bloc Microfinance Bank.

The new bank will receive a license to operate microfinance banking services in Nigeria pending final approval from the apex bank.

Kuda Bank, Bloc MfB
Edmund Olotu, CEO and founder of BlocHQ Limited, the parent company of Bloc MFB Photo credit - BlocHQ
Source: UGC

Bloc to issue virtual cards and account numbers

Edmund Olotu, CEO and founder of BlocHQ Limited, the parent company of Bloc MFB, said the move sets the right tone for the new bank as a financial technology firm and puts it on a path to global success.

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CBN issues an approval in principle to promoters of a microfinance bank before incorporation. While the approval is not a license, it shows a willingness by Bloc to engage CBN and usually leads to a license.

Bloc can issue virtual account numbers with advanced features for its customers when licensed.

A statement by the company said all virtual accounts owned by Bloc MfB will also be insured by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

In August 2023, the fintech firm provided APIs for businesses to offer banking and financial services to their customers.

It also launched a business banking solution, allowing businesses to create virtual naira, dollar cards, and bank accounts to make and receive payments.

According to reports, Bloc also offers an embedded finance service that allows third parties to issue virtual accounts and cards.

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“With this, we solved the access problem for all types of businesses by fundamentally changing how banking and payments happen for all companies while enabling them to deploy bespoke financial services that guarantee business growth and sustainability,” Olotu said at the launch.

Block to compete with entrenched industry players

In April this year, Bloc acquired Orchestrate, a two-old wallet service provider, in a cash and equity deal.

If fully operational, Bloc will lock horns with entrenched players in the digital banking space, such as Kuda Bank, Carbon, and other microfinance banks providing seamless services to Nigerians.

CBN lists payment service banks to drive financial inclusion

In April this year, the apex bank unveiled the list of payment service banks to drive financial inclusion in the country.

According to CBN, the need to bring in more Nigerians and the financially excluded into the banking network was the driving force behind the licensing of this particular banking segment.

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The immediate participation of telephone companies in Nigeria’s mobile money licensing operations has been delayed since the CBN introduced mobile money in Nigeria.

Taking a cue from India’s Reserve Bank, Nigeria’s apex bank began to explore introducing a new bank model known as Payment Service Banks (PSBs).

Payment Service Banks are a new banking category with smaller-scale operations, no credit risk, and forex operations.

PSBs empowered to offer payment and remittance services

PSBs can offer payments and remittance services, issue debit and prepaid cards, and deploy ATMs and technology-enhanced banking services.

Telecos’ subsidiaries, such as mobile money operators, and retail chains like supermarkets and banking agents, can operate Payment Service Banks if they meet certain conditions, including N5 billion capital base and a joint N2.5 million non-refundable application and license fee.

The PSBs are not allowed to offer loans or credit facilities to customers but can only receive deposits, meaning they cannot replace deposit money banks.

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PSBs rely heavily on technology through financial services and have a robust agent banking model, reducing overhead costs.

CBN releases new rules for banks and other financial institutions looking To upgrade, expand services earlier reported that the CBN released a new guideline for financial institutions interested in converting or re-categorising their licenses.

Zenith, Access, First Bank, FCMB, Sterling, and GTB were among top financial institutions that have transitioned to holding companies in recent months.

There were reports that many fintech companies were pushing towards becoming full-fledged digital banks, offering microfinance services.


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