The upwardly mobile and discerning woman is unique. Olumide Osunyomi, head, retail products division, United Bank for Africa plc, understands this perfectly. Hence she has led a team that is at the forefront of making women extra special. She takes FUNKE OSAE-BROWN into her world.
The head office of the United Bank of Africa (UBA) plc located on Marina is quite busy this Thursday afternoon. Olumide Osunyomi, head, retail products division, UBA, is seated behind her largest desk full of life and smiles. One is not surprised by her camaraderie. She is a woman who has been at the forefront of creating a new banking experience for her fellow women.
In the early 1960s and 1970s women usually required a male figure to stand as surety for them before they could do any transaction in a bank. But in this new millennium, that has changed greatly as women can now walk into any bank to open an account and operate it without the help of a man.
However, Osunyomi and her team still feel the discerning woman deserves more than just opening an account. Hence they have taken the female banking experience a step further with the Ruby account specifically designed for discerning women.
“The Ruby account,” she tells me as soon as our interview began, “is a female account. As the name depicts, Ruby, is a precious stone. The Ruby stone is particularly for women. Therefore, it is a special current account designed for women. We say it is for discerning women because we all know women love to bargain.”
Osunyomi says the Ruby account comes with a lot of benefits and conditions to fulfil. “There are certain conditions to be fulfilled to be a part of the Ruby club,” she explains. “The benefits are much more than the conditions. The conditions are that you must have the minimum operating balance of N500,000. That money is remunerated at one percent. As the balance goes up you can get up to two percent.”
According to her, current accounts don’t normally earn interest. But because the bank understands the bargaining power of women, it decided to make Ruby account holders earn interest on their money.
“It is savings account that earn interest. Like I said, women love bargains, women love to buy things at the lowest price at the highest quality and also still have something to go away with. That is like the discount UBA is giving on that particular product. It has been zero COT ever before the CBN mandated banks to start reducing their COT. As far backs 2011 UBA had removed COT on accounts for women.”
She also explains that the normal conditions for opening the current account such as two references, normal ID are needed to open the account. She explains further: “We all know now that CBN has even allowed us to use the voter’s ID card. It is an acceptable identification, just like we have the driver’s license, the international passport. You will need to fill the account opening form as an individual, and then you bring the two references and a utility bill. These are not different from the normal requirements to open an account.”
Aside these conditions, the Ruby account comes with numerous benefits that befit a woman of class. UBA has partnered with providers of luxurious services to give certain percentage off purchases for Ruby account holders.
“We have a lot of partners not just in Lagos,” explains Osunyomi, “basically in the key locations what we call the LPA- Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja. We have partners in all those places who cut across sectors that we know women love to patronise for themselves or for their kids.”
She says the bank has partners who deal in businesses like spa, beauty salon, dry cleaning, women’s clothing, children’s clothing, restaurant, pharmacies amongst others.
“We understand the fact that women are the ones who shop and do all the upkeep for the house or husbands or partners.
“We have a partnership with a car rental company, Avis. A discerning woman loves to be pampered and not to stand by the roadside wanting to pick a taxi and all of that. And Avis rental is not just in Nigeria but abroad so. Whatever we negotiate with them, it covers when you travel to the UK and all of that; anywhere Avis rental is across the world.”
In addition, there is are personalised gifts for a Ruby account holder with certain minimum balance.
“We have three gifts,” she adds, “and yet we have a luxury gift for each customer and when we say it is a luxury gift, it is actually a designer gift. It is a Mont Blanc pen. For those who know luxury gift, it is actually a luxury brand and every Ruby customer is entitled to that but that is when the customer has exceeded a particular balance for her to get the luxury gift. We expect the customer to have done like two million over six months. The gift is customised and personalised for the customer.”
Osunyomi says there are other products tailored to meet the needs of every consumer Fir those who cannot meet the initial deposit of N500,000.
“There are several other products,” she explains, “in the savings, in the current, in the domiciliary and in several other products it is available. It is just that for the Ruby account, we took out time out to specially design it for women. Like I said, with all the benefits that come with it, it is uniquely for the woman. It is difficult to see a man going to a spa. Everything around it is more focused on women.”
Also, Osunyomi says the account is tied around some social functions that benefit women.
“We also have functions like lifestyle events that some of our partners or non-partners are doing. These are events that address issues about women such as women empowerment. There was one we had recently in Muson that was based on family related issues. Ruby customers were invited to the event.”
According to Osunyomi, customers with several accounts have their ATM cards linked to each other.
“Any card can be linked to as many cards as you like but yes, it has to be the same name. So if I am a Ruby customer for instance, the reason why we have a special card is because your card is your passport to all the benefits.
“It is the card that is recognised by us if you are a customer and if you go to Laterna Ventures for instance, and you have finished buying your books, you can get a discount of up to 5 percent and it depends on how much you spend and it can be higher than that.
“For instance if you go to Laterna Ventures you just finished buying items and you want to pay at the counter, you need your Ruby card to show that you are a Ruby customer. But if you have other accounts and you want to link your savings account you can link it. You don’t have to carry multiple cards.”
The Ruby account also comes with a customised cheque specifically designed for account holders.
“The cheque is just branded to give you that unique exclusivity. It does not mean it will clear faster than the time frame stipulated by the Central Bank. Cheques are subjected to the regulations of CBN. It is the same process.
“However, if a Ruby customer is in a branch, we could give her preference. We have found out that Ruby customers are tech savvy enough to know that they do not have to come to the branch to carry out their transactions. They do e-banking on their phones and laptops. Our internet banking are quite up-to-date.”
Osunyomi further says intending customers have the opportunity to open account online like the bank’s Diaspora account.
“You can open the account online without coming to the branch. When you open the account online you only take 10-15minutes to submit your initial details and you get your account number. You can do that for Ruby. The discerning woman is very busy. We understand that hence we have made it possible for her to open an account through our website.”
Ruby account holders also have the unique benefit of the priority pass anywhere they travel to in the world.
“The priority pass is free and it comes along with the Mastercard or the Gold branded card for Ruby and you get the free priority pass. What the free priority pass does is that you can also bring one person into the lounges where it is accepted in the world and we have over 600 branches including Africa.
“One of my colleagues and I travelled to Abidjan and I forgot my card but my colleague brought his so I was allowed access. It doesn’t matter the class of tickets that you have but you are allowed access, in some of the lounges there are some free refreshments but some you have to pay for. And it gives you access to a comfortable place, wifi and all of that. That is the beauty of the priority pass.”