Access Holdings gets CBN’s approval to launch payments unit, Hydrogen

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Access Holdings Plc obtained the go- ahead of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to set up a payments unit, the lender said Wednesday, the latest phase of its grand plan to diversify away from its core commercial banking business into other financial services.

The new subsidiary will be known as Hydrogen Payment Services Company Limited, according to regulatory filing issued on Wednesday.

That is coming over three months after Guaranty Trust Holding Company (GTCO) announced receipt of approval for its own payments subsidiary, HabariPay.

Hydrogen aspires to be the “most powerful business network” on the continent and will offer services like switching and payment processing to clients.

“The establishment of Hydrogen is a natural step in our aspiration to create a globally connected community and ecosystem; inspired by Africa for the world and aligns with our mission to build and sustain one global platform, open for anyone to join where people can be connected exceptional opportunities,” said Herbert Wigwe, Access Holdings chief executive.

Hydrogen said it would bank on robust risk management, state-of-the-art technology infrastructure and high governance standards to offer reliable, easy and low-cost payments services to persons and businesses.

It will in turn help the CBN’s push to deepen financial inclusion in the country, Wigwe added.

To break through the clutter in the commercial banking space where fierce competition is making growing revenue increasingly difficult, Nigerian lenders are looking beyond lending to other financial services for new income sources.

GTCO restructured into a holding company last year, giving it leave to operate in financial services outside conventional banking; Access Holdings completed a similar transformation this March. Lenders that have adopted the holding company structure comprise FBN Holdings, Stanbic IBTC Holdings and the FCMB Group.

Tier-2 lender, Sterling Bank is on track to become a HoldCo with approval for a non-interest banking business in the bag.

Access Holdings, Nigeria’s biggest lender by asset, obtained the nod of the regulator for buyout of First Guarantee Pension Limited.

The financial services group reported a 2.2 per cent jump in  net profit to N88.7 billion in the first half of the year, during which its total assets stood at N13.2 trillion.