In this exclusive interview with Nairametrics, Esigie Aguele, the Chief Executive Officer of VerifyMe Nigeria disclosed that the transaction cost of address verification has dropped by 300% in Nigeria.
Aguele attributes the development to the advent of technology imbibed to create a safer environment in the country.
According to VerifyMe, it currently has over 35 deposit banks, 50 credit lenders, 12 of the top insurance companies and over 150 other businesses leveraging the company’s APIs and addressing platform to grow their businesses. Excerpts:
You had a comfortable life working as a senior manager for a technology company in Washington, DC. After spending almost two decades in the US, why did you return to Nigeria?
I was inspired to come back to Nigeria because I want to take my country back. I felt the expertise I gained in the States would have more impact at home. The society there was more developed, and whatever solution or idea you could come up with was probably already done. In Nigeria, I felt I could bring my experience and knowledge to provide a solution that would help build the economy.
You have worked with some security agencies since you returned to Nigeria, what has been your experiences compared to their counterparts?
My experience has been great since I came back about four years ago. I have met fantastic people and we’ve talked to the ones who are interested in tech. I have actually had a positive experience with the Police and other security professionals and we have been able to move forward on our plans in integration. I have really met motivated people in the Police, and I’m very happy that we continue to deal with them, particularly in Lagos State.
Address verification or background check has always been a major challenge in Nigeria. How would you assess that segment in Nigeria?
Several people have fallen victim to food poison by maids whose data were not verified and that has endangered the lives of people. But things have changed now. Since our entry into the Nigerian market, VeriFind, our product that speaks to this, has lowered transaction costs for address verification by over 300% through leveraging technology and our agent network to gain economies of scale and pass savings on to our customers.
How has that product fared in the market?
It processed over 200,000 Tier III address verifications in 2021 and this is in addition to over 600,000 4D Geographic Information System (GIS) checks using customers’ smartphones. VeriFind, which automates real-time addressing using GPS technology to provide quality location information services to FinTechs and payment customers.
Its unique infrastructure enables tiered addressing options from real-time 4D GIS calls to Tier III compliant last-mile addressing within the same workflow, and depending on the customer’s scenario. VeriFind is the first and only infrastructure that combines a licensed identity verification platform with Tier III compliant addressing and real-time 4D GIS location intelligence features for cheaper, faster, quality verifications and for product recovery.
We are excited to note the great strides VeriFind is making in solving the problem of easily and accurately verifying and authenticating locations on given addresses even when they are non-standardized. This is solving the problem of allowing our customers to onboard customers, open either Tier III or other account types with speed.
Are there other areas you are not doing enough, and any intention to go out of the shores of Nigeria?
We are always looking for the next best thing, to provide the next best product, next most efficient product, next most innovative product for our customers. So, we are nowhere close to covering that landscape in Nigeria. We have so much more to do. We are in a position to help and we are so excited about the things we can bring because we are in a unique position because of all the ecosystems we have access to.
We can bring unique financial profiling products to our customers, which is what we plan to do. I would say that we have not done everything in terms of building products. Even the products we have now, we are going to continue to improve them as well. So, there is always enhancement for them, there’s definitely innovation continuously in our short term and in our long term. Now, in terms of Africa for sure, I would say that is one space that we are strategically looking at.
In 2020, nations, employees, and employers learnt several lessons due to COVID-19. What were the lessons Verifyme learnt from the pandemic?
Honestly, the first lesson, is that you must close your race while you can. We were dragging our feet and then and COVID happened, and it delayed things for a year. So, I think that was one lesson for me.
Another positive lesson for me is the way the team just came together during the COVID. It really inspired me, even though we were doing quite a bit of address verification at the time and our ID verification ecosystem wasn’t so robust. Our revenue at some point really went down about 70%, so it was a really tough time for us in 2020. But what really happened is that we were able to pull together because we are financially prudent as a company and have always remained so.
What was more important was that we signed 20 banks in 2020 alone. And since 2020, we’ve literally signed almost about 30 banks, completing their integration. We have many more in the pipeline. And so all these customers and everyday microfinance banks, insurance companies, we just had people calling and calling and so, we knew at that point that this B to B to C business is about to explode as a result of COVID.
How do you handle competitions?
We handle competition by being the best. What I say when people ask me how we are different, I say the truth is we are different in two ways; we have the best technology and we are also compliant as a service because we check all the boxes of licensing. So, our technology is the best and this is why we’ve always been at the forefront of really selling products. We are the first to do address verification over API, the first to do car inspections and home inspections over API.
Are there intentions of listing on the Stock Exchange in Nigeria?
That’s a good one. I’m not sure the board will talk about it but I will talk about it with the board. I don’t think we are there yet, we’re always open to and having conversations. But it’s not a question I can comment on at this time. But yes, we’re always open to conversations.