NKOLIKA OKOLI is a smart executive who is passionate about her job. As the head, retail banking group, at Skye Bank plc, she leads a team that design products for the bank. In this interview, she tells FUNKE OSAE-BROWN what stands her bank out with its latest partnership with Emirate Holidays.
She strides in confidently that cloudy Friday morning. Her calmness is a sharp contrast to the gloomy, grey sky outside her office. It is a rainy morning. “Welcome to Skye Bank,” she greets me. From her composure, I could tell she is passionate about her job. While our interview lasted, I was not disappointed by the level of passion she exudes trying to explain to me how much her bank values the comfort of its customers.
Nkolika Okoli is head, retail banking group at Skye Bank, a position that sees her develop new ‘customer-centric’ products for the bank. One of the bank’s latest addition to its numerous product offerings is its latest partnership with Emirates Holidays to give loans to enable Nigerians spend their vacation in luxury and style without tearing their pockets.
“We have partnered with Emirate Holiday to enable more people to travel,” she tells me with excitement. “We say: ‘let’s fund these trips for our customers.’ With this partnership, we want to give our customers the very best of luxury living without them going through any financial stress. Emirate Holiday is a global brand owned by Emirate Airline. What they do is packaged holidays.”
According to her, Skye Bank has taken this bold step in other to encourage Nigerians to live a healthy lifestyle by going on holiday to rest and relax instead of putting up with relatives at their preferred destinations. “You know Nigerians,” she explains, “when we say we are going on holiday, we stay with our friends or relations. That isn’t holiday. We just go on shopping spree. You come back home more tired. Sometimes you are even uncomfortable staying with some relatives or friends. But a holiday is supposed to transport you into a different environment where you can relax. Most Nigerians don’t go on holiday to relax or rest.”
Skye Bank in partnership with Emirate Holidays has come up with unbelievable travel packages to different cities in the world at affordable prices. Some of the offerings include a trip to Singapore at $2, 519, Dubai UAE at $1, 164, New York at $2, 831, Paris Disney France at $1, 844, Orlando Florida at $3, 906, among other destinations. The cost includes three nights hotel accommodation, five nights hotel accommodation in Orlando and New York, meals on bed and breakfast basis in Dubai Singapore, Istanbul, Kual Lumpur and Bangkok. Meals on half board (breakfast and lunch or dinner) basis in Mauritius and Seychelles; meet and greet on arrival in Dubai and Paris plus return airport transfers. There are city tours except in Orland, return economy ticket and UAE visas. However the cost varies from season to season.
“We give loan at 17 percent interest per annum all inclusive,” explains Okoli. “The loan can cover return ticket on Emirate Airlines, accommodation in a four star hotel, city tour, meet and greet, airport transfer, meal, free airport lounge usage at summer. It depends on what you can afford or the package you want. This package makes travel unbelievably affordable. I will use myself as an example. I have booked a trip for December. I am going to do two days in Dubai, four nights in Malaysia in four star hotels plus return ticket. It includes airport drop off and pick up. There is a paid tour of desert safari plus dinner and city tour. The total package is $2, 000. It is an unbelievable offer.”
With this initiative Okoli explains: “What Skye Bank is saying is just do a proper holiday which is affordable.” According to her, while designing the product, Skye Bank puts into consideration salary earners who wants to live the good life but are too afraid to touch their savings. The same goes for businessmen and women who do not want to touch their capital.
“For salary earners, they have a monthly cash flow which may not fund their holidays. Many been people have asked why should they borrow money to travel? We are saying if you want to travel you will have to deep hands into your savings. Yes, you can afford it but you will have to take from your savings. But with our holiday package you can pay over a period of time. For instance if you book your holiday in June, you have about six months to pay depending on your repayment plan. The same goes for a businessman or woman. Instead of touching your trading capital, pay gradually and make it possible for your family to have a great holiday and not a typical Nigerian holiday.”
Okoli says all the customer requires is to deposit 20 percent of the total holiday cost. “Skye Bank will provide 80 percent for you and you pay on a monthly basis over a period of time up to six months. All that is required is you be a premium or priority customer through our Skye Select account.
“We are seeking to grow our customer base. We are a bank. We are looking at how to attract customers. We are looking at what we will offer customers to provide tangible value to make customer first open an account with us and then become a lifetime customer.”
Skye Bank launched its Skye Select Account more than four years ago to cater to the needs of its affluent customers who are in the middle and upper classes. “We launched with our priority card membership which was well received. We thought let’s do more and go beyond that. We are the only bank that offers this product. Our Premium and Priority banking is a segment where we service the affluent segment of retail banking that is individuals in the upper and middle classes, not necessarily the billionaires but professionals who wants to enjoy the good life but don’t readily have the money.”
With the mantra care, lifestyle and value for its premium and priority banking, Okoli says these three words stands Skye Bank out from its competitors. “What we have done is that in building our value offerings, we have tried as much as possible to offer services that are different from other banks. Every bank offer services in the financial space zero COT has become common almost every bank offers that the same goes for interest rates on loans. We have gone outside the financial segment to look other aspects of banking. We will affect your lifestyle, and then we will offer real value.”
Okoli recalls the experience that birth Skye Select accounts. In her words: “When we launched the premium banking package it coincided with an era. There was a capital market crash. Most of the people who took the heat were in the middle class. During the good times, people became accustomed to good living. Some professionals became accustomed to flying business class. All of a sudden, the cheese moved. We all had to cut our coats according to size of our clothes. A lot of people had to revert to economy. For instance I am a DGM in a bank, when I am travelling on official duty I fly business class but when I am going on a private trip, I fly economy because I can’t afford business class.”
And so, the economic downturn made Skye Bank built its offering round the travel theme. With its Premium Priority banking divided into two classes, premier customers and the priority customers. Belong to either classes comes with numerous benefits. Okoli explains: “Premium customer is the high end. We give them values that differ from the priority customers. For the priority customer, we give them free membership of priority traveller for international travel. They can use the lounge. They have access to lounges used by business and first class ticket travellers.
“You have an advantage over first and business class ticket travellers because you can sign in a guest. For instance if I am flying first class and my husband is flying economy, he can’t use the lounge normally but with my priority class membership card he can use the lounge. I can sign in up to four people. But with priority traveller you go beyond the lounge usage. You will have membership of all the international hotel chains like the Radissons. So if you are travelling to any of these countries, they can book you into any of the hotels and get you a special discount. If you are a member of the priority class, you will have a tag, each time you are travelling you place your tag on your luggage. In case anything happens and your luggage gets lost in transit, it can be traced with your priority card membership number. If you present your card you can get sometimes up to fifty percent discount. We also work with international rental service providers like Avis. If you travel and present your card, you will get a special discount that is for the premier group.”
For the priority banking, the customer only requires N100, 000 in his Skye Select account for premium it is N250, 000. That way, a customer will get membership for the lounge usage all over the world that is priority lounge usage. “What Skye Bank does is that we provide you with the one year membership free, which if you wanted to do on your own you will pay annual membership fee of about $400,” adds Okoli.
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