Lending apps have continued to bridge the financial inclusion gap in Nigeria by providing loan access to millions of Nigerians locked out of the credit system by banks. Although some unlicensed lending apps have become a threat to the system, the real players continue to fulfill their mandate without compromising company ethics.
Branch, a Kenyan registered company with operations in Nigeria, India and Tanzania, is one of the licensed lending apps offering instant credit to many Nigerians. Branch created an algorithmic approach to determining creditworthiness through customers’ smartphones, using machine learning.
According to the company, while this advanced technology approach requires transparency and trust, it also provides customers with a fair, safe and convenient path to build capital and save for the future.
A quick glance at the app
With a download size of 8.2MB, the Branch app is lightweight and won’t give users the headache of space on their phones. The user interface looks simple and easy to navigate. And with over 10 million on Google Play Store, the app is a favorite of many Nigerians. Suffice it to say that with operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and India, the 10 million downloads reflect the diversity of the markets.
The company says interest rates on the app range from 15% to 34%. You can access loans from N1,000 to N200,000 in 24 hours, depending on your repayment history, with a repayment period of 4 to 40 weeks. All you need to apply is your phone number or Facebook account, bank verification number (BVN), and bank account number. They will also request access to your phone data to establish your credit score.
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At last count, over 852,000 Branch app users have reviewed it on the Google Play Store based on their experience. Although the application enjoys several positive reviews, some users are worried that they will not be able to obtain a second loan because they were late in paying back the first one. Some also disapprove of the interest rates on the app, describing them as too high. Here’s what users are saying:
Godson Chris is one of the satisfied users of the app. According to him, everything in the application is perfect. He said:
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- “The process of accessing loans with Branch is quick, easy and very satisfying. Secondly, no additional fees and no card linking up front. Even when I wanted to make my first repayment, they provided physical bank accounts, and when I used it, my payment reflected in the app a few hours later.I recommend this app to anyone willing to borrow and repay, for mutual benefits remain fluid.
For Fred Ogbeide, the ease of getting loans and repaying them makes the app a great app. He wrote:
- “It’s so easy to get a loan, and also very easy to repay. I will definitely give Branch a 5 star because they deserve it. No problem, but the one thing I urge you to work on is the interest rate. It is quite high, please work on the interest rate, apart from that it is the best. I recommend Branch to anyone who needs a quick loan, really smooth operation.
Nweke Franklin has also had wonderful comments on the app, noting that it is the best financial app based on his experience. He said:
- “My experience has been wonderful. This is the best financial app; very fast, reliable and safe. It’s not just a loan app, it helps in investing and protects your investment and the interest rate is amazing. The best part is that their customer service is very friendly and they don’t bother you with calls and texts.”
Adekunle Sogbesan also likes the Branch app. However, he noted that the only problem was interests, which he called “killers.” He said:
- “The app is really good and the support team resolves issues quickly most of the time. However, the removal and reduction of benefits over competitors’ offerings has made the app less appealing. Interest rates on loans are killer and should be at much better levels than these, were it not for the failure of Nigerian regulatory agencies.
For Blessing Osagie, the Branch app is one of the best loan apps in Nigeria despite the high interest rates. She wrote:
- “It’s one of the best apps I’ve ever seen. It’s really useful and I recommend it to anyone who wants a loan; just borrow from them and they won’t bother you until the time is right, they will just text your phone without calling I just made a refund today but their interest is high please you should try to work it out.
Abayomi Ogunde also rated the app positively but expressed concerns about interest. He wrote:
- “The experience has been very good so far. They don’t harass you with threatening calls or messages. Really awesome service. But in terms of credit rating, I am not satisfied with the loan amount after more than 6 months and the amount remains ridiculously small while the interest increases faster. It is not fair.”
The branch absolves
In response to issues raised by users, Branch absolved of any blame for users’ credit score in interest rates, saying they are automatically decided by the app. The company said:
- “The loan amount is automatically determined by the system based on a number of factors. The interest rate on each loan is determined based on a number of factors, including the cost of the loan made to us. The system considers various factors when assessing eligibility.
There is no doubt that the Branch app is very successful with its instant loans. The fact that customers do not complain about technical issues or bugs on the app shows that a lot of expertise has been invested in the design of the app. However, a review of the interest rates on the app may suffice for now given the myriad of user complaints.