Loan applications have continued to bridge the financial inclusion gap in Nigeria by providing access to loans to millions of Nigerians locked out of the credit system by banks. Although some unlicensed loan applications have become a threat to the system, genuine players continue to fulfill their mandate without compromising business ethics.
Branch, a Kenyan registered company with operations in Nigeria, India, and Tanzania, is one of the licensed loan apps that offers instant credit to many Nigerians. Branch has created an algorithmic approach to determining creditworthiness through customers’ smartphones, using machine learning.
According to the company, while this technological approach requires transparency and trust, it also allows for a fair, safe and convenient path for customers to accumulate capital and save for the future.
A quick look at the app
With a download size of 8.2 MB, 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 the 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 are a reflection of the various markets.
The company says interest rates on the app range from 15% to 34%. You can get access to loans from N1,000 to N200,000 within 24 hours, depending on your payment 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 build your credit score.
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At last count, more than 852,000 Branch app users have reviewed it on the Google Play Store based on their experience. While the app enjoys several positive reviews, some users worry that they won’t be able to get a second loan because they were late on the first one. Some also frown on the interest rates on the app, describing them as too high. This is what users are saying:
Godson Chris is one of the satisfied users of the app. According to him, everything about the app is perfect. He said:
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- “The process of accessing loans with Branch is fast, easy and very satisfying. Second, no extra fees and no up-front card linking. Even when I wanted to make my first payment, they provided me with physical bank accounts and when I used them, my payment was reflected in the app a few hours later. I recommend this app for everyone who is willing to borrow and pay back, to keep the mutual benefits flowing.”
For Fred Ogbeide, the ease of getting loans and paying them back makes the app great. He wrote:
- “It is very easy to get a loan and also very easy to repay. I will definitely give Branch 5 stars because they deserve it. No problem at all, but the one thing I urge you to work on is the interest rate. It’s quite high, please work on the interest rate, other than that, it’s the best. I recommend Branch to anyone who needs a quick loan, a really smooth operation.”
Nweke Franklin also had wonderful comments about the app noting that in his experience it is the best finance app. He said:
- “My experience has been wonderful. It is the best finance app; very fast, reliable and secure. It is not just a loan application, it helps to invest and keeps your investment safe and the interest rate is amazing. The most interesting thing is that their customer service is very friendly and they don’t bother you with calls and SMS.”
Adekunle Sogbesan also likes the Branch app. However, he pointed out that the only problem is interest, which he described as ‘killing’. He said:
- “The app is really good and the support team is quick to resolve issues most of the time. However, the removal and reduction of benefits compared to competing offerings has made the app less attractive. Also, interest rates on loans are killing and should be at much better levels than this, but because of the failure of Nigeria’s regulatory agencies.”
For Blessing Osagie, the Branch app is one of the best loan apps in Nigeria despite the high interest rates. She wrote:
- “This is one of the best apps I have ever seen. It is really useful and I recommend it to anyone who wants a loan; just borrow them and they won’t bother you until the right time, they just send messages to your phone without calling. I just made a payment today but your interest rate is high please you should try to work on it.”
Abayomi Ogunde also rated the app positively, but expressed concern about the interest. He wrote:
- “The experience so far has been very good. They do not harass you with threatening calls or messages. Really amazing service. But in terms of credit rating, I am not satisfied with the loan amount after more than 6 months and the amount is still ridiculously small while the interest increases faster. This is not fair.”
Branch is acquitted
In response to issues raised by users, Branch absolved any blame for users’ credit scores on interest rates, saying they are decided automatically 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 to us. There are several factors that the system looks at when evaluating eligibility.”
There is no doubt that the Branch app is delivering a lot with its instant loans. The fact that customers don’t complain about glitches or bugs in the app shows that a lot of expertise went into the design of the app. However, a review of the interest rates in the application may be sufficient at this time due to the large number of user complaints.