Standard Chartered’s Nigerian arm is reportedly planning to close half of its branches to push digital banking and tackle competition from mobile money providers.

The UK-based lender’s local arm has shuttered some offices already and plans to bring the number of operational branches to 13 from 25 in Nigeria, Bloomberg reported citing sources.

Standard Chartered is working to strengthen its mobile banking capabilities and hiring agents to tap new customers, handle cash deposits and withdrawals across the country, the source told the publication.

Without disclosing any detail, the bank’s spokesperson stated that the lender will announce future plans at the “appropriate time”.

Standard Chartered’s digital banking play is in line with that of other lenders in Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest economy.

The move also seeks to capitalise on the digital banking boom in the region where a significant portion of the population is still unbanked.

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Other lenders such as Access Bank and First Bank of Nigeria are trying to reduce costs by building a network of agents to sell their products and services.

The lender, which has been present in the West African nation since 1999, began expanding its retail operations recently.

In 2019, Standard Chartered chalked out a plan to increase its customer base by five times from 100,000 in about two years by leveraging digital technology to tap clients.

To increase the volume of retail credit, it is also planning to start digital lending to process small loans.

Last month, UK’s financial regulator imposed a fine of £46.55m on the bank for violations related to liquidity position.