In what looks like the start of a fintech arms race, Stanbic IBTC announced that its instant account opening service was now in beta.

This is fresh off the back of Wema Bank’s ALAT digital bank also going beta — with positive talk of it everywhere — so I decided to give the Stanbic thing a try because why not?

Stanbic IBTC seems a bit more cautious in its own approach. From the article the bank published on undefinedabout the service, it has gone to great lengths to simplify the account opening process and make it much less cumbersome. If ALAT did not just go into public beta, I would’ve said Stanbic carefully thought out this strategy.

Unlike ALAT, Stanbic is not going with an app. Instead, you go on a web page where you are asked to confirm if you have a Bank Verification Number (BVN) and what kind of account you want to open with Stanbic IBTC (bank or mutual fund).

When you select the option that confirms that you have a BVN number, you’re prompted to input the number along with your date of birth. Once you click “Next” it confirms your BVN details and brings up the next step.

The next is just some more information you have to put in such as your address, phone number and email. You will also be asked to select if you want to recieve a One Time Password (OTP) via email or SMS. Once all of that is done, an account number is generated for you and voila! You’re a new Stanbic IBTC account holder.

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That account has some limitations though and Stanbic will only tell you after you’ve signed up. The account is limited to a maximum deposit of N50, 000 and maximum total balance of N300,000.

If you want to change the features available on the instant account, you will have to go to a Stanbic IBTC branch with a passport photograph, valid ID (international passport, driver’s license, national ID or permanent voters card) and two references from current account holders (if you want to flip it over to a current account).

Also, to collect an “instant debit card” you will have to visit a Stanbic IBTC branch where you will be validated using your BVN. So, obviously, the aim here is not to fix your bank trips — that will still happen — but it takes away the complex layers of paperwork you have to go through to open an account (especially that utility bill bit).

Opening the account took all of seven minutes (my internet wasn’t at its best) but the entire process was smooth, straightforward and not at all cumbersome. Stanbic IBTC said in that Medium post that, in 2016, it opened “through its branches, “with a typical turnaround time of .”

To make that happen, it used up , and demanded another from its back-office teams. With the new instant account opening service, you can have an account within a few minutes over a few clicks.

The question is: will Stanbic IBTC take it further? Also, how are other banks planning to respond? What does that mean for customers and the ecosystem? We’ll have to keep a close eye on developments to find out but overall, the future isn’t looking too bad. Let’s just hope it remains a race for innovation and not a freaking catch-up battle.