The Relevance of Marketing in Post-Consolidation Banking in Nigeria: an Illustrative Approach

The Relevance of Marketing in Post-Consolidation Banking in Nigeria: an Illustrative Approach

THE RELEVANCE OF MARKETING IN POST-CONSOLIDATION BANKING IN NIGERIA: AN ILLUSTRATIVE APPROACH BY AMINU, S. A. , A LECTURER IN THE DEPARTMENT OF MARKETING, LAGOS STATE POLYTECHNIC, ISOLO CAMPUS asabiod2001@yahoo. com Abstract The purpose of this article is to assess the relevance of marketing in post-consolidation banking in Nigeria. The study highlighted the fact that prior to the consolidations in 2004, majority of the banks paid little or no attention to marketing. However, with successful consolidation exercise in 2005, came the challenge of judiciously utilising the high capital base at the disposal of the emerged 25 banks.

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They needed to generate superior returns to their shareholders and marketing became an important competitive tool to achieve this. They, in varying degree, employed the marketing tools of marketing research, branding, new product development, pricing, distribution, marketing communications and so on. The study concluded that Nigerian banks and their teeming customers are really in new world – the world of marketing, where the rule of the game is continuous value creation, communication and delivery to ‘the king’, consumers. Therefore, the relevance of marketing in post-consolidation banking in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised.

Keywords: Marketing, Consolidations, Capitalisation, Bank, Customers/Consumers, Competitive Advantage. INTRODUCTION The word bank is derived from the Italian banca meaning ‘bench’, the table at which a dealer in money worked. From this, Jhingan (1997) defines “bank” from the perspective of a commercial bank. A bank refers to a bench for keeping, lending and exchanging of money or coins in the market place by moneylenders and moneychangers. However, he is of the opinion that modern commercial banks carry out more important activities critical to national development.

Consequently, he remarks that many scholars have identified the banking sector, as one driving most economies of the world. Banks, all over the world, are important and central to the empowerment of individuals, groups, institutions, and government to engender a country’s economic growth and development. Nigerian Banks are not exception. Fundamentally, Nigeria’s banks engage in funds intermediation and this view is canvassed by Umoh (2002) who argues that the core activity of a bank is funds intermediation, which entails mobilizing of funds from the surplus units and channelling such funds to the deficit units.

This facilitates capital formation and generates growth in the economy. Sustainable economic growth engenders economic development. Unfortunately, during the pre-consolidation era, Nigerian banking industry was structurally defective to make a meaningful and progressive contribution to the industrial growth of the country. This stemmed from the following challenges: low capitalization, deregulation, competition and economic recession. Other challenges were political instability, escalating inflation, infrastructural decay and frequent reversal in monetary policy.

These and other challenges made a holistic reform of the banking sector inevitable. Consequently, the Central Bank Governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, in July, 2004 directed all the eight-nine banks in the country to embark on a consolidation exercise within an 18-month period. Consolidation is a term used by the central bank of Nigeria (CBN) to describe the coming together of some banks within the country to become one bank and be able to meet CBN’s requirements for capitalisation to a minimum of N25 billion.

An enlarged capitalisation is expected to improve services rendered by the banks and make them customer-centric. Prior to the consolidations, majority of the banks paid little or no attention to marketing (an act of identifying and satisfying consumer needs through the creation and delivery of superior value to customers). They operated largely a sellers’ market, where customers hardly count because they were regarded as favour seekers. Customers, in this old order, were not considered key and central to the banks’ success.

Innovative and quality financial products were rare; transparent and flexible pricing was elusive (indeed, high interest rates and hidden charges regime prevailed); marketing communications were hardly employed; customer service was either non existent or poorly performed. The net effect of all this was poor service delivery leading to highly dissatisfied customers. At the conclusion of the consolidation exercise in December, 2005, twenty five banks had emerged as the consolidated and legally recognised banks in the country.

The question at this juncture is of what relevance is marketing to the successfully consolidated banks? The full benefits of banking consolidation (larger capital) are already manifesting. Recent media reports showed that the Nigerian banks have attained a salutary height with a total deposit of about five trillion naira (N5 trillion). This feat is not unconnected with the sudden realisation of the importance of marketing as a key competitive tool by the banks’ management. In today’s banks, customers are now perceived as true kings, who actually provide direction for the banks and determines their success.

This article assesses the relevance of marketing in positioning and repositioning the successfully consolidated banks in today’s highly competitive financial market. MARKETING IN THE POST-CONSOLIDATION BANKING IN NIGERIA Obviously, banks’ consolidation had produced a large, diversified capital base to all the successful banks, coming from investors (small and big, individual and institutional, and local and foreign). The major challenge facing the management of banks is how to strategically deploy this capital in a way that it would generate superior returns to their shareholders.

Marketing, obviously, is one of the major ways out. Interestingly, all the banks, including the least expected, First Bank are embracing marketing in seeking differential (competitive) advantages and guaranteeing superior returns to their investors. The ways and manners this is done are examined under the following headings of marketing research; branding and differentiation; quality banking products; innovative product development; transparent and flexible pricing; aggressive branch networks (distribution); highly creative marketing communications; fast and prompt customer service; and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Marketing Research Marketing, according to Chartered Institute of Marketing, London is a management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies customer needs at a profit. Banks as marketers need the tool of marketing research to forecast, identify and satisfy the needs of their various segments of customers. Wilson (2006) defines marketing research as the collection and communication of information undertaken to assist decision making in marketing. Banks need marketing research to take informed and quality decisions on their customers, competitors, marketing environment and general market trends.

Pratt (1997) subscribes to this view point by postulating that marketing and market research provide information which can be used in making bank marketing decisions. He believes this information is capable of reducing the risk involved in the decision and thus increase the chances of making the right choice. Banks’ management are constantly deploying the tool of marketing research to provide answers to the following questions? What are the various segments that require different banking products? What is the size of each of the segments? What motivates them to buy banking products? How do they perceive the bank and its products?

Are they satisfied with the products and accompanied services? If they are not buying from us, where are they buying from? What is their perception of our prices? Basically, there is a wide range of techniques for collecting this mass of information. Kotler (2003) identifies five (5) techniques, namely: survey, focus group, observation, experimentation and behavioural data. Recognising the importance of marketing research as a key competitive tool, some of the successful banks are employing some of these research techniques to get to know their customers intimately, get closer to them and provide them with wants-satisfying products.

Two of such banks are Zenith Bank and Intercontinental bank. Zenith Bank, in an attempt to provide the best service to its customers, employs interactive online survey to collect information from its customers. This information covers: Zenith bank general outlook; Product and services; Advertising/communications; Banking facilities and customer care; and Loyalty and promotion programmes. Intercontinental bank, claiming to be the most customer-centric bank, employs mystery (ghost shopping), a technique of observation, to collect information on service delivery in its different outlets and to its teeming customers nation-wide.

Mystery shopping requires that a researcher poses as a customer in order to observe the process and procedures used in the delivery of a service. Intercontinental bank, in its customer care unit engages a large number of its personnel to collect information in this way. Another popular technique of gathering information by banks is behavioural data. Virtually all banks install scanners and other electronic devices to monitor and collect information on customers’ behaviour (behavioural data) while within and outside the banking hall.

Branding and Differentiation The best known definition of brand is that given by the American Marketing Association (AMA): a brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors. Stobart (2006) considers differentiation as the most important concept in the creation of powerful brands. Branding is a potent marketing tool as it gives products unique personality and emotional connections.

It removes anonymity and confers distinct identity on a bank and its services. The management of the consolidated banks recognised this fact and this explains why immediately after the consolidation exercise the first and major task they executed was the rebranding of their respective banks. In doing this, banks aimed to create new identity, achieve high degree of differentiation and create a new image (position) in their customers’ minds. They spend liberally on integrated marketing communication to reinforce the new identity and image.

Jobber (2004) seems to be in consonance with the above purpose of creating strong brand name in banks. According to him, companies generally benefit from creating and nurturing strong brands because strong brands: add value to companies; positively affect consumer perceptions of brands; act as a barrier to competition; improve profits; and provide a base for brand extensions. He concludes by positing that consumers gain because strong brands act as a form of quality certification and create trust. Intercontinental bank stands out in this regard.

Intercontinental Bank in its quest to be a dominant player in global banking recently launched new corporate identity. The epoch-making unveiling of the new corporate identity dubbed; Good to Great which came 18 years after its establishment is a reflection of the strategic intent of the bank. The new corporate logo which has the Hexagon as its primary identity icon with two dominant colours of blue and yellow is indicative of the bank’s bold international growth in all the continents of the world and achieving the highest international standards in all areas of its operations.

Quality Banking Products Consolidation has thrown up a major challenge in the area of quality of banking services. Unlike in manufacturing, quality is hard to define and measure in service sector. The Japanese define quality as ‘zero defects – doing it right the first time’. Crosby (1979), one of the quality gurus, defines quality as conformance to requirements. Studies by the Strategic Planning Institute show that the perceived relative quality of a product or service is the single most important factor determining its long-run market share and profitability.

They found that businesses that rate poorly on service quality lose market share at the rate of 2 per cent a year and earn on average only 1 per cent on sales. Companies that score high on service quality gain market share at 6 per cent a year and average a 12 per cent return on sales. Aaker (1998) found that quality was the most mentioned basis for a strong differential advantage. This realisation has led most banks in the country to pursue quality as the most important competitive priority in the recent time.

They are combining what Doyle (1998) describes as the soft elements of services marketing – people, physical evidence and process – to the traditional marketing mix elements – product, price, distribution and promotion, in order to deliver high quality banking products. The question is what are the determinants of quality of service in banks? Parasuraman et al (1985) classify these determinants into two – those that relate to the quality of customers (e. g. reliability, credibility, security, knowledge and responsiveness) and those that relate to the quality of the process (e. g. competence, courtesy, communication and tangibles).

Quality of services in Nigerian banks is being rewarded with quality certification. One bank that has received global quality certification awards from Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is UBA. This is in recognition of its adherence to best practices, quality standards in the conduct of its businesses and having successfully scaled the stringent audit of its systems and processes. With the award of ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management System Standard, the bank has joined the league of enterprises carrying the banner of quality service delivery among service institutions in Nigeria.

Innovative New Product Development Clark and Fujimoto (1991) define product development as a process by which a firm transforms data on market opportunities and technical possibilities into information assets for commercial production. Companies develop new product to meet new and changing needs of their customers. What is a new product? A new product has a degree, ranging from small modifications through major modifications to entirely new products. In this sense, Robertson (1967) has classified new products into continuous innovations; dynamically continuous innovations; and discontinuous innovations.

Also closely related to this is Stanton’s (1971) classification of new products into innovative; adaptive and imitative (me too). Product development is a regular and constant possibility among today’s banks in Nigeria. Banks’ management are seeking greater competitive advantage by frequently modifying existing products and introducing new and innovative products. They recognise the need to widen the choice open to their different market segments in order to continually satisfy their needs and make them loyal to the banks.

What we are seeing are truly consumer-friendly products designed to make life better and comfortable for consumers. GTBank has been outstanding with innovative product developments. In just 17 years of operation Guaranty Trust Bank plc has successfully metamorphosed into one of the most ethical, innovative and customer sensitive banks in Nigeria with an enviable culture, transparent practices, learned staff and value adding products and services. Popularly known as GTBank, the Bank is the First African Company and First Nigerian Bank to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

This unprecedented achievement is fallout of the Bank’s involvement in the International Capital Markets in the last 10 months. The Bank’s US$350 million Regulation Eurobond issue and US$750 million Global Depositary Receipts (GRD) Offering in January and July 2007 were the first of such offerings by any Nigerian Company. Transparent and Flexible Pricing Pricing is an important element of marketing mix that a company uses to differentiate itself and attain competitive advantage. Pratt (1997) defines price as a measure of the value exchanged by the buyer for the value offered by the seller.

Kotler (2003) has described price as the only element of the marketing mix that generates revenue; and as the most flexible of all the elements because it can be adjusted at a short notice. Pricing decision is complex and varied and includes list price, discounts, payment terms, credit and so on. In seeking to set prices for their various products, banks seek certain objectives. Palmer (2004) highlights some of these objectives as: profit maximization; market share maximization; survival and social considerations.

Price has different connotations, depending on the sector; it is called interest rates and charges in the banking sector. Following the recent consolidation exercise, pricing has assumed an increasingly competitive importance in the banking sector. The pre-consolidation banking era was characterized by high, cut-throat interest rates and hidden charges, which constituted huge disincentives to banking public, especially the manufacturers. The interest rates hovered between 35 and 40%. The new large and robust capital base of the banks, occasioned by the consolidation, had crashed the interest rates to between 17 and 25% today.

Still, most customers believed that the interest rates are still high, especially when combined with various hidden costs in the guise of bank charges and special conditions. However, a pocket of banks are trying to maintain some degree of transparency and flexibility with their interest rates and charges. Oceanic Bank stands tall in this regard. For example, the team of the bank’s marketers came to make sales presentations to the academic staff of Lagos State Polytechnic early in 2009. They agreed to advance personal loans to interested members of the staff at 16. %; a rate everybody agreed is good, flexible and devoid of hidden charges. It is hopeful that other banks will take a cue from this and respond to customers’ growing concern on the high cost of borrowing in Nigeria. Aggressive Branch Networks and Deployment of ATMs (Distribution) Distribution of products is an important marketing strategy. Availability of banking service has been the hallmark of post-consolidation banking. Banks are now, more than ever exploiting the advantage of making their services available at customer ‘arms length’.

In a bid to make banking convenient and stress free all the consolidated banks are implementing aggressive branch penetration strategies by opening new branch outlets in strategic locations in the cities and villages. As high as 20% of the proceeds of the Banks’ public offer were earmarked for financing extensive branch network. They are aware that consideration and selection of banks by banking public is partly influenced by number of branch outlets. In a structural deposit demand study, Dick (2002) confirmed this, i. e. ranches play a major role in a consumer choice of banks. United Bank for Africa, UBA achieves its present status of being the African largest bank as a result of its vast branch outlets. Today, the consolidated UBA is the largest financial services institution in West Africa with total assets in excess of one trillion, six hundred million Naira (over USD14b) and more than six million (6m) customer accounts, operating out of 7 economies in the West, Central and East African sub-regions – Nigeria , Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It has over seven hundred (700) retail distribution centres across Nigeria, its main operational base, 16 branches in Ghana, 5 branches in Uganda and 5 branches in Cameroon. Outside Africa, it also has presence in New York, Cayman Island and London. UBA is driving its aggressive branch network with acquisition strategy. To date it has acquired five of the unsuccessful banks, namely Trade Bank, Metropolitan Bank, Guardian Express Bank, Africa Express Bank (Afex Bank) and Gulf Bank.

It aims to bring banking to the door step of the ‘unbanked’ and also to grow its branch network. In addition to extensive branch network, banks are also deploying Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) to offer convenience and make banking closer to their customers. There has been an increased use of ATMs in the country made possible by the gradual move from a cash-based economy to a cashless one. The deployment of ATMs in Nigeria, which began in 2006, has enabled Nigerians to have access to their funds 24/7, without being restricted by the traditional hours of banking operations.

These days, all classes of Nigerians – youths, students, workers, professionals, housewives, elders, market women, artisans – use ATMs for their transactions because of the flexibility. Zenith bank is leading other banks in this automated platform. It recently commissioned its full fledged branch automation, called ATM Gallery in its Victoria Island Headquarters. Highly Creative Marketing Communications Marketing communications or promotion is defined by Kotler (2003) as all forms of information transfer and persuasion intended to positively influence the target market’s feelings and behaviour.

Shimp (2000) submits that marketing communications represents the collection of all elements in a brand’s marketing mix that facilitate exchanges by shared meaning with the brand’s customers. Marketing communications is a powerful marketing tool that banks are increasingly using to create awareness, position their products in their customers’ minds, persuade customers to patronize them and change and reinforce attitude. Marketing communications has several elements – advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, public relations and direct marketing (these are referred to as the traditional communications mix).

Besides these traditional promo tools there are also other tools such as sponsorship, exhibition, packaging, word-of-mouth and so on. Advertising is the most popular of these and wields enormous influence because it uses mass medium in disseminating message to the target market. Most consolidated banks are using advertising to create awareness, especially for their newly created identity and image. For, example, following the successful merger of Stanbic Bank (Nigeria) Limited and the IBTC Chartered Bank Plc to become Stanbic IBTC Bank, it became necessary to reinforce the new name through multi-media advert.

The advert emphasized what customers and staff will experience from being part of a Pan African bank with a global network and expertise; it claimed it is really a new turn for banking, especially corporate and investment banking in Nigeria. Few banks have also been creative with their advertising, with such advertising increasingly playing persuasive role. One of such banks is Bank PHB. The bank, since consolidated, has undertaken various highly creative executions that have been unrivalled in the annals of banks’ promotion in Nigeria.

Let us chronicle these creative appeals. In breaking financial communication in the Nigerian banking industry that was devoid of paying cashiers and beautiful banking halls, Bank PHB, dared into a realm hardly contemplated by competition. And Nigerians proved skeptics wrong by their positive response to the commercials. If Cars Run on Water depicted creative genius and wit, Autodrive was simply mind-blowing. They were attention-grabbing, unusual but amazingly simple – quite typical of the bank’s brand DNA.

These remarkable set of adverts were followed by a succeeding campaign tagged “life to the power of PHB” – the most impactful of them being basketball. Clearly these commercials are out-of-the-box. If Cars run on Water and Autodrive were visionary and ambitious, Campus, and Basketball became the practicality of what was envisioned. They have moved beyond thinking like that to actually accomplishing extraordinary feats. Sales promotion, aimed at providing incentives to induce immediate patronage, is also gaining wide acceptance among Nigeria’s banks.

Different banks have either implemented sales promotion programme or are currently implementing it. Sales promotion in these banks seeks to attract new customers, increase the frequency of the current customers’ patronage, make current customer loyal to them and reward loyalty. First Bank is drifting away from its traditional conservatism to embrace radical marketing programme – sales promotion. It is recently rewarded its new and current customers in an ongoing promo tagged “FirstBank Big Splash Promo”.

To qualify to partake in the promo, customers were required to increase their savings account deposits by N25, 000 every month from June to December 2008. There were monthly prizes of N1, 000,000, Honda Generator, Laptop and Table-Top Refrigerator for the first four winners respectively. Customers also had the chance of wining quarterly prizes of Toyota Corolla. Personal selling, a direct and face-to-face communication of presentation of marketing message to prospects or customers, is a popular marketing communications tool.

It is heavily used by business-to-business (B2B) and service organisations. It was the traditional promo tool used by banks during pre-consolidation era, though it was unethically used. Post-consolidation banks continue to rely on this important personal element of marketing communications tools to take advantage of competition. Gone were those days of arm-chair and grandstanding banking, as banks now send out marketing-oriented employees to attract and retain customers for the emerging innovative products.

For instance, UBA’s high-powered marketing team led by its Isolo Branch manager succeeded in convincing a large number of Lagos State Polytechnic academic staff to move their salary accounts from their respective banks to the Isolo branch of the bank. These sales people are variously called – accounts officer/manager, new business development officer/manager, customer relationship officer/manager and so on. Public relation (PR) is another tool in the promo tool-kit. Smith and Taylor (2002) define (PR) as the development and maintenance of good relationship with publics.

It is a marketing communications tool aimed at building, nurturing and sustaining goodwill, managing publicity and corporate image with relevant publics on an ongoing basis. Banks have interface with a diversity of publics – the community within which they operate, the employees, the customers, the press, the investors, and government. PR has several objectives; however, corporate image remains very paramount. In fact, Pratt (1997) has suggested that corporate image may be the most important source of branding that is available to banks.

Banks’ management are using a wide range of techniques to create favourable image; they include: publications (Zenith Bank’s Annual Report); visual symbol (First Bank’s Elephant); branch layout and design (First City Monument Bank’s unique architectural design); and events (Banks’ Annual General Meetings). Customer Service Baker (2000) defines customer service as generally including advice and information for customers regarding technical specifications of a product or service and after-sales back up arrangements and procedures. Customer service describes the assistance provided to help a customer with the purchase or use of a service.

To emphasise this point, Christopher (1986) writes that: ‘ultimately customer service is determined by the interaction of all those factors that affect the process of making products and services available to the buyer. Few banks are differentiating themselves from competitors by providing better customer service. They are positioning themselves as capable of providing exceptional customer services better than competitors and thereby gaining marketing advantage. An innovative customer service can provide exceptional and unique value to customers.

Customer service falls into three categories: pre-purchase, during-purchase and post-purchase. Banks can not survive without customers; consequently, they need efficient and effective customer service to retain and make customers loyal to them. Carson (1999) uses a broader concept of customer care to explain the extent to which companies can go to keep and retain their customers. He sees customer care as a concept which encompasses at least four kinds of distinct activity – customer service, product quality, service quality and after-sales service.

Nigerian banks are employing all these in varying proportion to show how passionate they care for their growing number of customers. Zenith bank is a good reference point. Zenith Bank is renowned for its customer-centric services. It was in January 2007 adjudged the most customer-focused bank in Nigeria from a survey conducted by foremost consulting firm, KPMG. The survey, which focused on corporate customers of banks, including companies in a variety of sectors, found that they were most satisfied with the services rendered by Zenith Bank.

The bank’s reputation and turnaround time in service delivery is unrivalled in the market. It pursues customer service with greater passion, energy and enthusiasm. It has created a professional environment where individuals are encouraged to display their creativity, which would translate into greater wealth creation for its clients. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Now more than ever, most Nigeria’s banks are seeking competitive advantage with one form of social responsibility or the other. They are trying to outdo one another in this area.

Lawal (1993) defines social responsibility as a sense of obligation and accountability of individual and institutions to society beyond their basic primary function. McWilliams and Siegel (2001) provide a slightly different definition from that of Lawal. They are of the view that CSR relates to actions which are above and beyond that required by law. It is about how businesses align their values and behaviour with the expectations and needs of stakeholders – not just customers and investors, but also employees, suppliers, communities, regulators, special interest groups and society as a whole.

CSR describes a company’s commitment to be accountable to its stakeholders. It is a voluntary action over and above compliance with the law. CSR, according to Beamish and Ashford (2007) seeks the following objectives: to meet responsibilities; to put something back; to manage impacts on society; to improve reputation; and to meet government expectations. The question at this juncture is: How socially responsible are Nigeria’s banks? Ogbonna (2007) is of the opinion that for many years, the concept of corporate social responsibility remained alien to Nigerian banks, as the overriding emphasis was profit and nothing else.

He recalls that during the pre-consolidation era, banks’ management never bordered about the customer or the environment within which they were operating. He attributes this situation to the fact that customers then had little or no option, as most banks then were relatively small. Moreover, the literacy level and consciousness of the bank customers was quite low and so many things were taken for granted. He concludes that times have changed a great deal and awareness about banks’ corporate social responsibility has continued to grow steadily ever since.

There is a relationship between CSR and corporate reputation and sales. Gustafson (2006) cites the study conducted in 1999 by Glbescan. The study found that corporate reputation and sales are both at risk when consumers have a negative perception of a company’s social behaviour. Many banks are accepting this reality and are now giving back to the society their widow’s mite. United Bank for Africa (UBA) has distinguished itself in the area of CSR. UBA set up a foundation known as UBA Foundation as a CSR arm of the Group.

The bank has been voted as the most Socially Responsible organisation in Nigeria, at This Day Awards for Excellence 2008 which took place on Sunday February 17, 2008 in Lagos. The award further confirms the bank’s institutional leadership not only in Nigerian financial services industry in terms of financial performance, but also in its commitment to giving back to the society. The judges considered the huge investment by the Foundation several in its four areas of focus i. e. Environment, Education, Economic Empowerment and Special Projects as unparalleled in the annals of CSR in Nigeria.

CONCLUSION Nigerian banks and their teeming customers are really in new world – the world of marketing, where the rule of the game is continuous value creation, communication and delivery to ‘the king’, consumers. Thanks to consolidation; it has brought new dawn and everybody seems to be a player. Some of the successfully consolidated banks, in a bid to guarantee high returns on investment to their shareholders, have employed marketing to a different degree. They have appreciated the relevance of marketing in achieving greater competitive advantage and in delivering greater returns to their owners.

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