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In few years, Fidelity Bank will be at the top -Okonkwo

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From just a merchant bank with few branches, Fidelity Bank Plc has, over the years, maintained a steady growth, emerging the top tier 2 bank in Nigeria. In this interview with the lender’s CEO, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, he speaks on the economy, the banking industry and the secret behind the stellar performance of the bank during its financial year ended December 31, 2017 at an interactive session with business editors in Lagos. Excerpts:

 

What is the bank’s roadmap for the next five years?

Let me give you some historical background. If you look at where Fidelity Bank was as at end of 2013 and where we are today, you would have noticed some marked improvements. The bank has had a stable leadership in our 30 years of operations. I am the third CEO of the bank.

The first CEO served for 15 years and the second was there for 10 years. Both of them laid solid foundations for the bank before I took on the mantle of leadership.

From day one, the watchword is to keep the bank safe and that was the same gospel that was transferred to me to ensure that the bank’s capital adequacy and liquidity are strong.

At some point, people thought Fidelity Bank was too conservative, but it was for good reason. It has enabled us to survive three or four cycles of crisis in the banking industry with us acquiring two banks in the process.

When I came on board, it was clear to me that we needed to be mindful of these and management also agreed to retain this posture when we had our retreat to strategies for the next growth phase.

We said to ourselves at the retreat that we want to be the clear leader among tier-two banks. So, we crafted the medium-term strategic initiatives built around balance sheet optimisation, cost reduction, and increased digitisation. We were sure that if we remained focused on the implementation of these initiatives, we would achieve success.

Four years down the line, we like the results we have achieved, even though we also realise that we are not yet where we intend to be ultimately. Specifically, in answer to your question, in the next five years we plan to break into the league of top five-six banks in the country.

This has implications for market share, number of customers, balance sheet size and all. We had a board retreat late last year to strategise and agree on the imperatives for achieving this goal and by God’s grace and the disciplined approach to the execution of the outlined initiatives, we will realise this goal.

Whilst I am not at liberty to completely divulge in details our plans for the next five years, let me speak to some of the quiet changes and internal realignments that we have made in preparation for the future.

Starting with governance, we ensured that as directors retired, both at the executive and non-executive board, we maintained quality by replacing them with equally very strong professionals from diverse backgrounds.

If you take a look at our board, you will see high profile representation by people who have been in regulatory roles, from our Chairman, Mr. Ebi, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to a former CEO of a multi-national corporation, former CEO of a bank, legal practitioners, former Chief Risk Officer of a bank, accountants and accomplished businessmen.

On the executive side, the professional background of our directors also speaks for themselves. We also started our mid-year audit last year. Nobody compelled us to do it. We are required to audit our account once every year, but we did it on our own because of our future aspiration. We decided to adopt international best practices.

 

Are you looking at organic growth, merger, capital raising or a combination of strategies?

We plan to grow organically, but that does not mean if we see a brownfield transaction, we will not do it. Getting to the top five-six league of bank is more important than just doing a combination today to become such, which means you did not get there by deliberate efforts.

But if we see an opportunity in the market that aligns with our goals, we will evaluate it but that’s not our primary plan. On capital raising, as a bank, we have a policy set out by the Board, which ensures that we remain above regulatory benchmarks.

 

We used to know Fidelity Bank as a bank that handles big transactions. Why have we not heard about such in recent times?

Apart from our reputation as SME-friendly bank, Fidelity has core competence in corporate banking; Fidelity is still financing the big corporates. On agriculture, we funded one of the biggest rice mills in Nigeria located in Kano, supported cocoa value chain in Ondo State, to name a few. We are also very active in food and beverage industries, construction,oil and gas, fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), iron and steel, among others.

 

What will be key drivers of Nigerian banks going forward?

It will depend on strategic focus of each bank. At some point it was easy to make 20 per cent returns from treasury bills, we knew that was not sustainable, so expectedly, it has come down.

Those who stay focused in their core business at a time like this will remain profitable. For instance, if you look at our income distribution in 2017, you will see that we made about 25 per cent of our revenue from non-interest income, which was as a result of investment in digital technology. We used digitization to drive a lot of non-funded income.

We also took advantage of our balance sheet optimization to increase yield in short-term instruments. We have also cautiously resumed extending credits to customers in the consumer/retail segments, following improvements in salary payments.

 

You are known to be strong in the SME sector that has not been de-risked in the Nigerian banking environment and coupled with the issue lenders are having with Non-Performing Loans (NPL), are you still going to be bold lending to them while driving your NPL down to five per cent?

The NPLs you see in the banking industry are not even predominantly from SMEs. Fidelity approaches SMEs from a different strategy completely. When we started supporting SMEs, we did not want to use risk asset penetration strategy.

Businesses fail either because owners borrow for the wrong reasons or they don’t know proper book keeping and there is nothing tying them together and preventing them from behaving otherwise.

When a significant percentage of businesses go bad, there will be a spike in bad loans. Because of this, about eight years ago, Fidelity set up a division to understand SMEs and train people in that area.

A General Manager headed the division. We divided SMEs into general SMES and managed SMEs. We use the cluster approach to manage people that have similar needs.

You can have 500 people who have similar needs and talk to them as an association. Those that do not have proper book keeping, you make it clear to them that we need to see your business through your record keeping and we train them to imbibe and inculcate these habits. Recently, our people spent two weeks in Aba, in the shoe and leather segment of the market.

Today we have a thriving branch there, with the Bank of Industry (BOI) approaching us for collaboration. What they want from us is to use our office to provide money to support people in that market because our model is working. Now if any member of the cluster defaults, the other members will come against him or her in mutually re-enforcing manner.

Our products are specifically designed and if everybody in a particular cluster is facing bad time, we will know, but in a situation where only one person is not repaying, we know that person is doing something wrong. So that’s the way we approach the cluster SMEs. For the stand alone SMEs, we have developed templates.

For instance, if we check transactions across industry over a period of time, we can tell what kind of SME a business is, using account statements. That way we can query inflows and outflows and ask questions where there are gaps – we ask why you are not selling or are you deliberately stocking up, where we see stocks growing are higher than demand. Yes we are that detailed. the awards we keep winning on SME banking is an outcome of a deliberate strategy.

-Culled from New Telegraph

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BUSINESS

Dangote pays 90% of net profits as dividend, shareholders get N10.50 per share payout

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L-R: Chairman, Dangote Cement Plc, Aliko Dangote; Group Managing Director/CEO, Engr. Joseph Makoju; Non-Executive Director, Dangote Cement Plc, Olakunle Alake; and Group Chief Financial Officer, Dangote Cement Plc, Brian Egan during the 9th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Dangote Cement Plc held in Lagos on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

The Board of Dangote Cement Plc has approved the dividend payout of N10.50 per 50k share, representing 90 per cent of net profit and an increase of 23.5 per cent on the N8.5 per share paid last year.

The shareholders described Dangote Cement as a very reliable company that has consistently demonstrated its love for the shareholders. They unanimously urged the regulators to give a special award to Dangote Cement and its Management for keeping faith with the shareholders.

President of Progressives Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Boniface Okezie, said the shareholders were pleased with Aliko Dangote and his team. He said for the company to still pay a robust dividend despite the recession in the economy, which also affected their operations shows the doggedness and the fighting entrepreneurial spirit of the Management.

According to him: “We are very happy and pleased with this result. 2017 was very tough with the recession and fluctuation in the foreign exchange market which the Chairman also said affected their operations, but despite all these challenges, the company was still able to pay us a very good dividend, better than last year, and even gave us hope of better returns on our investments in the years to come. This is very commendable and it is only a company like Dangote Cement that can achieve this laudable feat.”

Dr. Umar Farouk, another shareholders’ association leader urged the regulators to adequately compensate the Management of the Dangote Cement with an award as it has consistently kept faith with its shareholders.

He expressed optimism on the pan African plants, especially now that the Plants are contributing significantly to the turnover of the company. “It is a statement of fact that we are lucky to be shareholders of this great company. If you see what our subsidiaries across Africa are contributing to the turnover, then you will understand what I am talking about. I am very happy and our members are upbeat for the future, knowing fully well that it will only get better.”

Chairman of Dangote Cement, Aliko Dangote, however, attributed the 31 percent increase in the company’s revenue of N805.6 billion to its pan African operations growth which also recorded a significant increase in revenue from N195 billion to N258.4 billion in 2017.

He said: “Pan African operations increased volumes by 8.4 percent, with Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon and South Africa all performing strongly and close to their operating capacity”

Noting that the company experienced some challenges in operating in sub-Saharan Africa, Dangote said the Management responded in a robust fashion and benefited from “…the diversity we have created across our business and because of our local knowledge and attitudes towards doing business in neighboring countries in Africa.”

Explaining the rationale behind the success recorded by the Dangote Cement’s revenue, the acting Group Chief executive, Joe Makoju said “… the increase was helped by our decision to increase our use of local coal in Nigeria and that also helped to improve our fuel security, maintain production uptime and it reduced our need for foreign currency. We source coal from our parent company, Dangote Industries and from another Nigerian supplier, and we are very happy with the way this has worked out for us because it has enabled us to phase out the use of expensive low pour fuel oil in our kilns and also to reduce our use of imported coal”

On the future growth plans for the Group, Makoju said “ …As it stands, I think we will focus on building new grinding plants along the coast of West Africa, and ensure we have clinker export facilities in Nigeria. We are looking at the possibility of two new lines in Nigeria, perhaps by the end of 2020 and it is likely these will be in Edo state and Obajana, with a combined capacity of 6Mta”

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Decade old story wins GTBank’s Dusty Manuscript Contest

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The MD/CEO Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr. Segun Agbaje with Winner of the contest, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson

 

A manuscript written almost ten years ago has been selected as the winner of the Dusty Manuscript Contest; a Prize organized for budding Nigerian writers. Written by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, the winning manuscript, titled Devil’s Pawn clinched the top prize ahead of The Orchid Protocol by Onoche Emeka Onyekwena and The Other Side of Truth by Nneoma Anieto, which came first and second runner-up respectively.

Organized in partnership with Kachifo Ltd. and Okadabooks, the Dusty Manuscript Contest is the latest in a long line of GTBank’s YouREAD initiatives aimed at fostering the culture of reading and creating a platform for the appreciation of Africa’s literary excellence. As part of the contest, Nigerians were invited to submit their unpublished stories and stand a chance to get publishing deals for their works. The contest received over 1,000 entries and had a panel of four judges made up of authors Eghosa Imasuen, Yejide Kilanko and Toni Kan and Assistant Professor of English, Dr Ainehi Edoro-Glines.

As part of the prizes in the Dusty Manuscript Contest, the authors of the top 3 manuscripts received 1,000,000, N500,000 and N250,000 respectively, as well as publishing contracts with Kachifo Ltd. The authors of the 10 manuscripts also received e-publishing contracts with OkadaBooks, while the authors of the top 20 manuscripts were hosted to a two-day intensive writers boot-camp to sharpen their literary and business skills.

Speaking about the winning entry, the lead judge, Dr Ainehi Edoro, said; “Devil’s Pawn was a unanimous choice. Told in a fast paced narrative style that keeps you glued to the pages, the story is a gift that keeps giving’’. “The Orchid Protocol is an intriguing detective story, call it CSI Lagos and you won’t be too far off the mark,” said Eghosa Imasuen, one of the judges. “The Other Side of Truth presents a woman’s life, without judgement. In making the case for the novel a single word comes to me: Empathy,” added another judge, Toni Kan.

Commenting on the Dusty Manuscript Contest, Mr Segun Agbaje, the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank plc, said; “At GTBank we see Art as not just a medium for creative expression but also as a means of livelihood, and by organizing the Dusty Manuscript Contest we are helping budding writers share their stories with the world whilst providing them with a platform to build successful writing careers.”

GTBank is regarded by industry watchers as one of the best run African financial institutions across its subsidiary countries and serves as a role model within the financial service industry due to its bias for world class corporate governance standards, excellent service quality and innovation. The Bank’s footprints in Corporate Social Responsibility are guided strategically by its decision to operate on four major pillars: Education, Community Development, Arts and the Environment, which it believes are essential building blocks for the society and prerequisites for economic growth and societal development.

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BUSINESS

CBN boosts Forex market with $210 million

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has made available the sum of $210million, to meet customers’ requests in various segments of the foreign exchange market.
In its desire to meet customers’ needs in the various segments of the market, the CBN offered $100million to authorized dealers in the wholesale segment of the market, while the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) segment got boosted with the sum of $55 million.
According to figures obtained from the Bank on Wednesday, 20th June, 2018, customers needing foreign exchange for invisibles such as tuition fees, medical payments and Basic Travel Allowance (BTA), among others, were also allocated the sum of $55 million.
It will be recalled that the Bank last Thursday, June 14, 2018 intervened to the tune of $343.06 million to cater for requests in the retail segment of the forex market.
Meanwhile, the naira continued its stability in the FOREX market, exchanging at an average of N360/$1 in the BDC segment of the market on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.
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