ACCESS Bank Plc is shifting its focus to the Small and Medium Enterprise, SME, sector. It targets to reach about one million mobile phone customers in the next 12 months. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, group managing director, said that the aim was to highlight the bank’s commitment to economic empowerment of individuals and growing entrepreneurs.
Aig-imokhuede pointed out that the bank has identified 13 critical segments of the economy which are already benefiting from its empowerment programme. The bank, he said, has created a full division (Business Banking) to support the needs of the SME sector in Nigeria. He noted that the basic driver of the industry’s defining initiatives had also been identified and “is set for implementation of about 200 different initiatives that will change the face of banking in Nigeria.”
He said that the initiatives would be rolled out one-after-the other from this week which, amongst them, is the bank’s planned multi-channel banking platform initiative and a host of others. He said that the bank would also be laying emphasis on the pioneering role in sustainability and public advocacy with the adoption of sustainable banking principles in Nigeria and beyond.
Aig-Imokhuede said the bank led in the adoption of International Finance Reporting Standard, IFRS, in Nigeria. “We are leading in the drive for lending to Nigeria’s real sector. The bank is in pursuit of health-focused Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, and also building capacity in public sector for effective public policy outcomes,” he said, pointed out that the bank was also leading Nigeria in corporate banking with significant retail growth potentials of 87 percent profit in Nigeria and 13 percent in other branches in parts of Africa.
“We want Access Bank to be seen as a tier one, customer focused bank which is already the second largest customer base with 6.5 million customers. We are going to launch a solution that will allow youths to have a company, if say, for example, you want to link all the balances with all your accounts, say 10 bank accounts, in those banks, people are paying money, for say, sale of newspapers and everyday you want to leave a balance of only N1 million in those bank accounts, you can move any amount over N1 million to your major account.”
CBN Won’t Devalue the Naira
THE Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, will resist pressures to devalue the naira since it retains ample funds to defend the currency. Ugochukwu Okoroafor, CBN spokesperson, said the apex bank governor was expected to steer this course until his term is up in 10 months. He said the institution remained committed to the band. “We have the resources to meet demand. We are still determined to keep within that band,” he said.
Kingsley Moghalu, CBN deputy governor, also said there were no plans to change the band. He said that the apex bank was comfortable with the band as it is currently and had no intention of doing anything spectacular. “We believe that the probability of moving the trading band is slim in the coming months,” he said.
The bank tightened liquidity significantly in July, slapping a 50 percent reserve requirement on public sector deposits, up from 12 percent previously. That sucked 1 trillion naira out of the banking system and although the effect on the naira was short-lived, it showed the lengths to which the bank would go.
But a similar naira weakness, partly caused by excessive spending prior to 2011 national elections, forced the Central Bank to lower the target band from 145-155 naira to the dollar in November that year, after months of struggling to prop it up. Pressure on the currency will worsen next year as elections loom again in 2015 traditionally at a time when government expenditure becomes very loose, pumping excess liquidity into the banking system. The unit has hovered around the 162-163 level in recent months, on strong demand for dollars. It touched a 20-month low of 163.70 naira to the dollar last week.
The naira has fallen in recent months, trading outside the CBN’s target band of 150-160 naira to the U.S. dollar since June, initially due to foreign investors booking profits on their naira assets, and on importers buying dollars.
The Darling of Retirees
STANBIC IBTC Pension Managers, a member of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, has paid N178 billion to retirees in the last eight years. The firm pays about N1.7 billion to over 28,000 retirees monthly since it started operations in 2005. Demola Sogunle, chief executive officer, Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers, made this known at the launch of Stanbic IBTC Pension mobile office in Lagos. He said the new product was in line with its commitment to ensuring excellent and convenient service for clients.
Sogunle said that the visibility would demystify pension matters and encourage more Nigerians to subscribe to the contributory pension scheme, thereby enhancing financial inclusion. “We believe that this initiative, which speaks of convenience and accessibility, is one of our key steps to building a legacy of exceptional service delivery where the customer is the focal point of all our activities. This initiative will bring pension service to the doorsteps of our customers and prospective customers alike,” he said.
According to him, there are plans to deploy more mobile offices in various cities across the country, adding the new service window will complement the group’s expanding footprint in Nigeria by adding to the almost 200 branches of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers’ nine regional offices, as well as selected branches of Zenith Bank where the Pension Fund Administrator operates.
Sogunle said Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers is backed by the requisite expertise and experience, strong and sound financial clout, ensuring efficiency in the management and safety of clients’ retirement savings. “We believe that the support, experience and capabilities of the Standard Bank Group to which we belong, have been instrumental in enhancing our expertise, resource base and general service delivery, thus reinforcing our goal of providing excellent service to all our customers.”