By Dipo Olowookere
A real estate development company known as Coronation Real Estate Development Limited has renewed its battle with Union Bank over excess bank charges.
According to the Lagos Times, the firm is asking for a whooping sum of N4.1 billion as compensation from the lender.
The aggrieved company has filed a second amended statement of claim before a federal high court in Lagos alleging that Union Bank’s arbitrary interest, excessive charges, penal charges and illegal fees have resulted in the company suffering economic losses running into billions of Naira.
Court papers obtained by Lagos Times showed that the company had in April 2008 secured a N1.315 billion loan from the bank out of which only N1.217 billion was disbursed by the bank in 11 instalments. The loan facility was granted to finance the construction of a shopping/office complex at Asokoro, Abuja.
The company alleged that the bank not only neglected to release the full loan amount but also delayed the release of the instalment disbursements, thereby leading to delays in construction and skyrocketing costs.
However, in October 2012 the company secured a restructured loan of N1.277 billion to enable it complete the construction of the shopping and office complex which is located at Plot 3774 Cadastral zone, off Jimmy Carter road, Asokoro, Abuja.
Both the initial loan and the restructured loan were to be repaid through the sale of forms and deposits for rentals/leases of the shops/offices which are being maintained in a dedicated account with Union Bank. Coronation Real Estate Development Limited maintains that it has fully repaid the loan and is no longer indebted to the bank.
It alleges that in spite of this Union Bank has continued to impose arbitrary charges, excessive charges, penal charges and fees on the company’s facility account.
The company claims that investigations on its account and expert assessment and valuation of the property in Asokoro showed that the total loss incurred by the company due to incomplete disbursement, delays in disbursement and excess loan charges by Union Bank stands at N4.1 billion.
It is therefore seeking a judgement of the court declaring that the application by the defendant of arbitrary interests, excessive charges, penal charges and fees on the company’s facilities account with the bank is illegal, unlawful null and void, and an order of court compelling the bank to compensate it to the tune of N4.1 billion.
Digital Banking – A Catalyst for Economic Growth and Financial Empowerment
By Lamin Manjang
Think back to a time when the word ‘Bank’ came to mind. It conjures images of long queues, tally numbers, paperwork to complete, pressure to process transactions within working hours, awaiting physical approvals on transactions.
Fast forward to more recent times with the impact of technology and financial literacy, the word ‘Bank’ connotes different reactions to many people. Personalized financial growth, opportunities for business collaborations, access to foreign investment opportunities, transferable generational wealth and financial security all on one’s terms are some of the prevailing thoughts for customers.
Customers now have access to information around the clock at the touch of their fingers and as such can determine what financial needs they want their financial partners to meet. The union of innovation, digital literacy and collaborative opportunities to provide financial services, gives us the solution that is Digital Banking.
Digital banking in Nigeria has evolved significantly over the last five years to become an important part of our daily activities, driving e-commerce, wealth creation, payment solutions, financial empowerment, and improved standards of living.
In a world of digital banking and with innovation and technology positioning itself as the future of payments and wealth creation, there are several opportunities for financial institutions to tackle some of the country’s biggest challenges around job creation, economic empowerment and financial inclusion for youths while being a catalyst for efficiency within the sector.
As with any endeavour towards automation, curiosity with heightened caution is expected primarily around the impact on employment opportunities and business sustainability. However, the reality is that with digitization comes immense opportunities for employees in any organisation to acquire new skills that position them for the future working environment which will be predominantly digital.
Digitization fosters efficiency. For example, it broadens and extends a bank’s ability to reach existing and new customers, previously unreachable due to the limitations of the physical brick and mortar branches. Digitisations simplifies manual processes through automation; reduces delays encountered by end-users; creates new job opportunities, thereby creating multiple opportunities for reskilling, upskilling, and redeploying of employees into new roles.
At Standard Chartered, we are a listening and customer-centric financial institution. We are focussed on understanding how our customers want to transact; how we can improve on the products and services that are important to them while ensuring a smooth delivery method to these solutions.
A growing number of our customers are telling us that they want financial solutions that they can access and utilize anytime and anywhere from the convenience of their own mobile devices.
They want to be able to access investment opportunities 24/7 on the go at their fingertips and equally connect with our customer care specialists who can support them whenever they have any queries. Continuous optimization of our digital banking solutions enables us to meet these financial needs.
In December 2021, as part of the digitization journey we embarked on a few years ago towards enhancing our processes, we closed down 10 of our branches in Lagos and Abuja and made significant investments towards optimizing our operating channels, products and service solutions to suit the demands of our clients.
The decision, with the approval of the regulator, was also driven in response to changes in customer transaction behaviour. We have witnessed significant adoption of our digital banking services by customers as most of them continue to prioritize convenient banking over the need to visit any of our physical locations to access our products and services.
In addition to our customer-centric digital strategy, we pride ourselves in the implementation of a forward-looking People Strategy where we proactively plan our workforce needs to fulfil our Business Strategy.
The banking landscape is very dynamic with rapidly changing customer needs. This year, in response to this, we continue to strategically prepare our employees for the future working environment which will be primarily digital. We continue to upskill, equip, and redeploy employees especially those impacted by the closure of the branches in Lagos and Abuja to ensure career growth and stability for our employees this year.
But digitization is not just for the advantage of our customers and employees only. Digitisation provides an opportunity to positively impact the communities too.
The importance of quick access to finance for example cannot be undervalued and with financial exclusion still being a barrier in some parts of Nigeria – digital innovation in banking can influence positive transformation within the sector.
Recently the bank launched its Agency Banking service as part of its Digital Banking proposition to clients across Lagos. This builds on the launch of our world-class digital bank in December 2019. SC Mobile, the Bank’s mobile app has practically put the bank in the palms of the client as clients are able to open new accounts end to end, transfer funds, effect static data changes, get cards delivered to their doorstep, invest in real-time etc.
We equally launched our Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service, *977# which caters to clients who may not have access to internet service and wish to transact. These are just some of the initiatives we continue to drive in support of CBN’s financial inclusion agenda to empower Nigerians.
We have taken a ‘Capturing the Digital Initiative’ approach that ensures that over 70 per cent of the most common service requests can be handled by our digital bank with distinct benefits such as a zero charge on all interbank transactions, zero charges on SMS notifications and free delivery of cards to customers regardless of location. We remain forward-thinking on how best we can continue to simplify and improve our customers experience with the bank.
From the 2020 NIBBS report, customers between 25 and 34 years old carried out 36% of all interbank instant payments. With an estimated 60% of the Nigerian population setting the tone for adopting innovative technology, it is essential to welcome the latter while also firmly holding the former by striking a balance in responding to customer-specific needs.
Digital banking is no longer a series of financial transactions and services. It is an innovative solution towards providing empowerment and creating sustainable prosperity for our clients, colleagues and the community. This is the future and we are all encouraged to adopt and maximize these changes for the benefit of all.
Lamin Manjang is the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria.
KPMG Ranks Ecobank Among Top Five Customer-centric Nigerian Banks
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Ecobank Nigeria Limited has been ranked among the top five customer-centric financial institutions operating in the country.
The ranking was done by a leading audit and professional services company in Nigeria, KPMG, in its 2021 survey of Nigerian banks.
Ecobank Nigeria was number five in the study in the Wholesale (Corporate) Banking category of the KPMG Customers’ Experience and Satisfaction Survey.
When compared with the previous year, the lender moved eight places higher, which was a significant improvement.
The top banks in order of rating include Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank, FCMB, Zenith and Ecobank Nigeria.
KPMG explained that Ecobank and other leaders in the segment demonstrated digital banking excellence with higher transaction volumes; adding that they were seen as partners to corporates and also move quickly to address and exceed customer needs.
“Our annual banking survey continues to provide an independent platform for banks and other organizations to acquire this outside-in perspective and understand the voice and priorities of Nigerian customers.
“This year, our results reveal a very competitive landscape in the race for the customer and at the same time, customer feedback that recognizes the effort and innovation of Nigerian banks,” the respected firm stated.
Specifically, it stated that, “In the report, we explore, in more detail, key priorities for corporates such as transaction banking support as well as the payments experience for retail customers.”
The KPMG Nigeria Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey has been held annually for the last 15 years with the 2021 edition themed Changing Customer, Changing Priorities.
The experience survey measures the performance of lenders in the country in terms of their relationship with their account holders and other users of financial services. They are usually rated in three categories – Retail, SME and Wholesale.
The 2020 survey covered 15,056 retail customers, 1,856 SMEs and 332 commercial/corporate organisations. Respondents were selected from customers who have interacted with their banks in the last six months.
Keystone Bank Introduces Incubator Scheme for Startups
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A specialised incubator scheme with offerings to address the needs of startup businesses has been introduced by Keystone Bank Limited, a fast-growing financial services provider.
The initiative tagged The Keystone Startup Advantage Programme (KSA Programme), will provide the necessary support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and startups in Nigeria.
This is in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari for the growth of the SMEs sector and aligns with the United Nations Envision #2030 Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 8 – to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
“Recent reports reveal an increasing attraction of foreign Venture Capital investment into the African startup ecosystem, with Nigeria boasting of the largest number of startups in Africa.
“In 2019, Africa’s venture capital investments rose to an all-time high. According to Partech, 234 African tech companies raised $2.02 billion in 250 equity rounds. This indicated a 74% increase from 2018’s figure of $1.16 billion raised by 146 startups in 164 rounds.
“2021 witnessed increased venture capital funding in African startups between $2.25 billion and $2.8 billion. As of August 2021, a national newspaper published a report that Nigerian startups raised $276.5m within seven months,” a statement issued on Monday by the bank stated.
“There is a growing interest from several foreign investors who are keen on investing in Nigeria’s digital economy given the nation’s ranking as one of the leading startup ecosystems in Africa.
“These recent trends have led to the passing of Nigeria’s Startup Bill (NSB), set to leverage ICT platforms to create jobs while ensuring that the diversification of the economy creates more support to other emerging sectors,” the financial institution added.
In his comments, the Divisional Head, Retail, SME & Value Chain Division, Keystone Bank, Mr Anayo Nwosu, said capacity building remains key for the growth and development of SMEs, adding that SMEs in every part of the world are the livewire of the economy.
“Like in every economy of the world, SMEs are the lifelines. They contribute significantly to the economy’s GDP, creation of jobs and wealth, economic prosperity, and of course, all these details to economic growth and development,” he explained.
“There are so many challenges associated with birthing a business in the country but by plugging into the ideas and experiences shared by experts in the industry at this training and also the grants, the sky is their starting point.
“Through the programme, it is our vision as a bank to impact 100 startups annually and up to 1,000 startups in the next five to ten years,” he said further.
Mr Nwosu further disclosed that the KSA programme, a three to four-month Investor Readiness scheme, will adopt a blended approach, as it will offer a hybrid option with virtual and physical sessions.
He also added that three successful SMEs/startups from the programme will win a N3 million grant each to support their business operations.
“The modules will be both tutor-led, and self-study modules within a friendly e-learning platform. It will be an intensive programme designed to have groups as well as one-on-one mentoring and coaching sessions during the period.
“The programme will serve as a platform to connect innovative SMEs and tech startups with potential investors.
“Startups will also be able to get the knowledge and skills needed to fast track their business to the next growth phase.
“The programme will be premiered on January 24 and 25, 2022, with an Open Day webinar tagged Building Sustainable Startups. Applications will open on January 31 for interested and eligible tech startups & SMEs with innovative ideas, solutions and business methods to submit entries.
“All the information needed to learn more about the programme, its opening webinar and how to apply are available on the bank’s website,” he concluded.
Keystone Bank is a technology and service-driven commercial bank offering convenient and reliable solutions to its customers.
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