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Ecobank Nigeria: A Journey to the Top

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Patrick Akinwuntan Ecobank Nigeria

The journey to position Ecobank Nigeria as one of the top three banks in the country is fast gaining traction and recognition. The Nigerian franchise of the Pan-African financial institution, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) is making good its mission of becoming the most preferred lender in the country.

During the outgoing year, in particular, the bank recorded milestones and landmark transformations that puts it on the path of realizing its mission.

Ecobank Nigeria now resonates excellence from account opening to payments, collections, savings, and investment and indeed all the touchpoints.

Unequivocally, it has endeared itself in the consciousness of the banking public, regulators, and all stakeholders in the industry. Indeed, the bank is regaining its respect in all spheres which is reflected in the bouquets of global, regional, and national awards and recognitions garnered during the year, 2021.

Awards

It has been a harvest of awards for Ecobank in 2021. The common denominator in the comments from the various awarding organizations is the recognition of Ecobank as transforming the industry by setting new milestones in service delivery, digital innovation, product development, payments, technology, customer experience and lots more.

Some of the awards include “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria “by Asian Bankers; “Consumer Finance Product of The Year” at the Middle East & Africa (MEA) Retail Banking Innovation Awards organized by Digital Bankers; “Most Outstanding Retail Bank Brand” of The Year by BrandCom; “Market Confidence and Capital Structure Transaction of the Year” and “Female Economic Advancement Bank of the Year” at Banks and Other Financial Institutions’ (BAFI) Awards 2021 powered by BusinesDay Media Limited. The list is endless.

In particular, the organizers of BAFI Awards said Ecobank Nigeria was awarded the “Market Confidence and Capital Structure Transaction of the Year” because of the impressive strength and depth of the book on the Ecobank’s $300 Million Bond transaction which signalled solid global investor confidence in the financial institution at a time when Nigeria was racked by a perfect storm. They submitted that the strong demand for the bond shows the international appetite for the Ecobank franchise in Nigeria, its unique positioning for facilitating pan-Africa trade and the attractive opportunity for the many investors seeking to back world-class Nigerian corporates.

On the second award, “Female Economic Advancement Bank of the Year”, the organizers said Ecobank was selected based on the diversity and scope of ‘Ellevate’ which is specifically developed for women; being a strong SME banking proposition since many women-owned and women-led businesses fall into this category; a clear, articulated vision to become a “Bank of Choice” for women through training of product development specialists, marketers, and customer service agents on the needs of women; and the service to female customers beyond providing loans, as advice and support are critical to business success anywhere in the world”.

Commenting on the winning out-going Managing Director, Patrick Akinwuntan, said: “The awards is a testimony that we are delivering world-class and diverse financial services in Nigeria and to a greater number of Africans across the continent. We understand their needs, forecast opportunities in the market and make our digital platforms available to be leveraged to achieve the highest potential. Ecobank platform is unique for all types of retail transactions especially account opening, bills payment, airtime purchase and third-party transfers. We have ATMs spread across the country while our agency network reaches every community to provide basic financial services and support for every Nigerian. We have built an ecosystem that brings affordable financial services – payments and collections to every African.”

Agriculture/MSME

Ecobank is an active player in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and agriculture sectors. Recognizing MSMEs as the engine room of the economy, Ecobank recently set aside a N100 billion special fund targeted at empowering them for business growth and thus reducing unemployment in Nigeria. The bank has won several awards in this regard.

For the Agric sector, the bank has provided economic empowerment for more than 53,000 smallholder farmers through the Anchor Borrowers Programme partnership with CBN with about N9.5 billion. The bank has increased the number of Agric sector’s customers by over 900% from about 14,000 to over 143,000 customers. Ecobank is currently in partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Agric in an empowerment program to support over 3,000 Artisanal fishermen in the state.

Women Empowerment Products

Ecobank Nigeria is now commonly regarded in the industry as a ‘women-friendly bank’. This stems from its various products tailored towards empowering female folks. In July this year, the Ecobank Group launched “Ellevate”, a bespoke women empowerment proposition – and this had resounding acclaim in Nigeria. With the Elevate programme, Ecobank aims to empower 40 million women, being a gender-based proposition designed to empower women-owned and managed businesses in Nigeria, as well as in the 33 African countries and beyond where Ecobank has presence”.

Other women initiatives include the Ecobank Female Entrepreneurs’ Initiative (EFEI), a platform designed to empower and support women-owned small-scale businesses. In addition, the bank offers business loans for SMEs, inventory finance for key distributors, shop owner’s facility for traders, purchase order and invoice discounting, asset finance and agriculture finance among other laudable offerings.

Lions’ Den

Ecobank during the year went steps further in its commitment to raise future Africa multinationals. The bank entered a partnership with Ultima Productions for a reality show called Lions’ Den. The Lions’ Den is a business reality show that gives budding entrepreneurs across Nigeria the chance to pitch their business to five successful Nigerian investors, referred to as Lions. The Lions support the selected entrepreneurs with equity or venture capital. In a nutshell, Lions are businessmen and women who have pedigree, who know what it takes to make a success of a business. They bring their wealth of experience and capital to the stage to assist people with brilliant and creative ideas.

According to Akinwuntan, Ecobank’s decision to be the Lead Sponsor of the reality TV show is in line with its commitment to support entrepreneurs who have good business ideas but need to raise funds for advancement. He disclosed that the bank is offering its platform, Pan African network, digital offerings, and all necessary support to make the young entrepreneurs achieve their dream whether the Lion’s invested in their business or not, noting that the fact that they have reached the level to pitch for equity or venture capital makes them qualified as entrepreneurs in the making.

Super Rewards Campaign

Ecobank Nigeria in March this year launched the Super Rewards Scheme, which gives 200 of its customers an opportunity to earn different cash gifts monthly, with four of them becoming millionaires at the end of the four months campaign. The bank in a statement said the scheme is designed to reward customers’ loyalty. The four-month campaign saw a total of 800 customers winning N25,000 weekly in batches of fifty per week and four millionaires emerged from different zones of the country.

Due to popular demand by its customers, the bank recently flagged off Season Two of the Scheme to give opportunity for more customers to be rewarded for their loyalty and dedication to the pan African Bank. The campaign will run between October 2021 and January 2022. As was the case in season one, 800 customers are expected to win N25,000 weekly in batches of 50 customers per week from now till January 31, 2022.

In addition, four millionaires will emerge in each of the four delineated regions of Lagos, Federal Capital Territory (FCT)/North, Mid-west/Southwest and South-South/Southeast regions.

Support for Creative Industry

Empirically, Ecobank has gradually become one of the top banks that supports the creative industry in the country. Apart from participating actively in the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) introduced by the CBN in collaboration with the Banker’s committee to improve access to long-term low-cost financing for entrepreneurs and investors in the Nigerian creative and information technology (IT) sub-sector, the bank went into partnerships with Bolanle Austen Peter (BAP), Legends of Nollywood, Linda Ikeji’s Self Made Woman Conference which had over 5,000 women in attendance and Basketmouth’s Papa Benji. The 13 episode Papa Benji show achieved a combined total of over 10 million views on YouTube alone.

Also, the bank supported Alex Ekubo, on a trip to the Benin Republic generating over 1m views, 30,000 conversations and 10,000 engagements. These and a host of other partnerships was to promote creativity and the African culture.

According to the Managing Director, “As a Pan-African bank, we have a collective vision of promoting the African culture to reinforce and celebrate our heritage. For us, it is beyond banking, we are constantly seeking ways to project the African continent in a positive light. We currently have partnerships with key industry players and recently sponsored the African Music Awards (AFRIMA). We are also the lead sponsor of the widely acclaimed business reality show, Lions’ Den, which recently hit the airwaves. It goes without saying then, that for African creatives partnering with Ecobank, the wait is over.”

Youth Engagement

Ecobank Initiated the MX Online series during the International Youth Day that generated increased likeness for the brand. It partnered with micro-influencers, students and associations to promote Youth products. The objective is to promote, support, sponsor and participate actively in the youth space and endear the demography to Ecobank through internship programmes, raffle draws and experiential events. The MX series had over 10,000 views online.

Also, the bank partnered with Future Face Africa – a model scouting initiative taken to over 10 African countries. The platform gave young people the opportunity for global stardom. The programme attracted over 10,000 participating youths across Africa. This further entrenched the brand within the Fashion & Youth space.

Radio Programme for Entrepreneurs

During the year, Ecobank sponsored a nationwide radio programme created specifically for the bank to reach out to SMEs and a general listening audience. It ran for 13 episodes for one hour weekly in select radio stations in key cities across the geo-political zones. This makes SMEs a veritable target sector for the bank.

The programme served as an opportunity for the bank to showcase some of its customers doing well in the SME category and provisions were also made for staff of the bank to have an in-depth discussion on products and relationships with SME operators. The unique programme was different from the usual ‘customer-experience sharing style. The show addressed pertinent issues identified as pain-points for the SME in Nigeria.

New Head Office Complex

On the highbrow of the business district of Victoria Island and facing the ever-serene Lagos lagoon, is Ecobank new head office complex. The architectural masterpiece which was commissioned in November this year is named Ecobank Pan African Centre (EPAC). The bank says the edifice stands as a tribute to the vision of its founding fathers in creating a world-class pan-African banking group, providing excellent financial services across Africa. EPAC creates a new smart working environment where productivity and service delivery will be taken to another level. Indeed, an office goes a long way to defining a super brand.

The Centre, with a sparkling ambience, boasts of state-of-the-art amenities, houses smart offices, a restaurant, multipurpose conference hall, gym, crèche, a parking lot that can accommodate 130 vehicles at a time, experience and game centre and a rooftop terrace, among others.

Commissioning the complex, a highly elated Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said “This Pan African centre is indeed an intelligent building designed with energy efficiency and is one of the things we need in Nigeria. I know that this building will speak to a lot of the very best.

“It is a state-of-the-art building focused on environmental sustainability and I am sure that from what I have seen around, it is a redefining building and infrastructural development.” This iconic structure epitomizes an ideal super brand.

Conclusion

The Ecobank Nigeria brand promise, no doubt setting it apart in the race to achieving its target. About three years ago Patrick Akinwuntan, outgoing Managing Director and Regional Executive of Ecobank Nigeria stated succinctly that he has a mandate in Nigeria to deliver the brand promise of Ecobank as the platform of choice for convenient, affordable, and instant banking services to customers in the country.

According to him “it’s our ambition that we are within easy reach in your locality at an Ecobank Xpress point through our agents or within your arm’s length on your phone; you can open an account and you can make payment; you can receive payment straight on your phone and at any time cash out through our agents at any Ecobank Xpress point or the ATM. It is the Ecobank everywhere strategy across Africa that we are implementing in Nigeria”.

Today, the brand promise is being realized. The bank has strongly positioned itself as a key stakeholder and supporter in the growth of the real sector of the Nigerian economy. It is supporting small businesses, budding entrepreneurs, agriculture, women businesses, and a whole lot.

The bank is also empowering Nigerians with all the tools to take control and make the most of their finances. Its digital platforms such as Mobile App and USSD *326#, Ecobank Online, OmniPlus, Omnilite, EcobankPay, RapidTransfer, ATMs, POSs, as well as an extensive distribution network of over 250 branches and about 30,000 agency banking locations, have brought convenience to the daily running of customers’ businesses.

By and large, the success of making Ecobank a first choice Nigerian bank is largely driven by its six core values (RACE IT -Respect, Accountability, Customer Centricity, Excellence, Integrity, Teamwork). To ensure sustained success, the bank embedded the right ethics, culture, conduct and values into all its activities. These qualities form the foundations of the organization and drive the right behaviours in every engagement with customers, colleagues, communities, shareholders, regulators, and all other stakeholders.

The bank also recognizes its employees as its greatest asset to maintain high service quality standards, a constant improvement on customer satisfaction and enhance its brand experience. To this end, the bank announced the promotion of 682 of its staff members in June. The bank said the exercise represented 26 per cent of its core staff and was done despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the attendant impacts on business performance globally.

According to a statement signed by the managing director, the promotion was targeted at recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts and commitment, stressing that it was also in alignment with the unrelenting desire of the bank to grow its people.

Apart from motivating employees in various ways, the bank is also training and building the capacity of its entire workforce in its state-of-the-art Academy in Lagos which is fully accredited by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

Besides, the bank is also attracting young graduates into its workforce. During the year, the bank recruited 60 new entry-level trainees into its workforce as part of its growth agenda.

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Banking

Access Bank Deploys Strategies to Dominate Agency Banking

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Access Closa

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Tier-one financial institution in Nigeria, Access Bank Plc, is not resting on its oars despite recently hitting a milestone of having 100,000 banking agents spread across the country.

The lender is planning to dominate agency banking business in Nigeria and to achieve this, it wants to further increase its footprint by having a minimum of 50 agents in each of the 774 LGAs across the country.

According to the bank, this is part of efforts to deepen financial inclusion, increase its customer base and deepen the wallet share of the banking population through the Access Closa agency banking platform.

In a chat with newsmen recently, the Group Head of Agency Banking at Access Bank, Ms Chizoba Iheme, noted that due to the limited number of financial institutions, especially in rural areas, Access Closa is Access Bank’s strongest retail channel used in providing banking services to a large population of unserved and underserved Nigerians.

“Our plan is to bank one in two Nigerians as this will see us increase our customer base and deepen our wallet share of the banking population.

“Going by the high youth and adult population, the resources of Nigeria’s financial institutions are being overstretched in providing physical and human resources and were unable to cope with gaps that existed in meeting banking needs of Nigerians hence the need for Agency Banking as envisaged by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2013,” Ms Iheme was quoted as saying in a statement from the lender on Wednesday.

“Therefore, agency banking helps financial institutions decongest crowded branches by providing a matching and more often convenient channel for their customers. In instances where reaching customers in rural areas is often highly expensive for financial institutions because transaction numbers and volumes do not cover the cost of a branch, agency banking helps in serving them,” she added.

The banker said becoming an agent has become a means to empower and reduce unemployment in Nigeria, noting that, “Our commission structure allows an agent to earn up to N500,000 and more monthly in commission including incentives and opportunities for agents to grow their business and partner with a reputable brand is an attraction to the Closa brand.”

Furthermore, on risks associated with agency banking in the country and how Access Banks moves to mitigate it, she added: “There are four major risks that we have identified. These are technological, legal, and fraud/reputational assets.

“Technological Risk, to prevent software and hardware failures, the bank is investing in new infrastructure with the capacity to absorb service disruptions that will have minimal impact. As part of our onboarding process, the bank’s agents are required to execute a service agreement that stipulates the roles and responsibilities of each party.”

“Also, agents are trained at the point of activation on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Terrorism Financing. This training also takes place every year to reiterate the dangers and consequences associated with fraudulent actions.

“Besides, the bank has set a maximum daily limit on the amount and frequency of transactions that can be performed by an agent. Lastly, a quarterly risk profiling exercise is carried out on all agents for effective management,” Ms Iheme added.

Access Bank is the leading retail bank in Nigeria with over 600 branches and more than 40 million customers. The bank offers products and services tailored to suit the lifestyle of every Nigerian irrespective of age and demographic.

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Banking

Ecobank Clinches ‘Excellence in Fintech-Banking Relationships’ Award

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Ecobank Business Account

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Another feather has been added to the well-decorated cap of Ecobank Group as it recently clinched the Excellence in Fintech-Banking Relationships award at the Africa Fintech Summit.

The lender received this accolade in Washington DC, United States of America (USA) in recognition of its activities to support and facilitate fintech growth on the African continent.

The Group Executive, Operations & Technology, Ecobank, Mr Tomisin Fashina, who received the award on behalf of the bank, attributed the recognition to the pan-African bank’s unparalleled influence in Africa and its unwavering support and numerous initiatives aimed at fostering relationships with fintechs to jointly win in the marketing place, stressing that the bank has put structures and initiatives in place to collaborate and cooperate with fintechs to facilitate the bank’s vision of financial integration of Africa.

“As a bank, one of our strategic objectives is to bank 100 million Africans, across Africa. We won’t go out there with account opening documents to do this. We believe we can achieve that by collaborating and cooperating across the board, and the fintechs come into that space.

“We came out with Ecobank as a service, this is at the heart of why we published our sandbox to encourage fintechs, big techs and any player that wants to do business in Africa to ride on our platforms and help facilitate our vision of a financially integrated Africa. We see ourselves as a key player in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and we believe we are the ultimate bank to facilitate trade across Africa,” he said.

The Africa Fintech Summit is a global knowledge-sharing platform that connects innovators, regulators and entrepreneurs, facilitating conversations and partnerships that help them explore financial technology solutions to improve African individuals, economies and societies.

It is held twice a year in Washington DC and a selected African country and sees stakeholders from around the world assemble to chart a progressive course for fintech in Africa by mobilizing investments, hashing out enabling policies, and sharing growth strategies.

The programme, which was the seventh edition, also recognized TeamApt for Excellence in Digital Banking, PiggyVest- Excellence in Savings and InvestTech, Flutterwave-Excellence in Fintech Infrastructure, while Excellence in Blockchain Technology went to Appzone Group. Others are Excellence in Fintech investment – Future Africa, Excellence in Cryptocurrency – Paxful, Excellence in Ecosystem Research – Briter Bridges, Excellence in Cross-border Solutions – PAPSS, Excellence in Payments – Paystack, Excellence in InsurTech – Turaco, Excellence in Fintech and Lending – Payhippo, Excellence in Embedded Fintech – Cellulant and Excellence in TradeTech – AFEX.

Ecobank has many initiatives to support the growth of fintechs on the continent. The Ecobank Fintech Challenge launched in 2017 identifies and partners with fintechs that are ready to scale, providing them with mentoring, networking, support, and opportunities to access Ecobank’s 33 African markets, as well as opportunities to integrate with existing Ecobank digital offerings. This has recorded significant results and success stories since its inception.

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Banking

Court Orders CBN, NDIC to Pay 1,116 Bank Workers N5.7bn

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CBN IMTOs

By Adedapo Adesanya

The National Industrial Court has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) to pay over N5.7 billion as terminal benefits to over 1,116 bank workers affected by the re-capitalisation exercise of 2006.

The money is to be paid within three months from the date of judgment as failure to adhere to this will attract 10 per cent interest until liquidated.

Justice Paul Bassi, at the court sitting in Lagos on Monday, made the order while delivering judgment in the case filed by the 1,116 claimants who had approached the court since 2018.

The court also ordered the CBN and the NDIC to pay another N10 million as general damages to the claimants.

The ruling settles the battle that the parties have fought since the consolidation exercise of 2006 which saw banks recapitalised from N2 billion to N25 billion.

Some banks did not meet the recapitalisation requirements and this led to their banking licenses being revoked by the central bank which appointed the NDIC as the liquidator.

The bank workers then sued the two organisations demanding the payment of their terminal benefits.

The two defendants raised several objections, insisting among other things they were not the employers of the workers and the suit disclosed no cause of action against them.

In his judgment, Justice Bassi dismissed the preliminary objections of the defendants and held while they may have acted for the general good by raising the capital base of banks in the country, it should not be done at the expense of the former employees.

By revoking the banking licenses of the non-consolidated banks, the defendants interfered with the employment contracts of the bank workers, a contract which would ordinarily have run its natural course with the claimants paying their benefits at the end.

The court then ordered the CBN and the NDIC to pay the workers within three months from the date of judgment failing which it will attract 10 per cent interest until liquidated.

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