At a recent function in Abuja, the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, delivered a lecture where he revealed that there has been a consistent decline, over the past three years, in the recorded rate of successful fraud incidences, thefts and forgeries in the banking industry. Specifically, Ibrahim said such cases had declined by almost half, 48.12%, of the rate it was in 2015.
In response to how the industry was able to achieve such impressive reductions, Ibrahim, while putting in perspective the key reason for frauds to help buttress his response, explained that poor corporate governance practices in terms of regulatory and supervisory oversight and compliance allow frauds and forgeries to thrive. So all that needed to be done was to ensure a stronger corporate governance practice. He said the reduction is indicative of the strict adherence to sound corporate governance practices by banks, which include compliance with regulations.
Indeed, experts at a recent workshop organized by the National Institute of Compliance (NIC) agreed that compliance is at the heart of sound banking practices and sustainable banking and that the risk of banking industry failure is remoter now than it was some years back due to a higher level of compliance. The nature of the banking industry, with its intermediation functions, is such that failure can have very dire consequences for businesses and the economy. Thus, banks have a responsibility to ensure a stable industry and this can only be achieved by sound corporate governance practices.
In the 90s and early 2000s, regulatory and supervisory oversight was weak and compliance by banks to regulations was mainly in the breach. Then, the industry was an all comers’ affair, mostly populated by charlatans who see the industry as mainly a meal ticket. Banks were being opened at a dizzying pace then, with sometimes three or four opened in a month. Before the recapitalization exercise of 2005, there were close to 200 banks in the country. There was widespread corruption in the industry at the time, which led to billions of naira of depositors’ money and investors’ funds lost or misappropriated. But following the recapitalization exercise and especially after the global financial crisis of 2008, corporate governance became a major issue leading to the introduction of a raft of corporate governance codes.
For a bank like Stanbic IBTC, regulatory compliance comes like second nature. The brand’s penchant for regulatory compliance was validated in 2015 at the maiden edition of the Corporate Affairs Commission’s Corporate Citizens Awards. Stanbic IBTC Bank came first for compliance among Nigerian banks and was awarded the Most Extensive Compliance award. According to CAC, “over 800 companies were nominated for the awards, only 26 companies made the final list, out of which the nine winning companies emerged,” including Stanbic IBTC and three other banks.
Certainly, there is no better validation than a regulator attesting to a company’s good corporate citizenship. And it is no surprise that a bank like Stanbic IBTC was adjudged the first among equals in terms of compliance.
Many sometimes view the bank’s processes and policies as cumbersome because of the different layers of regulatory requirements it insists must be met before a transaction can be consummated. But then on the flip side is that Stanbic IBTC Bank is one of the most secure, transparent and trusted financial institutions in the country today.
These qualities continue to translate into very strong financial performances in its operations and a bullish outlook for the stock at the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
In its 2018 financial report, Stanbic IBTC Bank posted an impressive 54% growth in PAT. Balance sheet grew by 20% to N1.6 trillion, driven mainly by deposit growth of 7%. And most importantly, was able to improve its asset quality as ratio of non-performing loans to total loans improved to 3.9%.
Financial institutions, particularly Stanbic IBTC, fully appreciate and understand that their survival depend on how well they are able to manage the relationships amongst their stakeholders, which require them to establish and maintain harmony between parties whose interests sometimes conflict. It is the management of such relationships that corporate governance code embodies. It is this realisation that led banks to self-regulate when in 2003 the Code of Corporate Governance for Banks and Other Financial Institutions in Nigeria was established by the Bankers’ Committee and CIBN.
Stanbic IBTC’s strong corporate governance practices are critical to the financial institution’s continued growth trajectory. The seamlessness of its change of leadership last year was quite impressive and such practices will no doubt give it the desired stability to further increase its market share and to post impressive financial results, going forward.
With the 2003 code, the 2014 CBN code and a spate of regulations by the apex bank as situation demands, which makes for a stronger regulatory oversight, one can almost argue that the possibility of a banking industry failure is remoter than constant uninterrupted power supply in the country. Despite the cost of compliance, which can sometimes be huge and burdensome in terms of time and direct cost, and the risk of managements of banks becoming particularly focused on compliance at the expense of doing business, financial institutions remain resolute in ensuring a strong and viable industry. And this is beginning to produce dividends as shown by the recent NDIC figures and the industry’s financial scorecards.
Today, banks sometimes face the wrath of stakeholders as they strive to comply with regulatory directives. A case in point was the directive by the CBN that banks publish the names of delinquent debtors on its books, which did not go down well with some customers.
Another was the foreign exchange utilization position, mandated to be published weekly, and the various restrictions to dollar disbursements to bank customers. Treasury Single Account (TSA), which required all agencies of government to each maintain a single account with the CBN, leading to the withdrawal of trillions of naira from commercial banks, was another policy that banks would have gladly avoided but nonetheless diligently complied with. And most recently is the ‘appointment’ of banks by the Federal Inland Revenue Service as tax collecting agents, which pitched the banks directly against some of their customers and trade partners.
There is no doubt that there is a new compliance orientation in the banking industry. And as banks like Stanbic IBTC, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and UBA continue to lead the financial services industry towards improved compliance levels, it will not only check corruption in the banking industry and risk of possible collapse, it will, due to banks’ pivotal role in the economy, help sanitize business practices and thereby attract investors and boost the economy.
Unity Bank Launches Anti-fraud USSD Code for Customers
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
Unity Bank Plc has unveiled a new code on its USSD platform to help customers stem the risk of fraud in electronic banking.
The new anti-fraud USSD code, which is *7799*9*Phone Number#, will completely put customers in control of their bank accounts against any e-banking fraud, as it can be dialled to successfully block and protect an account from a third-party mobile device if fraud is suspected.
During the unveiling of the new USSD dial, the Directorate Head, E-Business, Retail & SME Banking, Mr Funwa Akinmade, said executing measures to safeguard its e-banking platforms with enhanced safety and security features was a top priority amidst the rising rate of cyber-crime victimization.
He said: “With fraud concerns on major payment channels across Nigeria, every player in the financial services industry in Nigeria must think of a way to stay ahead of its game.”
“With the added USSD feature that allows customers to block their accounts using *7799*9*Phone Number# code, even from a third party device, we have given greater empowerment to customers to transact freely on our USSD platform.
“With the USSD feature, being available to both smartphone and feature phone users, it means even the least digital-savvy customers of Unity Bank can effectively use the new anti-fraud code.”
He also revealed that since the code has been made available in Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba languages, it will cover the majority of customers across the country who are looking for safe banking.
In view of the latest banking industry fraud report by Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) which showed a 534 per cent increase in cyber fraud rate, and a total of N3.5 billion loss in the previous year, the lender said the new USSD dial was a strategic move to facilitate seamless and secure banking transaction within its e-banking channels.
Customers can now block and protect access to their bank accounts in the case that fraud is suspected, then they can walk into any branch of Unity Bank to request reactivation.
CBN Tracks Forex Sales at Commercial Banks
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
The Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) is already tracking how commercial banks in the country are complying with the sale of foreign exchange to their customers.
Recall that last Tuesday, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced that the apex bank will no longer sell FX to Bureaux De Change (BDC) operators and will also halt the issuance of licenses to them.
He disclosed this after the two-day Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting held in Abuja, maintaining that the BDCs had become a useful channel for illicit forex flows, especially at the unregulated segment of the FX market.
In his words, “We are concerned that BDCs have allowed themselves to be used for graft.”
He said instead, the CBN will now begin to sell FX to commercial banks, which are required to set up teller points specifically for customers with genuine forex requests.
But several analysts expressed pessimism over the ability of deposit money banks (DMBs) to be faithful with the sale of FX to retail users.
They claimed banks have already been involved in roundtripping, which the central bank accused the BDCs of doing.
However, to avoid this, the apex bank said it has put in place a monitoring mechanism that tracks forex sales at commercial banks, assuring the general public of seamless sale of the foreign currencies.
The CBN acting director in charge of the Corporate Communications Department, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, while briefing newsmen in Abuja, said commercial banks will always respond to the legitimate forex demands of customers.
He explained that lenders have demonstrated their commitment through their chief executive officers not to turn back on customers with legitimate forex requests.
In effect, a circulated notice tracked by this newspaper showed that various commercial banks have swung into action and have set up dedicated teller points across their branches nationwide, encouraging customers who want to buy Personal Travel Allowance (PTA), Business Travel Allowance (BTA), and make every other qualifying FX transaction, to approach their branches nationwide to get them.
Nigerian Lending Start-Up PayHippo Gets $125k Seed Fund
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
A Nigerian lending and business financing platform, Payhippo, has been accepted into Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 cohort, gaining access to a $125,000 seed fund and other networking and mentorship opportunities.
The one-year-old Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) co-founded by Mr Zach Bijesse (Cheif executive officer – CEO), Ms Chioma Okotcha (Cheif Operating Officer – COO), and Mr Uche Nnadi (Cheif Technology Officer – CTO) will be joining 167 startups across the globe to participate at the Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 batch.
The American seed funding accelerator, Y Combinator, offers seed funding for startups twice every year (winter and summer batch) and hosted their demo recently where they will invest $125,000 in selected startups, in exchange for 7 per cent equity.
Speaking on the development, Payhippo’s COO, Ms Okotcha disclosed that when the news of their acceptance into the outfit came in, the startup felt a little sceptical about the precondition that the accelerator gets a 7 per cent stake in startups they invest in.
In her words, “We had mixed feelings at first because 7 per cent of your company is a lot to give up. We called up a few YC alumni from our market and got their input.”
She, however, expressed optimism, revealing that joining the YC cohort will reinforce the startup’s credibility in the public eye and boost future collaboration.
“Ultimately, we went with Y Combinator because we saw how much we could learn from the YC partners and the overall network.
“We believe it’s already paying dividends both for operations as the brand name and global recognition of Y Combinator has brought interest from lending capital partners.
“The YC brand name signals to the job market that working at Payhippo means people can contribute and do meaningful work.,” Ms Okotcha further said.
Payhippo is a lending and business financing platform with a drive to serve 40 million small and medium-sized business that are unable to gain access to the funds necessary to grow their business, by leveraging on automated underwriting and credit assessment tools to create more financially equities across Africa.
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