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FCMB: Braving the Odds to Deliver Value

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Owing to the rising default in loan repayment forced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the declining economy that affected borrowers’ revenue inflow, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) faced an upsurge in credit loss expenses in the third quarter but its management waded through the strain and maintained the elevated profit performance it demonstrated at half-year.

The situation, which affected lenders globally, also forced the bank’s net loan impairment expenses to rise to N5.6 billion quarter-on-quarter in the third quarter ended in September 2020. This pushed up the year-to-date loan loss expenses to more than N13 billion, jerking up the year-on-year rise from 41 per cent at half-year to over 70 per cent at the end of the period.

The resumption of new lending in 2019 after two years of break, occasioned by the Loan to Deposit Ratio (LDR) policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), appears to be fuelling the rising asset losses.

Last year, the bank grew the customer credit portfolio by 13 per cent and further growth of close to 11 per cent had happened at the end of the third quarter to N793 billion.

The bank’s management is not letting the asset quality strain to impede the impressive growth record of the bottom line. Instead, it gained speed on profit growth from the half-year position to 30 per cent year-on-year at the end of the third quarter.

FCMB is maintaining the path of growing profit for the third consecutive year though it has remained well below the peak profit figure of N22 billion attained as far back as 2014.

The bank maintained its earnings growth levers on the upbeat, spurred by a step up in interest earnings from 8 per cent growth at half year to 10 per cent increase year-on-year to N112 billion at the end of the third quarter. This was punctured by non-interest income, which shrank from 13 per cent increase at half-year to close flat at N34 billion at the end of September 2020.

Nevertheless, FCMB is still seeing the highest growth rate in revenue in four years in the current financial year. Interest income is growing at the highest rate in for the bank since 2014.

At over N146 billion at the end of the third quarter, gross earnings improved by 7.8 per cent year-on-year, slowing down from over 9 per cent improvement at half-year. This remains the best revenue growth record for the bank in four years against a slight decline in 2019.

Interest cost extended its benign behaviour in the third quarter with a year-on-year decline stepping up from 3 per cent at half-year to roughly 4 per cent to close at N44 billion at the end of the third quarter. Improving interest income with declining in interest expenses are the favourable combination for FCMB in 2020. The share of interest income devoted to interest expenses went down from 45 per cent to 39 per cent over the review period. The positive effect is a top record growth of 21 per cent in net interest income to N66 billion at the end of the third quarter compared to less than 5 per cent improvement at the end of 2019.

The major increase in impairment loss on financial assets however did not let all the increase in net interest income get down into profit. Net loan impairment expenses rose by 70 per cent to over N13 billion at the end of September 2020. The expenses claimed nearly 20 per cent of net interest income against 14 per cent in the same period last year.

With the strength of improving revenue and declining interest expenses, FCMB was able to dilute the impact of rising credit loss expenses and still add some momentum to the bottom line.

The bank closed the third quarter with an after-tax profit of roughly N14 billion, which is a year-on-year growth of 30 per cent – stepping up from 29 per cent record at half-year.

Profit is accelerating this year from 16 per cent growth the bank recorded at the end of 2019. The ability to grow profit more than three times ahead of revenue underscores a gain in profit margin this year. Net profit margin improved from 7.9 per cent in the same period last year to 9.5 per cent at the end of the third quarter. This is the highest net profit margin the bank has seen since 2015. The strength came from cost saving from interest expenses and a moderated operating cost during the review period.

The improvement in interest income reflects the expansion of earning assets with loans and advances growing by N77 billion over the 2019 closing figure of N715 billion and investments rising by N64 billion to over N303 billion over the same period.

Over the nine months of the year, it has grown the size of the balance sheet by N369 billion or 22 per cent to close at over N2 trillion – the strongest growth since 2012. Earnings per share amounted to 70 kobo at the end of the third quarter operations, improving from 54 kobo per share in the same period last year.

The bank remains on track with our full-year expectation that it would retain the key strengths of growing revenue, moderating interest expenses and improving profit margin and stay the course of rebuilding profit for the third straight year in 2020.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Banking

Unity Bank, Lagos Food Bank Address Hunger, Malnutrition

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Unity Bank Lagos Food Bank

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Food items worth millions of Naira have been donated to Ogundimu Ilaje, a riverine community in the suburb of Lagos, by Unity Bank Plc and Lagos Food Bank.

No fewer than 150 cartons of food items tagged Unity Box of Hope were distributed to hundreds of households in the underserved community.

The gesture is a collaborative initiative to support and promote interventions addressing hunger and malnutrition in communities.

It is also part of the strategic Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSRs) of Unity Bank aimed at sustaining the improvement of health and social well-being of communities it operates.

The lender, in a statement, further said it supported the programme because its goals align with the Lagos Food Bank Initiative, a non-profit organisation committed to providing welfare programmes to indigent people.

The donation comes on the heels of the worsening economic situation in the country, especially with the soaring food inflation at 23.12 per cent as of August 2022, which has alleviated hunger in many households.

Addressing the beneficiaries at the venue of food distribution, Mr Hillary Oguebo, Unity Bank’s Head, Corporate Resources, said the bank, as an agric-focused financial institution, was fulfilling its core mandate in line with Bank’s drive for food security, adding that the Bank is pleased to donate the food items to the community to help ameliorate the impact of the rising cost of food on them.

“Unity Bank has a financing business model that is principally anchored, amongst others, on boosting agricultural production, and it is also useful for those who have not benefitted from the bank’s Agric financing package to receive direct food intervention as it is being done today.

“Due to a lot of factors, especially growing insecurity, food production has been impacted severely, leading to historical food inflation. That has left many households struggling and battling hunger. So, this is a thoughtful gesture that we hope to sustain to reach as many Nigerians who deserve this form of intervention at this critical period,” he stated.

With a score of 28.3, the Global Hunger Index ranks Nigeria 103rd out of 116 and classifies the country’s hunger level as serious. This is a result of the country’s growing food insecurity, which has risen to more than 80 per cent from less than 20 per cent about three decades ago.

Unity Bank has led some of the most important critical interventions in the agric sector in Nigeria in the recent past and boasts significant investment in the Agric sector over the past six years and a track record of financing smallholder farmers that spur food production through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Through a CSR initiative that feeds households in underserved communities, the Bank is redefining CSR through strategic interventions that align perfectly with its business model.

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Banking

FCCPC Records Decline in Complaints from Customers of Digital Loan Sharks

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customers of digital loan sharks

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it has recorded a significant reduction in the number of consumer complaints regarding illegal digital money lending activities.

Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, said this in a statement via the agency’s Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Mr Irukera attributed the reduction in complaints from customers of digital loan sharks to the enforcement embarked on by the FCCPC joint taskforce.

“I agree that some activities of digital money lending institutions have destroyed relationships, whether professional or personal, and that is why we are doing all we can.

“I will be the first person to agree that there is a problem out there.

“Messages are still coming, harassment is still coming, but frankly, we have been tracking this for a while,” he added.

The FCCPC boss said that the complaints were the lowest recorded in the last two years, following several enforcements embarked by the commission.

“This is the lowest it has been in two years. From March, when we started this enforcement, there has been a significant reduction.

“I will say that after our enforcement last month, we counted probably less than 25 per cent looking at the tracking of the complaints that came in.

“But 25 per cent is not it, we will keep doing what we are doing, even adding more,” Mr Irukera said.

He said that the task force would continue to set the guard rails and make the loan shark businesses difficult.

“Wherever we find their bank accounts, we lock it down, whatever applications they are using, we go to google, we take them down,’’ Mr Irukera said.

He said that in pursuant to the order of the commission, Google had taken down over 70 applications, and the FCCPC had locked out over 60 bank accounts.

The executive vice chairman said Flutterwave had also taken down a dozen applications.

Mr Irukera appealed to members of the public to send their complaints relating to illegal money lending activities to lenderstaskforce@fccpc.gov.ng.

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Banking

Nigeria Can Solve FX Crisis With Adequate Agricultural Financing—Heritage Bank

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George Oko-Oboh adequate agricultural financing

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The foreign exchange (FX) crisis that is putting pressure on the Nigerian Naira, making the prices of goods and services rise in the country, can be solved if attention is paid to agricultural financing, Heritage Bank Plc has submitted.

The lender, through one of its executive directors, Mr George Oko-Oboh, pointed out that if players in the agricultural sector are supported with funds, they will produce crops that can be exported and generate forex for the country, making the domestic currency stronger at the currency market.

At the 15th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) in Abuja, he noted that adequate agricultural financing was critical in defining the country’s trade competitiveness, which guarantees sustainable agricultural systems. This critical aspect equips the financial sector to respond to changing market requirements and address critical sector needs for global competitiveness.

He disclosed at the programme tagged Repositioning the Financial Services Industry for an Evolving Global Context that Heritage Bank has been at the forefront of financing agric value chains that have upped its competitiveness in the global market and helped to boost local production, conserve scarce foreign exchange and enhance food security, and ultimately result in the creation of hundreds of new jobs.

According to Mr Oko-Oboh, the bank’s involvement in the sector dates back many years ago. It has always been at the forefront of ensuring the overall growth and development of commodities products in Nigeria. For these feats, Heritage Bank disbursed the N41 billion intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in wheat production in Nigeria for commodity associations and anchor companies.

“We have continued to create market linkages between smallholders’ farmers and anchors/processors, create an ecosystem that drives value chain financing, improves access to credit by the smallholders’ farmers by developing credit history through the scheme and many more.

“As a bank, we partnered CBN and other stakeholders such as wheat farmers association of Nigeria, wheat farmers, processors and marketers’ association of Nigeria, Lake Chad Research Institute and other development partners, flour mills of Nigeria and several seed companies and others to support over 100,000 farmers in wheat production.

“Also, Heritage Bank further factored consideration of value addition of financial services and products flowing to and/or through value chain participants to address and alleviate constraints to growth that have distorted product financing, receivables financing, physical-asset collateralization, risk mitigation products and financial enhancements,” said the executive director.

Also, the Chairman, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr Farouk Gumel, has said Nigerian banks must invest in modernising agriculture, helping it to be more resilient, more dynamic and better able to adapt for the banking sector to compete in the evolving global context favourably.

“Modernisation means much more than technology alone; it is also about farming techniques,” he said.

Mr Gumel noted “to reposition the industry for a ‘Glocal context, we also need to look more inwards,” saying repositioning is not an option. It is a necessity that Nigeria has begun an agricultural renaissance over the past seven years. To be truly Glocal, we must commit the same resources and investments to rural-local customers as we have done to urban global clients.”

He agreed that the local players must keep an eye on what global happenings to stay in tune with international best practices while asking that local/rural farmers should never be forgotten.

President/Chairman of the council for CIBN, Dr Ken Opara, said the financial services industry needs to adapt to a much faster pace of change in advancement in technology and innovation, saying services, products, and technologies that were new and useful in the past will not necessarily be so soon.

Mr Opara said advancement in technology and innovation is bringing about another wave of revolution that will change the landscape of the financial services sector more than ever.

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