By Dipo Olowookere Despite recording a 5.79 percent increase in its gross earnings in the first quarter of 2020, Fidelity Bank Plc closed the period ended March 31, 2020 with a 1.4 percent decline in profit after tax. In Q1 2020, the lender reported gross earnings of N51.2 billion, higher than N48.4 billion. However, the profit before tax dropped to N6.58 billion from N6.67 billion in Q1 2019, while the profit after tax depreciated to N5.86 billion from N5.94 billion, with the earnings per share (EPS) falling to 20 kobo from 21 kobo. A brief analysis of the unaudited financial statements of the lender showed that the fall in profitability in the first three months of this year was due to rising costs of the bank as well as decline in the components of its income for the period. For example, the personnel expenses of the bank increased to N6.4 billion from N5.4 billion as a result of increase in the wages and salaries as well as the N750 million paid as end of year bonus in the period under review, which was not incurred in the corresponding period of last year. Also, other operating costs gulped N13.8 billion in Q1 2020 in contrast to N10.4 billion in Q1 2019 and this was because of rise in marketing, communication & entertainment, other expenses, outsourced cost, computer expenses, security expenses, office expenses, corporate finance expenses, directors' emoluments, insurance costs, donations, telephone expenses as well as banking sector resolution cost. Business Post observed that though the net interest income of Fidelity Bank increased to N24.6 billion from N16.5 billion, the fee and commission income dropped to N5.6 billion from N6.5 billion, with fee and commission expense rising to N1.6 billion from N1.1 billion. The decline in fee and commission income was mainly due to drop in ATM charges, account maintenance charges, commission on e-banking activities, commission and fees on banking services amongst others. There was also a decline in other operating income to N1.7 billion from N2.5 billion, impacted by decrease in net foreign exchange gains. However, the financial institution maintained a strong balance sheet with year-on-year increase in the total assets to N2.3 trillion in Q1 2020 from N1.9 trillion in the corresponding period of last year. The lender maintained a strong customer base with deposit from customers improving to N1.4 trillion from N1.0 trillion in Q1 2019.