The importance of the banking sector in any economic, whether developed or developing can never be overemphasized, hence policy makers in every country see to it that the banking sector is healthy. You would recall when Mallam Sanusi Lamido was the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria; he did a lot of reforms that laid a solid foundation for the banking sector in Nigeria today. The state of the banks in a country, can tell how vibrant the economy of that country is. No wonder, when Sanusi came up his reform that saw some of the supposedly big banks folding up, while others were merging to become bigger and stronger. The current trend amongst the leading banks in Nigeria today is the spreading of their tentacles across the shores of Nigeria into some African countries like Ghana, Togo, Liberia, Senegal and of late, Sierra Leone. One of the rules of success is simply looking for a need and meeting it, which seems to be the reason the banks are looking beyond the shores of this countries. Just a fortnight ago, First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FBN) became latest Nigerian lender to set up its shop in Sierra Leone. Over the last decade, over five Nigerian lenders (Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Skye Bank, Access Bank and United Bank for Africa) have launched businesses in Sierra Leone. Research has shown that the Sierra Leone has huge unbanked market that is attracting foreign banks. The local financials players’ lacks participation in the banking industry, a development that has led to the incursion into the country’s banking landscape.
Findings also revealed that of over 0% of the country’s commercial banking sector is controlled by foreign players, making it an attractive destination for Nigerian banks, which are considered the biggest within West Africa.
A country that has been badly ravaged by civil war, and most recently the deadly Ebola scare, FirstBank amongst other Nigerian banks, hopes to exploit the vast untapped opportunities inherent in the country, where access to loans is still a major challenge.
First Bank, no doubt, one of the largest corporate and retail financial institutions in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa). It operates in the United Kingdom, France, and five other African states. It also has representative offices in South Africa, China and the United Arab Emirates. It is Nigeria’s second biggest bank by asset, second only to Zenith Bank, which is also another active Nigerian bank participating in Sierra Leonean market.
The Bisi Onasanya led First Bank Plc began banking operations in the West African country after reaching an agreement with the International Commercial Bank Financial Group Holdings Ag (ICBFGH) for the full acquisition of International Commercial Bank (ICB) Sierra Leone. “The launch of FBN Bank Sierra Leone fulfills one of the critical stages of our ambition to steadily broaden and build a more diverse footprint across Africa,” said Bisi Onasanya, GMD/CEO of FirstBank, in a statement.
The GMD of the bank, Mr Bisi Onasanya reinstates the bank’s commitment to the development of a multi-local business model that broadens our geographic revenue base while providing enhanced service delivery to our new customers and equity participation to local investors.”
Commenting further, the Ag. Managing Director, FBNBank Sierra Leone, Nelson Akande said “Having built value for Nigeria over the last 120 years, FirstBank through FBNBank Sierra Leone is poised to do even more in the Sierra Leonean financial market. FBNBank Sierra Leone will provide customers with a bouquet of banking solutions that make their financial lives more convenient and stress-free whilst providing a delightful service experience.
“Given our heritage and market leadership at FBNBank, we are committed to co-creation; to listen and input feedback received from our customers in the development of products and services that are relevant.”
Another leading Nigerian financial institution that is doing very well Nigeria as well as in Sierra Leone,is the Segun Agbaje led Guaranty Trust Bank Plc which is rated the fourth biggest bank in Sierra Leon.
Guaranty Trust bank (SL) Limited was established in Sierra Leone in line with the Group’s vision to harness growth opportunities in the areas of increased market share, customer acquisition and continental expansion.
The bank was incorporated and registered in Sierra Leone on the 28th of September and 5th of October 2001 respectively. It entered the Sierra Leone market following the successful acquisition of majority interest (90%) in the defunct First Merchant bank of Sierra Leone limited, a bank that had been in existence since early 1999 by Guaranty Trust Bank, Plc Nigeria.
Further to the change of ownership, First Merchant Bank formally changed its name to Guaranty Trust Bank (SL) Limited on the 25th of January 2002, and immediately became a subsidiary of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc Nigeria immediately after the acquisition.
In the last two year, Guaranty Trust Bank plc has invested about $1million to restructure the bank and reposition it to face the new and interesting challenges that are emerging in post war Sierra Leone. The bank’s authorized share capital was increased to Le 6 billion with Le 5.946 billion fully paid.
Guaranty Trust Bank has within the short period established a niche with the banking public setting the pace for the delivery of high quality customer service. Our customer service capabilities are enhanced by BASIS a versatile and user-friendly banking software and the upgrade of our technology and other infrastructure. The ambience of our banking premises reflects the traditional Guaranty Trust Bank way of instilling confidence in the minds of our customers and the public alike and has been a source of pride and motivation for our staff made up of a crop of young talented individuals all of Sierra Leonean origin.
Apart from the Head Office at Wilberforce Street in the city center, the Bank has additional branches by the quays in eastern Freetown and in BO the second largest town in Sierra Leone.
Guaranty Trust Bank (SL) Limited is the licensed agent for the MoneyGram International Money transfer service in Sierra Leone.
Since its inception Guaranty Trust has been living up to its vision of providing excellent customer service by employing high quality people and processes. Our business has been the provision of a full range of commercial banking services to its select and highly discerning spectrum of corporate, commercial and retail customers.
In addition to its strong customer service culture, units within the Bank are segmented along functional lines, which include Corporate Banking, Mining and Allied Services, Public Sector, Commercial Banking, Consumer Banking and Transactional Services Group. These segmentations make our units and its people closer to our various customers in such a way as to respond to their banking needs in a prompt, effective and proactive manner.
The bank has been leveraging on its investment on Information Technology infrastructure to bring banking services closer to its various customers. Within the four years of operation in Sierra Leone, the bank has introduced PC banking, Mobile Banking services, statements delivery via emails and Web based SWIFT connectivity to facilitate efficient funds transfer all over the world.
Guaranty Trust Bank has clearly emerged as a major financial institution in Sierra Leone and is well poised to play a leading and innovative role in the financial services industry and contribute significantly to the post-war development of the country. Guaranty Trust Bank plc will surely live up to expectations as seen in the recent audited financial results for the year ended December 2014 released to the Nigerian and London Stock Exchanges.
A critical analysis of the bank’s 2014 results showed positive performance across all financial indices, reaffirming the bank’s position as one of the most profitable and well managed financial institutions in Nigeria.
The Group declared an impressive Profit Before Tax (PBT) of N116.39billion, an increase of 9.30billion or 8.7% over the N107.09billion reported in December 2013 and Gross Earnings of N278.52billion an increase of 14.8% from the N242.67billion recorded in the same period of 2013. In terms of value creation for its shareholders, the Bank recorded pre-tax ROAE of 32.94% and ROAA of 5.22% respectively.
The Bank’s balance sheet remains strong with 12.4% growth in Total Assets, from N2.10trillion in 2013 to N2.36trillion in the year under review. Loan book growth up by 27.12% to close at N1.28trillion from N1.01trillion in 2013; driven primarily by growth of the foreign currency loan book, on the back of the 2013 $400mm Eurobond issue. On the back of continued growth of the Bank’s Retail franchise, Customer Deposits grew by 13.3% from N1.43trillion in 2013 to N1.62trillion in 2014.
The bank has consistently maintained a disciplined and prudent approach to loan growth in line with its Risk Management framework. The Bank’s Non-Performing Loans (NPL) ratio remained low at 3.15%; down from 3.58% in the comparative period of 2013. On the back drop of this result, the Bank is proposing Total-Year Dividend of N1.75k per share (inclusive of the 25kobo interim dividend paid at half year 2014).
The bank’s financial performance in 2014 attests the soundness of its strategy and resilience of its earnings. The Group has delivered a respectable Profit Before Tax (PBT) of N116.39billion in spite of the harsh economic realities the sector experienced in 2014. Gtbank also sees customers loyalty, staff commitment and hard work as a key factor to the growth its experienced in the outgoing year.
Guaranty Trust Bank plc has always been at the forefront of industry service innovations in markets where it operates, having successfully replicated its culture for excellence in its subsidiaries in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and the UK. Locally, the Bank’s most recent service introductions includes; SME Market Hub; an e-commerce platform which allows GTBank customers create online stores in order to expand their business operations and boost sales.
Just a couple of days ago, the Guaranty Trust Bank plc released its unaudited financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2015 to the Nigerian and London Stock Exchanges.
Another critical review of the Q1 2015 results shows that the Bank continued on a strong growth trajectory, re-affirming its position as one of the most profitable and well managed financial institutions in Nigeria.
The Bank recorded a 17% growth in Gross Earnings to N79.02 Billion, from N67.58 Billion recorded in the comparative period of 2014, underpinned by strong growth in interest income and effective management of operating expenses and cost of risk. Profit Before Tax was N32.65 Billion, an increase of 17% from N28.01 Billion reported in Q1 2014. The Bank reported a Q1 2015 Profit After Tax of N26.56 Billion an increase of 15% over the N23.11 Billion reported in Q1 2014.
The Bank closed Q1 2015 with Total Assets and Contingents of N3.15 Trillion, customer deposits of N1.69 Trillion and Shareholders’ Funds of N357.59 Billion. The Bank’s non-performing loans improved to 3.06% from 3.40% in the comparative period of Q1 2014 whilst the loan book grew by 28% to close at N1.30 Trillion in Q1 2015, from N1.02 Trillion in Q1 2014. The Bank also reported a post-tax ROAE of 29.03% and ROAA of 4.39% respectively.
The bank believes strongly in strengthening its market positions with distinctive customer propositions in chosen segments in order to deliver long-term sustainable and efficient growth as well as strong shareholder returns.
Over the years, GTBank has consistently shown a bias for industry leadership, exceptional service delivery and innovation, and has experienced tremendous growth since its inception in Nigeria in 1990 with business outlays spanning Anglophone and Francophone countries of West Africa, East African and the United Kingdom. The Bank presently employs over 10,000 peoples in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Kingdom. With the latest entry of First Bank Plc into the Sierra Leonan market, we might are likely to expect more and more Nigerian banks following suit. Another interesting thing to watch out for in the next few years is that of who controls the market. With major players in the Nigerian financial sector are already fighting for market share and dominance in Sierra Leone, who eventually would become the market leader, it left for time to decide.