The Banker Awards 2014
The Banker Awards 2014 : Africa
Africa: United Bank of Africa
The pan-African banking model has had a rocky ride in recent years, with its leading lights
plagued by losses or governance issues. Yet if United Bank of Africa’s (UBA’s) year is anything
to go by, it has begun its return to the straight and narrow.
The Nigerian bank went into loss in 2010 and 2011 as the world economy slumped and some
poor loan decisions came home to roost. It came back strongly in 2012, when it was able to write
back some of its provisions. Last year, gross earnings improved by 20% to N264.7bn ($1.53bn),
while net operating income grew 11% to N176.9bn. But provisions and an increased tax burden
left profits after tax down 15% at N46.6bn.
Some 25% of UBA’s revenues now come from outside Nigeria. Performance in its home market
was negatively affected by regulatory changes – restrictions on bank charges and an increase in
the cash reserve ratio on public sector deposits from 12% to 50%.
“Regulation is a factor which has continually impacted the global banking industry and our
operations are not exempt from its reach,” acknowledges Phillips Oduoza, UBA’s CEO.
“However, our strong risk management and compliance functions have enabled us to mitigate
their effect on our operations and performance.”
That said, the group has made a good start to its three-year Project Alpha plan “to regain industry
leadership”. Its deposit base grew by 25% and its loan book by 40% in 2013. Its cost-to-income
ratio improved from 64.8% in 2012 to 60.9%, while its overall net interest margin inched up from
5.8% to 5.9% in this time.
The group is now present in 19 African countries, including Nigeria, and has won this year’s Best
Bank award in four of them. “Our main success in the past year has been the growth witnessed in
our different operating countries,” says Mr Oduoza. “We are currently experiencing increased
uptake of our products in addition to key customer acquisitions. This is great for the bank as it
provides a strong platform for future growth.”
UBA’s ambition is to become Africa’s global bank, and one of Project Alpha’s objectives is to
increase the focus on African trade, alongside more participation in growth areas such as
agriculture and infrastructure.
Algeria: Citibank Algeria
Central bank interventions have recently put pressure on Algerian banking revenues. Citibank
Algeria has responded with product innovations and service quality improvements that have
reduced the negative impact.
he central bank has imposed caps on commissions and charges for foreign exchange trading and
certain other transactions. As well as reducing revenue flows, this has increased competition
between banks as they try to build volumes.
Citibank Algeria has launched a new corporate solution called Bench, which automates foreign
exchange deals pricing and allows pricing in bulk. Bench is part of the CitiFX Pulse suite, which
is Algeria’s only corporate foreign exchange online platform with access to onshore pricing.
The bank has also launched Speed Collect, for the collection of clients’ cash, cheques and bills of
exchange. It eliminates the need to send staff to the bank every day and has enjoyed considerable
success. It has also helped Citi to increase its liabilities by 30% in 2014, year to date.
Like the banks, corporates operating in Algeria face serious regulatory constraints. Working with
its trade experts in London and Dublin, Citi provides tailored trade financing solutions that enrich
client working capital cycles at a competitive cost. The Trade Service Professional unit works to
ensure the smooth processing of trade transactions by constant interaction with the client, to bring
each one to a swift conclusion.
Dedicated agents are assigned to top clients with high volumes of trade transactions, so that they
do not have to travel to the bank – particularly if they are located a long way from any Citi
CitiDirect is Citi’s award-winning electronic banking platform. As soon as 3G mobile technology
was rolled out in Algeria at the end of 2013, the bank launched CitiDirect for tablets. This allows
clients to approve payments wherever they are and is a first in Algeria.
Angola: Banco Millennium Angola
While a number of banks have been posting substantial profits in Angola, their focus has been on
corporate rather than retail banking. Banco Millennium Angola (BMA), however, has based its
growth strategy on expanding its retail network.
With 85 branches (50 of them open on Saturday mornings), the BMA network now covers all of
Angola. They offer a range of innovative products, marketed with the help of Angolan celebrities.
The face of BMA is popular singer Yola Semedo, who features regularly in the bank’s
advertising campaigns. She has positively enhanced levels of spontaneous brand awareness, the
bank says, and contributed to business growth. The campaigns fronted by Ms Semedo include the
Salary Advantage product and the Woman Offering, providing women with an exclusive savings
plan and free ATM card.
Another BMA celebrity is TV presenter Ernesto Bartolomeu, who starred in the campaign for
Prestige accounts. The Prestige package targets wealthier, more demanding clients and includes a
dedicated client manager and access to seven Prestige Centres. BMA also has seven Corporate
Centres, one specialising in the oil industry.
Other innovations have been MSaúde, a health insurance product created in partnership with
Universal Seguros; the Junior Savings Account with no minimum deposit; and the Super Agile
Loan, a quick and simple loan product.
The Angola Invest programme is a government initiative aimed at supporting the creation of
micro, small and medium-sized businesses for import substitution. “BMA continues to lead the
programme in both the number of loans and the total amount disbursed,” says CEO Dr António
The bank has invested in technology to implement what it believes to be the best multichannel
strategy in Angola.
Botswana: Standard Chartered Bank Botswana
A key ambition for Standard Chartered Bank Botswana is to become the main digital bank for its
clients, migrating as many transactions as possible onto its various digital platforms. With that in
mind, it now has dedicated employees in every branch to hold the customer’s hand through what
it calls “the digital journey”.
In fact, the first customers to set off down the digital road were the staff themselves, who now
perform all of their own banking transactions on one or another of the new channels. Standard
Chartered says it wants to give its customers a world-class multi-channel experience through their
entire relationship lifecycle with the bank.
In line with what it sees as the ever-changing needs of its small and medium-sized enterprises
(SME) customers, the bank has launched the SME Customer Value Proposition. This includes the
group’s online banking and cash management platform, Straight2Bank, and its group financing
proposition. Straight2Bank provides same-day transfers of local and some foreign currencies, as
well as an enhanced reconciliation feature.
Standard Chartered has also introduced business debit cards to help its SME clients manage their
day-to-day expenses. Overall, the SME business enjoyed a 180% growth in assets in 2013.
Some years ago, the bank was the first in Botswana to introduce a range of bancassurance
products. Recently, Standard Chartered teamed up with a local life insurance company to expand
that range, which now includes life cover and hospital plans.
The group has more than 150 years of history in the African continent, thriving through
slowdowns as well as periods of economic growth. It likes to point out that, despite the recent
financial crisis, it has delivered record profits year on year for the past 10 years. The Botswana
bank made its own contribution to that last year, with net profits rising by 15% to P322m
Burkina Faso: Ecobank Burkina Faso
Competition in the Burkina Faso banking market increased fiercely in 2013, witnessing a 20%
increase in total assets. In spite of this, Ecobank Burkina Faso was able to maintain its market
leadership with first place positions in total assets, deposits and loans, while improving its cost
and returns metrics.
In 2012, the bank began a programme of improving the customer experience across the board.
The aim was to make sure that customers were served by knowledgeable staff who understood
company values and products. The training budget for customer-facing branch managers and staff
was increased, and the bank automated a number of back-office processes that allowed it to
migrate personnel from the back office to the front. To make the customer experience a more
memorable one, it revamped its branches.
Ecobank Burkina Faso believes that all of the above has combined to improve customer service,
increase staff morale and boost financial results.
It has the largest branch network in the country. This remains an important distribution channel,
still largely the first place where a customer will seek assistance or advice. But increasing mobile
penetration and internet usage has made it impossible to ignore these technologies, and the bank
has signed an agreement with Airtel Burkina, allowing it to launch mobile banking services.
Burkina Faso is now the leading cotton producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The bank’s knowledge of
and lending to the agricultural sector, with its immense potential, has given it a market advantage.
It is the market leader in the financing of cotton producers, as well as being in a pool of local
banks which finance the country’s main cotton company.
“We plan to leverage our range of electronic products and move more customers to alternative
channels, to become the most innovative bank in Burkina Faso,” says managing director Cheick
Cameroon: Ecobank Cameroon
Ecobank Cameroon has a three-pronged strategy to help deepen customer satisfaction, to create
an environment in which staff can excel, and to improve returns to shareholders. Progress in the
first two has led to progress in the third, together with increases in both assets and customers.
The bank opened three new branches in 2013, bringing its total to 33. One tool for improving
customer service has been the staging of customer forums to address matters raised by customers
themselves. Ecobank Cameroon has a dedicated corporate desk for Chinese companies, and has
become the first bank in Cameroon to tackle the problem of queues at ATMs by opening an ATM
Recent product launches have included the introduction of Western Union account-based
transfers, and Bankimo, a loan product for land acquisition and construction in partnership with
Credit Foncier. Omniflow now allows customers to make transfers, pay workers’ salaries, check
account balances and print out bank statements in their own offices or homes. Its number of
installed ATMs has risen from 42 to 63.
On the human resources front, Ecobank has been promoting a sensible work-life balance, and has
adopted a new approach of goal-setting and appraisals to increase productivity. A programme of
talent management now seeks to hire, train and retain the most talented people.
Initiatives to increase shareholder value include the implementation of a sales force effectiveness
programme and campaigns to mobilise deposits from sectors such as education, the public sector
and private banking. There has also been a focus on capturing the banking business of suppliers,
distributors and staff of existing big corporate clients.
As a result of these efforts, total assets increased by 27% in 2013 and 23,000 new customers were
acquired. Return on equity increased from 13.2% to 31.4% and dividend per share grew by
Chad: Ecobank Chad
With the biggest branch network in Chad, Ecobank Chad has been able to exploit group standard
products and systems to remain the country’s number one bank.
Ecobank focuses largely on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and local corporates. It
has a separate credit programme for SMEs, designed to meet their specific needs. It also devotes
part of its budget exclusively to this sector, generally representing 37% or more of the total
As a result of this focus, a core strand of Ecobank’s strategy is to ensure that it is geographically
well spread, and its expansion plans hinge on being closer to small businesses. It opened its 15th
branch in 2013 and has plans for another six. It is the only bank in the country with branches in
all the major cities.
The bank’s loan portfolio is split by customer group, with a dedicated team serving each segment.
It has also invested heavily in technology to improve its processes and enhance its service
delivery. By implementing the Ecobank group-wide banking system software, Flexcube, Ecobank
Chad is able to offer group-standard products to clients in the local market. The remittance
product Rapid Transfer, for example, allows customers to remit funds across Africa.
Two new projects – the Marshall Plan and Lean – have been launched to help the bank
understand the needs of its customers and to serve them better. The Omni product is a tool for
corporate customers to manage and execute their own transactions.
In addition to the plans for new branches, the bank has made a number of other investments in
support of its multichannel strategy. It has doubled the number of its ATMs, and has strengthened
its mobile banking offer by extending its alliance with a leading mobile operator to include the
country’s other mobile networks. It is also developing a number of internet banking services.
Côte d’Ivoire: UBA Côte d’Ivoire
After two years of losses following the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, UBA has returned to
profitability while strengthening its regulatory capital. It has completed the first phase of a branch
network expansion programme, and is now planning a second, which will rely more heavily on
The bank has been implementing a group-wide transformation programme, Project Alpha, which
is intended to re-establish the parent after it too became loss making in 2011. The programme,
which runs from 2013 to 2015, calls for a new aggression in executing key initiatives.
Various transformational projects have been set up. One is a repositioning of UBA branches to
facilitate a drive for new deposits. Another is a customer service transformation programme. A
third is an aggressive campaign to reactivate lapsed accounts and acquire new ones. The group is
determined to regain its leadership in e-banking and in trade finance, while optimising its balance
sheet and deploying strong risk management. The context for all this is a drive for domestic and
UBA’s U-Direct Corporate product offers a single platform solution for cash management, to
help businesses and government to make payments and collections, manage cash and execute
trades – on their mobile phones, if they choose. Its flexibility, ease of use and cost savings have
been well received in Côte d’Ivoire. So too has the bank’s Africard, a loadable prepaid Visa
The bank now has 10 branches and is contemplating its next expansion phase, pointing out that
everybody’s nearest UBA branch should be whatever internet-based device the customer is using.
“We have increased market share in both retail and corporate clients, and in public sector
business, particularly for our new generation e-banking solutions,” says Franklin Erebor,
managing director of UBA Côte d’Ivoire.
Democratic Republic of Congo: Trust Merchant Bank
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) banking sector is highly competitive and continues to
attract new entrants, in particular the pan-Africa banking groups. The primary challenge for Trust
Merchant Bank (TMB), a locally owned independent, is how to position itself in an increasingly
crowded market against well-financed competitors who are often members of larger banking
It is doing exactly that, with a great deal of success. Its response to this competition has been to
focus expansion away from the price wars in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, while developing its
non-interest income stream. The goal is a profitable position as the country’s only truly
nationwide financial institution, protecting margins by securing client loyalty.
TMB is the only bank operating in every major city and province in DRC. Having opened on
average one new branch every month for the past five years, it has 74 branches, nearly twice the
number of its nearest rival. So it can identify the most profitable loan opportunities across the
country without having to compete on price alone in the Kinshasa market. This is particularly
important in the corporate loans sector where the bank is keen to protect its risk profile.
At the same time, it is leveraging its network and client base to deliver competition, beating noninterest income products and services across the country, including in the heart of Kinshasa
where competition is fiercest.
That the strategy is bearing fruit was borne out by 2013’s extravagant increase in net profits – up
480% in US dollar terms to $6.8m, reflecting its heavy investment in branches in 2012. TMB
sees further market advantage in two recent developments. One was winning a five-year contract
to supply banking services to Monusco, the UN’s stabilisation force in DRC. The other was the
launch of its Pepele Mobile banking service, which works on every telephone network, is voice
activated and does not require phone credit.
Over the past two years, TMB has captured 29% of the civil servant payroll market. It plans
increasingly to use Pepele Mobile to manage the payroll of some 175,000 state employees.
Djibouti: International Commercial Bank Djibouti
Growth in Djibouti is picking up, driven by foreign direct investment and port activity. The
government’s aim of building a regional trade hub is being supported by a large infrastructure
programme, and infrastructure finance is one of the strengths of International Commercial Bank
Djibouti is a small country with a population of about 800,000, more than half of whom live in
the main city, also named Djibouti. ICB has only two branches, both in the city, though it plans to
open more in 2015. The country has witnessed unprecedented growth in banking in the past few
years, and most customers come to the small city centre for business as well as to visit the bank.
Management of funds is a major challenge, particularly with excess liquidity, and ICB has
performed particularly well against its peers in this department. In 2013 it achieved a loan-todeposit ratio of 51% against a local industry average of 36%.
It operates what it describes as an “aggressive” credit policy, with a combination of directed retail
consumer lending, and bulk lending to commercial borrowers involved in infrastructure
It has won a reputation for executing remittances with speed, efficiency and relatively low cost,
and volumes have increased impressively. Outward and inward transfers, which totalled $16m in
2010, rose to more than $270m in 2013.
Though the bases are small, deposit customers also rose in 2013, by some 11%, and loan
customers by 18%. Deposits rose by only 3% the bank points out that, as it has surplus funds and
deployment is not easy, it did not concentrate on increasing deposits. Loan volumes, however,
grew by 25%.
While Tier 1 capital shrank slightly in 2013, net profits grew by two-thirds, the cost-to-income
ratio improved from 55.5% in 2012 to 50.5% and return on equity increased from 11.9% to
Egypt: Commercial International Bank
It has been a year of technological achievement for Commercial International Bank (CIB).
Milestones include the move to a new core banking system, the creation of a new data centre, the
introduction of an online banking system and the international recognition of its disaster recovery
The bank believes that timely investment in IT is one of the most important pillars of its success,
and one which enables it to sustain its customers-come-first culture. Given the recent political
turbulence in Egypt, it rates business continuity very highly on its strategic agenda, and claims to
have been the first Egyptian bank to enforce business continuity standards as far back as 2010.
Advanced IT disaster recovery capabilities covering head office and all branches allow CIB to
access all critical functions within one hour at affected sites, with minimal customer impact. CIB
was recently named a runner-up for the Response and Recovery of the Year award in DRI
International’s 2014 Awards of Excellence.
CIB is Egypt’s largest private sector bank by assets, and has determined to replicate its leadership
in corporate banking in the consumer banking segment.
It has been one of the very few Egyptian banks to increase its branch network despite last year’s
troubles, adding 17 new outlets and replacing another five. At the same time it is developing
robust alternative channels. The new online platform serves 20% of its customers, who can now
also use ATMs to pay bills. Call centres now offer the option of interacting with agents via video
After a period of falling credit demand, lending is now expected to rise. “Next year is expected to
mark the beginning of a return to core business growth as the country stabilises,” says CEO
Hisham Ezz Al-Arab. “CIB is ready to participate in this growth and cater for its customers’
needs through its understanding of the Egyptian market, a widespread branch network and its
strong brand and reputation.”
Ethiopia: NIB International Bank
NIB International Bank’s return on equity fell in 2013, from 34.4% in 2012 to 28.4%, but for the
best of reasons. Recognising the importance of a solid capital base, it repeatedly increased its
paid-up capital so that, by mid-year, its capital adequacy ratio was 26%. That is well above the
8% minimum required by its regulator and the highest in the Ethiopian banking sector.
While Ethiopia has been one of Africa’s best-performing economies, historically high inflation
has had a negative effect on savings rates. Another hurdle is the requirement for private
commercial banks to invest 27% of their gross loans in state bank bills paying 3% while
minimum deposit rates are 5%.
These challenges, and the increased competition between banks for resources, have informed
NIB International’s five-year strategic plan and new organisational structure. It has invested in a
new core banking solution and developed a new plan to mobilise deposits, while revamping its
branches and brand design. Its explicit aim is to make itself one of the country’s top private
NIB International has been consistently profitable for the past 15 years, while introducing new
products, modernising technology and extending its reach to the unbanked. Alongside its good
relationships with many international banks and money transfer agents, it works closely with the
International Finance Corporation and other international aid and development agencies to
provide finance to rural parts of the country. In line with one of the major national objectives of
providing modern banking services, it has financed more than 90 co-operatives, representing
more than 45,000 coffee farmers.
NIB International now offers one-window services at all of its 90 branches, while continuing its
branch expansion strategy in unbanked areas. Alongside its agency, internet and mobile banking
services, it has joined forces with two other banks to share ATMs in the name of efficiency and
cost. And it is on the verge of launch its new Visa and MasterCard payment services.
Gabon: UBA Gabon
UBA is a relative newcomer to Gabon, where some of its competitors have been around for 30
years or more. But it has been growing its market share and in 2013 moved from loss into profit.
The Gabon economy has been growing at a steady pace, though falling oil prices will do it no
favours. It is to reduce dependence on oil that the government’s ‘Strategic Plan for Emerging
Gabon’ wants to boost domestic processing of raw materials and, via special economic zones,
foreign direct investment. It is also encouraging growth in the timber sector.
UBA has been opening branches in strategic areas and will open another two by the end of 2014
– in the oil and gas enclave at Port Gentil, and the industrial area at Libreville.
“We plan to continue financing gas and oil, and other key sectors of the economy, as well as
increasing our focus on retail banking,” says UBA Gabon managing director Mamadou Sanon.
The bank has used the group IT platform to diversify its channels, from prepaid card Africard,
through ATMs and point-of-sale terminals to U-Direct internet and U-Mobile mobile banking. It
has developed partnerships with distributors and travel agents to sell Africard, and is marketing a
co-branded version, which also acts as a student card, to students at the national university. An
ATM will be installed on campus and the bank has chosen other sites for further units.
UBA is one of only two banks in the market with point-of-sale devices and is busy deploying the
units with various merchants. The group’s remittances product, Africash, has also been
successful, thanks to competitive pricing. Africash is also distributed through sub-agents in order
to reach a greater number of customers.
Gambia: Trust Bank
Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa, and yet it has 12 competing commercial
banks. That puts customer satisfaction very high on the must-do list at Trust Bank, and has also
prompted it to look abroad for other growth opportunities.
The bank regards the “unflinching” loyalty of its staff as its most valuable asset, and important
for gaining a competitive edge. It provides training modules both locally and abroad, and has an
agreement with Ghana Commercial Bank to train staff in Accra on all facets of operations. On
average, at least 50% of employees undergo training each year.
Last year, Trust Bank rolled out a robust new core banking application, which allows it to launch
IT-based products and services, particularly mobile technology support platforms. A separate ebanking unit has been created to concentrate on developing additional delivery channels. Recent
upgrades to its online banking system mean that Trust Bank customers can now carry out
transactions anywhere in the world, in a secure and functional environment.
The bank has been expanding its busiest branch, in the town of Serekunda, near Gambia’s beach
resorts. When complete, it will cover more space, have more staff and be a “more conducive”
The bank’s directors believe, however, that achieving strong organic growth from its core
banking activities alone will be challenging. As part of a diversification plan, Trust Bank
acquired a 10% stake in Women’s World Banking Ghana, a non-bank financial institution which
provides savings and loan products mostly to women. Three years ago it bought Bayba Financial
Services, a Gambian international money transfer business which has already paid back its
Trust Bank has the largest corporate social responsibility budget in the Gambian banking industry
and in 2013 spent 4.5m dalasis ($103,000) in sectors including healthcare, education, sports and
Ghana: Zenith Bank (Ghana)
Zenith Bank (Ghana) enjoyed an extraordinary leap in its 2013 net profits, which more than
tripled against the year before. It attributed this to a number of highly successful product
Zenith’s mission is “to continue to invest in the best people, technology and environment to
underscore our commitment to achieving customer enthusiasm”. Its three tools are a robust
technology platform, “excellent” relationship management and, to allow quality delivery at a
reasonable price, effective cost management.
One of 2014’s product highlights was the introduction of Z-web Acquiring – Verified by Visa.
This is a west African first that allows merchants to accept card payments from customers who
want to make online purchases using their Visa cards. It connects merchants, cardholders and
financial institutions with Visa’s advanced network, offering secure transactions and timely
Another first, for Ghana, is the Global Travel Wallet, an instant prepaid foreign exchangedenominated currency card, issued to travellers by Zenith Bank in partnership with participating
foreign exchange bureaux. Among other benefits, the card eliminates the risk of exchange rate
Yet another first is the Cruz-Card. This is a multipurpose card issued to staff and students of
academic institutions. While it serves as a photo ID and access control card, it is also a Visa-
enabled stored value card. It is globally accepted on any Visa channel, which adds to its
convenience and ease of use.
About 70% of Ghana’s population remains unbanked, which has spurred innovation in local
banking services, such as E-zwich, a biometric electronic payments card which allows customers
of one bank to transact at another participating bank’s outlets. Zenith was one of its pioneers, in
partnership with the Ghana Interbank Payments Settlement System. To date it has issued 120,000
E-zwich cards to Ghanaians.
Guinea: International Commercial Bank
While political stability is returning to Guinea after the upheavals of recent years, the country’s
economy remains sluggish. The strategy of International Commercial Bank (ICB) has been to
maintain its existing client base, while encouraging customers to use up more of their credit lines.
Apart from the economic environment itself, there are other pressures on local banks. The central
bank has told them to double their capital to GFr100bn ($14.24m) by 2016. With at least three
new banks entering the market in the past two years, competition is hotting up. Slow business
growth has been compounded by the effects of the ebola epidemic.
ICB has traditionally had many government- and foreign project-related accounts, where activity
has been largely suspended since 2009. But given a stable government, these accounts are
starting to represent renewed business opportunities. Following its recent takeover by Nigeria’s
First Bank, ICB now has access to US dollar lines. This enables it to open letters of credit on
competitive terms to importers, notably of petrol and rice. The positive effects, it says, are
already being felt.
Post-takeover restructuring has seen ICB’s business and consumer banking department split into
a retail and a business unit, to focus more closely on different segments. The bank is maximising
efforts to boost non-interest income from areas such as foreign exchange, bank guarantees and
remittances. Its reputation for delivering the fastest money transfers in Guinea generates a lot of
With its good corporate governance and risk management, and its strong liquidity and
capitalisation, ICB believes that customer loyalty is its main strength. Though it only has
branches in capital Conakry, it plans to open more outside the city, while introducing mobile and
internet banking as well as ATMs. Since Guinea’s is largely a cash economy, it reasons that the
closer ICB is to the customer, the more advantages it will enjoy.
Guinea-Bissau: Ecobank Guinea-Bissau
In one of the poorest countries on earth, Ecobank Guinea-Bissau has been supporting the
development of infrastructure, helping the private sector to grow its business and increasing its
presence in remote areas.
Infrastructure is a key market for the bank, which has been lending in particular to road projects;
to the telecommunications sector, which has significant growth potential; and to the energy
industry, a key sector in Guinea-Bissau.
Following the military coup of 2012, the country was embargoed by the World Bank and other
international organisations. That led to a lack of funds, as did the poor cashew crops of 2012 and
2013, which limited exports. The bank has focused on areas where it has a competitive
advantage, which tend to be where service can be enhanced by the use of technology, such as
internet banking or SMS alerts, which give the customer instantaneous information on account
transactions via their mobile phones or the internet.
Ecobank Guinea-Bissau has been promoting the use of these new electronic channels by means
of educational and marketing campaigns. They emphasise the ability of customers to transact any
time and anywhere, if not at a branch then at an ATM or via the internet. The internet products
are Retail Internet Banking for individuals and Omni for companies.
Ecobank Guinea-Bissau has doubled its branch network from three to six outlets, which includes
one in each of the four major cities of Guinea-Bissau. It has also expanded its ATM network to a
total of 18.
Other initiatives have been to support reforms in the public sector, to provide customers with
remittances to facilitate their relationships with their suppliers, and to improve access to payment
products such as debit cards. .
“Although 2013 was difficult, our revenues were up by 31%,” says managing director Tene Abo.
Kenya: Kenya Commercial Bank
Constant product innovation has fed through to increased cost savings at Kenya Commercial
Bank. At the same time it has been able to exploit opportunities in the growing small and
medium-sized enterprises (SME) market within the East African Community.
Product innovation is a key strategic pillars of the bank’s current five-year plan. Others include
superior technology, customer and people leadership, new markets, risk intelligence and social
The premier technological event of the year was the launch of KCB M-Benki, a mobile banking
platform that allows customers to open an account using only their mobile phones and ID
number, as long as they have an account with telecoms provider Safaricom. The system
automatically checks the ID number via the registrar of persons and approves or rejects the new
account in a matter of seconds.
KCB Mtaani, the bank’s agency network, has been increased by more than 3000 agents, thanks to
an improved system connecting them to the core banking system. The internet banking platform,
iBank, now allows the high-net-worth and corporate customers who use it to access the bank
remotely. The bank website now features a live web chat module for staff to help customers with
KCB has set up a dedicated customer experience unit specifically to promote improvements
across all channels, and an electronic queue management system has cut turnaround time by more
Together with Safaricom Business, the enterprise unit of the telecoms operator, KCB has
launched a one-stop solution platform to meet the needs of SMEs. [email protected] is a range of
products, capacity building initiatives and rewards aimed at connecting, empowering and
growing SMEs. It aims to help them with tips on cost management, loyalty programmes and
preferential business opportunities.
Mali: Ecobank Mali
Ecobank Mali celebrated its 15th anniversary in appropriate style, growing its assets by 21% in
2013, making it Mali’s second largest bank by this measure. That, and a healthy increase in
deposits, reflects the success of its central strategy, which is to improve the quality of the
customer service it provides.
Ecobank Mali has taken various steps not only to increase customer satisfaction but also to
position itself as an innovative bank. One was the launch of its new Ecobank Advance Account,
which it describes as an automatic advance online payday. The account provides up to 50% of the
customer’s net monthly salary as an advance to meet any financial needs.
Another initiative has been to strengthen the partnership with the state for the management of
grants and social benefits, resulting in a 10% increase in grant accounts.
Like its peers in the wider Ecobank group, the Malian bank pursues three strategic goals: to be
the employer of choice, to ensure excellent quality of service to its customers, and to increase
returns on investment for its shareholders.
The bank organises frequent forums where customers can articulate their service needs. These
exercises provide valuable feedback which can be fed into improving the customer experience,
and Ecobank believes that the resulting service quality has attracted clients such as the UN
agencies and their staff.
Ecobank’s agency network now exceeds 40 branches, with 74 ATMs, the most of any Malian
bank. It has launched an internet banking service, and opened an office dedicated to troubleshooting for both retail and corporate clients. It has been designed as a one-stop shop to resolve
customer complaints promptly.
Among the products which have gone down well with more sophisticated customers are the
African Diaspora Account, which allows expatriates to transact across Ecobank’s pan-African
network, and the Regional Card, accepted in each of the group’s 36 host countries.
SBM increased net profits by 80% in the 18 months to December 2013, as it pursued a strategy
based on product diversification, overseas expansion and technological transformation, all on a
foundation of robust risk management.
The bank is changing its financial year end, which explains the 18-month figures, which are
impressive nonetheless. Among the period’s new product highlights was a partnership with
Union Pay International, whereby SBM became Union Pay’s first e-commerce acquirer in Africa.
It also began trading in Chinese yuan banknotes.
Another initiative was to change its bancassurance offering to include general insurance. The
bank expanded its SBM Billpay product, allowing customers to settle water bills via ATMs and
point-of-sale terminals, and enabled customers to pay their taxes via mobile phones.
SBM partnered with Fidelity, one of the world’s largest asset managers, to offer investment
products in various currencies, as well as forging alliances with estate agents and car dealers with
an eye to lending.
Given the constraints of Mauritius’s size and concentration, SBM plans to increase revenues from
overseas operations. It has been exploring opportunities to expand in the different geographies of
Indian Ocean, east Africa, India and south-east Asia. It has applied to the Reserve Bank of India
to convert its Indian branches into a wholly owned subsidiary, and has recently opened an office
SBM’s business and technology transformation continues, covering all aspects of the bank,
including operations, risk management, back office, organisation and change management. This
is intended to streamline processes and improve customer experience, while the technology
platform will support geographic expansion. The bank has established multiple channels and will
now integrate them for a seamless customer experience.
The bank owed its superior financial performance partly to significant net interest spread
improvements as a result of active balance sheet management. Other contributors were continued
high efficiency levels and maintenance of asset quality.
Morocco: Attijariwafa Bank
Most indicators for Moroccan banks are moving in the right direction, including asset growth,
non-performing loan ratios and loans to the real economy. The industry has also made steady
progress in extending services to the unbanked. While remaining dominant in most financial
services segments, Attijariwafa Bank has been making substantial inroads into this new market as
it continues to diversify by both product and geography.
The bank is the leader in nearly all of its domestic markets, with shares between 26% and 32% of
commercial banking, insurance, consumer finance, remittances, trade finance and stockbroking.
This diversification has served the bank well, as has its expansion into other African countries,
including Tunisia, Senegal and the Republic of Congo.
During 2013, Attijariwafa acquired 55% of International Bank for Africa of Togo, and launched a
new bank in Niger through its Senegalese subsidiary. It also successfully launched Attijari
Insurance in Tunisia.
Last year it captured more than 50% of the unbanked low-income banking market in Morocco
through the specially tailored products of its subsidiary, Wafacash. It has also been adjusting its
product offering to very small enterprises to allow greater extension of credit to this sector.
Another subsidiary, Dar Assafaa, is the only major Islamic banking operation in Morocco. With
80% of the market, it takes in deposits and provides murabaha consumer and mortgage loans.
Attijariwafa’s strategic plan has four broad elements. It is consolidating its position in Morocco,
optimising its business mix and tapping further potential. It aims to exploit the growth potential
of its international network, rolling out its business model as it continues its expansion.
As it grows, Attijariwafa is creating economies of scale and adopting best international standards.
Finally, it is focusing on the emergence of markets and regional integration, capitalising on
Casablanca’s emergence as a regional financial hub and speeding up the development of
Moroccan capital markets.
Mozambique: Millennium bim
Though it remains one of the least developed countries in the world, Mozambique’s economy has
been growing at 7% or more for the past three years. However, high rates of poverty, low literacy
and a lack of basic infrastructure make financial inclusion a particularly challenging process.
Millennium bim, as it brands itself, is the largest and most profitable bank in the country, and its
sister company, SIM Seguros, is the most profitable insurance company. The bank has more than
1.2 million customers, or two-thirds of the banked population. It has the largest branch, ATM and
point-of-sale networks, the largest asset base and the strongest equity capital structure.
Its strategy is to take advantage of positive economic growth, strengthening existing customer
relations and establishing new ones, while expanding its branch and electronic networks. In 2013
it launched two particularly noteworthy products.
Millennium (Z) is a new mobile banking service, easy to use and allowing all ATM-type
transactions except cash withdrawals. Within a month of its launch, the bank’s mobile channel
nearly doubled its monthly transactions to more than 1.2 million. That has since risen to 3
million, and the average customer uses it more than 10 times a month.
Credelec for Millennium (Z) is a product developed with Electricidade de Moçambique, the stateowned sole provider of electric power. It allows prepayment for energy vouchers via the mobile,
ATM and internet channels. Previously, customers had to buy vouchers in one of the distributors’
shops. Customers can also use the application to check the status of their electricity meter.
Millennium bim’s rural expansion, focused on offering services to the unbanked, has been a
business driver for the past six years. In that time the bank has opened 23 new rural branches, and
opened 140,000 new rural accounts.
Namibia: FNC Namibia
Growth slowed moderately in Namibia during 2013, thanks to drought conditions and weaker
global demand for minerals. At the same time, banking competition from both traditional and
non-traditional sources, such as mobile networks, increased sharply. FNB Namibia, however,
continued to outgrow the market and to lead the field in terms of most key metrics.
The bank has continued to focus on the retail market while paying renewed attention to the
business segments. It now offers clients the corporate and investment banking products of its
sister group, South African-based Rand Merchant Bank.
Services to smaller business clients have been reorganised into commercial, business and small
and medium-sized enterprise (SME) offerings, with niche specialisations in agriculture and
tourism. New products include the unique Bush Encroachment loan, available to farmers for the
clearance of invasive undergrowth. The launch of a new online statistics database in partnership
with the national tourism association has substantially improved the quality of data in the tourism
In the retail business, FNB grew cheque accounts by 22% in 2013, transaction volumes by 18%,
net consumer advances by 14% and deposits by 17%. Two new branches were opened. Surveys
showed retail and business customer loyalty and satisfaction to be increasing.
FNB’s retail strategy continues to migrate clients from bricks to clicks and saw a 24% increase in
electronic transactions. In the past year, the bank replaced 130 ATMs while installing more than
30 new ones and an additional 341 point-of-sales devices. FNB has also introduced a banking app
and Namibia’s only mobile banking platform.
Namibia has the second highest banking penetration in Africa, and FNB drives several financial
literacy programmes. It supports SMEs Compete, which trains new SME entrepreneurs, and
Aflatoun Namibia, which organises savings clubs for children.
Measures of employee engagement have also improved. A new junior executive committee –
young employees with leadership skills chosen by their peers – has been set up to develop future
Niger: Ecobank Niger
After a buoyant 2012, poor rainfall and mining stoppages slowed economic growth in Niger
during 2013. Ecobank Niger still managed to increase its share of key markets, and to grow
revenues, deposits and assets.
Ecobank Niger focuses particularly on key sectors such as mining, oil and the public sector,
where it concentrates on lending to salaried workers. In the course of the year it continued to
carry out its agreement with USAid to ensure access to credit for small and medium-sized
enterprises, while funding imports for wholesalers and other local corporate customers.
The bank has an agreement with the government of Niger to finance social housing for private
individuals. It has now signed a new compact with Caisse de Refinancement Regional
Hypothecaire, the West African Economic and Monetary Union entity which refinances
mortgage loans, over mortgages to salaried earners.
Within Niger, Ecobank remains a pioneer in technology, through its ATM, internet, mobile and
remittances platforms. It recently installed 29 new ATMs, raising its total to 34, and is about to
open five new branches. The bank is leveraging group products such as Omni internet banking
and Rapid Transfer remittances with some effect.
“We are focused on providing convenient, accessible, affordable and reliable services to our
customers,” says managing director Ibrahim Bagarama.
It is clearly doing that successfully, since customer deposits have risen by 21% in 2013, giving
Ecobank a market-leading share, it says, of 21%. The loan book has grown by 8%. Revenues are
up by 26% while the cost-to-income ratio has narrowed from 58% to 52%.
The bank takes its corporate social responsibilities seriously and aims to support the communities
it serves. On what is known as Ecobank Day, it donated school supplies for the eight regions in
which it has branches.
Nigeria: Guaranty Trust Bank
Guaranty Trust Bank (GT) is the only one of Nigeria’s big three banks to have consistently
delivered value to shareholders, according to a local equities research firm. It has been growing
its loan book in both foreign and local currencies, expanding by acquisition and introducing some
One measure of GT’s attractions as an investment was the coupon on its $400m Eurobond, issued
in late 2013, which was the lowest of any Nigerian bank bond in the past 12 months. The
proceeds provided additional foreign currency liquidity to meet the growing demand for dollardenominated risk assets.
The bank has been making greater efforts in areas such as the small and medium-sized enterprise
(SME) segment and in e-commerce. It has created seven new SME teams across the country, and
launched SME MarketHub. This platform, which allows SMEs to advertise and sell goods and
services, enjoyed four-digit growth in transaction value over the first half of 2014.
The bank has pioneered the social banking platform in Nigeria, enabling customers to interact
and transact via social media. It has also received a rapturous reception for GTBank 1 Click TopUp, a unique and easy way to buy mobile airtime direct from the bank account.
GTExpress is an important part of GT’s inclusion efforts. This allows neighbourhood access to
banking services through partnerships with supermarkets, schools, cinemas, restaurants, markets
and petrol stations. Customers can open simple accounts through GTExpress with just a passport
photograph and a signature. The Mobile Money service allows them to send money via mobile
phone to people with no bank account (though they must have a mobile phone).
Last year, GT entered the east African market with the acquisition of Fina Bank, a Kenyan
institution with subsidiaries in Rwanda and Uganda. It described this as a further diversification
of its revenue stream, tapping into the growth potential of east African banking, itself fuelled by
rapid gross domestic product expansion.
Rwanda: Bank of Kigali
As African economic prospects perk up in general, new entrants have increased banking
competition in a number of countries, and Rwanda is one of them. Bank of Kigali has been able,
notwithstanding, to defend its market-leading position and, in some instances, has even grown its
It turned in a sparkling performance in 2013, with total assets up by 30.8%, although loans were
up by only 7.5%, and balances and deposits up by 32.4%. The bank has about a one-third market
share in all three categories. Net interest income increased by 47.9% and net fees and
commissions by 47.7%, mostly driven by channel growth as well as a new retail service offering.
Bank of Kigali continues to perform well in the corporate and small and medium-sized enterprise
(SME) markets, and corporate deposits rose by 71% in 2013. The SME loan book grew by
18.8%. This made the bank the largest lender to this segment, with a loan book equal to the total
assets of some other Rwandan banks.
It expanded its range of lifestyle and savings products for the retail market. Bank of Kigali’s large
retail base allows it to benefit from a low blended cost of funds, so it can secure large corporate
deposits by setting attractive term deposit rates.
The bank continues to invest in alternative delivery channels, such as mobile and agency
banking. It was the first commercial bank in Rwanda to launch mVisa, an interoperable mobile
branchless solution that provides banking access for anyone with a mobile phone. Its BK Yaku
agency banking platform allows real-time mobile transactions and money transmission to any
mobile subscriber in the country, whether they have a bank account or not.
The emerging market investment community will welcome the news that, since late 2013, Bank
of Kigali has begun offering custody services to local, regional and international institutional
Senegal: UBA Senegal
After its volatile recent history, Senegal has entered a phase of economic recovery, with growth
projected to carry through 2015. UBA Senegal is basing its own growth strategy on developing
its range of electronic products and targeting some very specific market segments.
The bank believes that the scope for expanding the market for traditional banking products is
relatively limited. “Low banking penetration has been a major challenge,” admits Amie Sow,
managing director of UBA Senegal.
Instead, the bank is deliberately diversifying its income sources by deploying new e-banking
products such as airtime top-up and the i-wallet, which it says will improve customer satisfaction
and, consequently, revenues. “We have focused on creating innovative products to penetrate the
unbanked,” says Ms Sow.
For the business market there is U-Direct Corporate, whose functionality includes making
international and interbank transfers. U-Pay HR is an enhanced version of U-Pay that offers in
addition to payments, human resources and payroll processing automation. The application
automatically calculates all deductions, and processes payments directly into recipients’ bank
In retail banking, UBA has singled out a number of demographic types that it thinks will have
great potential in future years, such as students, new soldiers and young policemen. It also
favours the personal touch in its marketing activity. One example of this is the fact that every
customer receives a text or email message from the bank on their birthday, which UBA says is
It also offers branded bottles of water, the only bank to do so, to customers on their way to the
annual pilgrimage to Touba, sometimes called the Mecca of Africa. This, it adds, was appreciated
by the whole Muslim community and was covered on national TV.
Sierra Leone: UBA Sierra Leone
Since peace was restored to Sierra Leone, the economy has been posting impressive growth rates.
That should have meant a good year for banking in 2013. Sadly, however, falling interest rates
put the brakes on the industry’s previously substantial growth. Yet UBA still managed to
outperform its peers by an impressive margin.
“We achieved profit growth of 48% in 2013, compared with the industry growth rate of -27%,
and a return on equity of 32%,” says Ndubuisi Ejiofor, managing director of UBA Sierra Leone.
Last year, local small and medium-sized enterprises were complaining that lending rates of up to
28% were holding back their growth. Since then, however, reduced government borrowing has
seen treasury bill rates plunge from 24% to 3%, UBA notes, and lending rates have fallen to 18%.
This puts the pressure on banks such as UBA to lower their cost of funds. That is exactly what
the bank aims to do, by using what it calls its “robust e-collection platforms” to mobilise low-cost
deposits and invest in quality risk assets.
It also hopes to leverage the group’s network across Africa for trade financing and settlements,
while deploying more low-cost e-banking network solutions.
UBA is installing point-of-sale devices at hotels and supermarkets, and establishing 24-hour-aday ATMs with Visa and Mastercard acquiring capabilities across the branch network. These are
the first and only ATMs of their kind in Sierra Leone, and the bank intends to create ATM
galleries in major cities.
The government and the Bank of Sierra Leone have financial inclusion firmly on their agenda,
and UBA is responding with the roll-out of its U-Mobile phone banking solution. “We promote
financial inclusion by deploying more retail liability products such as mobile phone banking, to
put banking in the hands of low- and medium-income earners,” says Mr Ejiofor.
South Africa: Nedbank
For the past three years, Nedbank has been positioning itself for a tougher economic
environment, and has steadily increased its return on equity from 13.4% in 2009 to 17.2% in
2013. It has been making progress across a number of different strategic areas of focus.
It has strategically tilted its portfolio, growing selectively in areas of higher risk, such as retail
mortgages and unsecured lending. It has also grown its transactional banking franchise, with total
customer numbers growing 8%. It believes that the decision to maintain transaction fees at
current levels will have long-term benefits.
Pan-African banking is another focus area. It has acquired 36% of Mozambique’s Banco Unico
and was due to decide in late November if it would exercise rights to a 20% stake in alliance
partner Ecobank. It gives clients banking access to 36 African countries, the largest of any bank
on the continent, where it has also been doing joint deals with Bank of China.
Driving efficiencies is another focus. IT is slimming its systems down from 220 to 60, and 63
have been decommissioned so far. Its new SAP enterprise resource planning system for finance,
procurement and human resources will be implemented from next year. While Nedbank’s
integrated channel strategy allows customers to transact seamlessly across channels of their
choice, the ‘branch of the future’ has meant reduced floor space, increased sales volumes and
reduced opening times.
Nedbank has always been a technological pioneer, pursuing what it calls client-centred
innovation, a fifth focus. Among its award-winning developments has been the Nedbank App
Suite, which offers online share trading as well as business and corporate banking. Another South
African first is the introduction of Approve-it, which uses mobile phones to authenticate
transaction and has virtually eliminated phishing losses.
Swaziland: FNB Swaziland
In the ongoing campaign to move customers from bricks and mortar branches to electronic
banking solutions, FNB Swaziland has deployed a new device to extend its reach – the slimline
As FNB acknowledges, one of the biggest challenges for banks in Swaziland is to ensure that
everyone has access to banking services, in rural as well as urban areas. The slimline ATM
broadens FNB’s presence to areas where a branch or ordinary ATM would not be viable.
The device, located in the premises of a retailer, has most of the functionality of a standard ATM,
but is quicker to install and requires fewer resources. It does not dispense cash, but allows the
transfer of cash to an e-wallet for cash withdrawals from the retailer. It can be used for other
typical ATM functions such as to make payments, check balances and change a pin. FNB says
the devices have increased its footprint by 24%, making it the leading bank by representation in
Having lost lending business to competitors with more generous lending limits, FNB increased its
own limits substantially and used automation to speed up the approval process. Now, with the
fastest turnaround times in the market, the bank’s advances book has grown by more than 200%.
It has also introduced what it calls a ‘flexi-fixed’ deposit account with family support cover. With
a €100 minimum deposit, customers can choose either a three- or 12-month investment term.
Unusually, it allows additional deposits via various channels and customers may make two free
withdrawals. In association with a local insurer, the account holder gets life cover worth €3000.
FNB’s Visa Electron card has been upgraded to a chip-and-pin card, reducing the opportunities
for misuse. The FNB banking app and Mobi site have extended electronic banking to those many
Swazis who can only get internet access at work or in internet cafes.
Tanzania: National Microfinance Bank
As Tanzania’s largest bank, National Microfinance Bank (NMB) knows that, if it is to remain
profitable, it must also remain relevant to its customers. So it has built its successful business
model around the concepts of long-term sustainability and financial inclusion. The bank’s slogan
is ‘Close to You!’, reflecting its aim to be seen as inclusive and trusted, and independent research
shows it to be the country’s most recognised banking brand.
The branch network has grown from 100 to more than 150 branches with, uniquely, 60% of them
in rural areas. From a standing start in 2005, it is now the largest owner of ATMs, with 500 units
and another 50 due by the end of 2014. The bank pioneered mobile banking, and its NMB Mobile
service now has some 800,000 registered users.
Revenues in 2013 grew 23% against 15% for the Tanzanian market as a whole, with deposits up
20% (against an average of 13% in Tanzania). As well as growing its market share of deposits,
NMB increased its share of loans and its operating income.
Half of NMB’s loan book is retail (with 300,000 individual borrowers) with the other half split
equally between small and medium-sized enterprises and larger corporates. It is one of the few
Tanzanian banks active in agriculture, lending to co-operatives, and close to two-thirds of its nonretail lending is related to agribusiness.
Last year, NMB launched its no-frills Chap Chap instant account with no minimum balance or
fees. The product is sold outside the branch by agents with smartphones and biometric point-ofsale devices – NMB is the first Tanzanian bank to use fingerprint security features. Customers
can open an account in five minutes, obtaining a live ATM card on site and being instantly
enabled for mobile and e-wallet transactions. NMB believes Chap Chap will help it to double its
customer base in the next two to three years.
Togo: Ecobank Togo
While growth in Togo slipped marginally in 2013, it is expected to resume its upwards path this
year and next. As the banking landscape becomes increasingly competitive, Ecobank Togo has
been reinforcing its position in key market segments and activities.
Some 40% of the bank’s business is retail, and it is in this segment that it has introduced a new
‘credit factory’. This has reduced the time needed to approve consumer loans from five to 10
days down to two days. It has also centralised its complaints system, giving each complainant a
regular contact and providing information via a third-party call centre.
Ecobank believes that actions such as these have helped it to maintain its client base and increase
market share. It has targeted the informal sector, attracting new customers by decreasing its fees
and shortening transaction times.
In order to get as close to its customers as possible, Ecobank Togo has been deploying new
ATMs, and now has the largest ATM network in the country. It has also enhanced its internet
platform so that customers can use it to check their accounts and make online transactions.
They can also make Western Union transfers via the internet, or on their mobile phones, meaning
that they no longer have to come to the bank to make remittances. The Wari money transfer
product, developed in Senegal but now rolled out in a host of other African countries, has proved
highly attractive in an economy still very much based on cash. Customers are not required to
open an e-wallet account.
Tunisia: Attijari Bank
The Arab Spring uprising of 2011 was good for Tunisian politics but less so for its economy.
Slower growth, higher inflation and budget pressures have hit banks by shrinking liquidity and
increasing bad debts. Against that backdrop, Attijari Bank was able to post dramatic increases in
profits and return on equity, while engaging in a broad-based growth and improvement
Despite challenging conditions, Attijari has pressed on with the extension of its branch network,
in remote as well as more urban areas. Branches have increased from 149 in 2009 to nearly 190
today, making this the largest network in Tunisia. It has also helped its Moroccan parent, the
Attijariwafa Bank group, achieve its ambition of being a regional leader in ‘immigrant banking’,
by targeting Tunisians living abroad.
At home, it has attracted potentially profitable new customers, including affluent individuals,
professionals and micro-enterprises, with the help of innovative products and an adapted credit
approach. While stepping up efforts to become the main banker to its large corporate customers,
Attijari has also introduced specially tailored credit and service packages for small and mediumsized enterprises.
Attijari has set itself the goal of becoming the number one bank in Tunisia in terms of service
quality, both to attract new customers and to cement the loyalty of existing ones. It has picked six
critical elements of the customer experience and aims to meet the best international standard in
three of them, and best in Tunisia in the rest.
In the back office, risk policy and internal controls have been strengthened to offset credit and
operational risks. Improved cost controls have seen the bank’s cost-to-income ratio improve from
57% in 2011 to 50% last year. All of these developments have combined to produce an
impressive 45% uplift in profits and an increase in return on equity from 16.1% in 2012 to 27.1%
Uganda: Crane Bank
The rise in Ugandan non-performing loans in 2013 was attributed by the country’s central bank to
the microeconomic challenges of 2012. Others pointed to high commercial bank interest rates
coupled with the high cost of living, which made it hard for borrowers to repay. Yet others
blamed lax credit requirements on the part of certain banks.
Whatever the cause, Crane Bank was not immune from the general decline in bank profitability.
Its net profits fell by 41% to Ush47.2m ($17,300) as a result of increased provisions. But it
remained financially sound, with a strong capital base of Ush210bn, more than eight times higher
than the Ush25bn required by regulators.
Crane Bank believes its focus on customer relationships accounted for the rise in customer
deposits and in its loan portfolio during the year. Technology is another key driver of its growth
strategy as it pursues the twin goals of customer satisfaction and stakeholder value.
The bank says it has the most innovative products in east Africa. Alongside its core banking
products these include e-banking solutions, payments, money transfer services, school and
university fee collection and bulk salary payments, all supported by a 24-hour-a-day customer
In the past year it has added to this suite MTN Mobile Money (which allows withdrawals from
ATMs without a card), MoneyGram, Agribusiness Initiative Trust loans for agriculture and small
and medium-sized enterprise loans from the European Investment Bank.
Crane Bank now has 41 branches with 100 ATMs in Uganda and recently opened a Rwandan
subsidiary. It unveiled a new core banking system in 2013, and is migrating to a multicurrency
switch that will allow it to issue cards usable in both Crane Bank Uganda and Crane Bank
Rwanda. For increased customer convenience it has extended banking hours in certain branches
to 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
Zambia: Standard Chartered Bank Zambia
Local knowledge and an international network helped Standard Chartered Bank to lead the
Zambian market in profitability and digital innovation. It now has four digital branches in the
capital city, Lusaka.
The digital branches, a first for Zambia, are equipped with new-age ATMs, internet banking
kiosks, iPads and Wi-Fi connectivity. Like others in the Standard Chartered group, it aims to be
the main digital bank for its customers. For those who insist on visiting a branch, it also has the
longest banking hours in Zambia, open from 8am to 5pm. One branch, situated in a shopping
mall, closes at 10pm on weekdays and is open seven days a week.
The bank has relaunched its mortgage proposition with more advanced features, including
outright purchase, top up, equity release and balance transfer. It is also taking the national lead in
introducing chip-and-pin debit cards.
To align with the government’s vision for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) growth,
Standard Chartered Bank Zambia has also relaunched a beefed-up SME customer value
proposition. This now offers dedicated SME relationship managers, including Mandarin-speaking
managers, with access to the Straight2Bank online banking platform. It includes new solutions
for working capital, business expansion, business protection and yield enhancement.
The bank is now offering personal loans to civil servants at a reduced rate. This has attracted new
customers in the form of teachers and nurses from rural areas where there are no banks. Mobile
banking provides an alternative to traditional branch banking and has increased the bank’s
footprint in towns where it has no physical presence.
The ATM network allows fund transfers as well as providing cash and enquiry services, and the
bank has launched a 24-hour-a-day machine that allows customers to deposit cheques without
Zimbabwe: Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe
It was a tough year for banking in Zimbabwe, as the economy slowed, commodity prices fell and
the central bank capped bank charges and interest rates. While most local banks saw their
profitability decline, Stanbic was able to record a modest rise in net profits.
Several companies collapsed during the year and some local banks applied for voluntary
liquidation. In an environment of tight liquidity and increased default risk, Stanbic’s profits
increased by 6% in 2013 against a 24% drop for the industry as a whole. It achieved this via a
number of different strategies.
One was to target quality lending clients, with sound business models supported by strong cash
flows. Its non-performing loan ratio was under 5%, compared with a market average of nearly
16%. A strong push for personal and business account customers brought in 23,000 new
New products included the introduction of 36-month facilities at a time when personal demand
for term credit was very high, and other banks had slowed lending because of liquidity
challenges. Stanbic also targeted “key movers of liquidity” in the telecoms, tobacco, mining and
energy industries, leading to a 5% growth in transaction fees and commissions. A more
aggressive marketing of currency switches boosted trading income.
One of the few fee and commission lines that remained unaffected by the cap on charges was the
custody business. As some other international banks were disposing of their custody business in
Africa, Stanbic stepped up its marketing efforts, selling Zimbabwe as a safe investment haven. It
ended the year with custody assets of nearly $1bn, almost doubling its custody income.
While other local banks downsized, Stanbic chose to increase its presence along economic hubs,
opening a new branch at Beitbridge, a crossing point on the South African border. It also opened
bigger branches in Kwekwe and Ngezi and has plans for a further branch in the mining town of