Tuesday, December 13, 2016 11:22 PM / UBA
United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, the Nigeria founded Pan-African financial services company, scooped five (5) “Bank of The Year 2016” country awards in Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Senegal, Cameroon and Chad at the annual Bankers Award in London, a feat that the Group Managing Director/CEO, UBA Plc, Mr Kennedy Uzoka dedicated to the customers, whose loyalty, support and patronage he said has remained the fountain of the Group's growth and competitive edge in the African continent.
He commended the country CEOs, staff and other stakeholders of the 5 subsidiaries for the performance, stating that the Group can achieve more with the renewed focus on customer service.
“The recognition speaks volumes. It validates the strong management, staff committment to service excellence, sound business model and prudent risk management in these country subsidiaries. We will keep up the good work” Uzoka said further.
The UBA haul was one of the highest by any banking Group and a key highlight of the ceremony, which took place at Hilton London Bankside. Organized every year in the last 17 years by The Banker Magazine; a publication of the Financial Times, the awards aim to highlight industry wide excellence within the global banking community. Over 1,000 applications are collected and judges select winners, based on pre-set metrics that measure progress over the past 12 months.
The 2016 awards were quite significant with markets beginning to stabilize and banks refocusing on growth, following cautious play on low commodity price cycle in the past few years.
Some banks have focused on their domestic businesses whilst some have pushed their expansion into growing markets, thus making 2016 a good year for many banks like UBA who have implemented a robust strategy for growth.
United Bank for Africa (UBA), listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). is one of Africa's leading banking Group with operations in 19 African countries and 3 global financial centres; London, Paris and New York. Founded in 1948, UBA has grown from a single country operation in Nigeria, Africa's largest economy to a pan-African provider of banking and related financial services, to more than 11 million customers, through over 1,000 Business Offices and diverse channels globally.
The Award Citations
Cameroon, United Bank for Africa Cameroon
Cameroon’s economic fortunes have been more favourable than many of its regional partners in recent years. Gross domestic product growth hit 5.8% in 2015, partly helped by the commencement of the government’s ambitious infrastructure development plans and efforts to stimulate the country’s forestry and agriculture sectors. And the performance of this year’s country award winner, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Cameroon, is a good indicator of this healthy economic climate.
The bank registered total asset growth of 17% in local currency terms in 2015, backed by a 1.6% increase to its net profits. UBA Cameroon has also been quick to comply with regulations requiring banks to a provision of 2% for all outstanding loans while improving its risk profile to reduce the prospect for defaults. Non-performing loans stood at 1.75% in 2015, a marginal increase on the 1.13% recorded in 2014.
Beyond its strong financial performance, UBA Cameroon has worked hard to tailor specific banking solutions for both its customers and partners. As part of its E-Wallet project with the country’s national electricity provider, Eneo, the bank provided corporate co-branded Visa cards to the company’s staff.
“The competitive advantage of our robust, secured and trusted digital banking platform and products contributed to more than 120,000 Visa prepaid card sales and over 25,000 subscriptions of SMS/e-alerts,” says Udom Isong, managing director of UBA Cameroon.
UBA Cameroon has also been proactively expanding its physical and digital distribution channels. The bank has recently expanded its branch network in the south-west of the country and plans to increase its footprint in the north. Its internet banking service, U-Direct, caters to both retail and corporate clients while the recent launch of a mobile banking service has also increased its offerings to new and existing customers.
For the second consecutive year, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Chad has scooped the country award for Chad for a solid financial performance and the implementation of an impressive digital banking strategy. In 2015, Tier 1 capital grew by 23% after an increase of 13% in 2014, while return on equity increased to 11% from 10% over the same period. Nevertheless, after massive gains to total assets and net profits in 2014, the bank registered very marginal declines in both of these categories in 2015.
“Through the challenges of declining oil revenues and regional security threats which plagued the local economy, UBA Chad has steadily focused on optimising existing efficiencies and sound risk management to develop small and medium scale businesses, and expand the e-banking space significantly,” says Aliyu Salami, managing director of UBA Chad.
As the country’s newest bank, UBA Chad has been taking steps to elevate its role in the economy. Investments of more than $6.8m in government securities have gone hand in hand with $8.5m in lending to the government, while the bank has also provided about $17m in financing to Coton Chad (a cotton company) and national electricity company SNE.
In addition, the bank has engaged in cross-border lending to a number of regional oil companies and other groups. Cumulatively, this has assured the bank’s earning base while offsetting some income losses related to Chad’s challenging foreign exchange market.
The bank’s peerless digital offerings contributed to substantial customer growth from 28,000 in 2015 to 35,000 in the last few months of 2016. This has been achieved through the successful roll out of e-banking offerings, including e-alerts, SMS alerts and internet banking for both retail and corporate clients.
Gabon, United Bank for Africa Gabon
Long dependent on hydrocarbons to support economic growth, Gabon’s government is now pushing hard to achieve greater diversification. Under its so-called ‘Strategic Plan for an Emerging Gabon’, a new emphasis is being placed on industrialisation to ensure the domestic processing of local resources and the promotion of foreign direct investment.
For the country’s banking sector, opportunities for growth are on the rise as the economy slowly diversifies and various investment initiatives, including a number of public-private partnerships, begin to gain traction.
United Bank for Africa (UBA) Gabon, the winner of this year’s country award, clinched the top spot after impressing the judges on its efforts to better serve its customers through digital banking programmes, as well as its focus on the country’s burgeoning small and medium-sized enterprise market. In local currency terms, UBA Gabon’s Tier 1 capital increased by 18% in 2015, after a 34% increase in 2014. Meanwhile, total assets grew by 1% while net profits registered a substantial decline after surging upwards over the previous two years.
The bank has also introduced some unique products and services to distinguish itself in a competitive market. The UBA prepaid card, known as UBA Africard, has been particularly popular and is used by customers for travel as well as to facilitate remittances. The bank has been deploying its own point-of-sale (POS) infrastructure to merchants across the country and is the only lender with MasterCard-capable POS.
Chioma Mang, managing director of UBA Gabon, says: “Our success [in 2015] was largely predicated on our ability to leverage technology to better serve our customers. We essentially revolutionised digital banking in the country, providing first-class channels through our internet platform, prepaid cards and POS terminals. This has helped drive financial inclusion of the unbanked in the country.”
Republic of Congo, United Bank for Africa Republic of Congo
United Bank for Africa (UBA) Republic of Congo emerged as the winner in this year’s country award. The bank’s net profits, in local currency terms, jumped by 98% in 2015 while total assets and Tier 1 capital went up 29% and 36%, respectively. More notable is the bank’s long-term growth story. In 2013 its return on equity was just 8% but by 2015 that figure had increased to 36%. Over the same period, its cost-to-income ratio fell from 86% to 57%.
But the judges were also impressed with the bank’s strong financial performance. Beyond the numbers, the bank has developed an effective strategy to position itself as a key contributor to national economic development. To that end, UBA has developed payments systems to cater to importers, such as Moneygram, an in-house product for regional payments, and Africash, which sources foreign currency for fast international cash transfers.
“The current financial and economic downturn from slumping oil prices warranted the rethinking of the business strategy. A more prudent approach in the underwriting of quality risk assets with acceptable returns capped non-performing loans at far below market averages,” says Martin Che, managing director of UBA Republic of Congo.
Meanwhile, UBA has partnered with the Republic of Congo’s leading telecoms providers, Airtel and MTN, to develop mobile money solutions for its customers. With host-to-host integration, both bank account and non-bank account holders can top up their mobile money virtual accounts and execute transactions. Moreover, the U-mobile app enables customers with smartphones to bank through these devices.
“We have made a conscious decision to put customer service at the epicentre of product delivery. With multiple delivery channels (in our business offices and electronic platforms), the ultimate customer service experience was assured and this has led to a corresponding increase in revenues,” says Mr Che.
Senegal, United Bank for Africa Senegal
Senegal has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in west Africa over the past few years. Gross domestic product growth hit 6.5% in 2015, a rate last seen in the early 2000s. The extractive sectors, fishing and agriculture have largely driven this stellar performance.
With the economic outlook looking rosy over the medium term, the country’s banks have reason to be happy. Indeed, the winner of this year’s country award, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Senegal, performed particularly well in 2015, mirroring the positive economic climate. In local currency terms, Tier 1 capital grew by 32% while total assets increased by 8% in 2015. Over the same period, net profits rose sharply by 7%.
Driving this performance has been the bank’s dominance in the pre-paid card space. By signing partnerships to develop co-branded Visa cards, UBA Senegal is gaining a substantial new customer base while promoting financial inclusion across the country.
This includes tie-ups with businesses, associations and organisations including Joni Joni for 50,000 prepaid cards, Cofina for 10,000 prepaid cards and CPS for 5000 prepaid cards.
In the small and medium-sized enterprise space, the bank has emerged as a key facilitator of cross-border financing and support through the use of its network across 19 African countries.
“Africa is leapfrogging in the use of technology to serve customers. UBA Senegal is deploying technology to provide banking solutions. Our digital banking solutions in the year under review won us several mandates, thus propelling the bank to [be] a dominant leader in the prepaid cards business with 85% of market share. This has greatly contributed to improving financial inclusion in Senegal,” says Amie Sow, managing director of UBA Senegal.