Banks positive about 2015

The economic hardships which deepened this year undoubtedly took its toll on businesses including the financial sector as banks had to grapple with rising operational costs occasioned by hikes in utility tariffs, fuel prices, as well as taxes.

The botched introduction of the Value Added Tax on financial services stirred some panic in the financial service sector, leading to withdrawals and consequently discouraging deposits and savings.

Additionally, bank lending rates have been forced up by several factors one of which is the benchmark Bank of Ghana (BoG) Policy rate which has recently increased to 21 per cent.

But the banks in a bid to restore confidence in consumer banking and stem the slowdown in the growth of deposits, fashioned out customer-focused products and services.

The results they maintain has been impressive.

Ecobank Ghana, having posted some impressive third quarter results, is very confident of ending the year on a high note and going into 2015 stronger than before.

The bank posted a profit before tax of GH?332.8million for the third quarter of 2014, a 90 per cent jump from the 2013 figure of GH?175.4million while the bank’s total assets now stand at GH?5.9bil- lion.

The results positioned the bank as number one in terms of profit before tax, revenue, total assets, deposits, and loans.

Chief Finance Officer, Mr Edward Botchway said, “We estimate that this growth trajectory will continue till the end of the year based on our projec­tions for the fourth quarter, we are very confident of ending the year on a strong note.

According to the bank, total in­come increased by 47 per cent to GH?621.1 million from GH?423.8million in 2013 with cus­tomer deposits also increasing by 47 per cent to GH?4.1 billion as against GH?2.7billion last year.

The bank grew its loans and ad­vances to customers by 50 per cent to GH?2.6billion. On operational effi­ciency, cost to income ratio improved from 45 per cent in 2013 to 40percent in 2014 whiles achieving a return on

The bank’s non-performing loans, as at the end of September 2014, stood at 5.2 per cent, down from 6.4 per cent.

Explaining why the bank’s loan book has grown by 50 per cent, Mr- Botchwayexplained that the Bank continues to support its customer needs subject to its credit policy guidelines.

Going forward, Mr. Botchway be­lieves that the bank will experience the same level of growth as it has seen this year.

“Despite intense industry competi­tion, the Bank is well placed for the years ahead. In the last quarter of 2014, we are continuing to invest in transforming our business to improve customer experience alongside, our focus on operational efficiency,” he pointed out.

The bank, he noted, is determined to work even harder to retain its cus­tomer loyalty, adding that “our com­mitment to improving the customer experience remains ultimately para­mount.”

The Head of Strategic Planning, Research and Corporate Affairs at The Royal Bank (TRB) Dr. Kwame Baah-Nuakoh admitted that the year hasn’t been without difficulties how­ever “we still haven’t performed badly at all.

He was hopeful that come next year, some of the challenges to the economy “which affected the busi­nesses of our clients and customers will be abated in 2015 and thus allow us to improve upon our level of trans­actions.”

Dr Baah-Nuakoh reckoned that the harsh economic difficulties had affected the banks operational costs as well as clients of the bank to the extent that output and production processes of those businesses had de­clined, affecting their ability to repay loans.

“We have always been able to sit and negotiate with them and structure some form of flexible arrangement that allows them to repay the loans over a period,” he stated.

The Royal Bank, adjudged Best Growing Bank at the 13th Ghana Banking Awards is set to expand its branch network to 26 branches in six regions by the end of 2015. The move according to the bank is to ensure that both existing and prospective cus­tomers experience its first-class bank­ing services.

The bank posted a profit before tax of GH?13,127,915 in its first year of operations in 2013.

Dr Baah-Nuakoh explained that for every organization “it’s about what your core values are; we at The Royal Bank believe in trust; we build a relationship based on trust, we promise to provide excellent banking services to our customers and so cus­tomer service has been key to our success.”

This, he said, had earned the bank- good and lasting referrals which man­agement has not taken lightly.

“That is why within two years we are growing assets considerably and growing our loans portfolio. We do the things that other banks normally wouldn’t do; We are in places like Sefwi Asawinso where others might not be thinking of going so we are doing things differently from what others are doing and in fact we do see things that people are probably not seeing,” Dr Baah-Nuako pointed out.

HCF Bank in response to cus­tomer demands says it would launch its Visa ATM cards in January 2015 and focus on establishing new branches in urban areas to meet the needs of its customers, especially businesses.

The bank will strengthen its infor­mation and communication technol­ogy (ICT) infrastructure and implement other innovative strategies to serve its customers better in 2015.

Managing Director of the bank, Mr Asare Akuffo said the bank has di­versified its business offerings to its customers, adding that “We pride our­selves on being the most diversified bank in Ghana, which is our main at­traction. We are second to none when it comes to offering our customers the services they need.”

An optimistic Simon Dornoo, Managing Director of GCB Bank, said 2015 looks more promising for the economy and the bank.

“With inflation being put at 11 per cent for 2015 and government promise to improve fiscal discipline, businesses would grow, and banks would perform even better,” he said.

He maintains that the projections in the budget look promising, adding that “If we keep to that and inflation comes down to 11 per cent as written in the budget and the budget deficit down to 6.5 per cent, I think those conditions should generally improve the working environment.”

GCB Bank made sterling perform­ance in its operations as its loan port­folio increased from GH?450 million in 2011 to GH?1.3billion lately.

Mr. Dornoo announced that the bank had given out over GH?900 million as loans to customers to re­lieve them of financial stress.

“The bank is determined to in­crease its footprints across the coun­try and upgrade existing branches through its branch optimization pro­gramme,” he said.

Despite the tough economic envi­ronment, the third quarter perform­ance of Standard Charted Bank was impressive as the bank made double-digit growth in profits and income.

Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Kweku Bedu Addo observed that the harsh economic conditions from the start of the year led to an erosion of business confidence “but there have been significant improve­ments in the last two months although the country is not yet out of the woods.”

The bank’s Chief Financial Offi­cer, Mr Omolokum said the lack of foreign exchange liquidity, coupled with depreciation of the cedi led to a slowdown in operations while cus­tomers’ profits were affected due to inability to generate sufficient cash flows.

However, the bank’s underlying performance did show some re­silience as total operating income rose by 27 per cent to GH?385million while cost increased by 39 per cent to GH?l29million.

Its deposits shot up to GH?2.262 million, representing a 29 per cent jump while advances also grew to GH?1,415 million.

Obviously the stage is set for rigorous but healthy competition in Ghana’s financial sector as more banks are set to join the industry and existing ones remain more poised than ever to increase their customer base and strike greater deals in 2015.

source :  Business Finder