Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, one of the oldest banks in Nigeria, grew profit before tax by 2 percent to N15.9 billion in the nine months ended September 2020, up from N15.5 billion posted in the first nine months of 2019.
In the unaudited financial statements of the bank, gross earnings rose by 6 percent from N111.9 billion in the corresponding period to N118.8 billion in 2020. Largely driven by the increase in earning assets.
Interest income expanded by 1 percent to N85.4 billion from N84.9 billion in the nine months ended September 2019.
Net interest income before impairment rose by 15 percent from N36.4 billion achieved in the first nine months of 2019 to N41.7 billion in the period under review.
Non-interest income appreciated by 23 percent to N33.4 billion from N27.1 billion filed in the corresponding period of 2019.
Union Bank’s net operating income stood at N69.3 billion in the period under review, representing a 1 percent growth from N68.7 billion filed in the same period of 2019.
Operating expense was largely flat at N53.4 billion, slightly higher than the N53.2 billion posted in the corresponding period of 2019 despite currency depreciation, inflationary pressures and unplanned Covid-19 related expenses.
Gross loans rose 14 percent to N678.0 billion from N595.3 billion achieved in Dec 2019. This reflects the banks growing credit facility to the real sector of the economy.
Similarly, customer deposits expanded by 28 percent to N1.1 trillion from N886.3 billion in Dec 2019. The bank attributed the improvement to gains on investments in customer-led products and digital channels which resulted in the acquisition of over 600,000 new-to-bank customers and deepening of wallet share of existing customers.
Speaking on the performance, Emeka Emuwa, CEO said: “Notwithstanding the realities of a tougher operating environment arising from the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bank delivered a 6% growth in gross earnings from ₦111.9 billion in 9M 2019 to ₦118.8 billion in 9M 2020. In addition, net interest income before impairment rose by 15% to ₦41.7 billion, while non-interest income grew by 23% to ₦33.4 billion.
“We reached a major milestone as our customer deposits crossed the ₦1 trillion mark this quarter, growing by 28% to ₦1.1 trillion compared to ₦886.3 billion at the end of 2019. This reflects increasing customer loyalty and our intense retail drive. Our customer acquisition strategy has been reinforced by the versatility of our digital platforms and channels which continue to drive customer satisfaction.
“We grew our loan book by 14% to ₦678.0 billion from ₦595.3 billion in December 2019 as we cautiously extended credit to the real sector. We will continue to explore bankable lending opportunities in the Nigerian economy guided by our robust risk management practices.
“The civil unrest which erupted in October and led to significant destruction of property and small businesses across the country, will have real impact on business and the operating environment; and even as restrictions have eased, Covid-19 also remains a present threat in our day to day operations.
“Heading into the final stretch in 2020, our overarching commitment is to the health and wellbeing of our employees and the safety of our customers. Showing up for our communities is also at the core of who we are and therefore we will work with our partners and through our corporate citizenship initiatives to support individuals, businesses and our communities where we operate as we begin to rebuild and heal as a country.”
Also commenting was the Chief Financial Officer, Joe Mbulu, who said: “Union Bank’s nine-month results reflect the strength and resilience of the business. Our Profit Before Tax (PBT) grew by 2% to N15.9 billion, from N15.5 billion in the previous period.
“Our operating expenses were relatively flat year-on-year at ₦53.4 billion, compared to ₦53.2 billion in 9M 2019 despite inflationary pressures on cost and higher regulatory costs. This reflects continuing focus on cost management.
“Our asset quality continues to improve with Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) down to 3.6% from 5.8% as at December 2019, supported by ongoing efforts to diversify our loan book to include viable businesses and households. Our Capital Adequacy Ratio remains robust at 19.5%, well above the regulatory threshold.
“With the $40 million (USD) financing secured from the International Finance Corporation for on-lending to trade finance customers, we are continuing to expand our funding engagements with DFIs to support our strategic business initiatives.
“For the rest of the year, we remain focused on our business priorities in the face of the Covid-19 challenge and will continue to leverage increasing customer loyalty, stronger digital platforms and channels as well as solid risk management structure to deliver on our objectives.”
Vietnamese Prime Minister Moves on CBDC Amid Questions on Regional Nature of e-Yuan
This month, it was reported that Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh asked, in Prime Minister’s Decision No 942/QD-TTg, the State Bank of Vietnam to study and execute a pilot implementation of a central bank digital currency before the end of 2023. Currently, cryptocurrencies are not legally recognized as an asset in the country, nor do any crypto exchanges hold licenses from the central bank. Last year, the country set up a group to study digital assets, with a purview that extended to potentially proposing regulatory mechanisms.
“Vietnam is a country that has had its eye on blockchain, even though they haven’t made many steps towards mainstreaming cryptocurrencies. It is a country that is interested in technology and riding a potential economic wave brought upon by new innovation, from blockchain to AI and VR. But, what’s notable here is that this decision was pushed forward very near the time that many pundits began to ask whether the Chinese e-Yuan would become a digital currency which transcended China and became something of a regional powerhouse as an asset,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges.
“I think that’s important. Many countries are looking at what’s happening in China, then taking a look at their own place in the CBDC rat race, and they’re making decisions, I think, which moves up their timetable. This isn’t an innovation where you want to be last to the party. Doing so, in fact, could have ripple effects across a country’s monetary policy,” noted Gardner.
“Digital money is an inevitable trend,” said Huynh Phuoc Nghia, Deputy Director of the Institute of Innovation under the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City. Some believe that moving quickly to develop a CBDC could give countries like Vietnam greater influence in the global financial system.
“I think it’s too soon to say what kind of ripple effects this development will have. It’s worth noting that Vietnam is in the very early stages. This isn’t a case where they’re ready to begin a pilot test in the short-term. Vietnam isn’t Ghana. But, forging ahead now can only be a positive. It’s better to move forward than continue to wait. Those countries that continue to take a wait-and-see approach are going to find themselves in last place. This is a race you don’t want to finish last. It very well could be the 21st century equivalent to the Race to Space,” opined Gardner.
Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.
“Vietnam is so close in proximity to China, and China is so far ahead in the development of their own CBDC, it was likely the push that they needed to move on this. Earlier this year, some pundits wondered if the e-Yuan would replace the dollar. That’s a premature discussion to have. But, if successfully rolled out, could it have a real regional impact? Absolutely,” Gardner offered.
Fidelity Bank Promotes 745 Staff Members
Seeking to increase staff morale while empowering them to work more efficiently, Fidelity Bank has announced the promotion of 745 employees following the performance review of two financial years – 2019 and 2020.
A total of 461 staff members benefited from the FY 2019 promotion exercise, while 284 staff members benefited from the FY 2020 exercise. The beneficiaries cut across the senior, middle, and junior management cadre of the bank, and the promotion was based on merit, using a transparent and robust performance management system in line with global best practices.
Speaking about this, Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, MD/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc said “I am very delighted to announce the promotions for 2019 and 2020 financial years. Releasing the list for 2 financial years’ promotion at the same time is something we are very proud of. We strongly believe that the continuous growth of our bank over the years has been largely attributed to the commendable efforts and unrelenting sacrifices of our employees. Promotion is one of the many ways we express our gratitude. We are thankful to be home to many amazing talents that continue to drive our value and most importantly, serve our stakeholders to the highest standards.”
Speaking further, she said. “Since I was appointed the MD/CEO of our great bank in January 2021, I have been committed to a 7-point agenda to move our bank further, out of which workforce transformation is a key category. Staff performance and reward are critical to us, and as an organisation, we will continue to make available adequate resources to deepen the skills and entrench a culture of high performance amongst employees. I wish to appreciate all members of the Fidelity Bank family for their commitment and drive and unrelenting sacrifices towards delivering our objectives. As we move forward in our quest to becoming a leading tier-one bank, I encourage all elevated staff to see their promotion as a call to rededicate themselves to excellence.”
Fidelity Bank has continued to empower its employees with invaluable resources capable of putting them at the forefront of innovative transformation. In March 2021, the bank announced two capacity-building projects – One Culture Project and Project Alpha – that were targeted at transforming the workplace for its staff. In particular, Project Alpha was created to help Fidelity Bank develop a robust and holistic learning and development framework for all staff while One Culture Project was formed to reinforce the behaviour and value systems that will help the bank, as well as staff, achieve set goals.
Nigeria’s Central Bank To Launch Digital Currency On Oct 1
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that it will launch its much-awaited digital currency on October 1, to mark Nigeria’s independent anniversary.
CBN Director of IT Department, Rakiya Mohammed, revealed this at a private webinar, explaining that the banking sector regulator had been conducting research towards the launch of digital currencies since 2017.
She added that the central bank may conduct a proof of concept before the end of the year. The move to adopt the digital currency was first mulled by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, during the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in May.
He had said a digital currency will soon become a reality in the country, adding that the central bank had already set up its committee which was working on the concept.
The CBN governor had further restated the determination of the apex bank to drive the e-Naira project during the recent 306th Banker’s Committee meeting, pointing out that the process was ongoing.
Mohammed was quoted by Nairametrics to have highlighted the benefits of the digital currency, saying it would enhance macroeconomic management, boost economic growth, facilitate cross-border trade, boost financial inclusion and monetary policy effectiveness.
Mohammed said the digital payment instrument would further improve payment efficiency, revenue tax collection, remittance improvement, and targeted social intervention.
She added that the innovation would also benefit the fintech ecosystem by enhancing operational efficiency, opportunities for fintech start-ups in building services and products as well as financial inclusion that will contribute to economic growth, and the creation of a new system complimenting the traditional payment system.
Mohammed had last month said the proposed digital would be launched before December. According to her, every Nigerian would have access to digital currency.
She had while briefing journalists at the end of a Bankers’ Committee meeting said: “Let me state categorically that cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and the rest of them are not under the control of the central bank; they are purely private decisions that individuals make and are not part of this arrangement.
“We have spent over two years studying this concept of central bank’s digital currency and we have identified the risks. And it is one of the reasons why I said we are setting up a central governance structure that would involve all industry stakeholders to access all the risks as we continue on this journey.
“Very soon we would make an announcement on the date for the launch and by the end of the year, we should have the digital currency.”
According to her, about 80 percent of central banks across the world are presently exploring the possibility of issuing the central bank’s digital currency, saying that Nigeria cannot be left behind.
Mohammed had added: “You are aware that we have two forms of fiat money: The notes and the coins. So, the central bank’s digital currency is the third form of fiat money. So, this digital money is going to complement the cash and note that we have.
“The central bank digital currency will just be as good as you having cash in your pocket. So, if you are having the currency in your pocket, you are as good as having cash on your phone.
“Now, why did we need to go into this? There are different cases that the central bank is looking at.
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