The Central Bank of Nigeria has issued the Board of First Bank Ltd, one of Nigeria’s oldest banks a query for the removal of its CEO. On Wednesday the Board of Directors of First Bank of Nigeria Limited revealed it had appointed Gbenga Shobo as its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The appointment was disclosed in a statement made by the bank’s Chairman, Ibukun Awosika. However, in an apparent leak, a letter from the central bank to First Bank revealed a query from the former to the latter expressing concern that the appointment of Shobo was done without the approval of the apex bank.
“The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to media reports that the Board of Directors has approved the removal of the current Managing Director of the bank, Dr. Sola Adeduntan, and appointed a successor to replace him. The CBN notes with concern that the action was taken without due consultation with the regulatory authorities, especially given the systemic importance of First Bank Ltd.“
The CBN also claimed that the tenure of Mr. Adedutan was yet to expire (bank MD’s have a maximum 10 years) and that they were also not aware of any misconduct of the former MD and as such there was no justification for his removal. “Given that the tenure of Dr. Adeduntan is yet to expire and the CBN was not made aware of any report from the Board indicting the Managing Director of any wrong-doing or misconduct, there appears to be no apparent justification for the precipitate removal.”
However, sources within the bank informed Nairametrics that First Bank has a maximum of 6 years tenure for its MDs in line with its succession plans. They also claimed the CBN is meddling in its internal affairs as the removal of the MD is in line with its succession plans and also does not exceed CBNs maximum of 10 years.
“First Bank followed its corporate governance framework in its change of leadership and appointment of new executive directors. No Managing Director in the 127 years history of FirstBank has ever attempted a tenure extension. Why now?” Another source who did not want to be mentioned as they were not authorized to do so lamented that “Adeduntan’s term formally ends in June this year after 2 terms of 3 years each. Leaving early is in line with the bank’s succession planning. When he was appointed 6 years ago and a DMD role was created, the erstwhile FirstBank Managing Director knew the DMD would succeed him and this is what has happened. This is corporate governance at its best.”
However, the apex bank in the leaked letter also suggested that it had provided First Bank with “regulatory forbearance” which can be interpreted as a bailout subliminally indicating that it has a say in the operations of the bank.
“We are particularly concerned because the action is coming at a time the CBN has provided various regulatory forbearances and liquidity support to reposition the bank which has enhanced its asset quality, capital adequacy and liquidity ratios amongst other prudential indicators. It is also curious to observe that the sudden removal of the MD/CEO was done about eight months to the expiry of his second tenure which is due on December 31, 2021. The removal of a sitting MD/CEO of a systemically important bank that has been under regulatory forbearance for 5 to 6 years without prior consultation and justifiable basis has dire implications for the bank and also portends significant risks to the stability of the financial system.”
Sources within the bank also allude without proof that the involvement of the central bank in this matter may also be due to First Bank’s support of Flutterwave which may have angered CBN.
“Is this payback for FirstBank for supporting and enabling Flutterwave and other tech companies? FirstBank MD-Designate, Gbenga Shobo created a revolution by partnering with Flutterwave and other tech companies. Is this payback? The CBN Governor must be called to order. This is not a banana economy. We need to preserve the FirstBank heritage with its seamless succession planning.”
It is unclear how this matter will end but stemming from experience, we will not be surprised if this matter ends in court in a few days. The Central Bank has often controversially delved into board-related issues such as appointments and even firing of all or some Board members for what it perceives as severe infractions.
And as expected, it ended its query to the bank with a threat to the board if the decision to remove Adeduntan is not reversed.
“In light of the foregoing, you are required to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against the Board for hastily removing the MD/CEO and failing to give prior notice to the CBN before announcing the management change in the media.”
Global Banking Sector Grows 40% Reviving Pandemic Losses in Just 12 Months
In 2020, the global banking sector took a hit following the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which was reflected in the overall market capitalization. However, with the ongoing global recovery, the banking industry has regained most of the losses incurred during the health crisis.
According to data acquired by Finbold, in just 12 months between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021, the global banking sector’s market cap has surged 39.62%, adding €2.1 trillion from €5.3 trillion to €7.4 trillion. On the path to recovery, the market cap slightly plunged in 2020 Q3 to €5.2 trillion before gaining 17.3% the next quarter.
Among the Western European banks, Spain’s BBVA bank recorded the highest total shareholder return rate at 19.7% between April 2021 – July 2021, followed by Société Générale from France at 13.8%, while Banco Santander, also from Spain, ranks third at 12.1%. United Kingdom’s Barclays is the worst performer with a TSR of -8%. Data on the global banking sector’s market cap is provided by Banking Hub.
How banking sector sustained growth
The registered market capitalization is supported by the large-scale reopening of economies due to the vaccine rollout. Additionally, the banks, especially from major economies like the United States and Europe, have reaped from policies meant to cushion the economy from the adverse effects of the pandemic. Notably, the decisions by most banks to retain a low-interest-rate environment has been beneficial to banks.
Worth noting is that during the pandemic, banks found themselves in a tight spot. Historically, the banking sector has been considered the custodian of the economy but the pandemic also plunged the banks into a crisis. The banking sector’s profits were adversely affected considering they are bound to the business cycle and interest rates.
At the same time, banks also put in place measures like approaching loans with caution due to uncertainty in repaying which directly impacted profits. However, banks were tapped to facilitate the distribution of stimulus packages boosting their capital reserves in return.
Worth pointing out is that institutions like the European Central Banks allowed banks to continue using their capital buffers flexibly with a planned extension until 2022. With such moves helping banks sustain growth, it eliminates the worry of straining capital buffers while the health crisis is still impacting the banks’ balance sheets.
Furthermore, the crisis highlighted the need for banks to keep huge reserves of capital that can be activated in the wake of economic turmoil. Although most banks have historically relied on assets for future cushion, a crisis like the coronavirus calls for more capital because selling assets in such an environment is challenging.
Besides the policies, the banking sector recovery was partly aided by existing operational risk management arrangements. The pandemic tested all financial market participants and most leading banks successfully invoked business continuity plans. The plans ensured that the financial markets continued to run smoothly and orderly.
The sector’s recovery has also been accelerated by other factors like the increased adoption of pre-pandemic trends like digitalization and sustainability. Digitization of operations has been backed by consumers who are willing to conduct transactions online. At the same time, the digital shift has presented a competitive factor in the sector, with institutions that had established online presence benefiting the most.
Notably, the recovery was at some point under threat during the third quarter of 2020 amid concerns of the pandemic’s second wave. However, the sector sustained the gains with the rollout of the vaccine. Furthermore, moving into 2021, the industry appears not to be bothered by the Delta variant.
The future of the banking sector
By sustaining the market capitalization for two consecutive quarters, it can be assumed that the banking sector response to the health crisis is bearing fruits. However, it is still early to determine if the recovery is sustainable.
The rally will be tested, especially when central banks eliminate all the policies meant to cushion the economy. However, in the long run, banks will have to tailor their operations towards changing consumer behaviour.
How Stanbic IBTC is Transforming Nigeria’s Trade Landscape
Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, has reiterated its commitment to fostering international trade and help the nation actualise its economic growth and development goals.
The Bank said it will continue to fine-tune its three-pronged approach to facilitating trade activities for clients. These are the development of bespoke financial solutions to help boost trade for clients; sponsorship of relevant trade shows that bring together stakeholders in global trade, including exporters and importers; and organisation of seminars and workshops to provide clients and other stakeholders with industry insights and enlighten them on global trade opportunities.
“Our goal is to become the ‘go-to’ Bank as far as global trade is concerned, with emphasis on Africa-China trade. This approach is of immense value to our clients and will help us achieve our fundamental purpose, which is to drive Nigeria’s growth,” Chief Executive Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, Wole Adeniyi, said.
In line with this resolve, Stanbic IBTC organised a webinar on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The webinar themed: ‘AfCFTA State of Play: Understanding Potential and Maximising Opportunities for the Customer’, emphasised Stanbic IBTC’s readiness to leverage the trade opportunities of the AfCFTA agreement to unlock business opportunities for its clients in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector as well as its corporate clients.
In 2019, Stanbic IBTC launched its Africa China Agent Proposition (now called Africa China Trade Solutions – ACTS) to boost trade transactions between Africa (Nigeria) and Asia, especially China, and help customers consummate the best business deals without having to travel to China.
According to Stanbic IBTC, ACTS will give customers exclusive access to an array of exporters in China through an accredited agent, Zhejiang International Trading Supply Chain Co Ltd, also known as Guamao.
Stanbic IBTC has held various fora as part of its sensitisation drive on ACTS and the currency swap agreement between Nigeria and China. These fora provided insight on how best to help clients and businesses leverage the opportunity and assess the impact of the Chinese economy on trade in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
According to Wole, these workshops were geared towards deepening trade connections with the Chinese business community, thereby stimulating strong trade and business ties between Africa, with a special focus on Nigeria and China.
Stanbic IBTC Bank was a platinum sponsor of the 2021 Global Trade Review (GTR) West Africa Conference themed ‘Connecting the Region’s Trade Experts. The GTR West Africa Conference is an annual regional event for trade discussions and networking among leading practitioners in trade, export, and commodity finance to strategically explore the latest developments, strategies, and solutions needed to drive growth.
Experts have continued to commend Stanbic IBTC on this bold approach to educate its clients and investors about the benefits of AfCFTA, the Nigeria China currency swap deal, and the ACTS proposition, all geared towards helping clients unlock business opportunities.
Arise B.V., Equity Investor, Invests US$75 Million in Ecobank
A leading investor in financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Arise B.V. has made US$75 million perpetual non-cumulative AT1 capital investment in Ecobank Transnational Incorporated.
In a statement signed by Adenike Laoye, the Group Head of Corporate Communications, Ecobank, the fund will help optimise and improve ETI’s Tier 1 capital.
“This Basel III compliant instrument is the first AT1 instrument issued by ETI and a landmark transaction in the sub-Saharan Africa region. The investment will optimize and improve ETI’s Tier 1 capital by US$75 million,” the bank stated.
The latest investment showed Arise, an existing shareholder of Ecobank, has confidence in the bank’s future given the series of support and commitment the leading equity investor has provided to Ecobank in recent years.
Speaking on the new investment, Ade Ayeyemi, Group Chief Executive Officer of ETI, stated: “This investment by Arise is a testament to continued support and confidence from our shareholders; their commitment to, and belief in our strategy which we remain focused on executing to deliver value to our shareholders and excellence to our customers. Indeed, in addition to improving our double leverage ratio, it is also a good boost for the firm and its staff”.
Deepak Malik, Chief Executive Officer of Arise stated: “ETI is our primary banking investment in Francophone West Africa and Anglophone West Africa. We are very supportive of ETI’s growth ambitions and its ability to increase financial services to Agri, SMEs & retail customers. Our investment will also strengthen the balance sheet of ETI and provide additional risk capital”.
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