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Banking Sector

Ecobank Group Reaches Another Milestone in Financial Inclusion in Africa

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Ecobank - Investors King

The Ecobank Group and Semoa a Fintech based in Lomé,   are enabling mobile money users  in Togo to carry out  banking faster and easier, across West African Economic and Monetary Union ( WAEMU) through a new digital banking service via Whatsapp called “ Express cash by Semoa”.

The Ecobank Group, whose network covers 35 countries across Africa, is the first bank to integrate this type of service at its ATMs and Express Point Agency locations. Customers simply send a Whatsapp message – which means the service is available 24/7 – to Semoa’s BOT called Dédé to request for tokens for withdrawals, payment of bills or money transfer to friends and relatives in Togo and across the WAEMU region.

Semoa’s development of the API – the application programming interface which allows apps to talk to each other – is creating the next generation digital customer experience and further validating the Ecobank Group as one of the innovative leaders of Open Banking in Africa. By leveraging this technology, the Ecobank Group is providing a bridge between the digital and cash economy. This allows unbanked merchants and traders to accept and make payments digitally thereby accelerating financial inclusion.

Edem Adjamagbo, CEO and founder of SEMOA during the launch of this new innovative service said: “Xpress Cash by SEMOA- whereby Ecobank enables its cutting-edge infrastructure with SEMOA’s secured online services, is the perfect example of a true partnership in financial innovation with the potential to change the lives of many in West Africa. Indeed, the fact that people with no bank accounts, or credit cards, can now cash out their mobile money directly out of Ecobank ATMs and Xpress Points throughout the WAEMU region is a game changer that will help foster financial inclusion”.

Djiba Diallo, the Ecobank Group’s Senior fintech adviser said: ‘As digital banking becomes increasingly important, the Ecobank Group is joining the growing number of banks, card companies and payment service providers around the world using developers like Semoa, one of the most prominent fintechs in Africa, to enhance customer experience. Made more accessible by Open Banking, which provides secure access to the Bank’s data, fintechs develop systems which issue commands via APIs to third parties, creating a seamless service for customers to perform their transactions and track their finances in one place.’

The success of the new wallet service is made possible by Semoa’s ability to test connectivity, authentication and authorisation of customers’ transactions before the new service went live through Ecobank’s Sandbox. Furthermore, the income generated by the service is being split equally between the Ecobank and Semoa, creating great business opportunities for other fintechs. As a result, the Ecobank Group is encouraging other financial technology companies to access its Sandbox API to develop more innovative and smarter services.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Banking Sector

Fidelity Bank Promotes 745 Staff Members

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Nneka Onyeali Ikpe, Fidelity Bank CEO - Investors King

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.

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Banking Sector

GCR Affirms Coronation Merchant Bank Limited’s National Scale Long and Short-term Issuer Ratings of A-(NG)/A2(NG); Outlook Stable

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GCR Ratings (“GCR”) has affirmed Coronation Merchant Bank Limited’s national scale long-term and short-term ratings of A-(NG) and A2(NG) respectively, with a Stable Outlook.

Rated Entity Rating class Rating scale Rating Outlook
Coronation Merchant Bank Limited Long Term issuer National A-(NG) Stable
Short Term issuer National A2(NG)

Rating rationale

The ratings of Coronation Merchant Bank Limited (“Coronation MB” or “the bank”) reflect its adequate funding and liquidity position, and sound asset quality metrics, as evidenced by the nil non-performing loans (“NPL”) since inception to date. However, these strengths are partly offset by the bank’s modest competitive position, significant loan book concentration and heavy reliance on wholesale funding from financial institutions.

Coronation MB is a strong player within the Nigerian merchant banking subsector based on its product/service delivery, loan portfolio and deposit mobilisation capacity relative to peers. Leveraging its long track record (having previously operated as a discount house for over two decades) and partnerships, the bank ensures consistent enhancement of its operational scale, particularly within the trade finance space. Reflective of its relatively small customer base and the trends across the merchant banking subsector, elevated concentration risk is perceived, with the twenty largest obligors and depositors constituting 85.0% and 75.4% of gross loans and customer deposits respectively at FY20. Also, the bank evidenced moderate market share within the Nigerian banking industry in terms of total assets, customer deposits, and loan portfolio, which are estimated at 0.8%, 0.7% and 0.7% respectively at FY20. Management & Governance is a neutral ratings factor.

Capitalisation is assessed at an intermediate level. The GCR computed capital ratio registered at 17.6% at FY20 (FY19: 19.8%) and expected to moderate to 16%-17% range over the next 12-18 month in view of the outpacing growth in risk weighted assets vis-à-vis internal capital generation. Earnings quality is considered ratings negative, reflected by revenue stability risk characterised by high source concentration and a material exposure to market sensitive income, which constituted a sizeable 42.5% of total operating revenue in FY20 (FY19: 41.3%).

Risk position is sound and a key ratings strength, underpinned by the bank’s nil NPL since inception to date and moderate credit losses of 0.2% at FY20, which broadly compared favourably with the industry average of about 3%. Initial assessments of the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that the bank will not be immune to the sector-wide challenges, which include asset quality concerns and slower loan repayments. However, this impact has thus far remained minimal, with the bank making no recourse to regulatory forbearance during the period. That said, we expect NPL and credit losses to remain at similar strong range over the rating horizon on the back of sustenance of stringent underwriting criteria and the macroeconomic environment recoveries. Conversely, the loan book is considered highly concentrated, with the top twenty obligors accounting for 85% of the loan book at FY20. While this is a rating constraining factor and typical of merchant banks in Nigeria, management expects this concentration to moderate somewhat over the short to medium term on account of the recent sectoral coverage expansion. GCR is also cognisant of the bank’s significant exposures to market risk considering the substantial market sensitive income realised in FY20.

Coronation MB’s funding base is considered adequate, predominantly bolstered by the debut N25bn subordinated unsecured bonds issued during 2020, as well as its improved deposit mobilisation capacity. As a result, the GCR long term funding ratio and stable funding ratio was robust at 80.8% and 73.1% respectively at FY20. While cognisance is taken of the sizeable (41.3%) growth in customer deposits in FY20, concentration risk is evident, with the top twenty depositors accounting for 75.4% of the deposit book, the bulk of which were from financial institutions. Positively, liquidity position is solid, with the GCR liquid asset covering wholesale funding and customer deposits by 3.9x and 53.1% respectively at FY20.

Outlook statement

The stable outlook reflects GCR’s expectation that Coronation MB’s asset quality metrics would remain sound despite the strains in the operating environment, albeit with the loan portfolio concentration by obligor remaining high. GCR calculated capital ratio is anticipated to moderate to 16-17% range over the next 12-18 month given our expectation that the outpacing growth in risk weighted assets vis-à-vis internal capital generation will continue to weigh down capitalisation metrics. However, GCR will positively consider a material improvement in core earnings over the rating horizon. While we anticipate liquidity to remain sound, diversification of the deposit book with a better mix of non-financial institution clients would be positively considered.

Rating triggers

The ratings could be upgraded if Coronation MB materially improves its core earnings and achieves a core capital ratio above 20% on a sustainable basis, while also maintaining sound asset quality metrics. In addition, GCR would positively consider a well-diversified loan portfolio and funding base. Conversely, a downward rating movement could be triggered by a material deterioration in GCR computed capital ratio to below 15% range, asset quality pressures and increase reliance on wholesale funding from financial institutions.

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Banking Sector

Fitch Affirms Triple A-rating of the African Development Bank, Outlook Stable

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Global credit rating agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed the African Development Bank’s credit rating at ‘AAA’, with a stable outlook.

Fitch said the triple-A rating was driven by the ‘extraordinary support’ of the Bank’s shareholders.

Fitch views the Bank’s risk-management policies as ‘conservative’ and assesses them as ‘excellent’, in line with AAA-rated peers. “Concentration risk is ‘low’, with the bank’s five largest exposures accounting for 32% of total banking portfolio at end-2020.”

Bajabulile “Swazi” Tshabalala, Vice President for Finance and Chief Finance Officer of the African Development Bank, said: “The affirmation of the Bank’s triple-A ratings by Fitch, recognizes the very strong shareholder support our institution benefits from, as well as its strong capitalization and risk management capabilities. The affirmation also speaks to the importance of the Bank’s public policy mandate, particularly during these very challenging times.”

The global ratings agency assesses the Bank’s overall exposure to risks as “’Low’, balancing ‘Moderate’ credit risk with ‘Excellent’ risk management policies, ‘Low’ concentration, and ‘Very Low’ equity and market risks.”

Responding to the Fitch ratings report, African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina said: “The African Development Bank welcomes the affirmation of the Bank’s ‘AAA’ rating, with a stable outlook, despite enormous challenges posed by Covid-19. The Bank will continue to enhance its policy and fiscal relevance in support of regional member countries, as they contend with the global and regional repercussions of the pandemic. While helping African economies reposition their economies in a Covid-19 environment, we will also maintain our prudential ratios and adequate buffers.”

The African Development Bank was recognized by Global Capital in 2020, for its highly successful $3 billion Fight Covid-19 social bond, one of the Bank’s many initiatives to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on African lives and economies.

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