As part of efforts to embrace digital banking, Standard Chartered Plc is closing about half its Nigerian branches.
A report by Bloomberg reveals that the London-listed lender’s local unit has already started to shut some offices in December and will eventually operate only 13 branches in the West African nation.
Sources familiar with the development noted that the bank is under pressure from mobile money providers and is strengthening mobile banking and recruiting agents to reach new customers and handle cash deposits and withdrawals across Africa’s biggest economy.
Since its establishment in Nigeria in 1999, Standard Chartered has focused on corporate banking. However, the bank is now gearing towards expanding its retail base. In 2019, it outlined a target to grow the number of its customers fivefold from 100,000 in about two years by using digital technology to onboard clients faster.
The lender also plans to start digital lending to process small loans quicker and increase the volume of retail credit, according to the people.
Notably, Standard Chartered is not the only finance industry leveraging on the digital banking platform. The bank’s shift mirrors the boom recorded in financial technology via the innovation of mobile money.
As a matter of fact, some major banks in Nigeria are also leveraging on fintech. Instead of opening more physical branches, some of these banks are minimizing costs by building networks of authorized agents, or people within communities to sell their products and services.
Recall that recently, some mobile communication networks were granted operating licenses by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa received the Approval-in-Principle (AIP) as Payment Service Bank (PSB) in November, 2021.
This is the first step in the process towards a final approval, subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions as stipulated by the CBN.
The PSB license allows the companies to among other things, maintain savings accounts and accept deposits from individuals and small businesses, which is covered by the deposit insurance scheme; carry out payments and remittance (including cross-border personal remittance) services through various channels within Nigeria; issue debit and prepaid cards and operate an electronic purse or wallet.
With a population of over 200 million people, of which more than a third have no access to financial services, Nigeria has seen an explosion in demand for payment solutions and lending outside traditional banking as businesses build on the rapid spread of mobile phones. Financial-technology companies have also benefited as customers sought to reduce physical contact during the pandemic.
85.51 Million Nigerian Bank Customers Face Withdrawal Freeze Over NIN, BVN Deadline
As the March 1 deadline looms, an estimated 85.51 million Nigerian bank customers are facing the possibility of frozen accounts due to their failure to link their National Identification Numbers (NINs) and/or Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) to their accounts.
Recent findings reveal the potential scale of the impending banking crisis.
Data from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) indicates that Nigeria had approximately 146 million active individual bank customers as of December 2022.
However, by January 26, 2024, only 60.49 million BVNs were recorded on the NIBSS portal, leaving a significant portion unlinked.
Meanwhile, about 104 million NINs had been issued by December 2023, highlighting the disparity between NIN issuance and BVN linkage.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had earlier issued directives to banks, mandating them to restrict transactions on accounts lacking linked NINs and BVNs, with effect from March 1, 2024.
Any accounts found non-compliant risk being designated as ‘Post no Debit,’ rendering them unable to process further transactions.
Responding to the impending crisis, the Director-General of the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC), Abisoye Coker-Odusote, emphasized the need for the revalidation of Front-End Partners (FEPs) to ensure the integrity of the identity database.
She underscored the importance of NIN registration and urged collaboration with various stakeholders to expedite the process.
The Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Aminu Maida, reiterated the significance of linking NINs to SIM cards to enhance national security.
Telecom subscribers were urged to comply with the NIN-SIM linkage directive to avoid service disruptions.
Meanwhile, financial service providers like Opay have issued reminders of the impending restrictions, urging customers to comply with the linkage requirements.
Amidst concerns, some customers contemplate transferring funds to compliant accounts to avoid potential financial setbacks.
As the deadline approaches, stakeholders are intensifying efforts to mitigate the impact of the impending banking crisis on millions of Nigerians.
Central Bank of Nigeria Injects Over $300 Million to Stabilize Naira-Dollar Exchange Rate
In a bid to mitigate the continuous depreciation of the naira against the dollar, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has injected over $300 million into the foreign exchange market.
This move comes amidst concerns over the instability of the naira-dollar exchange rate, which has seen rates soar as high as N1850/$ in recent trading sessions.
The Association of Corporate Treasurers of Nigeria revealed the CBN’s intervention in an advisory memo to its members, highlighting the significant injections made over the past two weeks.
The memo underscores the urgency to address the steep decline in the value of the naira, which has posed challenges to businesses and individuals alike.
The CBN’s proactive measures signal a concerted effort to stabilize the forex market and restore confidence in the domestic currency.
The injection of funds aims to provide liquidity and alleviate pressure on the naira, which has experienced rapid depreciation in recent weeks.
Market analysts anticipate that the CBN’s intervention will help mitigate the volatility of the naira-dollar exchange rate, providing relief to businesses and consumers grappling with the economic uncertainties.
The move reflects the CBN’s commitment to maintaining stability in the forex market and fostering economic growth amidst challenging times.
FBN Holdings Surpasses GTCO, Zenith Bank to Become Nigeria’s Most Valuable Bank
FBN Holdings has emerged as Nigeria’s most valuable bank, surpassing Guaranty Trust Holding Company (GTCO) and Zenith Bank in terms of market capitalization.
At the close of trading on Monday, FBN Holdings achieved a market capitalization of N1.22 trillion, solidifying its position at the forefront of the banking sector.
The bank’s market cap is now higher than GTCO’s N1.16 trillion and Zenith Bank’s N1.11 trillion.
The surge in FBN Holdings’ market capitalization represents a 56.68% increase since Femi Otedola assumed the role of chairman on January 31st.
Otedola’s stewardship has been instrumental in driving FBN Holdings’ exponential growth.
Since he was appointed a non-executive director in August 2023 and subsequent ratification by shareholders, his leadership has been characterized by strategic decision-making and investor confidence.
Holdings’ shares have risen from N21.70 to N34 under his chairmanship, representing a significant boost for investors and shareholders.
The market’s positive response to Otedola’s leadership underscores the importance of effective governance and visionary leadership in driving financial performance and investor value.
Minority shareholders have expressed optimism about Otedola’s impact on dividend payments and capital appreciation, highlighting his track record of prioritizing shareholder interests in his previous roles.
FBN Holdings’ ascent to the top spot signals a new era of growth and stability for the bank, setting the stage for continued success in Nigeria’s dynamic financial landscape.
As the banking sector navigates evolving market conditions, FBN Holdings’ position at the pinnacle reflects its resilience and adaptability in driving sustainable value for stakeholders.
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