By Charles Abuede
- Wigwe of Access Bank; Uzoka of UBA; Adeyemi of Ecobank, in hot race for African Banker of the Year
- Zenith Bank, only Nigerian bank in African Bank of Year nomination list
Nigeria’s banking heavyweights, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Ecobank Transnational, Sterling Bank, investment and savings platform, Crowdyvest, and developmental financial institution, Bank of Industry (BoI), have been lined up for the highly coveted most innovative financial services firm prize at the 2021 African Banker Awards. The event is held annually to celebrate the African banking industry.
The innovation in financial services award is one that Nigeria institutions dominate in the nomination categories that the African Banker released. But the two big elephants on June 23 when the winners are expected to emerge will have to be the African Banker and the African Bank of the Year awards. The latter has Zenith Bank plc as the only Nigerian bank nominated to slug it out among other top banks across the continent.
For the African Banker of the Year award, three top Nigerian bank CEOs, namely Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank, Kennedy Uzoka of United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Ade Adeyemi of Ecobank Transnational Incorporation are in the short list of just seven CEOs to battle it out for the coveted title later in the month.
But as growth and competition in the financial services industry get thicker by the minute, the birthing of innovative services to ensure seamless banking experiences for customers and the sector at large has become sacrosanct. Hence, the identification of financial needs and innovatively developing products that are tailored to meeting the growing demand for these services has given most financial services firms the topmost edge among their peers.
With over 70 years of superior financial services provided to small businesses, corporations, governments as well as individuals, Africa’s global bank, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) led the pack as one of the most innovative financial services firms on the continent. Also, the bank has continued its dominance as a tier-1 lending financial institution in Nigeria with a large footprint across the globe including in over 20 African nations.
Also, Ecobank, the pan African bank with operations in over 36 countries of the world, joined the party alongside Sterling Bank among the most innovative financial services companies on the continent. The use of innovative technology in the offering of banking services to customers is the pathway to ensuring the development of financial products suitable to meet the needs of small businesses, corporate organisations, groups and private individuals with their wide range of services and the adoption of a technological mode of banking in the face of the coronavirus pandemic which earlier disrupted economic activities, the organisers said in a descriptive note to Business A.M.
Crowdyvest, an impact-driven cooperative society that creates financial solutions for a community of individuals and businesses to achieve short or long term goals while facilitating impactful growth in line with the United Nations SDGs also joins the list as a result of its products offerings. Crowdyvest is a business entity offering investment and savings products with the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) as licenced by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Furthermore, the Bank of Industry (BoI), a provider of funds access for startups, small and large corporate businesses joined the league of most innovative institutions. BOI has over the years developed several banking products for large and budding industries, nations to give unique and cutting edge technology services which range from the loan application process with the use of technology to the stage of financial processing while others on the list include the Ubuntu Tribe and the Mortgage market.
However, nominees for the SME focused bank of the year, according to the African Banker, includes Nigeria’s leading lenders, Access Bank Plc, Ecobank International, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Fidelity Bank and Nairobi-based 4G Capital Limited, a provider of financial literacy training with working capital loans to help small businesses grow sustainably.
With respect to sustainability, Nigeria’s Access Bank leads the table in no particular order. Similarly, the likes of Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement (BOAD), Commercial International Bank (CIB), Nedbank and the Trade and Development Bank (TDB) will slug it out with Access Bank.
In the category of investment bankers, Nigeria’s FBNQuest Merchant Bank joins the likes of EFG Hermes, South Africa’s ABSA, Misr Capital S.A.E, and Standard Bank of South Africa as a result of the successful privatisation of Afam Power Plc and Afam Three Fast Power Limited, which the merchant facilitated, as well as its role in the completion of the Dangote Cement’s $208 million or N100 billion Series 1 Bond.
As stated earlier, the African Bank of the year will see Zenith Bank Plc go head to head with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Standard Bank Group, Equity Group Holdings Plc, Trade and Development Bank, Commercial International Bank (CIB), Banque Centrale Populaire, and Attijariwafa Bank.
Still, within the banking sector, African Banker of the Year will be examining how these banking institutions’ chief executive officers and managing directors changed the banking landscape through the offering of top-notched and sophisticated services to grow customer deposits and the gross loan book. Hence, Nigerian bankers such as Herbert Wigwe, Ade Adeyemi and Kennedy Uzoka, who are at the helm of affairs at Access Bank, Ecobank and United Bank for Africa (UBA) join their African counterparts in the contest for the best banker on the continent. Other members in the category include Admassu Tadesse of Trade and Development Bank, Brehima Amadou Haidara of Banque de Développement du Mali (the Development Bank of Mali), James Mwangi of Equity Group Holdings Plc, and João Figueiredo of the MozaBanco.
Commenting on the awards and categories, Omar Ben Yedder, group publisher, African Banker said: “This year we received a record number of entries across all categories and the awards committee debated at length to select the shortlist. Common themes throughout were the rise of digitisation, the work the banks have done to support businesses of all sizes during the pandemic and the importance of innovation. All the entries received demonstrated the incredible resilience of the banking and financial services industry during these challenging times and how important the industry is to help soften the economic impact of the pandemic and support growth whilst leading on innovation to provide solutions to our businesses and communities.”
Meanwhile, the African Banker ceremony, which has now become a respected and recognised industry event celebrating African banking achievements and held during the yearly meetings of the African Development Bank, will include special recognitions including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Banker Icon Award, Minister of Finance of the Year Award and Regional Banking Awards.