Thursday, December 30, 2021 1:07 pm
The journey to position Ecobank as one of the top three banks in the country is fast gaining traction and recognition. The Nigerian franchise of the Pan-African financial institution, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) is making good its mission of becoming the most preferred lender in the country. During the outgoing year, in particular, the bank recorded milestones and landmark transformations that puts it on the path of realizing its mission.
Ecobank Nigeria now resonates excellence from account opening to payments, collections, savings, and investment and indeed all the touchpoints. Unequivocally, it has endeared itself in the consciousness of the banking public, regulators, and all stakeholders in the industry. Indeed, the bank is regaining its respect in all spheres which is reflected in the bouquets of global, regional, and national awards and recognitions garnered during the year, 2021.
It has been a harvest of awards for Ecobank in 2021. The common denominator in the comments from the various awarding organizations is the recognition of Ecobank as transforming the industry by setting new milestones in service delivery, digital innovation, product development, payments, technology, customer experience and lots more.
Some of the awards include “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria “by Asian Bankers; “Consumer Finance Product of The Year” at the Middle East & Africa (MEA) Retail Banking Innovation Awards organized by Digital Bankers; “Most Outstanding Retail Bank Brand” of The Year by BrandCom; “Market Confidence and Capital Structure Transaction of the Year” and “Female Economic Advancement Bank of the Year” at Banks and Other Financial Institutions’ (BAFI) Awards 2021 powered by BusinesDay Media Limited. The list is endless.
In particular, the organizers of BAFI Awards said Ecobank Nigeria was awarded the “Market Confidence and Capital Structure Transaction of the Year” because of the impressive strength and depth of the book on the Ecobank’s $300 Million Bond transaction which signalled solid global investor confidence in the financial institution at a time when Nigeria was racked by a perfect storm. They submitted that the strong demand for the bond shows the international appetite for the Ecobank franchise in Nigeria, its unique positioning for facilitating pan-Africa trade and the attractive opportunity for the many investors seeking to back world-class Nigerian corporates.
On the second award, “Female Economic Advancement Bank of the Year”, the organizers said Ecobank was selected based on the diversity and scope of ‘Ellevate’ which is specifically developed for women; being a strong SME banking proposition since many women-owned and women-led businesses fall into this category; a clear, articulated vision to become a “Bank of Choice” for women through training of product development specialists, marketers, and customer service agents on the needs of women; and the service to female customers beyond providing loans, as advice and support are critical to business success anywhere in the world”.
Commenting on the winning out-going Managing Director, Patrick Akinwuntan, said: “The awards is a testimony that we are delivering world-class and diverse financial services in Nigeria and to a greater number of Africans across the continent. We understand their needs, forecast opportunities in the market and make our digital platforms available to be leveraged to achieve the highest potential. Ecobank platform is unique for all types of retail transactions especially account opening, bills payment, airtime purchase and third-party transfers. We have ATMs spread across the country while our agency network reaches every community to provide basic financial services and support for every Nigerian. We have built an ecosystem that brings affordable financial services – payments and collections to every African.”
Ecobank is an active player in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and agriculture sectors. Recognizing MSMEs as the engine room of the economy, Ecobank recently set aside a N100 billion special fund targeted at empowering them for business growth and thus reducing unemployment in Nigeria. The bank has won several awards in this regard.
For the Agric sector, the bank has provided economic empowerment for more than 53,000 smallholder farmers through the Anchor Borrowers Programme partnership with CBN with about N9.5 billion. The bank has increased the number of Agric sector’s customers by over 900% from about 14,000 to over 143,000 customers. Ecobank is currently in partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Agric in an empowerment program to support over 3,000 Artisanal fishermen in the state.
Women Empowerment Products
Ecobank Nigeria is now commonly regarded in the industry as a ‘women-friendly bank’. This stems from its various products tailored towards empowering female folks. In July this year, the Ecobank Group launched “Ellevate”, a bespoke women empowerment proposition – and this had resounding acclaim in Nigeria. With the Elevate programme, Ecobank aims to empower 40 million women, being a gender-based proposition designed to empower women-owned and managed businesses in Nigeria, as well as in the 33 African countries and beyond where Ecobank has presence”.
Other women initiatives include the Ecobank Female Entrepreneurs’ Initiative (EFEI), a platform designed to empower and support women-owned small-scale businesses. In addition, the bank offers business loans for SMEs, inventory finance for key distributors, shop owner’s facility for traders, purchase order and invoice discounting, asset finance and agriculture finance among other laudable offerings.
Ecobank during the year went steps further in its commitment to raise future Africa multinationals. The bank entered a partnership with Ultima Productions for a reality show called Lions’ Den. The Lions’ Den is a business reality show that gives budding entrepreneurs across Nigeria the chance to pitch their business to five successful Nigerian investors, referred to as Lions. The Lions support the selected entrepreneurs with equity or venture capital. In a nutshell, Lions are businessmen and women who have pedigree, who know what it takes to make a success of the business. They bring their wealth of experience and capital to the stage to assist people with brilliant and creative ideas.
According to Akinwuntan, Ecobank’s decision to be the Lead Sponsor of the reality TV show is in line with its commitment to support entrepreneurs who have good business ideas but need to raise funds for advancement. He disclosed that the bank is offering its platform, Pan African network, digital offerings, and all necessary support to make the young entrepreneurs achieve their dream whether the Lion’s invested in their business or not, noting that the fact that they have reached the level to pitch for equity or venture capital makes them qualified as entrepreneurs in the making.
Super Rewards Campaign
Ecobank Nigeria in March this year launched the Super Rewards Scheme, which gives 200 of its customers an opportunity to earn different cash gifts monthly, with four of them becoming millionaires at the end of the four months campaign. The bank in a statement said the scheme is designed to reward customers’ loyalty. The four monthly campaign saw a total of 800 customers winning N25,000 weekly in batches of fifty per week and four millionaires emerged from different zones of the country.
Due to popular demand by its customers, the bank recently flagged off Season Two of the Scheme to give opportunity for more customers to be rewarded for their loyalty and dedication to the pan African Bank. The four monthly campaigns will run between October 2021 and January 2022. As was the case in season one, 800 customers are expected to win N25,000 weekly in batches of 50 customers per week from now till January 31, 2022. In addition, four millionaires will emerge in each of the four delineated regions of Lagos, Federal Capital Territory (FCT)/North, Mid-west/Southwest and South-South/Southeast regions.
Support for Creative Industry
Empirically, Ecobank has gradually become the top bank that supports the creative industry in the country. Apart from participating actively in the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) introduced by the CBN in collaboration with the Banker’s committee to improve access to long-term low-cost financing for entrepreneurs and investors in the Nigerian creative and information technology (IT) sub-sector, the bank went into partnerships with Bolanle Austen Peter (BAP), Legends of Nollywood, Linda Ikeji’s Self Made Woman Conference which had over 5,000 women in attendance and Basketmouth’s Papa Benji. The 13 episode Papa Benji show achieved a combined total of over 10m views on youtube alone. Also, the bank supported Alex Ekubo, on a trip to Benin Republic generating over 1m views, 30,000 conversations and 10,000 engagements. These and a host of other partnerships was to promote creativity and the African culture.
According to the Managing Director, “As a Pan-African bank, we have a collective vision of promoting the African culture to reinforce and celebrate our heritage. For us, it is beyond banking, we are constantly seeking ways to project the African continent in a positive light. We currently have partnerships with key industry players and recently sponsored the African Music Awards (AFRIMA). We are also the lead sponsor of the widely acclaimed business reality show, Lions’ Den, which recently hit the airwaves. It goes without saying then, that for African creatives partnering with Ecobank, the wait is over”
Ecobank Initiated the MX Online series during the International Youth Day that generated increased likeness for the brand. It partnered with micro-influencers, students and associations to promote Youth products. The objective is to promote, support, sponsor and participate actively in the youth space and endear the demography to Ecobank through internship programmes, raffle draws and experiential events. The MX series had over 10,000 views online.
Also, the bank partnered with Future Face Africa – a model scouting initiative taken to over 10 African countries. The platform gave young people the opportunity for global stardom. The programme attracted over 10,000 participating youths across Africa. This further entrenched the brand within the Fashion & Youth space.
Radio Programme for Entrepreneurs
During the year, Ecobank sponsored a nationwide radio programme created specifically for the bank to reach out to SMEs and a general listening audience. It ran for a 13-episode one-hour weekly programme in select radio stations in key cities across the geo-political zones. This makes SME a veritable target sector for the bank.
The programme served as an opportunity for the bank to showcase some of its customers doing well in the SME category and provisions were also made for staff of the bank to have an in-depth discussion on products and relationships with SME operators. The unique programme was different from the usual ‘customer-experience sharing style. The show addressed pertinent issues identified as pain points for the SME in Nigeria.
New Head Office Complex
On the highbrow of the business district of Victoria Island and facing the ever-serene Lagos lagoon, is Ecobank new head office complex. The architectural masterpiece which was commissioned in November this year is named Ecobank Pan African Centre (EPAC). The bank says the edifice stands as a tribute to the vision of its founding fathers in creating a world-class pan-African banking group, providing excellent financial services across Africa. EPAC creates a new smart working environment where productivity and service delivery will be taken to another level. Indeed, an office goes a long way to defining a super brand.
The Centre with sparkling ambience boasts of state-of-the-art amenities, houses smart offices, a restaurant, multipurpose conference hall, gym, creche, a parking lot that can accommodate 130 vehicles at a time, experience and game centre and a rooftop terrace, among others.
Commissioning the complex, a highly elated Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said “This Pan African centre is indeed an intelligent building designed with energy efficiency and is one of the things we need in Nigeria. I know that this building will speak to a lot of the very best. It is a state-of-the-art building focused on environmental sustainability and I am sure that from what I have seen around, it is a redefining building and infrastructural development.” This iconic structure epitomizes an ideal super brand.
The Ecobank Nigeria brand promise, no doubt setting it apart in the race to achieving its target. About three years ago Patrick Akinwuntan, outgoing Managing Director and Regional Executive of Ecobank Nigeria stated succinctly that he has a mandate in Nigeria to deliver the brand promise of Ecobank as the platform of choice for convenient, affordable, and instant banking services to customers in the country. According to him “it’s our ambition that we are within easy reach in your locality at an Ecobank Xpress point through our agents or within your arm’s length on your phone; you can open an account and you can make payment; you can receive payment straight on your phone and at any time cash out through our agents at any Ecobank Xpress point or the ATM. It is the Ecobank everywhere strategy across Africa that we are implementing in Nigeria”.
Today, the brand promise is being realized. The bank has strongly positioned itself as a key stakeholder and supporter in the growth of the real sector of the Nigerian economy. It is supporting small businesses, budding entrepreneurs, agriculture, women businesses, and a whole lot.
The bank is also empowering Nigerians with all the tools to take control and make the most of their finances. Its digital platforms such as Mobile App and USSD *326#, Ecobank Online, OmniPlus, Omnilite, EcobankPay, RapidTransfer, ATMs, POSs, as well as an extensive distribution network of over 250 branches and about 30,000 agency banking locations, have brought convenience to the daily running of customers’ businesses.
By and large, the success of making Ecobank a first choice Nigerian bank is largely driven by its six core values (RACE IT -Respect, Accountability, Customer Centricity, Excellence, Integrity, Teamwork). To ensure sustained success, the bank embedded the right ethics, culture, conduct and values into all its activities. These qualities form the foundations of the organization and drive the right behaviours in every engagement with customers, colleagues, communities, shareholders, regulators, and all other stakeholders.
The bank also recognizes its employees as its greatest asset to maintain high service quality standards, a constant improve on customer satisfaction and enhance its brand experience. To this end, the bank announced the promotion of 682 of its staff members in June. The bank said the exercise represented 26 per cent of its core staff and was done despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the attendant impacts on business performance globally. According to a statement signed by the managing director, the promotion was targeted at recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts and commitment, stressing that it was also in alignment with the unrelenting desire of the bank to grow its people.
Apart from motivating employees in various ways, the bank is also training and building the capacity of its entire workforce in its state-of-the-art Academy in Lagos which is fully accredited by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN). Besides, the bank is also attracting young graduates into its workforce. During the year, the bank recruited 60 new entry-level trainees into its workforce as part of its growth agenda.