June 8, 2009

Intercontinental Bank: Harnessing decades of customer loyalty to consolidate growth

By  Babajide Komolafe
One of the highlights of   the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) was the liberalisation of the banking sector which occasioned the emergence of new banks and an upsurge in the number of banks in the country.

One of the banks that emerged then is Intercontinental Merchant Bank Limited, now Intercontinental Bank PLC. Unlike most of the banks that were established then popularly known as new generation banks, which were blown away by the hash wind of distress in the 1990s, Intercontinental Bank, which was established in 1989, experienced sustained growth, became a commercial bank and later a universal bank, overcame the challenge of the consolidation exercise to emerge as one of the 25 merger banks.

And today, twenty years after its establishment the bank has become a financial supermarket, with over 300 branches  and one of the biggest five banks in Nigeria in terms of balance sheet size and capital base. It has also become a global brand with branches in Ghana and United Kingdom, emerging as one of the top 500 biggest banks in the world.  The bank however attributes its survival, growth, achievement and prosperity to its customers and hence to commemorate its twenty years of or remarkable existence, the bank decided to celebrate its customers by holding a series of customers’ forums across the country.

The bank also rolled out a loyalty reward scheme for its deposit customers during  which it gave out cars generators and other household items. The first customers’ forum was held in the ancient city   of Kano, from there the train moved to the coal city of Enugu, Abuja, Lagos, Uyo and finally to Ibadan.

Speaking at the Abuja customers’ forum, Chairman of the bank,  Dr. Raymond Obieri underscored  the rationale for the celebrating its customers to mark its twenty years of existence, expressed profound gratitude to all the bank’s customers for keeping fate with the bank over the past 20 years. He remarked,

“To our numerous customers in Abuja and the environ I want to say a big thank you for the huge patronage you have given our bank over the years. It is the same appreciation we are sending to all Nigerians who have contributed in one way or the other in making our bank one of the most successful in Nigeria today The bank, he said, was celebrating 20 years of successful banking with a bountiful reward scheme for its deposit customers including prospective customers.

In the same vein, the Bank’s Group Chief Executive, Dr. Erastus Akingbola while speaking at the Ibadan customers’ forum averred that ‘‘Shuttling across the nook and crannies of this country to celebrate with our customers is not too much a price to pay for the kind of patronage we have received from them over the years.

Indeed they are the reason why we are celebrating’’.  Also at the Kano customers’ forum,  he noted  that the bank is using the forum to render account of its stewardship to its key stakeholders across the country and give report on the state of affairs in the bank.

Highlighting the achievements of the bank while addressing customers at Uyo, Awa Ibom State,  he stated, “The bank have been able to translate patronages into premium returns to shareholders just as its financial performance has continued to guarantee it strong positions in the industry’s top five in all measures of strength. We have consistently paid dividend to our shareholders while our shareholders’ fund has risen to over N200 billion, still among the top five in the industry today.

We just ended our 2008/9 financial year a month ago and preliminary results show that despite the global financial meltdown Intercontinental Bank has sustained its strong financial performance. This means that good dividend and bonus await our numerous shareholders this year. It also means that growth and expansion will continue unhindered.”

“Only last week, Intercontinental Bank was named among the three Nigerian institutions that entered America’s The Forbes Magazine’s top global companies in the 2009 report. Forbes Magazine’s annual global corporate rating is the most popular in the world.” Continuing, he said “In February this year, Intercontinental Bank was also named amongst top 500 banks in the world in The Banker Magazine global banking industry survey for 2009. Only five Nigerian banks made the list. The Banker Magazine is a publication of the influential Financial Times of London, which had earlier named Intercontinental ‘’Bank of The Year (Nigeria) 2008’’.

Using the occasion to comment on the Renaissance Capital (RenCap), a leading emerging markets investment bank,  report on the bank, he assured that Intercontinental Bank  is committed to full financial and accurate disclosure adding that, “We are pleased that Renaissance Capital acknowledges our bank as being at the forefront of transparency and strict corporate governance, even as we continue to leverage on our size and expansion to serve you better”.
One of the outstanding features of Intercontinental Bank over the years, which further endeared it to the heart of many Nigerians, is its commitment to corporate social responsibility especially in the area of education through the Intercontinental Bank-State Scholarship Scheme. This it demonstrated after the customers’ forum in Enugu. The management of the bank moved to Eboyin State where it visited the State Governor, Governor Martin Elechi and presented cheques for scholarship worth N80, 000 each to 50 students, indigenes of the state  and  three secondary school hostel blocks at the event.

Speaking at the event,Akingbola explained that Intercontinental Bank is committed to a world class educational system in Nigeria  and the Intercontinental Bank-State Scholarship Scheme is fundamentally the bank’s way of partnering with State Governments in enhancing access to quality education. According to him, “The challenge of educational sector development is too enormous to be left alone to governments. Highlighting major achievements of the bank in developing education in the state, he stated,  “In Ebonyi State Intercontinental Bank has keyed into the laudable initiatives of the government by investing N30million in building of dormitories for three secondary schools in the state.

As at date, the bank has given scholarship awards to over 1000 students from eleven states namely Bayelsa, Edo, Kwara, Anambra, Ekiti, Kogi, Ebonyi, Niger, Osun and Lagos among others.This number, Akingbola said “is in addition to our annual Intercontinental Diamond Fund (IDF) Scholarship Programme targeted at the wards of our customers across the country. The number of beneficiaries in this programme is over 500.

As at date, we have donated completed Hostel accommodations to 18 tertiary institutions in Nigeria and about five more are currently underway for commissioning later this year. We strongly believe that the challenge of improving on the learning environment for tomorrow’s leaders is too enormous to be left alone to the government. That is why in the past five years Intercontinental Bank has spent well over N1billion in the education sector alone.”

One of the salient features of the customers’ forum was the array notable personalities from the private and public sector of the Nigerian economy as well as top politicians, top government officials, traditional rulers and religious leaders all over the country, which in addition to gracing the events also commended Intercontinental Bank.
Commending the bank at the grand finale in Ibadan,  Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State said said that Intercontinental Bank has done well to have made its customers the centre of the celebrations because it is the customers’ patronage that resulted in the successes being celebrated by the bank.

Akala noted that ‘‘based on the bank’s mission statement, which is to help its customers build and preserve wealth and also being conversant with your slogan: happy customer, happy bank, I can testify that my government is a happy customer of Intercontinental Bank Plc. I am sure that Oyo State government business collaborations with your bank have made the Intercontinental Bank family truly happy over the years.”

The governor drew attention to some of Intercontinental Bank’s contributions to the success of his administration especially in the area of micro-credit to thousands of Oyo State residents through the two institutions which was jointly floated for this purpose; the Pacesetter Micro Finance Institution and Blue Intercontinental Micro Finance Bank.

At the customers’ forum in Uyo, Chairman of occasion and former Military Governor of the State, Air Commodore Idogensit Nkanga (rtd)  expressed the state’s happiness at Intercontinental Bank particularly for partnering with it in the realization of numerous developmental projects.

He noted that such good relationship necessitated the support of the people and government led by Governor Godswill  Obot Akpabio for Intercontinental Bank for a very long time.

“There is no doubt that the customers of Intercontinental Bank identify strongly with the bank. This is more so in Akwa Ibom State in particular and the South-South Region in general where the bank is loved and enjoys great patronage. This is why I am indeed proud to observe a huge turnout this evening; a fact that demonstrates not only your love and support for the Bank, but also your genuine desire for its continued growth and success.”

Nigeria’s foremost good corporate governance advocate, Dr. Gamaliel Onosode, commending the bank at the customers’ forum in Lagos remarked, ““We are happy that Intercontinental Bank has remained one of the strongest banks in the country today, despite the inclement operating environment. Today the Bank is even boldly expanding its operations. The services and product lines have covered all market segments with attendant growth in returns to its shareholders.”

Also at the event, former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), remarked,  “If you observe the two key people that started are still there that is the Group Chief Executive and the Chairman of the Bank, this shows a stable management structure and an indication of honesty and integrity. If I don’t feel proud of them, I won’t be here today, at this rate the sky will not be the limit.”