By PETER EGWUATU
The singular most attention-grabbing event in the nation’s banking sector in 2014 came in the last quarter of the year. The announcement by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) of Heritage Bank as the winner of the bid for the acquisition of Enterprise Bank jolted the entire banking industry, as many operators did not give them the chance to be the one that will win the bid.
It would have been considered an impossible task for a bank that entered the market less than two years ago to beat other well established to acquire Enterprise Bank that was up for sale.
In this interview, the Managing Director/CEO, Heritage Bank, Mr.Ifie Sekibo spoke about how the bank emerged as the preferred bidder for the Enterprise Bank, Agent Banking services and other issues in the banking sector.
What is Heritage Bank doing in the area of Agent Banking?
The bank’s management said Agent Banking is about bringing banking services to the people, so that they do not need to go far away to do their banking services. Banking services is not for the privileged few, it is for everybody, and with the small bank we have opened, we are offering banking services to everybody in this market, irrespective of their educational background and what they do.
What is the contribution of Heritage Bank in the financial inclusion strategy of the CBN ? As part of our support for the financial inclusion strategy of the CBN, Heritage Bank did set a standard when it launched its pilot ‘Corner Shop’ to cater for the need of traders and artisans of the Gbagada plank market, located at Gbagada Estate of Lagos State as a foretaste of its Agent Banking Scheme.
The shop is aimed at giving traders the opportunity to enjoy financial services without the risk and stress of walking kilometers in order to visit a bank branch.
What is the bank doing in the area of SMEs development?
Heritage Bank’s sponsorship commitment in the areas of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) development, sports, entertainment, charity and advocacy also stands out. Through its unique SMEs Support Platform, the Bank, in 2014, raised the bar in the efforts to deepen the SME Culture in the country.
Its Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Clinic radically emerged as a unique platform set up to offer a holistic bailout strategy for SMEs in the country through an amalgam of services such as business diagnostics, advisory services, financial literacy and entrepreneurship development, customized product development for each customer and market knowledge development.
This scheme is backed up by the innovative Heritage Bank Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Investment Protection Fund; a non-collateralized funding option with embedded insurance for the default risk inherent in the SME scheme to assist the growth and rejuvenation of the sector. This remains a strong differentiating indicator of the Heritage Bank approach to SME funding in the country.
For example, under this scheme, Heritage Bank, through a groundbreaking partnership with Dbanj, the Koko Master, offered support for KOKO AGROPRENEUR, Dbanj’s initiative under the banner of the national agricultural renewal project being championed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The national agricultural renewal project initiative is aimed, on the one hand, at providing practical leadership and encouragement to the massive youth population to embrace the agricultural revolution being championed by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina, as part of the national socio-economic transformation agenda. It is also an initiative designed to stress the significance of small and medium enterprises as a veritable platform for future economic well-being of the country.
How did Heritage Bank emerge as the preferred bidder for Enterprise Bank?
At inception we did state the way the bank wanted to go. We re-capitalized to the tune of N12 billion, took up all liabilities and assets of the defunct Societe Generalle Bank of Nigeria ,SGBN and found some form of accommodation for depositors whose money has been trapped for over 10 years. Our vision is simple and clear; today, we might look quite new in the market, but our idea of what this bank should be is clear from day one. We want to be a bank that people will believe and we want to lead in the knowledge that generation banking is the way to go.
Heritage Bank’s thirst for unique customer satisfaction, not only financially but in other ways, started shortly after its operations began. This became evident as it commenced a zero COT offering to its numerous clients from April 15, 2013. The Bank’s offering of zero COT implies there shall be no hidden charges in transactions. Consequently, this huge selling point would boost the bank’s goodwill, customer trust and consequently, deposit base in 2014 as it warmed up to serve its customers more goodies.
The Heritage Banking Company Investment Services Limited (HISL), a special purpose vehicle sponsored by Heritage Bank to bid for Enterprise Bank, not only came tops in the bid process but, against all industry predictions, paid the total N65 billion purchase price within the timeframe specified by AMCON.
What would be the benefit of the acquisition of Enterprise Bank?
The Enterprise Bank acquisition served a clear signal that Heritage Bank, which entered the market in 2013 with a regional bank status, was focused on transforming into a strong national bank.
The acquisition of Enterprise Bank which currently boasts of over 160 branches, over 177 ATMs, 57 Cash Centres and 2000 POS Terminals spread across major markets and commercial centres in the country will increase Heritage Bank’s points of presence from the current 15 Experience Centers to nearly 200 branches spread all over the country. This automatically transforms the bank from a tier-2 player to a strong tier-1 player.
However, the acquisition of Enterprise Bank, earth-shaking and record-breaking as it was, happened to be just one of the many strategic, industry-redefining moves Heritage Bank has made, since coming on stream, to justify its fast growing image as an industry game-changer.
How did Heritage Bank surmount the challenges in the banking sector to now became one of the major players in the sector?
When Heritage Banking Company Limited rose from the ashes of the defunct Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) in early 2013, the thinking of some industry watchers then was that of a bank whose soul lies in uncertainty. They were not sure if the new banking experiment would turn-out a success story or not. But the new management was optimistic and determined to ignite heritage of banking success.
Immediately they got a regional banking license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2013 to start Heritage Bank, they hit the ground running with a unique philosophy to Create, Preserve and Transfer Wealth to its teeming Customers.
Guided by passion and a brand architecture that exudes quality service, performance, respect, integrity, innovation, tenacity and excellence as core values, the promoters of the new quintessential bank were driven by African world view of wealth creation.
This reflects in the naming protocol of the bank’s strategic divisions; Ivory, Manila, Cowry and Coral Banking. The unique naming of its branches as Experience Centres to the minutest simplification of banking Service offering also gave a strong hint that the bank’s brand differentiation was well thought-out.