By Emeka Anaeto, Babajide Komolafe & Peter Egwuatu
Managing Director/Chief Executive, Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Peter Amangbo, said that the bank is pursuing a retail strategy focussed on increased lending to small businesses, households and individuals at affordable interest rate.
He disclosed this yesterday in an exclusive interview with Vanguard Newspaper.
Noting that the sluggish loan growth in the banking industry in 2018 might persist this year due to the slow pace of economic recovery, Amangbo said that Zenith Bank has decided to focus on the retail segment to grow its loan book this year.
He stated: “We just talked about the loan volume going down in the industry but we are now looking at other areas. If the big ones are not taking loans you won’t fold your hands because those deposits that you are holding, the deposits can even sink a bank. If you take deposit and you don’t know where to deploy it, you can die in liquidity, that is what we normally say, you sink in that liquidity.
“So we are looking for other outlets. We are developing our retail end of the market and we are being very aggressive about that. We believe that is an area with a lot of potential. We are looking at individuals, households, small businesses. We are reaching out to them with credit facilities, whether to pay school fees or to meet some obligations pending payment of their salaries or whether to develop their small businesses, we are reaching out; and about two weeks back, we had an event tagged, “Style by Zenith Bank.”
“The whole objective is to galvanise the economy to let them know that we are well positioned to serve small businesses and to serve households and individuals and even the students; that we are actually there for everybody. That is actually the stage we are moving to.
“We are not that perception that we are elitist; no, we are there for everybody, we have different offerings for everybody. So those that don’t even have security, we have ways of handling some of those things too.”
Referring to the difficulties most banks face in loan performance in the retail segment, Amangbo stated: “We try to be much more efficient in terms of how we do our business in that segment. If you are able to bring down your cost of funds, it is much easier to pass it on to our customers in terms of cost of lending to them. And we believe if you are going to lend to the retail segment, households, small businesses and you are looking at those high rates, then you are inviting a bad loan.
“So for you to say you are going into retail, you must be sure of your cost of funds, which is what we are very mindful of, and that is why we said that deliberately we must bring down our cost of funds, which is basically what we are doing, so that it makes it much easier for us to lend in the retail space. Because the rate must be affordable, if it is not affordable from day one, you have set out to fail and to have bad loans.”
Zenith Bank has one of the lowest cost of fund in Nigeria banking industry, recording 3.3 per cent as at September 2018.