By Peter Egwuatu
Shareholders of Sterling Bank Plc have commended its financial performance and dividend payout for the financial year ended December 31, 2019 as the bank’s shareholders’ fund grew by 22.3 percent to N119.6 billion from N97.8 billion in 2018.
They gave the commendation at the 58th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the bank held virtually by proxy and streamed live from the Muson Centre in Lagos.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr. Boniface Okezie, President, Progressive Shareholders Association noted that “Our bank’s AGM is always a day of celebration; a day to give kudos to the board, management and entire workforce for their hard work. But we are constrained by COVID-19 and cannot roll out the drums to celebrate the achievement of our bank today. All the same, we thank the board and management for the impressive outing in 2019 and the dividend recommendation.
“Looking at performance highlights, the bank has done a lot to grow our assets to N1.182 trillion. Loans and advances have also grown, operating income has grown, and our deposit base should hit N1 trillion by next year. We commend the board for retaining earnings, protecting shareholders’ funds, and ensuring there is no insider abuse as it relates to loans. We are happy that our bank is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 and keeping the environment clean through its support for LAWMA.
Also speaking, Sir Sunny Nwosu, National Coordinator Emeritus of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN) appreciated the increase in the bank’s demand deposit which went up by 47 percent and described it as “quite good.”
As a shareholder who is also a customer of the bank, Sir Nwosu was full of appreciation for the way employees of the bank attend to customers and expressed the hope that this excellent service delivery would continue to differentiate Sterling Bank post-COVID-19.
Mr. Nornah Awoh, a shareholder, commended the bank for its level of financial disclosure. He said, “I don’t think it is out of place to have payments of external assessors stated. I want other companies to learn from Sterling Bank and do the same.”
Addressing the shareholders at the meeting, Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Asue Ighodalo said the bank’s shareholders’ fund grew by 22.2 percent to N119.6 billion because of increase in retained earnings despite the challenging operating environment under which it operated during the financial year ended December 31, 2019.
The Chairman said the recorded growth in total equity was attributable to growth in comprehensive income arising from gains recorded from investments in debt securities. He added that the Board of Directors recognised the importance of dividends to its shareholders and constantly sought to balance this with capital requirements to support the bank’s next wave of growth.
“Accordingly, the Board recommends the payment of three kobo per share as dividend for the year ended December 31, 2019 to reward our loyal and committed shareholders. This affords the bank the required buffer to finance its growth ambitions, and effectively become a first-class, stronger, creative and extremely dependable financial institution,” he said.
Ighodalo said, “A direct contribution of our investments in technology and intelligent automation can be seen in the performance of SPECTA -Nigeria’s fastest digital retail lending platform.”
In his comments, Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank, Mr. Suleiman Abubakar, noted that, “For a bank to succeed in these uncertain times, it must be agile, cautious, innovative, knowledgeable and prepared.”
He added that the bank’s unwavering commitment to a more disciplined deployment of scarce capital and the strength of its retail business contributed to a 15 percent growth in profit after tax to N10.6 billion.
On the future prospect of the bank, he said, “we have laid a sound foundation for 2020 with significant investments in technology to accelerate our digitisation,” adding that the bank will serve customers with empathy and knowledge on their own terms.