By Peter Egwuatu
Shareholders of Sterling Bank Plc have commended the board and management of the bank for the remarkable display of resilience, and improved financial performance despite the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global and local economic environment.
The shareholders at the 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the bank held by proxy in Lagos and streamed live across digital platforms also approved resolutions for the declaration of a dividend of five kobo per share, the election of directors, remuneration of auditors, and the election of shareholders’ representatives on the statutory audit committee.
Commenting on the bank’s performance, Mr Matthew Akinlade, President of Nigeria Solidarity Shareholders Association (NSSA), commended the bank for consistently improving on its earnings per share in the last five years.
In her comments, Mrs Bisi Bakare, National Coordinator of Pragmatic Shareholders Association, congratulated the bank for another successful year. She applauded the Board and Management for the significant growth in total assets and deposit base, improved retained earnings, increased profit before tax and reduced operating costs and non-performing loans.
Mr Boniface Okezie, National Chairman of Progressive Shareholders Association, also commended the bank for its achievement in a pandemic year. He appreciated the bank’s management for the consistent dividend payout while urging it to continue to pursue its repositioning strategies aggressively to ensure it competes favourably in the industry.
On his part, Dr Faruk Umar, President, Association for Advancement of the Rights of Nigerian Shareholders (ARNS), described the bank’s performance as excellent and commended it for its accounts’ quality.
Addressing shareholders at the meeting, Mr Asue Ighodalo, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the bank, remarked that the bank focused on the continued strategic development of its core pillars – Digitisation, Agility and Specialisation – in a challenging year.
He said the bank has effectively engaged with existing and potential customers and responded to market trends and developments while maintaining its long-standing commitment to innovation.
Ighodalo said, “Sterling Bank sustained an improvement in business performance during the year under review despite the harsh economic environment triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Although earnings declined by 7.5 per cent to N138.9 billion, we delivered a 15.9 per cent growth in profit before tax and a 6.0 per cent growth in profit after tax to N12.4 billion and N11.2 billion respectively.”
He noted that in line with the commitment to drive operational efficiency across the organisation, the bank achieved a 2.5 per cent reduction in operating expenses as it continues to leverage on past investments made in technology.
He said the bank closed the year with an improved balance sheet position as total assets grew steadily by 9.8 per cent to N1.3 trillion in 2020. This was driven by consolidated efforts in mobilising customer deposits, leading to a record 6.5 per cent growth in deposit base to reach N950.8 billion from N892.7 billion in 2019.
Ighodalo said the bank achieved a 39.5 per cent growth in low-cost current and savings accounts deposits resulting in an improved deposit mix of 78.9 per cent (CASA/total deposit) during the year under review. He said this contributed largely to the improved cost of funds from 6.3 per cent in 2019 to 4.7 per cent in 2020 below the five per cent threshold. The bank also grew shareholders funds by 13.5 per cent to N135.8 billion on the back of a rise in retained earnings.
The Chairman said the bank continues to prioritise the interest of shareholders while maintaining adequate capital buffers to support the sustainable growth of the business and has therefore proposed a dividend of five kobo per share for approval.
Ighodalo assured the shareholders that the board and management of the bank are committed to delivering value to them as they continue to drive the growth and profitability of the business towards creating a world-class financial institution of choice.