By Abdul Rahman Aliagan
“Our business strategy is built on being the bank of choice for businesses across the African continent. Using our extensive spread across the continent, we aim to facilitate inter and intra African trade and also be the pivot for inflow of investment capital into the continent. Through the maintenance of a quality balance sheet, we will support infrastructural development across the continent and be the lead bank in Africa’s renaissance.” – UBA
The United Bank for Africa , which emerged after 68 years of uninterrupted banking operation, started out as a subsidiary of the British and French Bank Limited (BFB), working its way to take the front seat among the nation’s financial institutions. Until now, it was inconceivable that, considering the wide gap with some financial institutions in the country, the institution fondly called Africa’s global bank would be able catch up with the financial institutions that have spanned over a century.
With its brutally selective position, UBA’s stoutly-stand as a pan-African bank is driving the African economy renaissance. For sure, UBA is well positioned as a one-stop financial services institution, with growing reputation as the face of banking on the continent. UBA operates through a network of close to 1,000 branches in 19 African countries as well as France, US and United Kingdom. It is equally offering universal banking services to over 14 million customers with N171 billion market capitalization as of June 2016.
When the financial institution was baptised with Africa’s Global Bank, not many people were in tune with such a status. It is instructive to say that UBA is the toast of customers seeking financial services at their beck and call. The state-of-the-heart cutting-edge technologies, innovations, services delivery, spirited team leaders, members laced with global best practices financial system have all culminated into the brand UBA is celebrating over the years.
For sure, the financial institution did not attain such a lofty height by accident but rather by consistent hard work led by courageous leaderships the bank enjoyed over time. UBA, without any ambiguity, is taking a lead in service delivery and innovation such as e-banking, U-Mobile, U-Direct Retail and Corporate, personal banking, wholesale banking and money transfer. As one of the leading financial institutions in Nigeria, UBA is creating an enduring and enabling financial sector and setting the pace for Nigeria’s and Africa’s development.
UBA heavily invested to build one of the most secured IT platforms in the African banking industry to ensure customer transactions are always secure on the bank’s platform.
The bank’s Internet Banking application and Data Centre operations passed ISO 27001 Certification mark in 2012 and is still maintaining its edge till date confirming the adequacy of the bank’s security platform for online transactions.
It is not gainsaying to say that UBA has a very strong spread across Africa, its presence across 19 African countries means much as it gives confidence that the bank can follow its customers and businesses across national boundaries providing them with all the support they need for businesses and personal comfort.
The bank boasts of strong presence in regions and in the three major financial centres of the world–London, New York and Paris. This has continued to give the financial institution a unique and strategic position that no African bank can boast of. The bank thrives on e-banking revolution that is facilitating qualitative service delivery
‘Africa’s global bank’ as it is fondly called is today the standard by which all other financial institutions are measured. No financial institution in recent times has ever challenged its position as one of the leading banks in Nigeria.
The Chairman of UBA Board of Directors, Mr. Tony Elumelu, at a forum in France recently confirmed that the bank is strategically dominating African markets.
“As Chairman of United Bank for Africa, a bank with a long history of 70 years on the continent, we have aggressively expanded our operations to 1,000 branches across 19 African countries to take advantage of these opportunities. UBA serves 14 million Africans, facilitates trade and payments across the continent and also supports SMEs – including women and youth – to actualize their economic aspirations,’’ he had said.
United Bank for Africa is ranked as one of the best three in Nigeria in customer base, e-banking patronage, large balance sheet and has continued to maintain such a lead, capitalising on its dominance in African markets as well as on undoubted transparency, humility, empathy, integrity and resilience.
These formed the financial institution’s core value.Giving the large balance sheet size and strong liquidity, UBA is playing at the top end of the all the markets, targeting big ticket transactions across Africa. Without any doubt, UBA has continued to answer the call as Africa’s global bank as it has consistently played leading roles arranging finance for critical sectors of the African economy in the areas of oil and gas, power, telecommunication agriculture amongst other sectors.
In all countries where UBA operates, it confidently has a strong working relationship with the public sector, supporting it in its fiscal operations, while also meeting their long term infrastructure finance needs.
Today, UBA boasts of close to 14 million customers and its fame is still growing at an accelerated pace in innovations and quality customer services delivery.
Instructively, there is much more to UBA’s growing fame; not only is UBA dominant across a multitude of financial institutions in Nigeria, it is also ideally situated to develop a variety of other financial institutions in the country and on the African continent.
With Elumelu taking up the administration of the bank as the Group Managing Director immediately after the merger, the bank had continued to witness unprecedented growth and development, Tony as he is fondly called has successfully laid down a very strong base for the successive management to perch on.
Owing to a unique succession plan, the legacy of a vibrant administration has equally continued to be enjoyed in the administrative system of the bank.This unique plan has just seen Mr. Phillip Oduoza through as the immediate past GMD of the bank having sustained the legacy he met on ground and bowing out at the expiration of the two consecutive tenures in August 2016.
The news of another successful selection exercise was broken by the bank’s Board of Directors chaired by Elumelu on March 1st, 2016. The board announced a visionary, young, energetic Harvard product, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka as Managing Director, to the delight of stakeholders. The system’s culture demanded six months period of handing and taking over the mantle of leadership by a new administration.
August 1st marked another turning point in the history of UBA as an astute administrator, affable humanist and a colossus in financial circles took over the coveted position of UBA as the Group Managing Director of Africa’s global bank.
His choice was premised on clear vision of taking the bank to the next level of financial excellence, innovation and service delivery. One of Uzoka’s priorities is to maintain and sustain the achievements that had been made in the bank prior to his assumption of duty.
Secondly, it is to invent, create and recreate new innovations and ideas that are in conformity with modern trends, particularly the 21st century approach to banking and financing with a multiplier effect on the Nigerian and African economy.
With his wealth of experience, the engineer-turned banker believes nothing is impossible to achieve. This was the exact mindset Uzoka brought to bear in his tour of duty in UBA.
This singular commitment had shot up Uzoka to the number one top management position of Africa’s global bank.
Uzoka possesses both natural and acquired skills to do well on the job, particularly at a very challenging time for the Nigerian economy, given the crashing price of oil, foreign exchange fluctuations and shaky economic landscape.
Having travelled wide in the course of his chosen career, the new Group Managing Director had certainly seen it all and is deploying this in precipitating the lofty global best practices experiences.
Of this vision, he recalls: “Our strategic initiatives in 2016, and indeed over the near to medium term, are anchored on putting our customers at the heart of every decision and action we take. It is a Customer First approach to business. We strongly believe our customers are the essence of our existence as a business and we have prioritised this most important stakeholder in our strategic and tactical initiatives.
“With this approach, we are confident in successfully transiting UBA Plc to the next phase of its growth, as we progress our vision of being the undisputed leading and dominant financial services institution in Africa. We will be disciplined in our strategy execution, which will ultimately deliver superior and sustainable return to our shareholders.
“It is a two-prong strategy that will further enhance our revenue generation and improve cost efficiency.
“We duly note the challenging operating environment and intensifying competition.
“However, we see opportunities amidst these challenges and we will leverage our unique platform in building “economic moat” for UBA in the African banking industry. We will further extract synergies across our operations to grow our share of existing market and create new opportunities. At this point, let me quickly take you through our earnings .
“We are committed to sustaining our net interest margin at a minimum of 6.3% in 2016. We will leverage on our balance sheet optimization initiatives, to further improve asset yields. Interestingly, our improving deposit mix and funding cost will enhance our ability to sustain our NIMs.
“Notwithstanding external cost pressures, we remain committed to our cost efficiency initiatives, as we expect to keep our cost growth below inflation rate and further moderate the cost-to-income ratio to a level below 65%.
“Whilst we are not completely immune to the impact of macroeconomic pressures on risk assets, we are confident in the quality of our portfolio. We are working closely with our customers and will continue to proactively monitor developments in the global and domestic economic environment to address probable impact of our portfolio.
“We will defend our asset quality to keep NPL ratio below 2.5%and we believe cost of risk should remain around 1% in 2016.
“Even as household income levels and corporate cash flows may not recover strongly in 2016, we will grow our share of deposits across markets to deliver between 10% and 15% growth in deposits. We remain cautiously optimistic and will maintain our moderate risk appetite. Hence, we expect the loan book to grow in the early teens of between 10% and 15%.
“Our earnings growth initiatives and cost efficiency gains will ensure that we sustain return on average assets at a minimum of 2.2% and we will deliver higher than 20% return on average equity. It is our commitment to sustainably deliver superior return to our shareholders in excess of their cost of equity. We remain true to our pledge of building an enduring institution and implore everyone on this call to support our course.”
With impeccable credentials, marketing and administrative prowess as well as never-say-die spirit, Uzoka is set to put before the whole world a United Bank for Africa that is truly Africa’s global bank hinged on innovation and service delivery.