INTERNATIONAL BANKS

Nigeria 2020 | FINANCE | B2B

Improving their cost profile and implementing innovative digital products and significantly improved processes, the world's major banking operations are adjusting to Nigeria's stringent banking regulations to extend the empire of credit within the country.

Lamin Manjang
LAMIN MANJANG
Regional CEO
Standard Chartered Bank
Abubakar Suleiman
ABUBAKAR SULEIMAN
CEO
Sterling Bank

How do you stay ahead of the curve in Nigeria?
LAMIN MANJANG Standard Chartered Bank has a long history in Nigeria, where it originally started as Standard Bank and needed to exit the market with the indigenization decree (known formally as the 1977 Enterprises Promotion Decree). In 1999, we re-entered as Standard Chartered, and over the last 20 years we have grown to become a significant part of the Standard Chartered Business globally. Nigeria is our largest market in Africa, making up a significant part of our global business. The largest part of our business is corporate banking. We serve the sovereign, multinationals, banks, and large local corporations. It is a growing portfolio. We also have a retail banking and a commercial banking business, but it is relatively small compared to the rest of the business we have here. Strategically, we want to rebalance the business so that the retail banking business and commercial banking business can also grow significantly.

ABUBAKAR SULEIMAN It is the result of our streamlined focus, which ensures outstanding results and delivery of value to our customers. Add a realigned culture, innovative digital products, and significantly improved processes to the mix, and you have your answer. We are reconfigured to receive real-time information from the market and respond quickly to customer needs. Our biggest advantage today is the ability to develop, deploy, and scale digital products in a short time. We are customizing solutions faster to improve operational efficiency, making it easy to eliminate customer pain points. As a bank, we are focused on changing our cost profile. Given our prior investments, we will be focusing our efforts on creating channels of engagement that are much more efficient, convenient, and cheaper. To achieve this, we will replace some of our traditional channels with digital ones. We understand the need for physical interactions and will create more cost-effective ways of doing so. We are also retooling and reskilling our people for this new order. The core of the growth in the workforce will be on the advisory and technology side rather than the traditional processing side.

What strategies are you undertaking to grow in country?
LM Retail business is one of the areas where we see enormous potential for growth. However, given our limited branch network in Nigeria, the ability to scale up that business is limited. Still, we have invested substantially in a digital banking proposition. We launched a full bank on the digital platform in 2019. That enables us to onboard clients digitally, so they do not have to visit a branch. They can actually open an account in less than 10 minutes. All service requests and transactions can be done on the platform, which has enabled us to start scaling up our retail banking business significantly within a short period of time. The strategy is for retail banking to become a much bigger part of our overall business in Nigeria.

AS We are held to high standards. This makes up for the perception gap that banks in emerging markets are riskier, as the regulator continues to strive for an enabling environment to attract the flow of capital. The pace at which we have implemented changes that have come with standards such as IFRS 9, BASEL 2, and BASEL 3 is fairly ahead of the curve. The positive side is that these high standards enable us to continue to attract capital into the country. The minimum capital requirement set by the regulator is 10% for local banks and 15% for international banks. This is a double-edged sword. Having a high capital requirement affects your ability to create leverage. A desire to lend to the sectors that we are focused on could be negatively impacted if the sectors do not have sufficient capital allocated to them, but at the same time, a low minimum capital requirement could adversely affect the ability to attract the required funding needed. The good news is that, at present, there is no funding challenge in Nigeria as there is a significant cash reserve requirement. 6