It was commendation galore at the 31st Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Access Bank Plc held in Lagos as shareholders hailed the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of the of the Bank for the highly impressive performance for the 2019 financial year.
The meeting, which was held by proxy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had three leaders of various shareholders’ association present.
Sir Sunny Nwosu of Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Mr. Owolabi Peters of Integrated Shareholders Association of Nigeria and Mrs. Bisi Bakare of Pragmatic Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said despite the challenging operating environment, Access Bank Plc did not only record improved results, but also rewarded shareholders with good a dividend that is very timely given the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, Nwosu said Access Bank Plc had a good foresight by merging with defunct Diamond Bank Plc, noting that “the professional and seamless manner with which the integration was done should be commended and shareholders appreciate the board and management.”
According to him, the future remains very bright for the all shareholders, considering the synergy the merger has brought to the Bank and the expertise the management and staff continued to deploy to ensure Access Bank maintain a leading role in the retail banking space.
Nwosu also commended leading efforts of Access Bank in the private-sector led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), supporting the Federal Government to fight the pandemic.
On her part, Mrs. Bakare said unlike some of its competitors, Access Bank has recorded increased profits in the past three years, noting that shareholders have confidence in the board and management to continue to deliver improved performance, going forward.
In his address, Group Managing Director/CEO, Access Bank Plc, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, said the Group delivered a 26 per cent increase in gross earnings of N666.8billion from N528.7billion in 2018, comprising interest in-come growth of 41 per cent from previous levels to N155.9billion despite declining interest rate environment.
“The effects of an enlarged loan book contributed significantly to the interest income growth of N155.9billion (+41 per cent y/y), leading to strong bottom-line figures. The net effect on operating income resulted in strong profit before tax (PBT) of N115.4billion as against N103.2billion in 2018. The strength of the performance reflects a growing franchise supported by digital capabilities and improving customer service touchpoints. The retail business gained momentum, leveraging opportunities in key sectors to consolidate market share dominance through our digital loans. The wholesale business also continued to soar in the year, following intense marketing drive and continued investment in the sector to deliver stronger synergies,” he said.
The Bank ended the year with profit after tax (PAT) of N97.509 billion, up from N94.981 billion and paid a final dividend of 40 kobo to bring the total dividend to 65 kobo per share.
Wigwe said the merger with Diamond Bank produced a truly diversified institution with remarkable retail presence and solid wholesale market share.
“This has propelled us towards achieving our five- year strategic objectives to create the largest bank in Nigeria by total assets as well as largest in Africa by customer base with over 36 million unique customers across the network. Using an agile approach and with strong dedication, we have achieved a significant milestone in financial services on the continent whilst delivering the fastest and most seamless customer Day 1 integration globally. With the emergence of the new entity, the bank is well- positioned to cater to the retail business through a broader reach and product offerings tailored to individual customer needs and delivered efficiently. Access Bank is now a tier one retail banking franchise with strong digital payments capabilities and benefiting from a diversified business mix,” he said.
Wigwe said the bank is already addressing the issue high operating expenses and taking drastic measures to ensure that expenses are reduced significantly, adding the effect would be felt mostly in the second, third and final quarter of 2020.
Speaking on how Access Bank is running its business in the COVID-19 period, the GMD assured that Access Bank has put in place a robust business continuity process enough to sustain the bank’s performance going forward.
“Access Bank was well prepared for the COVID-19 early enough and created ways of working from home and working with our customers. We set up links with our customers and many ways of reaching out to our customers three or four times in a day. This happened even before we started working with the larger society and enabled us to start fighting this pandemic. So Access Bank has put a system in place and now working with CACOVID to make sure that everyone knows what he is doing,” he said.