Access Bank Plc shareholders on Thursday commended the board, management and staff for the impressive performance recorded in 2019 financial year in spite of challenging operating environment.
The shareholders gave the commendation at the bank’s 31st Annual General Meeting (AGM) held by proxy in Lagos due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr Sunny Nwosu, Founder, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), lauded the bank for improved results and dividend payment.
Nwosu said the dividend was very timely given the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said Access Bank had a good foresight by merging with defunct Diamond Bank Plc.
“The professional and seamless manner with which the integration was done should be commended and shareholders appreciate the board and management,”Nwosu ssid.
According to him, the future remains very bright for the all shareholders, considering the synergy the merger has brought to the bank.
He said that they would also benefit from the expertise the management and staff continued to deploy to maintain a leading role in the retail banking space.
Nwosu also lauded leading efforts of Access Bank in the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), to support the Federal Government to fight the pandemic.
Also speaking, Mrs Bisi Bakare of Pragmatic Shareholders Association of Nigeria, noted that unlike some of its competitors, the bank had recorded increased profit in the past three years.
“Shareholders have confidence in the board and management to continue to deliver improved performance, going forward,” she said.
In his address, Dr Herbert Wigwe, the bank’s Group Managing Director/CEO, said the group delivered a 26 per cent increase in gross earnings of N666.8 billion, from N528.7 billion in 2018.
According to him, the company recorded interest income 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 N155.9 billion (+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 N103.2 billion achieved 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.
Wigwe said the bank ended the year with profit after tax of N97.51 billion, up from N94.98 billion in 2018, and paid a final dividend of 40k to bring the total dividend to 65k per share.
Wigwe explained that 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 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 was already addressing the issue of high operating expenses and taking drastic measures to ensure that expenses were reduced significantly.
He said that the effect would be felt mostly in the second, third and final quarter of 2020.
Speaking on how Access Bank was running its business in the COVID-19 period, the GMD assured that it had put in place a robust business continuity process, enough to sustain its 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 is now working with CACOVID to make sure that everyone knows what he is doing,” he said.