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Financial Inclusion: How the unbanked access financial services

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Financial inclusion

Nigeria today has 21 commercial banks, 942 microfinance banks, and numerous financial technology (fintech) and mobile money operators, yet the Nigerian adult population is under-banked. A bulk of this unbanked population comprises rural dwellers, farmers and petty traders.

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According to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Director of Banking and Payment System, Dipo Fatokun, financial inclusion is the access to financial services that are available to the adult population in any given economy. Such financial services include payment, insurance, pension, etc. The more the number of adults who have access to financial services, the higher the financial inclusion.

The CBN had set a financial inclusion target of reaching 80 per cent of the total adult population by 2020, but presently, Nigeria is not on track to meet this target which was set out in the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) of 2012. The NFIS had set two financial inclusion targets for the year 2020: an overall financial inclusion rate of 80% of the adult population and a formal financial inclusion rate of 70% of the adult population. As of 2016, just 58.4% of Nigeria’s 96.4 million adults were financially served and only 48.6% of all adults used formal financial services.

CBN’s combative approach in its move to regulate fintech is also not helping the cause, as the approach is seen to protect banks which have not been able to reel out products that can further financial inclusion.

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Out of curiosity, Nairametrics set out to find out how the unbanked get access to financial services. In our quest, we met Abeeb, a yam seller from northern Nigeria, who moves his merchandise around, using a wheelbarrow in Lagos.

Abeeb, a yam seller in Lagos.

Shockingly, Abeeb thinks he doesn’t need a bank account, as he prefers his money with him. He said that he usually keeps his money in a bag, which he considers secure and he is not ready to lose his money to any bank through unnecessary fees; more so, he thinks he doesn’t have enough money to open a bank account.

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“I keep my money with me in a safe bag. I don’t need an account.

“I don’t want any bank to take my money as charges, and my money is not enough to open an account.” – Abeeb

When asked how he gets money across to his family, he said he sends it through someone to the village. Abeeb risks his life everyday he keeps his money on him, as he could be robbed. Also, his trusted friend could divert his funds and come up with some excuses.

Obviously, Abeeb’s challenge happens to be proper education on how owning a bank account could minimise his risks and help to easily transfer funds to relatives in the village. The onus of educating the populace is on the government, who though spend billions on education, fail to do much in this area.

In the same vein, Ayebabomote Beinmonyo, a fisherman from Igbokoda Ilaje in Ondo State said:

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“We don’t know these banks here. Even from my grandfather down to my father, we don’t know these banks.

“As I am talking to you, we have our local way of organising things – local banking. I have N7 million in this local bank.” – Beinmonyo

Ebipade Timiebi-Whyte who is an Ilaje youth leader, also confirmed Beinmonyo’s assertion. He said,

“There are no banks around so, we rely on thrift collectors – commonly known as Ajo – who will take the money to the bank on our behalf.

“If we decide to use the banks in town, we have to travel a minimum of 30 minutes to get to town, which is not cost effective.

“At the bank, they often keep us for close to two hours unattended to and we don’t have that kind of time to waste.”

Casmir Egemba, a spare part trader at the popular Ladipo spare part market, said he has not been able to get loans from banks to support his business. He said they often have requirements that he can’t fulfil.

“Banks are not willing to provide loans to us, they only want us to come and open accounts with them.

“Anytime we ask for loans, they will ask us to open a current account, have specified minimum balance and transact with it for a specified period. Even when you end up asking, they will say they can’t give loan to small business like mine.

“Also, the interest is even too high, it’s more than 30%.” – Egemba

Supporting Egemba’s comment, Emmanuel Sunday, a grocery shop owner, believes that banks are enemies of small businesses.

“Banks always come up with requirements that we can’t meet to access loan, whereas these guys that do Ajo come to us and encourage us to save to have enough money to support the business.

“I will rather use the Ajo people than the banks”, Sunday said.

How are different financial institutions closing the gap?

Though the challenges are far from over, some financial institutions have started rolling out products and services targeted at the unbanked.

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited currently has Firstmonie agents in all 774 local government areas in Nigeria to serve those who don’t have direct access to the banking halls. According Chuma Ezirim, head of First Bank e-business division:

“The services provided by the agents are the same services you will be offered inside a FirstBank branch.

“Through the agents you can open an account, deposit money, withdraw money as well as check your account balance, all within your locality.”

He further stated that the bank is looking at increasing the number of Firstmonie agents to cover more rural areas.

Online payment solution, Paga is also doing something along the same line, where agents get commissions for withdrawals. Charles Enilama who lives in Olayemi – an interior residential area after Ayobo, close to Ogun State – said he relies on Paga to make withdrawals because it will cost him close to N1,000 to get to the bank along Ayobo road.

Microfinance banks and fintechs are also providing collateral-free loans to small businesses.

What can be done to salvage the situation?

Obviously, ignorance has played a great role in preventing the unbanked from getting formal financial services. This can be reduced through active corporate social responsibility (CSR) by banks to create the needed awareness among the adult population, especially the rural dwellers.

There is need for the regulators, operators and the banking populace to collaborate. Dipo Fatokun, CBN’s Director of banking and payment system, said this is the only way that Nigeria can drive financial inclusion.

Mobile network operators (MNOs) can also provide mobile money services to subscribers. MTN has recently announced its plans in that regard. MTN is planning to obtain a payment banking license in Nigeria by the second quarter of 2019. Considering that they have the largest market share in the telecom space in Nigeria and many of these unbanked are existing subscribers, this will go a long way in reducing the unbanked population in Nigeria.

Patricia
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Why Insurance firms are selling off their PFAs

It has not been uncommon over the years to have insurance companies with pension subsidiaries.

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Why Insurance firms are selling off their PFAs

The idea of mitigating risks and curtailing losses at the bare minimum begins from the insurance industry and only crosses into the pension space with the need for retirement planning. For this reason, it has not been uncommon over the years to have insurance companies with pension subsidiaries. However, controlling the wealth of people is no easy feat – and crossover companies are beginning to think it might not be worth it competing with the big guns; that is, the pension fund administrators (PFAs) that already cater to the majority of Nigerians.

A few months ago, AXA Mansard Insurance Plc announced that its shareholders have approved the company’s plan to sell its pension management subsidiary, AXA Mansard Pensions Ltd, as well as a few undisclosed real estate investments. It did not provide any reason for the divestment. More recently, AIICO Insurance Plc also let go of majority ownership in its pension arm, AIICO Pension Managers Ltd. FCMB Pensions Ltd announced its plans to acquire 70% stakes in the pension company, while also acquiring an additional 26% stake held by other shareholders, ultimately bringing the proposed acquisition to a 96% stake in AIICO Pension. The reason for the sell-off by AIICO does not also appear to be attributed to poor performance as the group’s profit in 2019 had soared by 88% driven by growth across all lines of business within the group.

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 So why are they selling them off? 

Pension Fund Administration is, no doubt, a competitive landscape. Asides the wealth of the over N10 trillion industry, there is also the overarching advantage that pension contributors do not change PFAs regularly. Therefore, making it hard to compete against the big names and industry leaders that have been in the game for decades – the kinds of Stanbic IBTC, ARM, Premium Pension, Sigma, and FCMB. Of course, the fact that PFAs also make their money through fees means the bigger the size, the more money you make. With pressure to capitalize mounting, insurance firms will most likely spin off as they just don’t have the right focus, skills, and talents to compete.

The recent occurrence of PENCOM giving contributors the opportunity to switch from one PFA to another might have seemed like the perfect opportunity for the smaller pension companies to increase their market shares by offering better returns. More so, with the introduction of more aggrieved portfolios in the multi-fund structure comprising of RSA funds 1, 2, & 3, PFAs can invest in riskier securities and enhance their returns. However, the reality of things is that the smaller PFAs don’t have what it takes to effectively market to that effect. With the gains being made from the sector not particularly extraordinary, it is easier for them to employ their available resources into expanding their core business. There is also the fact that their focus now rests on meeting the new capital requirements laced by NAICOM. Like Monopoly, the next smart move is to sell underperforming assets just to keep their head above water.

READ MORE: AIICO seeks NSE’s approval for conducting Rights Issue

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Olasiji Omotayo, Head of Risk in a leading pension fund administrator, explained that “Most insurance businesses selling their pension subsidiaries may be doing so to raise funds. Recapitalization is a major challenge now for the insurance sector and the Nigerian Capital Market may not welcome any public offer at the moment. Consequently, selling their pension business may be their lifeline at the moment. Also, some may be selling for strategic reasons as it’s a business of scale. You have a lot of fixed costs due to regulatory requirements and you need a good size to be profitable. If you can’t scale up, you can also sell if you get a good offer.”

What the future holds

With the smaller PFAs spinning off, the Pension industry is about to witness the birth of an oligopoly like the Tier 1 players in the Banking sector. Interestingly, the same will also happen with Insurance. The only real issue is that we will now have limited choices. In truth, we don’t necessarily need many of them as long all firms remain competitive. But there is the risk that the companies just get comfortable with their population growth-induced expansion while simply focusing on low-yielding investments. The existence of the pandemic as well as the really low rates in the fixed-income market is, however, expected to propel companies to seek out creative ways to at least keep up with the constantly rising rate of inflation.

 

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Patricia
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Nigerian Banks expected to write off 12% of its loans in 2020 

The Nigerian banking system has been through two major asset quality crisis.

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Nigerian Banks expected to write off 12% of its loans in 2020 

The Nigerian Banking Sector has witnessed a number of asset management challenges owing largely to macroeconomic shocks and, sometimes, its operational inefficiencies in how loans are disbursedRising default rates over time have led to periodic spikes in the non-performing loans (NPLs) of these institutions and it is in an attempt to curtail these challenges that changes have been made in the acceptable Loan to Deposit (LDR) ratios, amongst others, by the apex regulatory body, CBN. 

Projections by EFG Hermes in a recent research report reveal that as a result of the current economic challenges as well as what it calls “CBN’s erratic and unorthodox policies over the past five years,” banks are expected to write off around 12.3% of their loan books in constant currency terms between 2020 and 2022the highest of all the previous NPL crisis faced by financial institutions within the nation.  

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Note that Access Bank, FBN Holdings, Guaranty Trust Bank, Stanbic IBTC, United Bank for Africa and Zenith Bank were used to form the universe of Nigerian banks by EFG Hermes.  

READ MORE: What banks might do to avoid getting crushed by Oil & Gas Loans

Background  

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Over the past twelve years, the Nigerian banking system has been through two major asset quality crisisThe first is the 2009 to 2012 margin loan crisis and the other is the 2014 to 2018 oil price crash crisis 

The 2008-2012 margin loan crisis was born out of the lending institutions giving out cheap and readily-available credit for investments, focusing on probable compensation incentives over prudent credit underwriting strategies and stern risk management systems. The result had been a spike in NPL ratio from 6.3% in 2008 to 27.6% in 2009. The same crash in NPL ratio was witnessed in 2014 as well as a result of the oil price crash of the period which had crashed the Naira and sent investors packing. The oil price crash had resulted in the NPL ratio spiking from 2.3% in 2014 to 14.0% in 2016.  

Using its universe of banks, the NPL ratio spiked from an average of 6.1% in 2008 to 10.8% in 2009 and from 2.6% in 2014 to 9.1% in 2016. During both cycles, EFG Hermes estimated that the banks wrote-off between 10-12% of their loan book in constant currency terms.  

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 READ MORE: Ratings firm explains why bank non-performing loans could be worse than expected

The current situation 

Given the potential macro-economic shock with real GDP expected to contract by 4%, the Naira-Dollar exchange rate expected to devalue to a range of 420-450, oil export revenue expected to drop by as much as 50% in 2020 and the weak balance sheet positions of the regulator and AMCON, the risk of another significant NPL cycle is high. In order to effectively assess the impact of these on financial institutions, EFG Hermes modelled three different asset-quality scenarios for the banks all of which have their different implications for banks’ capital adequacy, growth rates and profitability.  These cases are the base case, lower case, and upper case. 

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Base Case: The company’s base case scenario, which they assigned a 55% probability, the average NPL ratio and cost of risk was projected to increase from an average of 6.4% and 1.0% in 2019 to 7.6% and 5.3% in 2020 and 6.4% and 4.7% in 20201, before declining to 4.9% and 1.0% in 2024, respectively. Based on its assumptions, they expect banks to write-off around 12.3% of their loan books in constant currency terms between 2020 and 2022a rate that is marginally higher than the average of 11.3% written-off during the previous two NPL cycles. Under this scenario, estimated ROE is expected to plunge from an average of 21.8% in 2019 to 7.9% in 2020 and 7.7% in 2021 before recovering to 18.1% in 2024.  

Lower or Pessimistic Case: In its pessimistic scenario which has a 40% chance of occurrencethe company projects that the average NPL ratio will rise from 6.4% in 2019 to 11.8% in 2020 and 10.0% in 2021 before moderating to 4.9% by 2024It also estimates that the average cost of risk for its banks will peak at 10% in 2020 and 2021, fall to 5.0% in 2022, before moderating from 2023 onwards. Under this scenario, banks are expected to write off around as much as 26.6% of their loan books in constant currency terms over the next three years. Average ROE of the banks here is expected to drop to -8.8% in 2020, -21.4% in 2021 and -2.9% in 2022, before increasing to 19.7% in 2024.   

Upper or optimistic case: In a situation where the pandemic ebbs away and macro-economic activity rebounds quicklythe optimistic or upper case will hold. This, however, has just a 5% chance of occurrence. In this scenario, the company assumes that the average NPL ratio of the banks would increase from 6.4% in 2019 to 6.8% in 2020 and moderate to 4.8% by 2024Average cost of risk will also spike to 4.2% in 2020 before easing to 2.4% in 2021 and average 0.9% thereafter through the rest of our forecast period. Finally, average ROE will drop to 11.6% in 2020 before recovering to 14.4% in 2021 and 19.0% in 2024. 

With the highest probabilities ascribed to both the base case and the pessimistic scenario, the company has gone ahead to downgrade the rating of the entire sector to ‘Neutral’ with a probability-weighted average ROE (market cap-weighted) of 13.7% 2020 and 2024. The implication of the reduced earnings and the new losses from written-off loans could impact the short to medium term growth or value of banking stocks. However, in the long term, the sector will revert to the norm as they always do.   

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Patricia
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Even with a 939% jump in H1 Profit, Neimeth still needs to build consistency

Neimeth has been one of the better performers in the stock market in the last one year. 

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Even with a 939% jump in H1 profit, Neimeth still needs to build consistency 

Neimeth’s profit after tax for H1 2020 might have jumped by 939% from H1 2019, but there’s still so much the company needs to do to remain in the game. 

For the first time in years, Pharmaceutical companies across the globe are in the spotlight for a good reason.  As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the world waits patiently for this industry to produce a vaccine that can once again lead us back to the lives we all missed. Nigeria is also not an exception, it seems. One of Nigeria’s oldest pharmaceutical companies, Neimeth, has been one of the better performers in the stock market in the last one year. However, there is still so much the company needs to do to earn profits consistently. 

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READ MORE: Covid-19: List of pharmaceutical firms that will receive grants from the CBN

Neimeth’s recently released H1 2020 results show a jump of 19.4% in revenue from 976 million earned in H1 2019 to 1.165 billion in H1 2020. While this is impressive, its comparative Q2 results (Jan-March ‘ 20) show a drop in revenue of 25.4% from 748.8 million earned in Q2 2019, to the 568.7 million revenue in Q2 2020. In similar vein, while its profit-after-tax soared by 939% from 5.447 million in H1 2019 to 56.596 million in H1 2020, its quarter-by-quarter results show a drop of 118%. While there is a truth that some months are better performers than others, Neimeth’s extreme profit jump in the half-year results juxtaposed with the more-than-100% drop in the first quarter of this year, reveal wide-gap volatility in its earning potential. Its revenue breakdown attributes the quarter-by-quarter drop in revenue to a comparative drop in its ‘Animal Health’ product line by a whopping 897.42%. The ‘Pharmaceuticals’ line also only experienced a marginal jump of 2.57%. 

Full report here. 

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READ MORE: Nigeria records debt service to revenue ratio of 99% in first quarter of 2020.

Current & Post-Covid-19 Opportunities  

A 2017 PWC report had revealed that by 2020 the pharmaceutical market is expected to “more than double to $1.3 trillion. Mckinsey had also predicted that come 2026, Nigeria’s pharma market could reach $4 billion. The positive outlook of the industry is even more so, following the disclosure by the CBN to support critical sectors of the economy with 1.1 trillion intervention fund.  

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The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, had stated that about 1trillion of the fund would be used to support the local manufacturing sector while also boosting import substitution while the balance of 100 billion would be used to support the health authorities towards ensuring that laboratories, researchers and innovators are provided with the resources required to patent and produce vaccines and test kits in Nigeria. 

READ MORE: Airtel to acquire additional spectrum for $70 million 

While manufacturing a vaccine for the Covid-19 pandemic might be nothing short of wishful, the pandemic presents a global challenge that businesses in the healthcare industry could leverage. Through strategic R&D, it could uncover a range of solutions, particularly those that involve the infusion of locally-sourced raw materials.  

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In order for the company to attain sustainable growth, it needs to come up with structures and systems that are dependable, while also tightening loose ends. One of such loose ends is its exposure to credit risk. It’s Q2 2020 reports reveal value for lost trade receivables of N693.6 million carried forward from 2019. To this end, it notes that while its operations expose it to a number of financial risks, it has put in place a risk management programme to protect the company against the potential adverse effects of these financial risks. 

At the company’s last annual general meeting (AGM), the managing director, Matthew Azoji, had also spoken on the company’s efforts to gain a larger market share through its initiation of bold and gradual expansion strategies.  

The total revenue growth and profitability of the half-year period undoubtedly signals a potential in the company. However, we might have to wait for the company’s strategies to crystalize and attain a level of consistency for an extended period before reassessing the long-term lucrativeness of its stock or otherwise. That said, it certainly should be on your watchlist.  

Patricia
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