Zenith Bank’s board of directors is set to meet on July 23rd, 2020 to consider the tier-1 bank’s audited financial statements for half-year 2020. The directors will also consider “the proposal for recommendation of interim dividend for shareholders,” said a notice that was sent by the company to the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
In a similar development, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc said in a statement to the NSE that “issues relating to half-year dividend may also be discussed” when its board of directors meet later this month.
Zenith Bank and GTBank, which are two of the most profitable banks in Nigeria, have always paid interim dividends to their shareholders. However, analysts earlier predicted that many banks may hold off on dividend payments as a way of cutting down on costs, in view of COVID-19 and its attendant economic implications. It is, therefore, fascinating to see that Zenith Bank and GTBank are considering interim dividends nonetheless.
Elsewhere, banks around the world have either been warned not to pay dividends at all or to be careful with dividend payouts. In April, The Economic Times reported that the Reserve Bank of India advised Indian banks to suspend dividend payments in order to conserve their capital amid the pandemic. In a similar development, regulators in Europe also banned European banks from paying any dividend in 2020. In Australia, banks were advised to slash their dividend payouts. Meanwhile, over in North America, the US Federal Reserve announced in late June that it will temporarily restrict dividend payouts by some of the country’s biggest banks, the New York Times reported.
As Nairametrics had repeatedly reported, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to adversely impact different sectors of the Nigerian economy, including the financial institutions. An earlier report by Nairametrics quoted Augusto & Co to have predicted how the pandemic would weaken Nigerian banks’ assets. An April report by PwC also highlighted some of the ways COVID-19 could impact Nigerian banks.
In the meantime, the Banking Industry Risk Indicator (BIRI) in Nigeria stands at a score of 12.14 out of 100, according to a recent analysis by Fitch Solutions, as Nairametrics reported.
Do note that Zenith Bank Plc has declared a closed period for the trading in its stock starting from July 6th, 2020. The closed period will last until 24 hours after the company’s half-year 2020 financial report is released to the public. In the meantime, all persons with inside knowledge of Zenith Bank’s affairs shall be prohibited from buying and selling the company’s stock during the closed period.
Banks earn N216 billion in digital banking income amidst threat from Challenger banks
Nigerian banks raked in a sum of N216.52 billion from their e-business earnings in the year 2020.
Nigerian banks raked in a sum of N216.52 billion from their e-business earnings in the year 2020 as tier-1 banks popularly known as FUGAZ (First Bank, UBA, Access Bank, GT Bank, and Zenith Bank) topped the list of highest earners.
Income from digital channels is also classified as electronic business or banking income by the majority of commercial banks. Nairametrics gathered this research from the audited financial statements of 12 of the leading banks in the country. The same banks reported N217 billion in income from digital channels in 2019 dipping marginally by 0.24%.
- Banks attribute the reason for the drop in 2020 compared to 2019 to the revision of fees and charges for electronic transfers by the central bank in early 2020.
- On January 1st, 2020, the CBN ushered in a new regime for bank charges. While these mostly affected things like card maintenance fees, charge for hardware tokens it also affected the amount that can be paid for electronic transfers.
- For example, a graduated fee scale for electronic transfers replaced the current flat fee of N50 such that transfers below N10,000 now attract a maximum charge of N10; and transfers above N50,000, N50.
- USSD fees also got a cut a few months later announcing that customers will pay a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction every time they use USSD services with effect from Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
- The Covid-19 pandemic also played a major role in bank performance as it affected the expansion of the digital rollout plans earlier on in the year. However, the pandemic will swing in their favour as Nigerians increasingly relied on mobile banking for transactions while avoiding banking halls for fear of contracting Covid-19.
Banks and Digital Channels
Banks in Nigeria have increasingly resorted to generating income from digital channels such as their mobile applications, USSD channels, and online banking targeting Nigerians from all works of life. Efforts at increasing revenue from digital channels have been supported heavily by the Central Bank through initiatives such as BVN, POS, and other banking policies driving financial inclusion.
While the apex bank’s policy was aimed at reducing the number of unbanked in the country, banks have seized on the opportunity to offer a wide range of services that have increasingly provided an alternative source of income. According to NIBSS, the total value of electronic transfers for 2020 topped N158 trillion in 2020 a 50% growth when compared to 2019. Transaction volume also rose to 2 billion up 77% when compared to 2019.
Rise Challenger Banks
Banks will face stiffer competition in 2021 as Challenger Banks such as Kuda Bank and V-Bank are more capitalized having attracted significant funding in recent months. These banks offer zero fees as an attractive selling point which they hope will sway customers from the big commercial banks who have long started monetizing their platforms.
Challenger Banks typically earn money from other sources such as providing bespoke services wrapped around savings and investments with their customers. Thus, rather than rely on digital revenues earned from fees and charges per transaction, they earn by actually engaging in the business of banking, lending depositors funds, and investing their free float.
Here are the top earners in 2020:
Apart from Access Bank, UBA, and FBNH, all the other banks posted year-on-year declines. For example, Zenith Bank and GTB recorded a 36% and 25% drop respectively.
However, Access Bank and UBA both recorded an increase of 56% and 14% respectively topping N56 billion and N44.2 billion respectively. Access Bank is now the largest bank making money from e-business income having topped FBNH which posted N48 billion from E-business income, the highest in 2019.
Fifth position – GT Bank (N11.77 billion)
Guaranty Trust Bank, the most capitalized financial institution listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange generated a sum of N11.8 billion from its e-business unit, accounting for about 5.4% of the total e-business revenue in 2020.
- Its e-business revenue declined massively by 24.85% compared to N15.66 billion recorded in the previous year.
- The bank, however, posted a profit after tax of N201.44 billion in 2020 (second only to Zenith Bank), representing a 2.33% increase compared to N196.85 billion recorded in 2019.
Fourth position – Zenith Bank (N27.08 billion)
Zenith Bank earned a sum of N27.08 billion from its e-business in 2020 to stand fourth on the list behind UBA.
- Its income from e-business accounted for 12.5% of the total income generated by the twelve banks. Zenith Bank’s e-business income witnessed a huge plunge of 36.3% in 2020 compared to N42.5 billion it recorded in 2019.
- However, Zenith Bank posted the highest profit of N230.6 billion in the review period, growing its profit after tax by 10.4% from N208.8 billion recorded in 2019.
Third position – UBA (N44.25 billion)
UBA retained its position in third place with a total e-business revenue of N44.25 billion, accounting for 20.4% of the total e-business income generated by the banks on our list.
- UBA recorded a 14.14% increase in its e-business revenue in 2020 compared to N38.8 billion recorded in the prior year.
- UBA has also intensified its effort to build on its 2020 success by releasing a new mobile banking app, which aims to improve the ease of transacting by their customers.
- The tier-1 bank posted a profit after tax of N113.77 billion in 2020, representing a 27.7% increase compared to N89.09 billion recorded in the previous year.
Second position – FBN Holdings (N48.68 billion)
First Bank lost its first position to Access Bank, having increased its e-business revenue marginally by 1.35% to stand at N48.68 billion in 2020. Its e-business revenue accounted for 22.5% of the e-business income recorded by the twelve banks under consideration.
- Despite being one of the oldest banks in the country, First Bank has been at the forefront of the mobile banking revolution.
- The bank was one of the pioneers of the USSD platform which is used to transfer money via a text messaging application of a mobile phone and has continued to create products within the electronic space.
- For example, in November 2020, First Bank launched a Next Generation ATM, referred to as FastTrack ATM, designed to eliminate the need for physical interaction with the automated machine.
- This was as a result of the need to reduce physical contact with people and substances, due to the covid-19 spread in the country.
First position – Access Bank (N56.09 billion )
The largest bank in Nigeria by total assets toppled First Bank, Zenith, and UBA to occupy the first position with e-business revenue of N56.09 billion in 2020.
- Access Bank was in the fourth position in 2019 but catapulted to first as it grew its e-business income by a whopping 55.64% from N36.04 billion recorded in the previous year.
- This increase also translated to a 12.71% growth in profit after tax to stand at N106.01 billion in the review period from N94.06 billion recorded in 2019.
- Access Bank does mention that its E-business income includes earnings from its Channels business.
The increase in its e-business revenue is no surprise as the tier-1 bank spent a sum of N18.7 billion on IT and E-business related initiatives in the same year, as against N9.7 billion incurred in the previous year and N11.39 billion in 2018, a move that clearly translated to a boost in E-business income.
According to a recent article published by Nairametrics, Access Bank stated that it created 4 million digital loans in the year under review and disbursed N105 billion loans through its digital lending platform, indicating a 48% year-on-year growth.
- FCMB – N8.61 billion
- Union Bank – N7.04 billion
- Sterling Bank – N4.97 billion
- Stanbic IBTC – N2.74 billion
- Wema Bank – N2.61 billion
- Fidelity Bank – N2.46 billion
- Jaiz Bank – N214 million
The disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic plunged into the revenue generated by Nigerian banks from their e-businesses, however, they were able to make up for it from their multiple streams of income which translated to a general stellar performance from the sector. It is worth noting that only Access Bank, UBA, and First Bank recorded growth in e-business income in the period under review.
Access Bank spends N18.7 billion on digitization in 2020
Access Bank topped its spending on digitalization to enable it compete.
Nigeria’s largest bank by assets, Access Bank revealed it spent a whopping N18.7 billion in IT and E-Business related initiatives in 2020. The figure is nearly double (92% higher) the N9.7 billion spent in 2019. The same expense line cost it N11.39 billion in 2018.
The bank claims the expenses is in line with its “investments in IT capability with the focus of improving customer experience and to support digitization,” a strategy the bank believes will help it to compete better.
Access Bank reported a spike in revenue from its digital channels posting a revenue of N56.1 billion, a 58% increase from a year earlier. Income from digital channels were N36 billion and N14.2 billion in 2019 and 2018 respectively.
This year, the bank also invested about N10.2 billion on intangible assets out of which N8.49 billion went into purchasing software. Banks also rely heavily on software applications to service their customers and drive operations.
Commercial banks in Nigeria have invested heavily in expanding their digital products amidst an onslaught of competition from FinTechs who are innovating faster and cutting into market share. However, big banks like Access Bank have the financial muscle to compete in this space as buttressed by Access Bank’s spending.
For banks like Access Bank, the focus is to drive financial inclusion and retail customer acquisition through channels such as USSD, Mobile Banking, TelCos and other forms of digital platforms. Access Bank claims these moves have yielded benefits as it recorded improvement across its financial inclusion initiatives.
Access Bank claims its total digital transaction value rose to N33.89 trillion in 2020 made up of 1.6 trillion transaction counts. It also opened 3.6 million new accounts via its Telco partnerships and that it now has 40 million customers out of which 17 million are mobile users (USSD & Mobile).
As the bank explains “our Retail Banking business has grown consistently across all income lines, driven by strong focus on consumer lending, payments and remittances, digitization of customer journeys, and customer acquisition at scale.”
The bank also claims it created 4 million digital loans in the year and it disbursed N105 billion in loans via its digital lending platform generating a 48% year on year growth. It generated N5 billion in revenue from digital lending a 49% growth year on year.
Access Bank is included in our Stock Select Recommendation Portfolio. Find out what our preferred entry and exit price is and what to look out for should you decide to own this stock.
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