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By EMEKA EJERE

In a country where people go to their banks more often than not prepared not to get full satisfaction due to their past experiences, visiting a bank branch where everything represents an improvement on the status quo is always a great delight.

Perhaps there can be no better way to capture the experience of the Across-The-Counter team of BusinessHallmark when they paid an unscheduled visit to the Alausa branch of Access Bank Plc on Friday, March 6.

A first-time visitor does not need to enter the banking hall before being exposed to many features that immediately speak volumes that the branch places high value on the lives and convenience of its numerous customers.

That it shares a neighborhood with the Lagos State Government Secretariat leaves no one in doubt that it is not a branch where both the staff and customers will have reasons to nurse fear of any form of robbery attacks both inside the bank and on their way out.

From a spacious parking lot that gives both the security personnel and the bank customers little or no stress in parking or moving out their vehicles, it is easy to tell that the huge customer base the branch enjoys has not taken it by surprise. Covered with interlocking tiles, the compound is big, neat with pathways that guide the vehicles of arriving and departing customers.

The security personnel on hand look neat, happy and put up smiles that suggest they love what they do. There is a perfect division of labour among the security men on the ground, with each striving not to be found wanting. The security doors, the ATM gallery and the vehicle park are overseen by different individuals.

For instance, a security guard is always by the two security doors to ensure that entry and exit from the banking hall are hitch-free. “Welcome to Access Bank”, “Thank you for banking with us”, the security man tells the customers as they come and leave.

There are three automated teller machines (ATMs) at the premises, all of which were dispensing cash as at the time of our team’s visit. The ATM gallery is simply another display of the customer-friendliness of the branch – very neat and fully air-conditioned.

The banking hall offers everything an average Nigerian bank customer will expect. It is very spacious, extremely neat and fully air-conditioned. Customers who need the attention of the customer service section hardly have to stand as there are adequate seats for that purpose.  The customer service staff are friendly and generous with smiles, thereby creating room for customers to express themselves fully.

There were about eight cashiers, all of whom sitting on their duty post ready to attend to customers as they come. This pays off right away by way of decongesting the banking hall.

To further show that the branch does not take anything for granted, people are placed at every strategic position to ensure orderliness. For instance, even when there is no one on the queue, a security man is always standing by in anticipation of customers who must follow the pathway to the counters.

There is also another security man who is stationed to ensure customers get the right slip for their intended transactions. This is to save the customer from the stress of trying to distinguish between deposit and withdrawal slips as the case may be. Customers who feel like visiting the restroom come out happy. The restroom is neat and reasonably comfortable for people of all social classes.

As if the branch conducted a thorough study of the likes and dislikes of both the big and small Nigerian bank customers before putting their measures in place, all the faces at the bank as at the time of the visit were devoid of hurry and worry typical of Nigerian bank customers. Their moods simply suggested that the time spent was worthwhile.

Access bank has come a long way in its push for the top. A middle-level bank before its dramatic and unexpected acquisition of troubled Intercontinental bank Plc in 2011 and capped it with the even much surprising acquisition of Diamond Bank Plc, in 2019, taking it to the top of the ladder on many indicators.

The merger of Access Bank and Diamond Bank on April 1, 2019, has made it the largest bank in Africa. Leading Nigeria’s retail bank was recently named as one of the top 500 global banking brands, by leading business valuation and strategy consultant, Brand Finance.

Since 2017 when it was last ranked as the fifth most valuable Nigerian bank in the Banking 500 report, Access Bank has demonstrated considerable growth. The bank now ranks second with a valuation of $242 million.

It is expected that if the degree of corporate decency exhibited by the Alausa branch of the leading Nigerian lender is replicated at as many other branches as possible, Access Bank stands a chance of growing into a formidable banking brand in the global banking space.

 

Access Bank consolidates merger, pays 65 kobo dividend

Swimming against the tide of a seemingly harsh micro-economic environment, Access Bank has projected strength once again with an impressive performance in its audited results for the year ended 2019.

The banking giant recorded an 11.8 per cent increase in profit in the period of review.

The gross earnings also edged up 26.1 per cent to N666.75billion in 2019 from N528.74 billion it achieved in the corresponding period of 2018.

The net interest income for full-year 2019 rose 59 percent to N277.2 billion as against the N173.6 billion, which was recorded for the corresponding period for 2018.

Market observers believe that the bank’s impressive performance was boosted by  the bank’s net fee and commission income for full-year 2019 stood at N74.05 billion as against the N52.5 billion for the corresponding period for 2018. This represents an impressive 41 per cent increase

With creative and efficient management, the lender grew its profit before tax for the group for full-year 2019 by 11.8 per cent to N115.38 billion from the N103.2 billion that was recorded for the corresponding period in 2018.

Its profit after tax also rose 2.7 per cent to N97.5 billion as against the N94.98 billion which was achieved in a similar period in 2018.

The bank’s balance sheet revealed that there was a massive jump in loans and advances to customers which grew by 46.04 per cent from N1.9 trillion to N2.9 trillion in 2019.

Deposits from customers as at December 31, 2019, almost doubled as it grew by 65.9 per cent to N4.25 trillion as against the N2.56 trillion which was recorded for the corresponding period in 2018.

The bank’s board of directors declared a final of 40 kobo per share.

This brings the total dividend payout for the financial year ended December 31, 2019, to 65 kobo per share.

Whereas the bank’s performance according to analysts revealed strength and goal oriented financial institution, they cautioned the management on the rising personnel expenses and other operating expenses which rose by 34 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.