Adebayo Obajemu

As part of its own contribution to fighting the encroaching economic meltdown arising from COVID-19, and to stimulate economic activity of small businesses, Wema Bank Plc has extended the tenure of loans to cushion the effects of the pandemic.

Having recently held its Annual General Meeting by proxy, the bank announced an impressive growth in Customer Loans and Advances by 15% y-on-y to N289.61bn from N252.19bn in Q4 2018.
“This superlative performance gives us a good ground to provide extended loan support to businesses and individuals during this period,” said Head of Credit Risk Management, Wema Bank Plc. Mr Uchenna Obazeh.

Speaking on the loan tenure extension, Mr Obazeh disclosed that the extension of school loans have been approved for one academic term (4 months). For businesses, he added that business support loans have been approved for 90 days (3 months) in order to ameliorate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Obazeh further confirmed that the loan extension was also being considered for other sectors, and approvals are being sought from the CBN in line with the impact the pandemic will have on specific sectors as well as the estimated rates of recovery.

“For businesses, this is not a time to run from the Banks. Business owners need to sit with their bankers, assess the potential impact on their businesses and align repayment obligations with their projected cash flows,” he advised.
Speaking further, Mr Obazeh added that given the uncertainty surrounding when vaccines will be found, some businesses may have to alter their business models to become more adaptable. He enthused that well-analyzed credits availed under realistic terms will continue to succeed as the CBN is encouraging continued availability of credits to eligible businesses even in these times.

Mr Obazeh predicted an increase in non-performing loans. Although, in his words, “it will not be as significant as it would have been without the palliative measures and intervention funds made available by the CBN, as well as Banks working closely with their customers.

“We advise businesses reappraise their operating models first, assess the impact and come up with realistic projected cash flows first. Obtaining a loan should not be the first thing. A loan will help a business increase supply. It, however, has to assess demand, as well,” he cautioned.

On how Wema Bank is helping businesses on its credit list to grow to fulfil its financial commitments, he noted that the bank is providing advisory services in addition to making the loans available.