Between 2014 and 2015, Ecobank Nigeria grew at an astonishing rate of 155 percent. While Africa’s largest economy is no stranger to high growth percentages (its economic growth has frequently hit the 6 percent mark over the past decade) the Nigerian branch of the pan-African bank has made a particularly unique effort. Bolstering its growing position in a crucial market by doubling down on its technological capabilities, Ecobank Nigeria is well-positioned to become the bank of choice – not only for Nigerians, but for all its potential customers in the 40 countries in which it is present.
Ecobank’s Group CEO Ade Ayeyemi explains that the recent success of the bank is not simply down to the economic prosperity of Nigeria: “Indeed, we have had substantial growth in recent years,” he says. “This has been attributable to discipline and dedication. Growth came with our expansion and also because we took advantage of the environment and worked hard to create what we have today.
“We are a full-service bank providing wholesale, retail, investment and transaction banking services and products to governments, financial institutions, multinationals, international organisations, medium, small and micro businesses and individuals.
“Our net revenue in 2014 was $2.28 billion. For the first nine months of 2015 it was $1.6 billion. Profit before tax for 2014 was $520 million, and $398 million for the first nine months of 2015.”
What Ecobank Nigeria has today is a truly expansive offering of banking and financial services, available to people who might be accessing banking for the first time, all the way up to supporting businesses and investors. Its offering, therefore, provides services for personal, business, and corporate customers. Alongside typical services such as loans and accounts, Ecobank Nigeria offers such services as cash management solutions, supply chain financing, and a range of investor and asset management services.
Ayeyemi expands: “Today, our group employs more than 20,000 people in 36 different countries and we have over 1,200 branches and offices. Our geographical map not only covers Nigeria and the other countries of Anglophone West Africa, but also the francophone grouping of countries that make up the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), and Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.”
The value of the network
Keen to deliver the best possible services to its customers, Ecobank has formed a number of partnerships that have enabled it to achieve this, as Ayeyemi explains: “We recently implemented a partnership with Orange in the area of mobile money and mobile banking to further bring banking to the doorsteps of our customers in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, Guinea Conakry and Niger.
“This is in addition to our Ecobank Mobile platform in Nigeria and Kenya, and existing partnerships with Airtel, MTN, Tigo and Moov in about 18 other affiliates within our network.”
From a customer relationship management perspective, the bank’s strategic objective is to drive the ease and speed of doing business. In order to achieve this, it has driven the use of digital channels, tailored to specific customer segments, for sales and service delivery. These channels are particularly easy to access, and speed up the banking process, making it a great deal more convenient for customers.
“We formed landmark alliances with major mobile telecommunication companies such as MTN, Airtel and Orange to offer mobile financial services to our customers across Africa. Ecobank is also the first bank in Africa to partner with Western Union in the delivery of Western Union transfers to bank accounts as well as encashment of transfers through our ATMs.
“We are probably the only bank in Africa that accepts VISA, Master-Card, UnionPay and PAC cards, and is also active in e-commerce with the re-cent launch of Mymall in Nigeria.”
Ayeyemi adds: “These initiatives informed changes to our sales approach as well as our first and second line service support, impacting on our front, middle and back-offices. We have widened our card offering, enhanced our Corporate and Retail Internet banking and Collections platforms, increased the coverage of our 24/7 Contact Centre services, further innovated our Mobile Banking product offering, and continue to expand our distribution of Merchant Point of Sale (POS) Terminals.”
Of late, technology has been a key enabler for the business in allowing it to achieve its objectives. Having already proved its worth several times over, technology has become a goal in itself; Ecobank now seeks to build a technology-led banking institution that is capable of meeting future challenges from the disruptors in the financial services space.
This technology-led transformation began in 2006 when the company consolidated 37 small data centres that were spread across the continent into a single tech hub in Accra, Ghana. Not only has this acted as the backbone that supports service offerings, it has also worked as a platform for developing technological offerings.
Ayeyemi adds: “Our focus is to continue to leverage digital channels to improve the convenience and satisfaction of our customers. In this regard, we recently upgraded our Retail Internet Banking platform in Nigeria. We have made recent technological advances in our customer on-boarding, cards, mobile, remittances, processing platform and office efficiency systems.
“Ecobank has also deployed an image-based workflow processing platform that enables remote processing of customer transactions. Another part of our technology-led banking vision is to make work easy for our employees by deploying various office efficiency systems, whether in communication, procurement, or travelling.”
Ayeyemi explains how the bank’s talent management philosophy is uniquely linked to a shared vision for the success of the continent. He says: “The Ecobank story is an African story – our core vision, and the ethos of our company is one that brings all Africans together. We don’t do a hard sell to attract talent, but we get the best.
“The people we attract join the group for both intellectual and emotional connection. The emotional connection is the Africa story – the yearning of Africans to contribute to this journey. There is clear evidence of the intellectual connection in how we develop our employees.”
The opportunities for progress and development within the corporate structure of the bank are almost endless. Its development platform has received repeated investment over the years and this ongoing initiative has been continually bolstered by internal efforts to create a comfortable and inspiring workplace for its employees.
Ayeyemi expands: “Ecobank believes in the overall development of its employees. As part of our HR strategy, we have built and put in place a separate Ecobank Academy, which acts as the conduit for design and execution of our learning and development strategy across the group.
“First we have our Professional Development programmes. These are business specific programmes that are jointly designed with the responsible business executive to build capabilities on the skills and competencies required to deliver the business strategy, as well as enhance our talent bench-strength.
“Our Leadership and Management Development programmes are designed specifically to ensure a strong Leadership team with the combined best practice leadership capabilities, coupled with Ecobank agreed leadership requirements. These programmes are designed based on categories of leadership in the organisation and range from supervisory to executive management positions.
“Our Business Enabler programmes are designed to address specific employee development needs such as negotiations skills, influencing skills, and communication skills.”
As a key market for the Ecobank group, Nigeria offers the business a wealth of opportunities and, in turn, the bank has an extensive offering of financial and banking products that appeal to every section of the country’s rich socio-economic makeup.
Ayeyemi concludes: “We want to win in the marketplace with our customers and our investors. We want to win with our employees and with the communities where we operate. For our customers, we want to be a provider of service and for our employees, an exemplary employer. For our shareholders, an investment of choice, and for the communities where we operate, a neighbour of choice. We want to be judged as an example of best practice to which others can aspire.”