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Intercontinental : our goal is to be the number one bank in Africa

by Business News Report

By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
Why the consolidation of the four banks in the group?
We had over and above the N25billion prescribed by the government, but we looked at our sister banks and associate and we were not particularly pleased with their direction they were taking management wise and the board of Intercontinental we decided that it was in our own interest to consolidate all the banks to one and be sure that we face one direction. It was like having a single car driving with four steering wheels and each facing a different direction. So we decided to consolidate.
The synergy in consolidation
Since the time of the consolidation things have been looking better and that shows in the result the we just unfolded at our AGM that is the first result since the merger. For example our gross income moved from N15.5 billion in the previous year to N30.87 billion that is 88 per cent increase and that prove the FBA people right that one plus one can be three to be able to be able to do the ono plus one very well so we are happy that gross income shot up by 88 per cent also our deposit base which was N134billion moved to N252billion which is about 130 per cent growth. As you all know deposit is the blood that you use to oil the body of any bank so we are happy that we have a good supply of deposit as i am speaking the deposit is still growing today it must be inching toward N350billion which mean by the end of the year the bar chat will double our deposit base what this means is that customers have a lot of confidence in us I think what we have going for us as an institution is that a lot of people see us as reliable trust worthy and sober they see us as sober group of people where they keep money with us and they will not lose it.

At the beginning
This is the cause have always taken with our colleague since 1989 when we started that most of the money we attracted to this bank belong to pensioners, people who can not go back to work because if a man is 55 or 60 and loses his wealth it will take the mercies of God to regain it because the energy is not as he used to be at 30. The instinct may not even be as it used to be at 40. So we have always told our people we can only invest depositors money in things we know can bring better return to them and that they must not lose money through us so we are happy that this confidence has paid off.
Profit level
On profit we have moved from N6billion the previous year to N11billion in 2006 result and that is clearly 84 per cent growth and profit is the business of business any business that is not profitable will begin to eat into its capital and is going to collapse so we are happy that we are able to increase our profit and we are confident that in the new year the profit will further increase by at least 84 per cent if not more.
Dividend payout
We decided to pay a dividend of a total N4.6 billion to shareholders last year it was N2.3billion now we are paying N4.6billion as individual share last year we paid 42kobo this year we are paying 45 kobo. The reason is that we have many more shareholders now. We have 217,000 shareholders now we have more mouth to feed that is why we did not increase our dividend payout to 80 kobo. It were the old Intercontinental family they would have got more money. We believe that this new year the dividend will certainly be more that the 45 kobo we are paying. When we talk about 45 kobo dividend per share given the price at which people bought the share our return is one of the highest in the industry. We sold our shares at N6 and we have issued bonus of one for ten we have paid interim dividend once and we are coming with final dividend now so those who bought the shares are singing a lot of alleluia song. If you look at the value of our shares at the Stock market today it trading at N16 when we sold at N6 and we believe that this upward movement will continue because the bank is showing that it is very upward mobile. This is why we decided that those who miss the opportunity last time we should give focus them opportunity whether they will buy into the bank.
Customer loyalty
One of the reason why customer do business with us is because of our IT. Right from October 10 when we announced our merger long before the Soludo deadline all customer of the four banks that merged into Intercontinental were able to withdraw in any of the branches. We were able to achieve that because God blessed us with some intelligent IT staff who were able to develop a software called the middle ware by that they caused the four different soft ware to talk to each other.
I want to believe that we are one of the few banks that consolidated that can say today that our system is still on line real time. A lot of others are grappling and like I said I give the credit to our officers who were able to write this particular soft ware. The soft ware is to manage us out we know that the final destination is to migrate all the banks to a major soft ware.
Need for increase in capital
Yesterday we announced that we are going to raise new capital in the market. Today we have formally notified the Nigerian Stock Exchange, we have paid their dues, they have suspended trading on our shares so that there would be no insider trading and we are looking at raising N60 billion a combination of Rights Issue, Preference shares and ordinary shares but there is a clause there preference, rights and ordinary shares but if Nigerians are kind enough to give us above N60billion we have room to take as much as N80billion. We decided that we want to be a big bank. As at today our shareholders fund is about N54billion If we raise N60 to N80billion we will be talking about N110billion to N130billion which we be one billion dollars which is good. What we have noticed is that since we recapitalise a lot of foreign banks have taken interest in us they have been meeting us some of them are talking on how to invest in us and co that has encouraged us to say that small is not good in reality so why don’t we get large and also if you look at the banks in South Africa one is bigger than all the Nigerian Banks we want to reverse the situation. We want to be sure that the business that South Africa do we can do them as well. So we are trying to raise capital. And also we want to spend money on IT we have started spending we want to spend more this the age of technology. This is no longer the time when you use human strength to do any thing. Technology will do it better.

Warming up for Global competition
This not the time you send statement of account to people, customer should be able to use their mobile phones to check their account balance people should be able to transfer money between banks from their bed room because this is what is happening in the UK now and I want to be sure this come to Nigeria. We are positioning ourselves for Global Competition, we are looking at the situation, we want to see by the time they publish the 1,000 banks in the world we want to be in the first 500 and our goal is not just to be the number one bank in Nigeria but the number one bank in Africa we are focusing in Africa not just Nigeria. Also recently we got the approval of the bank of Ghana to set up a branch there our team is on the ground there setting up the branch I believe before the end of the month we will formally announce the opening of the branch we are equally looking at other countries, we are eyeing South Africa, we are eyeing UK and the west Africa sub region and for every area we looking up to it important that business will be there we will not expand for expansion sake we must be sure that the money is there.
The technology we are buying now is called flexcub it is a very versatile banking IT system once we installed that the question of real time on line solution will be a thing of the past because I have visited them in India I watched
CBN has removed cap in interest rate will interest go up ?
No lending rates will not go up. I think what is happening in CBN now is good. You will notice that no body is making noise about bankers any more. You know before the advent of Soludo if husband and wife fight at home they will say it is bankers that must have caused it but nowadays that has gone the reason being that they have subjected the economy to free market forces on the one hand and competition on the other in a situation where there is competition there is no way any body can charge arbitrary prices you must remember now that just like the telecom companies no bank can hold you to ransom if a bank is getting difficult you go next door. It competition that regulate prices.
Customer help mobile line
The mobile number they send messages to we came about that number due to the bitter experience I had in London. One lady came with her friend to my house, they did not know I was connected with Intercontinental and they were discussing with my wife and I sat there not involved in women’s talk and they were talking about consolidation and the banks that will go under suddenly one of them mentioned Intercontinental and they said no way that bank must go under and what is the reason he said that staff of a particular branch were horrible and he mentioned a lot of things they have done wrong and she was told I was the one that run Intercontinental and she said I hope I have not said any thing wrong. But the reality was that a lot needed to be done in that place. That troubled me a lot and I called home to speak to customer care unit to tell them my experience and when I came back I put it in a memo to all staff that this is exactly my experience. God gave us an idea, put notice in each branches with a number which can come directly to me on SMS and let customer tell us their problems in such branches. This has helped us a lot.

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