UBA: Taking Agric Financing, CSR, IT Innovation To Enviable Height

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                               By Ime Akpan

The need for investment in the agricultural sector is increasing due to rising population. According to estimates, demand for food will increase by 70 per cent by 2050, and at least $80 billion annually in investments will be needed to meet this demand, most of which is expected to come from the private sector.

As Nigeria makes effort to diversify and stimulate the economy, much emphasis is placed on farming and financing of agriculture. And to drive the financing process, the federal government has involved the banking sector in that regard.

One bank that the federal government has involved in the disbursement of funds to the agriculture sector and which has taken agriculture financing beyond paper pronouncement is United Bank for Africa (UBA) because of its belief in agriculture as key to diversifying the Nigerian economy from dependence on oil.

The bank adopts a commercial approach to lending to agriculture businesses focusing on gaining market share that follows the main investment trends; non-oil exports, import substitution, agro-processing, retailing and engaging in partnerships with catalyst agencies to develop markets and specific value chain financing products.

In 2009, the bank floated the largest private sector funding scheme of N50 billion to support agriculture and agro-processing industries in Nigeria. Since then, UBA have sustained its commitment to the agricultural sector by committing an average of 7 per cent of its loan to agricultural financing, well above the banking industry average.

In 2010, UBA was one of the two banks selected to disburse N200 billion agriculture fund set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) because of the bank’s commitment to agricultural financing as well as its spread across the country and beyond.

Similarly, when the CBN approved N75 billion as loan to farmers in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under the Nigerian Incentive- Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), UBA that was saddled with the responsibility of registering applicants for the facility.

The product was designed to offer credit facilities to farmers under the Agriculture Loan Scheme initiative of the federal government.

The target beneficiaries of the scheme included individuals in aid employment, micro, small farmers, medium and large scale farmers, corporate organisations, non-governmental organisations, government and its agencies engaged in crop production/ cultivation, poultry, fishery, animal husbandry, plantation agriculture, agro processing, farm machinery and hire services.

The products covered included agro processing, out-growers scheme, livestock farming cultivation of arable crops, storage facilities and maintenance, tractorisation and mechanisation schemes, plantation agriculture, including tree crops replacement scheme.

                      ACCOLADES

In recognition of the bank’s drive to grow agriculture and ensure food security for the growing population, UBA carted home two awards at the Business Day Banking Awards held last September. They are Best Bank in Support of Agriculture and Best Bank in Sub-Saharan Africa awards.

The first award was in recognition of the bank’s leadership role in expanding access to banking across Africa.  The second “Best Bank in Agriculture Financing” was in acknowledgment of the bank’s consistent support to agricultural sector in Nigeria, a substantial part of its loan book being devoted to agriculture and related activities.

Besides, in August 2015, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) at its annual commerce and industry awards night honoured the bank as Nigeria’s biggest lender to agriculture. The awards organiser explained that the honour was in acknowledgment of the bank’s consistency in supporting the growth of agriculture in the country.

In June 2015, UBA was honoured offshore when it won the African Investor (Ai) Social Infrastructure Deal of the Year award at the Ai CEO Infrastructure and Sovereign Investment Summit in Cape Town, South Africa.

The bank got the award for its significant investment in social infrastructure across the continent and building the economic capacity of the communities in which it does its business.

For its innovative approach to transaction, the bank recently won two awards at the Finacle Client Innovation Awards 2016, organised in India by Infosys Limited, the corporation that provides business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services to financial institutions across 19 countries.

The bank won the ‘Award for Process Innovation’ for its innovative approach to transaction authentication and reconciliation. It also won the ‘Project Management Innovation’ as a result of the outstanding work it has done on implementing a ‘multi country migration of Finacle core banking solution using the Clustered Rollout concept.

Commenting on the awards, the group managing director/chief executive officer of the bank, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, described the awards as “attestation to the quality of human resources that abound in UBA and the importance the Bank places on using information technology to better serve its customers.”

“UBA has remained the leading bank in driving customer satisfaction and banking penetration across Africa using information and computer technology. In achieving this, we have and will continue to commit resources to bringing convenience to our teeming customers,” he stated.

Also commenting, the bank’s executive director, operations and technology remarked: “Using technology to provide consumer satisfaction and excellent banking experience is important to us. In doing this, we emphasised the acquisition of relevant technologies to drive service excellence and innovation in product and services, across all channels.”

UBA is one of the first financial services institutions on the continent to deploy Finacle 10x, a new information technology platform to boost its services and electronic banking channels.

                     Corporate Social Responsibility

In the area of CSR, the bank through UBA Foundation has made a positive impact on the environment and stakeholders including consumers, investors and communities, among others. Its common approach to CSR is corporate philanthropy through monetary donations and aid given to communities and non-profit organizations.

The bank’s CSR revolves around Environment, Read Africa Project, Education, Economic Empowerment, Special Project, and Prostate Cancer Awareness Campaign.

Under its Education First Programme for instance, the focus is on rehabilitation of schools, building of hostels, adult literacy programmes, entrepreneurial and job skills training, financial literacy, provision/construction of information, communication technology centres (ICTs), training of teachers, training of students, and awarding scholarships.

In specific terms, UBA had, between January and June 2016, made cumulative donations of N91, 846,582 to 17 communities/projects in the environment which they operate.

The beneficiaries of the donations are the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, Kebbi State Central Market Rehabilitation Fund, Enugu State 2016 Investment Summit, National Youth Service Corps, University of Lagos, Performing Arts School of Nigeria, Ekiti State Government Road Rehabilitation Project, 13th Corporate Financial Reporting Council 2016 Annual Summit, and No. 2 Squadron, Police Mobile Force, Lagos.

Others are Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt, Babcock University, Nigerian Electronic Fraud Forum, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Business School, Peace Corps of Nigeria, and Fountain Heights Secondary School, Lagos.

Prior to 2016, the bank committed N87, 490, 250 to charity between January and December 2012. The beneficiaries were African University of Science and Technology (AUST), Nasarawa State Government, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, The Nigerian Police Force, Kogi State Flood Disaster Relief, Central Bank of Nigeria, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Financial Reporting Council (FRC), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA).

                      OPERATIONS/MILESTONES

That UBA is “Africa’s Global Bank” is incontrovertible. It is one of Africa’s leading banking groups operating in 19 African countries and has offices in three global financial centres: London, Paris and New York.

As a market leader, its audited 2016 half year financial report for the period ended 30 June 2016, showed its gross earnings of N166 billion, net operating income of N109 billion and profit before tax of N40 billion. The bank also recorded a significant growth in total assets, rising 20 per cent to N3.3 trillion.

In the annals of Nigerian banking history, UBA has scored many firsts. It was the first among international banks to be registered under Nigerian Law in 1961; the first Nigerian bank to offer an initial public offer (IPO) following its listing on the NSE in 1970, the first Nigerian bank to introduce a cheque guarantee Scheme – the first cheque guarantee card in the history of innovative banking services by any bank in Nigeria, known as UBACARD in 1986; the first and only Nigerian bank to obtain a banking licence in the Cayman Islands in 1988, first and only Nigeria bank to hit the N1 trillion balance sheet size (including contingents);  first Nigerian bank to embark on a global depository receipt (GDR) programme in 1990; first bank in Nigeria to institute a foundation – UBA Foundation; the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of the UBA Group; introduced First Visa Dual Currency Debit Card in Nigeria; UBA and MoneyGram open first dedicated MoneyGram location in Nigeria; successful underwriting of the first 100 per cent local funding of an ExxonMobil/NNPC Joint Venture Project and launched Nigeria’s First Cash Deposit automatic teller machines.

 

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