‘Design products to aid private sector growth’ - Mahama

BY: Samuel K. Obour

John MahamaThe President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has urged local banks to design innovative products to aid the private sector in its business activities.

Such products, he said, should also be beneficial to especially the youth in their efforts to start businesses.

“Ghana abounds in natural resources and our people should not be found wanting and live in poverty because they cannot access credit,” he said.

In a speech read on his behalf at a flag-hoisting ceremony as part of activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) in Accra yesterday, President Mahama said the bank had resources and experience in consumer banking to reach out and bring change into the life of every Ghanaian.

“We cannot see ourselves as a middle-income country, while our people wallow in poverty. We must work hard to eradicate poverty from our nation.”

The ceremony brought together stakeholders, staff, and some customers of the bank, who shared their experiences and their view on the bank’s prospects for the future.

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The theme for the anniversary is: “GCB — 60 years of Service to Ghana - Customers, Businesses and Community.”

Programmes lined up for the three-month celebration include GCB staff community service; a roundtable discussion on a banking issue of interest to the public; tree planting in schools; a family fun day; annual general meeting on May 31 and dinner/awards night to celebrate the bank’s achievements on June 23.

 The anniversary celebration will be climaxed on June 29 with a church service at the Ridge Church in Accra.

The bank had been wholly government owned until 1996, when under the economic recovery programme, part of the government’s shares were divested.

Currently, the government owns 21.36 per cent, while institutional and individual holdings add up to 78.64 per cent.

The bank started in 1953 as the Bank of the Gold Coast.

In 1957, when Ghana attained independence, the Bank of Ghana was established as the central bank, while the Bank of the Gold Coast was renamed Ghana Commercial Bank, to focus solely on commercial banking services.

Today, the GCB has the widest coverage in the country, with 158 branches and 15 agencies scattered across the country.

At the time of its establishment, critics had mocked the idea that an indigenous bank could not survive.

But 60 years on, the indigenous bank has not only offered banking services to the nation but also broadened its scope of operation with small businesses to large corporate entities

President Mahama said although GCB was the biggest bank in the country, there was still the need for it to go the extra mile to ensure that not only would credit be accessible to small and medium-scale enterprises, but such credits must be affordable.

“I know GCB, as a market leader, can initiate measures to manage its assets and liabilities in such a manner that would introduce dynamism into the banking system,” he said

That, he added, would ensure competitive lending rates to reflect the prevailing macroeconomic conditions while deposit rates improve to make savings attractive to depositors.

The Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Henry Akpenamawu Kofi Wampah, in his address, lauded GCB for its countless achievements over the years.

He said GCB had maintained its position among the top tier of banks in the country in terms of assets, branches and profitability, adding that it had also responded to growing competition in the banking industry by modernising its operations.

The Managing Director of the GCB, Mr Simon Dornoo, said the main focus of the bank now was to strengthen its market position and franchise locally.

“We are fixing the fundamentals, going back to basics to build a strong foundation on which to launch our future geographic expansion plan,” he explained.

He said competition in the marketplace over the years had brought with it great opportunities for the bank’s development.

He said the bank’s current market price value was up six fold, from GH¢196 million to GH¢1.2 billion over the last four years, adding that  GCB had a balance sheet size of GH¢3 billion and capital base in excess of GH¢300 million.

“We aspire to become one of the most preferred financial services brands in Africa and this begins with consolidating our position as Ghana’s favourite bank,” he added.

Story: Zainab Issah