Oil & gas financing is dear to us — Zenith Bank boss

BY: Graphic Business
Managing Director, Mr Daniel Asiedu

Zenith Bank Ghana Limited has so far received nine separate awards from different institutions and organisers this year.

The latest is its rise to the sixth position on the enviable Ghana Club 100 rankings and the topped the rankings of banks in the prestigious club of 100 companies. Maxwell Akalaare Adombila of the GRAPHIC BUSINESS (GB) caught up with its Managing Director, Mr Daniel Asiedu (DA), for a chat on the bank, its performance and expectations and a peep into 2016.


GB: 2015 appears to be one of the best years for you, looking at the number of awards you have won and the recognition you are getting. As the MD, what does this tell you?

DA: So far, I think we have won nine awards in Ghana and outside. In terms of number, I think we have won more this year than before.

For me, it’s fulfilling. You know, we were set up with a mission to be a reference point for flawless banking in the country and if we are winning all these awards ahead of our competitors, then it means you that we are doing something right, we are gradually defining the banking landscape and it means that our customers are happy.

However, it doesn't mean that we have arrived yet, and so we will continue to do what we do best. Having said that, I think it clearly tells me that we are doing something right.

If you analyse well, you would realise that most of these awards are stemming from feedback from our customers and so we believe that we have to do a lot more to win more. Because of that we are encouraged to perhaps look at better ways of serving them.

GB: For the customer, how do these laurels translate into concrete benefits for him or her?

DA: What it does is, it encourages us that we are getting something right with our customers, and because we believe in improving on what we do, it will encourage us to do more.

We have told ourselves that it is like when someone gives you GH¢10 and you appreciate that person so well, the tendency is that the person will want to give you more. So, because we are being appreciated by wining these awards, it means that our customer service initiatives are on point.

GB: The macroeconomic environment has not been too friendly for businesses this year. As a bank, what has been the impact on your operations?

DA: It’s been a challenging year for us as a bank. I think it’s not just us at Zenith Bank but the industry as a whole. It has been challenging for most banks.

Beyond that, I believe it has been challenging for businesses and when you talk to them, you realise that things are difficult.

I think we saw the full impact of the power crisis this year and the depreciation of the cedi has also been steep and so it has been a very challenging year.

But we are not deterred, we think that in the life of every business, these things do happen once in a while.

As a result, we are unlikely to meet the targets we set for this year but we hope that the year ahead of us would be good.

We think that 2016 would be good in the sense that we would see the effects of a lot of the policies the government came out with.

Also, we will see the full impact of the IMF programme next year and we also want to believe that we have seen the worse as far as the cedi depreciation is concerned.

There have been some policies to counter the depreciation and we hope that they will take full effect next year. So, we are hoping that the outlook would remain positive for us to bounce back.

GB: Next year is an election year and if our history as a country is anything to go by, then government expenditure should exceed budget targets. What do you think would be the impact on the banking sector?

DA: Yes, next year is an election year but I think that with most international institutions, especially the IMF, taking interest in Ghana, things will be under control. I don't expect spending to go significantly above what has been budgeted.

Two, I think that even the resources available to the government is limited and so, in terms of aggressive spending, we may not see that. I believe that they will be prudent enough to put the economy back on track.

GB: Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the oil and gas economy would experience a tremendous growth next year following the expected coming onboard of the Tweneboa-Nyera-Ntoume (TEN) project and other activities scheduled to take off. How much of an interest does Zenith Bank have in this sector and how will these developments feed into your 2016 growth?

DA: I think we are one of the few banks that has a dedicated group focusing on energy of which oil and gas is major and that is because if you look at our group, we try to run along industry lines.

That alone should tell you the emphasis we place on the energy sector. We think it is big, it makes a whole lot of difference in every nation and so we are fully dedicated to that sector of the economy.

Like you said, next year is going to be mega for that sector and we are strategically positioned to see how we can support that particular industry.

As we speak, I have a meeting with one of the major players in this market outside of the country very soon to see how we can support its operations. This should tell you the importance we attach to to some of these.

So, generally, we are looking forward to playing big in that sector.

 GB: In recent times, banks in the country have taken keen interest in bancassurance by entering into sales agreements with select insurance companies to retail their products. Is it an area Zenith Bank would look in the near future and why?

DA: Yes, as we speak, I think we are close to signing agreements with two insurance companies; we have concluded everything on bancassurance but I won’t mention their names.

The reason for that is simple; banking has become so small and so, you cannot afford to be selective. The market is too small and that requires that you are in every part of it.

We also think that it is good for us to partner with insurance companies on this service.

GB: Generally speaking, what do you expect of the banking sector next year?

DA: Well, because this year has been a challenging year, I think that most of us would try to be as aggressive as possible next. You see, margins are shrinking, we are having difficulties with loans and all that.

So, I believe that we would be much more prudent next year, we will deliver more products and services and we will be a bit more efficient.

Generally, I think we will be a bit more cautious next year in other to improve on the bottom lines.

GB: What is your message to customers and staff?

DA: We want to thank our customers for supporting us this far and making us the bank of choice. We can assure them that next year will be better and we look forward to serving them well as usual.

For staff, I want to thank them and to say that the best is yet to come from ours and so, we should continue to strive hard for the benefit of our customers.-GB