The singular most attention-grabbing event in the nation’s banking sector in 2014 came in the last quarter of the year. The announcement by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) of the fledgling Heritage Bank as the winner of the bid for the acquisition of Enterprise Bank jolted the entire banking industry, as it re-drew the picture and shape of the sector from the hitherto finely delineated stereotypical lines of the recent past.
It would have been considered an impossible task for a bank that entered the market less than two years ago to beat other well established players like Fidelity, Skye, Diamond and others to land the Enterprise Bank that was up for acquisition. But that was how Heritage Bank impressively capped its innovation-laden foray in 2014.
The Heritage Banking Company Investment Services Limited (HISL), a special purpose vehicle sponsored by Heritage Bank to bid for Enterprise Bank, not only came tops in the bid process but, against all industry predictions, paid the total N65 billion purchase price within the timeframe specified by AMCON.
The Enterprise Bank acquisition, according to analysts and watchers of the nation’s banking sector, served a clear signal that Heritage Bank, which entered the market in 2013 with a regional bank status, was focused on transforming into a strong national bank. The acquisition of Enterprise Bank which currently boasts of over 160 branches, over 177 ATMs, 57 Cash Centres and 2000 POS Terminals spread across major markets and commercial centres in the country will increase Heritage Bank’s points of presence from the current 15 Experience Centers to nearly 200 branches spread all over the country. This automatically transforms the bank from a tier-2 player to a strong tier-1 player.
However, the acquisition of Enterprise Bank, earth-shaking and record-breaking as it was, happened to be just one of the many strategic, industry-redefining moves Heritage Bank has made, since coming on stream, to justify its fast growing image as an industry game-changer.
RIDING ON CLEARLY DEFINED BLUEPRINT…
When Heritage Banking Company Limited rose from the ashes of the defunct Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) in early 2013, the thinking of some industry watchers then was that of a bank whose soul lies in uncertainty. They were not sure if the new banking experiment would turn-out a success story or not. But the new management was optimistic and determined to ignite heritage of banking success. Immediately they got a regional banking license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2013 to start Heritage Bank, they hit the ground running with a unique philosophy to Create, Preserve and Transfer Wealth to its teeming Customers.
Guided by passion and a brand architecture that exudes quality service, performance, respect, integrity, innovation, tenacity and excellence as core values, the promoters of the new quintessential bank were driven by African world view of wealth creation. This reflects in the naming protocol of the bank’s strategic divisions; Ivory, Manila, Cowry and Coral Banking. The unique naming of its branches as Experience Centres to the minutest simplification of banking Service offering also gave a strong hint that the bank’s brand differentiation was well thought-out.
The Bank, which found itself in a fiercely competitive environment, was quick to deploy its arsenal as a catalyst for growth in the Nigerian financial sector and a dedicated ambassador for showcasing the global quality that Nigeria possesses. The Heritage Bank blueprint clearly showed that it was birthed to occupy an unusual niche in the area of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) re-vitalization, high-value project financing, catering uniquely for the unbanked and many more modern banking offerings.
Mr. Ifie Sekibo, the bank’s Managing Director, at inception did state the way the Bank wanted to go. According to him, “We re-capitalized to the tune of N12 billion, took up all liabilities and assets of the defunct SGBN and found some form of accommodation for depositors whose money has been trapped for over 10 years. Our vision is simple and clear; today, we might look quite new in the market, but our idea of what this bank should be is clear from day one. We want to be a bank that people will believe and we want to lead in the knowledge that generation banking is the way to go”.
Heritage Bank’s thirst for unique customer satisfaction, not only financially but in other ways, started shortly after its operations began. This became evident as it commenced a zero COT offering to its numerous clients from April 15, 2013. The Bank’s offering of zero COT implies there shall be no hidden charges in transactions. Consequently, this huge selling point would boost the bank’s goodwill, customer trust and consequently, deposit base in 2014 as it warmed up to serve its customers more goodies.
As part of the financial inclusion strategy, Heritage Bank set a standard when it launched its pilot ‘Corner Shop’ to cater to traders and artisans of the Gbagada plank market, located at Gbagada Estate of Lagos State as a foretaste of its Agent Banking Scheme. The shop is aimed at giving traders the opportunity to enjoy financial services without the risk and stress of walking kilometers in order to visit a bank branch.
The Bank’s management said Agent Banking is about bringing banking services to the bulk of the many people, so that they do not need to go far away to do their banking services. “Banking services is not only for some people, it is for everybody, and with the small bank we have opened, we are offering banking services to everybody in this market, irrespective of your educational background and what you do”, Sekibo said.
The bank’s unquenchable passion for firsts and innovation also led to the introduction of the first transparent MasterCard in the Nigerian banking sector. The beautiful MasterCard is designed to be physically transparent and to exhibit transparency in its service delivery.
According to Mr. Tobe Nnadozie, group head, e-Banking, Heritage Bank, “The Heritage Bank Transparent
MasterCard distinguishes our customers. It gives them the prestige and excitement of being part of innovation, which is what the card represents. The youths as well as adults will find it very attractive. It is for everybody. There are millions of people out there yearning for something different, something that would make them stand out from others. They will definitely find the Heritage Bank Transparent MasterCard attractive.”
To further prove its trend-setting profile, Heritage Bank, for the first time in the history of banking in Nigeria, also introduced Nigeria’s pioneer portable POS solution christened “PortaPOS” to ride on the mPOS revolution, which is fast gaining acceptance worldwide. That was yet another first the Bank recorded in 2014.
In a forward-looking move, Heritage Bank announced that PortaPOS, which is aimed at providing a seamless payment channel for merchants, is expected to address payment challenges within the retail payments space and also in support of the Cash-less Nigeria project spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The PortaPOS is a payment channel that performs the functions of an electronic point of sale terminal. Its implementation allows services and sales industries to conduct financial transactions, receive payments and provide value added services via a specialised app on the users mobile phones, which in turn helps to improve customers experience and free up valuable real estate that would otherwise be dedicated to the regular POS countertop.
According to the Bank, “Today, small businesses and large retailers are turning to mobile point of sale (mPOS) to increase sales and broaden their customer base. Existing large retailers are also adopting mobile POS solutions and integrating them into their current point of sales environment to enhance payment methods. The Nigerian retail and corporate market is undergoing a massive transformation in a battle for digital consumers who shop through a variety of channels, and as such expect a more integrated payment experience that is quick, seamless, convenient, and most importantly secure”.
“Any Smartphone or tablet is compatible with the Heritage PortaPOS, via a free downloadable app. It is also cost effective, allowing a small business owner to conduct transactions and receive payments without having to invest in an electronic register or pay support licenses for software. Additionally, the solution is also extendable to cater for inventory management requirements of the merchant, so our customers can truly have a mobile business”.
The Heritage PortaPOS which is free to all Heritage customers has several distinct features including ability to accept all EMV Chip & PIN cards, MasterCard, Verve, and Visa cards. It is portable and light (@ 120g only, as light as a regular mobile handset); it has long-lasting and rechargeable Li-Ion battery and syncs to phone and printer via Bluetooth technology.
Its benefits include being able to work with all networks; direct credit of payments into business accounts; triple receipt option (paper print, email, and SMS) and assured transaction security.
STRONG, DIVERSIFIED ECONOMIC INTERVENTION PORTFOLIO…
Heritage Bank’s sponsorship commitment in the areas of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development, sports, entertainment, charity and advocacy also stands out.
Through its unique SME Support Platform, the Bank, in 2014, raised the bar in the efforts to deepen the SME Culture in the country. Its Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Clinic radically emerged as a unique platform set up to offer a holistic bailout strategy for SMEs in the country through an amalgam of services such as business diagnostics, advisory services, financial literacy and entrepreneurship development, customized product development for each customer and market knowledge development. This scheme is backed up by the innovative Heritage Bank Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Investment Protection Fund; a non-collateralized funding option with embedded insurance for the default risk inherent in the SME scheme to assist the growth and rejuvenation of the sector. This remains a strong differentiating indicator of the Heritage Bank approach to SME funding in the country.
For example, under this scheme, Heritage Bank, through a groundbreaking partnership with Dbanj, the Koko Master, offered support for KOKO AGROPRENEUR, Dbanj’s initiative under the banner of the national agricultural renewal project being championed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The national agricultural renewal projectinitiative is aimed, on the one hand, at providing practical leadership and encouragement to the massive youth population to embrace the agricultural revolution being championed by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina, as part of the national socio-economic transformation agenda. It is also an initiative designed to stress the significance of small and medium enterprises as a veritable platform for future economic well-being of the country.
Remarkably, Heritage Bank’s support for KOKO AGROPRENEUR spans the entire scope of idea fine-tuning, advisory, set-up, financials and customized product development in order to enhance the initiative’s MSME capacities and strengthen its business management skills, in addition to offering support programmes aimed at developing its survival and growth capabilities.
According to Bayo Ogunnusi, Group Head, SME Banking at Heritage Bank, “We at Heritage Bank are pleased to partner with Dbanj in the ‘Nagropreneur’ (Nigeria Agricultural Entrepreneur) initiative. As a bank whose ideology is to create, preserve and transfer wealth across generations, this initiative falls right within our purview”.
Also worthy of note is the fact that since its foray into the Nigerian financial sector, Heritage Bank has continued to play a pivotal and leading role in the equity and project financing market. In 2014, the Bank arranged in excess of $2 billion of debt facilities either as lead or sole financier or financial adviser. The field of engagement has equally been diversified; covering economic sectors such as MSME, Entertainment & Arts, Education, Oil & Gas, Aviation & Haulage and Public Sector.
The successful finance of Forte Oil Plc’s acquisition of 100 brand new Mercedes Benz product delivery trucks for haulage, logistics and product transportation across the Country as well as the Project Finance Facility to PIPP LVI GENCO to set up a 6.5MegaWatts Captive Power Generating Plant and a 25km Distribution Network to power Public Utilities in Lekki, V/I and Ikoyi, all in 2014, represent giant strides by the relatively young Heritage Bank in the area of business empowerment. Among other notable interventions, Heritage Bank in 2014 financed a host of projects in Port Harcourt and Abuja in deals worth several billions of Naira.
Speaking on the significance of Heritage Bank’s project finance initiatives, Executive Director, Manila Banking, Niyi Adeseun noted that, “For us at Heritage Bank, our core business philosophy as a timeless wealth partner to our customers is captured in our mission to create, transfer and preserve wealth. Our support efforts through project financing in the various sectors of the economy is one of the platforms that underscore our resolve and readiness to make a mark in the financial sector as a major pivot of socio-economic transformation of our country”.
In a testimonial, Group Chief Executive Officer, Forte Oil Plc, Akin Akinfemiwa lauded Heritage Bank on its project financing portfolio. According to him, “We appreciate the strategic role of Heritage Bank in financing the acquisition of our latest 100 world-class product delivery trucks which, to us, is a very strategic investment that will substantially increase our capacity to grow our revenue and profitability and ultimately maximize value for our stakeholders”.
STRONG CSR BACKBONE FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORTS…
In a clime where corporate organizations are been routinely admonished to deploy part of their profits to social value investments, Heritage Bank in its less than two years of operations has performed considerably well in the area of Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR).
For instance, as one of the key supporters of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), Heritage Bank, early in 2014, donated security logistics and motor vehicles worth millions of naira to aid efforts of the State government in crime fighting.
Remarkably, Heritage Bank midwived over USD100 Million in funding for a variety of transactions in the film and entertainment industry from 2013 to 2014. These include Bloomberg TV Africa (the Pan African TV by Bloomberg LLP), Free-to-Air TV Broadcast Rights in Nigeria for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, HIP TV (a Pan African TV Music Channel broadcast on satellite TV which was funded from scratch) and a variety of other investments spanning content, platforms and production.
The huge interest of the Bank in the entertainment business was brought to fore on January 1st, 2015 with the successful sponsorship of the well-attended top-class comedy concert organized by Nigeria’s Comedy King, Ali-Baba. The well organized show tagged Ali-Baba’s January 1st Concert was a unique night of comedy, music, dance and awards at the Expo Hall, Eko Hotels & Suites, Lagos. The Concert was the first exquisitely packaged comedy concert that will parade 24 Comedians in one night to display their prowess. The event was Heritage Bank’s unique way of welcoming many VIP guests and the upscale segment of the Nigerian Society who attended the show into the new-year.
Aside the unforgettable comic excitement that ran through the night, Oluwasegun Famisa, a first class graduate of electrical engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun state got employed by Heritage Bank. Adebayo received the award for outstanding academic performance, which he proved by supplying concrete evidences of his graduation grades. He also became one million naira richer through the King of Comedy, who commended the young man and encouraged him to keep on striving for the best.
The Heritage sponsored Comedy event wasn’t all just about fun as some notable Nigerian icons were recognized under THE FIRST AWARDS christened- The Zakilo. Some of the first sets of beneficiaries were the Doyen of Accounting profession in Nigeria, Chief Akintola Williams; First female Judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Mrs. Aloma Mariam Muhktar; Founder of Globacom Telecommunication, Chief Mike Adenuga; First Female to win Gold Medal at the Olympics, Mrs. Chioma Ajunwa-Opara; Pioneer of the first Nigerian internationally certified computer brand, Zinox Computers, Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh and first and only female flight engineer in Nigeria, Mrs. Yewande Cole.
Like the entertainment industry, like Sports.
Heritage Bank’s sponsorship interest in the entertainment sector has been replicated in sports development. This was echoed during the recently sponsored Port Harcourt Amateur Golf Tournament now known as Heritage Cup Golf Tournament.
Justifying the bank’s commitment to the Golf Tournament, the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, Mr. Ifie Sekibo, who was represented by the Regional Director of Heritage Bank, South-south, Mr. Emeke Anene, noted that Heritage Bank has decided to regularly sponsor the three-day Port Harcourt Amateur Open Golf Championship, because of the need to preserve and promote the historical legacies of the nation, noting further that golf players shared common characteristics of tenacity and drive with Heritage Bank.
“One, for a player of golf, you must possess some characteristics: you must be tenacious, have a drive, which is part of Heritage Bank’s DNA. We are tenacious people. So, being an historical game and Heritage is a bank that wants to transfer, create wealth and transfer from generation to generation, golf seems to be one sport we should identify with. That is why we chose to identify with Port Harcourt Golf Club.”
He said the bank is more concerned about the equity values in the sponsorship of the game beyond the profitability aspect of it.
“The fact is that for us sponsoring the tournament, it is not about profitability. It is about adding value. It is about value creation and that is what Heritage is all about. We want to invest in people”.
TESTIMONIALS AND COMMENDATIONS…
Like the proverbial golden fish, Heritage Bank’s colorful strides on the Nigeria Banking turf has attracted praises and commendation from many notable individuals and bodies within the nation’s financial sector.
Shortly after the investiture of Mr. Ifie Sekibo, Managing Director of the Bank as honorary Senior Member ofthe Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), the Institute’s leadership commended Heritage Bank for its professionalism and innovative operation during a stakeholder engagement visit to the Bank.
The high-powered CIBN delegation described Heritage Bank’s continued deployment of innovative banking services and preference for quality workforce as a strong proof that professionalism still thrives in the Nigerian banking system.
According to Otunba (Mrs.) Debola Osibogun, president/chairman of Council, CIBN who led the delegation, Heritage Bank Limited has, in less than two years of operation, brought remarkable freshness to the delivery of banking services.
“It is our delight that Heritage Bank is making remarkable impact within the Nation’s Banking industry. We recognize and appreciate your sense of innovation”, Osibogun noted.
In the same vein, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) expressed delight in Heritage Bank’s dynamic strides in the banking industry in its short span of existence.
Speaking on behalf of ICC Nigeria, Dr (Mrs.) Omolara Akanji, Vice Chairman of ICC Nigeria, Banking Commission said, “We are happy to have Heritage Bank in our midst. Your Bank has shown a high level of professionalism and innovative impact in our esteemed industry within short span of operations. We can only expect more impressive performance from your organization as a member of ICC Nigeria”
Also, the Bank’s robust CSR portfolio has not gone unappreciated.
Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, Mrs. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo lauded the management of the Bank for identifying with cultural values, heritage, iconic articles, historical items and norms of the people of Nigeria.
Speaking during the opening of the Corporation’s refurbished head office, the NTDC DG commended the bank thus; “What you are seeing here is one of the corporate social responsibilities of Heritage Bank. This structure and wonderful rebranding is being executed out of the meager allocation to NTDC, but it’s being financed and sponsored by Heritage Bank as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. The headquarters of a corporation, saddled with promotion and marketing of Nigeria’s tourism must not only be unique, but fashionably presentable and culturally attractive.”
According to the NTDC boss, “of all the banks in Nigeria, Heritage Bank has set itself apart as the only bank in Nigeria which does not only celebrate the past glory of our people at establishing solid economic platform but also immortalizes all the stages by making them the theme of their operations.”
WHAT 2015 PORTENDS…
As 2015 unfolds, Heritage Bank looks set to continue the trend of blazing positive trails in the banking sector. With the on-going process of integration of both Heritage and Enterprise banks expected to produce a formidable entity, what the industry stands to gain can be predicted from the following words of Ifie Sekibo, the Heritage Bank CEO, at a media briefing in Lagos in the closing days of 2014: “Having secured all relevant regulatory approvals, we are pleased to announce the beginning of a seamless integration of both entities – Heritage Bank and Enterprise Bank – into a bigger and stronger financial institution that is positioned to play a big role in the much envisaged transformation of the nation’s financial sector in line with the country’s stature as Africa’s largest economy”.
“As an integrity-driven business, we remain firmly committed to our continuous quest for quintessential banking service delivery by harnessing the best of the two worlds combined in terms of our innovative products, bespoke technology and expanded branch network manned by a team of tenacious people”
“We affirm our commitment to all stakeholders that we will continue to deliver on our promise of creating and preserving wealth across generations through highly personalized services”.