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Business News of Wednesday, 25 September 2019


Zenith sets new standards for Ghana’s banking industry

Henry Oroh, MD/CEO Zenith Bank Henry Oroh, MD/CEO Zenith Bank

Zenith Bank is setting new standards for Ghana’s banking industry to the benefit of the banking public, industry regulators and the state. TOMA IMIRHE documents how this new generation bank is changing both the way banks in Ghana serve as a platform for consummating financial services and how they carry out financial intermediation.

When Zenith Bank Ghana opened its doors to the country’s banking public as part of the first wave of Nigerian banks to establish subsidiaries in West Africa’s second-largest economy, it was greeted with the same skepticism that all the other banks from that country had to cope with. Since then however, over the past decade and a half, Zenith bank has done more than any other Nigerian bank to prove the skeptics totally wrong. Indeed, much more importantly, the bank has changed the way banking products and services are designed and delivered in Ghana.

In doing this, Zenith has combined the exemplary quality and standards of conduct required of international banks to compete successfully against both multinational and local banks here in Ghana as well as against banks in the various countries in which it operates.

Zenith’s heritage as a homegrown and wholly-owned West African bank coupled with its sheer pedigree as Nigeria’s most globally respected bank have been leveraged to maximum effect; here is a bank that is at the same time an international one in terms of its corporate governance and risk management processes and standards, as well as its financial muscle, and human expertise capacity, and a local African one in terms of the uniqueness of the products and services it offers and how it continues to deliver Value to its customers.

Over the past one year though, Zenith’s financial muscle has been most crucial to its fortunes as banks in Ghana have had to recapitalize heavily even as deteriorating asset quality and insolvency challenges have contributed to the reduction in the number of licensed banks from 34 to 23

Zenith Bank Ghana’s outstanding financial solidity is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that it was the very first bank in Ghana to meet the new minimum capital requirement of GHc400 million, despite it being much younger than many of its competitors in this country’s universal banking industry. Most instructively, it achieved this without having to require an equity injection from its Nigeria-headquartered parent bank, Zenith Bank Plc – all it had to do was to convert its huge financial holdings hitherto held in its income surplus account into its stated capital account. This was made possible by the zero dividend policy adopted by the Bank since it commenced operations in Ghana, opting instead to re-inject all its consistently growing after tax profits back into the business and by extension, the economy.

Indeed, Zenith has always focused on long term growth and financial solidity as a safe haven for savings and investment, and those two objectives are being fulfilled through the quality of its financial intermediation and technologically driven products and services. Within its first decade of operations in Ghana it was voted Bank of the Year at the annual Ghana Banking Awards, and this is just one of the many awards it has since been awarded with.

By the end of 2018, Zenith had grown into the 7th largest bank in Ghana with total assets of GHc5,572.475 million. Instructively, it ranks even better – in 6th place – by its shareholders funds of GHc872.201 million evidencing its financial solidity.

To be sure, Zenith is a conservative bank with regards to its balance sheet structure, emphasizing safety over both profitability and the competitiveness of its product and service offering. Indeed, while its loan portfolio of GHc733.084 million was the 12th largest in the industry as at the end of 2018, its investment portfolio, primarily in riskless government debt securities was the 3rd largest at GHc2,869.293million.

This is because Zenith’s main target market comprises customers who require an excellent platform with which to effect their transactions as well as a safe haven for their deposits, rather than customers who need financial support all the time.

This has been rewarding; by the end of 2018, Zenith had customers deposits to the tune of GHc3,434.250 million. Ghana’s most astute customers, enterprises, institutions and households alike, recognize the bank’s superiority with regards to speed, accuracy, efficacy and convenience, traits the bank is well known for. The Bank continues to play a pioneering role in the design and deployment of a wide range of digital banking products and services and has deservedly been acclaimed as one of the best banks in Ghana in this regard by customers, regulators and the financial services industry.

Indeed, Zenith Bank’s digital banking offerings have set the bar with regards to standards in this area of activity for Ghana’s financial services industry as a whole and is deservedly being recognized as a market leader both home and abroad.

Apart from being recognized as the Bank of the Year, Ghana 2018 by The Banker magazine, Zenith has been voted “The Bank that Best Promotes Cashless Transactions” for three consecutive years.

Zenith Bank’s digital banking offerings include:

Zenith Internet Banking: To enable customers to conduct business faster and smarter, and in keeping with its reputation of taking banking to the doorstep of customers, the Bank upgraded its Internet Banking Platform to make it more robust and give it more functionality. The upgrade introduced a new dashboard, which allows customers, to view at a glance, a summary of all accounts you have with the Bank. The dashboard also provides a graphical illustration of recent transactions and how it impacts on the user’s account. Other essential self-services that guarantee ease of banking with the Bank’s Internet Banking channel include card requests, cheque book requests, cash complaint reports, PIN regeneration, card re-dispatch, card reactivation, card limit amendment, travel notification submission as well as transfer of funds to mobile money wallets.

Z-Mobile: Zenith Bank was amongst the first Banks in the Ghanaian banking industry to launch its app-based mobile banking service (Z-Mobile) on both Apple and Android devices. The bank has since enhanced information security for users of the app and upgraded login credentials, thus harmonizing credentials across Zenith’s Internet Banking and the Zenith Mobile app seamlessly.

Some of the notable features of the Z-Mobile app include allowing customers to check balances on their accounts, view transaction history, top-up investments (within Zenith and other investment houses like Databank), set up beneficiaries, effect instant intra-bank and interbank transfers via the GhIPSS Instant Pay (GIP) service, as well as pay bills.

Zenith Mastercard and Visa Cards: Zenith Bank has retained a dominant position in the card payment market with its vast bouquet of card solutions that are tailor-made to suit a variety of needs. The Bank’s cards include Proprietary cards, E-zwich, Visa and Mastercard, Salary Card Payment Solutions, Dollar-denominated Global Travel Wallet cards as well as Prepaid/Debit cards for all customers. Zenith Bank also offers Credit cards for customers who require products such as a cash management tool.

In addition, the Bank also provides various co-branded prepaid card solutions for major institutions across the country. It offers fuel cards for major Oil Marketing Companies such as Vivo/Shell & Puma. The Bank’s prepaid solutions are available to both customers and non-customers thus enhancing the cash lite environment whilst adhering to strict KYC standards. For the Bank’s High Net Worth customers, Zenith Platinum cards apart from fulfilling their primary purpose as payment enablers also come with luxurious benefits such as airport lounge passes and affinity discounts with international and local vendors all in a bid to improve the user experience and drive usage.

*966#: The *966# shortcode enables customers of Zenith Bank who may not have access to internet banking the chance to undertake simple banking transactions using USSD. The shortcode provides users with most of the features of Z-Mobile.

QR codes as payment & acceptance technology, is taking the world by storm. It facilitates widespread electronic payment adoption among the unbanked especially for what are termed proximity or face to face payments. Zenith Scan to Pay is a fast, simple and secure way by which customers make payments at a merchant’s outlet (store/online) by simply scanning a QR code using a smart phone. This is particularly ideal for previously un-banked merchants who sell low-unit price items. While each technology has its pros and cons, QR codes seem to be a promising way to digitize payments at low-income merchants and get customers to go digital.

Some of the innovative products that have culminated in Zenith Bank becoming a pacesetter in technology and innovation include its pioneering partnership with mobile telephone service operators MTN, Vodafone and AirtelTigo to offer mobile money services to the large unbanked population in Ghana.

With Zenith Bank’s partnership with these telecommunications giants, customers are able to link their mobile money wallets to their bank accounts to pay for goods and services using their connected mobile money wallets.

In the area of travel, the unmatched efficiency of the bank’s payment services has drawn more airlines, both local and international, onto its E-Ticketing and Travel Solutions platform, bringing the benefits of the bank’s highly convenient payment options to more travellers. Currently, the bank collects payments for nine international airlines and all domestic carriers. The list of international airlines include Africa World Airline (AWA), Arik Air, KLM, Air France, Tap Portugal, Rwand Air, Kenya Airways and Med View Airline. These airlines fly directly to, or connect to most cities in the world. The domestic carriers are Passion Air and AWA Domestic which cover the main Accra-Kumasi, Accra-Takoradi and Accra-Tamale routes.

The convenience Zenith Bank offers is that customers of these airlines can book their flights online and pay at any of the bank’s 38 business locations across Ghana. The airlines receive instant notification of the payments and quickly dispatch customers’ flight tickets to them through the email address they provide when booking.

Crucially, not only does Zenith offer a competitive advantage over its counterparts with regards to the superior quality of its service delivery, but it also offers a safer haven for the underlying deposits of customers, because it is one of the most solvent, liquid and financially solid banks in Ghana.

By the end of the first quarter of 2019, Zenith had one of the best capital adequacy ratios in Ghana at 32.94 per cent, which is more than three times the prescribed regulatory minimum of 10 per cent. Similarly, it is one of Ghana’s most liquid banks, with a liquidity ratio of 179 per cent by end of March 2019. The adequacy of its capital and its liquidity is buttressed by the sheer quality of its risk assets – by the end of the first quarter of 2019, Zenith’s non-performing loans ratio was a mere 12.96 per cent. Not only does this reflect improving asset quality – a year earlier the NPL ratio was 17.85 per cent – but also far better asset quality than the industry as a whole whose NPL ratio averaged 18.8percent in 2019.

The superiority of Zenith Bank’s financial performance, product and service delivery is evidenced by the plethora of awards won, both local and international.

In recognition of the Bank’s innovation and enormous contribution to the technological space within the Ghanaian Banking Industry, the Bank at the 9th Ghana Information Technology and Telecom (GITTA) Awards, received two prestigious awards namely, Best Fintech-Bank Collaboration of the Year and Best Prepaid Initiative of the Year (Zenith Platinum Prepaid Mastercard).

In a Ghanaian banking industry where banks are differentiated primarily by the quality of their generic products and service delivery, their ability to innovate and thus offer products and services that give customers new levels of sheer convenience and comfort and by their safety as havens for customers deposits, Zenith Bank has proven to be exemplary in all three aspects. Which is why Zenith Bank has become arguably one of Ghana’s most respected banks.