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Segun Agbaje, the managing director/CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), is not a popular man. To many, he is aloof, too strait-laced, not your typical run-of-the-mill Nigerian. As one of Nigeria’s foremost bankers, he has a reputation for running a tight and efficient ship, is unflinching in his pursuit and recovery of loans from the country’s systemically chronic debtors who have a sense of entitlement believing that they can borrow depositors’ funds without paying back, and does not give a hoot about those critical of his take-no-prisoners approach to banking.

In the media space, he does not seek publicity, he lets his work speak for itself, could not care less if his story or photograph makes the front page of the newspapers, limits his bank’s advertising spend to what he believes is necessary to market and promote GTBank to a wider audience, and through NdaniTV and Ndani Blog understands the power of the social media in reaching out to youths that make a larger percentage of Nigeria’s and regional demographic where the bank operates.

To me, Agbaje is the ideal banker. He is not my friend and we only interact sparingly and strictly professionally as the need arises. Yet, I cannot help but wish that we had more bankers like him in this country. If we did, fewer Nigerian lenders would have to make provisions for unpardonable impairment charges on bad loans given to delinquent debtors, fewer banks would engage in reckless insider lending that threaten their capital adequacy and liquidity ratios, more banks would recognise that they have a fiduciary responsibility to manage their customers’ deposits with care, and more banks would know how to sweat their assets in the most cost-efficient manner to make the most attractive returns to their shareholders.

In all the key parameters used in defining the size of banks, GTBank, among the five Tier 1 banks in the country, is not by any stretch of imagination the biggest. In terms of total assets, loans and advances, customer deposits, number of branches, and presence on the African continent and beyond, FirstBank, Zenith Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA) stand head and shoulders above GTBank. By Nigerian standards, the “big three” could be called banking behemoths and are very difficult to supplant. Still, GTBank, with its cost optimisation strategy, asset quality and stability ratios, among others, has over time proved to be the most profitable bank in the country. Its stock has remained the bellwether in the banking segment of the Nigerian bourse for years, signposting the confidence institutional and individual investors have in the bank.

But this article is not about GTBank’s financial performance. Its annual and quarterly reports, including those of its peers, are public documents that can be readily accessed for in-depth comparative assessment. What I have found more interesting about the bank is its focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and interventions in key economic sectors targeted at strengthening small businesses through not-for-profit fairs and capacity building initiatives. For two years in a row, GTBank has solely funded and hosted its Food and Drink Fair and Fashion Weekends, making them social and tourist events that feature prominently on Nigeria’s social calendar.

That is not to say that the bank has not focused on other areas of CSR. Its 2016 annual report showed that GTBank spent about 58 per cent of the N449.62 million of its CSR funds on education alone while community development accounted for another 30.8 per cent.

But it is GTBank’s focus on food, drink and fashion that have been the most impactful publicly, bringing together scores of promising, talented and recognised local and international chefs and food vendors, drinks makers and merchants, fashion houses, milliners, fashion accessory designers and leather goods makers in a dizzying, well-put together and well-thought out extravaganza that leaves the public yearning for more.

Both events, which are open to the public, have been attended by several thousands of people, including children, for two years running that have left attendees breathless and wondering how the bank manages to package the two fairs in areas where it has no competencies.

The trick, says Agbaje, whom I had to hound to open up on the success behind both fairs, is getting and attracting the best participants and controlling costs by getting the bank to work directly with the contractors who have to build the stalls, decorate the venue, create play areas and cooking classes exclusively for children, and provide the music, etc., during both fairs; no middlemen or consultants are used by the bank. For him, the fairs present an opportunity for GTBank to deepen its footprint in the retail banking space and increase its SME lending from 2 per cent of the bank’s loan book to 10 per cent over the next five years.

With time, he would also rather extend more loans to small and medium-sized businesses that are more impactful on the economy and achieve a loan recovery rate of 70-80 per cent, than pursue Nigeria’s so-called “big men” with woeful credit track records. Although he was demur about what it costs his bank to host both events, he was emphatic that making money at this juncture is not the overdriving objective, at least not in the short-term, but recognises the long-term benefits not just for GTBank but other Nigerian lenders.

Beyond this objective and given the magnitude of both fairs and their potential to grow into annual events that could attract millions from across the global, Agbaje’s vision is not one to be trifled with. Already, the GTBank Food and Drink Fair and the GTBank Fashion Weekend create thousands of direct and indirect jobs and referrals for hundreds of young Nigerians who have to build the stalls, decorate the venue, and provide the music, entertainment, security and other support services to make them a resounding success. And they have the potential to create even more.

Aside the suppliers, vendors and designers that make brisk business and achieve record sales during the fairs, the Master Classes included in both events are helping to build capacity and drive innovation in the creative industry that has proved to be a major magnate for Nigerian and African youths. By bringing them under one roof, GTBank has also provided a platform for shared services and given them the exposure that help these small businesses to grow and create more employment opportunities.

Without doubt, both fairs are worthy initiatives. But they could be better. In the last two years, GTBank has handled both fairs singlehandedly without support from other institutions and/or the Lagos State government, a direct beneficiary of the events and their spin-offs. In 2016, the food and drink fair alone attracted 25,000 people; this year, it attracted 75,000 people. I do not have the numbers for the bank’s fashion weekends, but I can imagine that the number of visitors will not be far off from those who attended the food and drink fairs.

Given the swelling numbers, both fairs have already started to cause traffic gridlocks on the days they are held. They are also attracting touts and hoodlums who mill around the roads leading to the venue and try to pounce on unsuspecting visitors as they alight from their cars or walk to the venue. On a positive note, big and boutique hotels, restaurants and food caterers on the Lagos Island experience an upsurge in occupancy rates and patronage by participants and the international media who have flown in to take part or cover the events. All these translate to more tourist dollars, taxes and revenue generation for the federal and Lagos State governments.

The import of this should not be lost on the federal and Lagos State governments.

They have to do more than just show a passing interest in what GTBank has started.

Given the potential for both fairs to become global destinations for tourists and visitors on the African continent, Lagos State in particular needs to improve on its infrastructure in and around the venue where both fairs are held. It must improve on traffic management and security to ensure that visitors can move about with ease and feel secure. According to Agbaje, in terms of support, the state government has not yet stepped up to the plate, nor has his bank sought for any. But he does acknowledge that with time, GTBank will have to reach out to Lagos State because of the interest both fairs are generating in terms of attendance and participation.

Right now, Agbaje appears to be satisfied with what his bank has accomplished in terms of bringing both fairs to the public’s consciousness. But do the federal and state governments understand the roles that they have to play in institutionalising them and ensuring that they outlast his stewardship in GTBank? Cities like Rio de Janeiro, London, Paris, New York and Melbourne that host major sporting, fashion, carnivals, music and film festivals every year, attracting thousands of visitors do not owe their success just to corporate sponsors but to the municipalities, state and federal governments that understand their roles and lend the required support to the private sector. As such, Lagos State needs to buy into the GTBank fairs as a public-private partnership that can and should work.

BUSINESS

MUST WATCH VIDEO: How To Safeguard Your ATM Card Details

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Watch the video below on how to safeguard your card details at all times courtesy Zenith Bank Plc

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Goodbye Debit Cards

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Last weekend, I was at the cinema to watch the latest instalment of the Mission Impossible sequel; Fall Out. I had watched it over two months ago, but I had been busy with exams and there are some things in life you only watch on a big screen. The movie had received very good reviews and was still showing at Silverbird Cinemas, Ikeja City Mall and a few other locations.

Ikeja City Mall on a weekend is a great place to hang out with friends and family, but its popularity also leads to overcrowding, which could mean long lines of people waiting to be served. I, however, shrugged off this thought with the consolation that ‘It won’t be that bad’.  Little did I know of the wahala ahead. I took an UBER ride from my house to the mall, arriving there 1.59pm, 21 minutes before the movie started. On getting to the cinema floor, I met a large crowd of agitated cinemagoers and frustrated attendants shouting back and forth. I stood there in disbelief. “Which kind line be this one now,” I said to myself. This was 2.03pm and my heart was already racing. I could not miss a second of this movie.  I bravely joined the queue, checking my watch every minute. 15 minutes later I heard, Next!!!! ‘Finally,’ I said to myself. I approached the counter and the attendant stared at me and asked ‘Yes, what can i do for you?’ I marvelled at her question, smiled and pointed to the Fallout movie poster behind her. She looked at the poster and responded ‘N2, 500’. ‘Ok,’ I replied as I handed her my card to make payment.

The attendant collected my card and brought out a gigantic POS terminal, ‘Just to collect N2, 500’ I wondered. She tried the POS the first time – TRANS FAILED, she looked at me and tried a second time; TRANS FAILED. ‘Oga, your card is not working’ she said. I searched through my wallet and realized I only had N3,000 cash.  Mental calculation… ‘That’s was my UBER ride back home’. Comments were already flying, ‘What is this one doing’, ‘Oga shift don’t waste our time, the movie is about to start o…’.

I looked at the hostile attendant’s face and the agitated crowd behind and reached for the N3,000 in my wallet.  Just as I was about to hand them over I saw a ‘MasterPass and mVISA ACCEPTED HERE’ sign and my mind went ‘Scan to Pay’. With my confidence back, I placed my notes back in my wallet and brought out my phone.  I looked at the attendant and responded with a smile ‘I will pay with Scan to Pay’. The attendant shifted the sign closer to me and I scanned the QR code.

As I scanned the QR code, I felt prying eyes from the crowd wondering what I was doing and then it happened my receipt came out of the printer. I collected my ticket from the attendant together with a coupon for a free popcorn and drink and walked away from the payment point with the swag of a big boy. As I walked away, a person on the queue stopped me and asked, ‘What was that?’ pointing at the sign. I responded smiling ‘That is the payment option to use. That’s the way to pay’.

So, if you are heading over to the cinema this weekend, just ask the attendant that you want to Scan to Pay and you will be marvelled.

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The ASPIRE Account That Made My Aspiration A Reality —– Femi Badmus

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2 months ago, I graduated from Lagos State University with a Honours in Accounting; an achievement that was only possible through the overwhelming support of my mother. It still feels like a dream having my Bachelor’s degree and looking back I recall that pivotal moment when everything changed.

I lost my dad in SS 3 and my mum had to struggle to put me through school. She was an uneducated woman who sold pepper at Idumota and whose painstaking efforts had sustained us through those trying times after my dad’s death. The death came as a shock and left us barely surviving. The loss was especially hard for my mum and I feared it might have broken her mentally. Contrary, she became this superwoman whose resolve was to see me succeed at all cost. She worked long hours; in the sun, in the rain and her dedication to make and save money for my university education.

That year, while my SSCE results were very good, my JAMB result was seized and it seemed the university dream was beyond me. I was very depressed but my mum was there to encourage me with words I have never forgotten “You see, sometimes life go push you, push you so te you go wan give up but remember na your choice to either give up or rise up stronger”. I forgave all those bad people at JAMB, took up a job as a waiter and started preparing for the next JAMB exam sitting while also saving for my university tuition.

One year later, JAMB was good, I was accepted to study Accounting at the University of Lagos and needed to pay my acceptance and other fees. I quickly rushed to the bank filled a withdrawal slip and presented it to the teller. Lo and behold, the teller returned the slip and replied that my balance was insufficient for the requested amount. I was stunned. I knew I had saved enough money in my account to cover this withdrawal but the teller insisted I did not have up to N40k and printed a breakdown of my account history to buttress this point. Only then did I realize there were so many bank charges that had been depleting my savings. I was really infuriated as I tried to reconcile my realities: a struggling youth trying to get admission being saddled with ridiculous bank charges. I consoled myself and withdrew the N37,000 left in my account, augmented it with additional funds from my super mum and proceeded to Zenith Bank to make the required payments.

While there I noticed differences from my own bank; the security was very courteous, the banking hall was very well-lit and ventilated with customers being attended to promptly. The teller was very pleasant and I soon found myself telling him how my bank has been chaffing me. He told me the Bank had an account for undergraduates called Aspire and I won’t have that problem if I was using such to manage my funds.

Two weeks later armed with my Admission letter, School ID card and a passport photograph I opened the most beneficial account any undergraduate could have. Throughout my stay in school, I received interests in my savings and it was as though the account was pushing me to spend less and less. This made me a better manager of my funds. I am now a graduate with no indebtedness and looking back, I realize the Aspire account wasn’t just a regular savings account, it was built with me and other millions of students out there in mind.

Thank you Aspire for helping me achieve my dreams.

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