United Bank for Africa (UBA Group) kicked off the first session of the week-long Social Media Week Lagos 2019 with the announcement that its chatbot Leo now covers 17 African countries and has one million subscribers.
Leo was launched in January 2018 to enable customers of the bank have access to select banking services including account opening, loan applications, account balance checking, cheque confirmations, bill payment, account freezing and instant notifications.
Described as an “alpha version” by digital enthusiasts, Leo has surpassed one million users on the bank’s mobile app, in just 12 months because of its numerous benefits and acceptability, a feat its close rivals have not been able to attain.
The AI-driven virtual assistant, which also has Facebook and WhatsApp banking capabilities, was first unveiled in January and today, one year later remains the preferred chat banker in Nigeria and across Africa where UBA is present , because it has clinically leap frogged others in every sense of it.
“The formulation of this product is consistent with the bank’s customer first philosophy, where we are doing things not the way we like, but focusing on what the customer want, where they want it and in the exact platform they want it,” Kennedy Uzoka, UBA’s managing director said at the unveiling of the chatbot in 2018.
The bank’s head of online banking, Augustine Abolusoro, in a presentation titled Game of Bots at Social Media Week 2019 disclosed that Leo is not just the first artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot in Africa; it is also a multi-lingual chatbot with capability to speak languages like English, French, and Portuguese. The company plans to include Yoruba and other Nigerian languages very soon.
“Leo was developed with best in class AI technology: Natural language processing and machine learning,” says Abolusoro. “It enables financial inclusion.”
He continued, “As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even give them increased value as Leo clocks one,” Abolusoro added.
This milestone reflects the bank’s continued focus on providing industry-leading digital capabilities as part of its high-tech, high-touch client experience.
Everything learnt over the last one year of Leo’s work will help UBA improve on its digital offerings, says Abolusoro, Head of online banking, who assured customers of “nothing short of the very best innovation in the coming months”.
In May 2018, Mark Zuckerberg thrust Leo into global limelight when he used the chatbot as an illustration of how businesses were leveraging Facebook to connect better with their customers.
“Leo is doing incredible things,” Zuckerberg had said of Leo during his presentation.
Abolusoro noted that as a result of the feature, Leo which is also available on Facebook-owned WhatsApp has gained one million subscribers. Till date it has hosted 70 million conversations.
While 5 per cent of the subscriber population is within the age of 65 and above, an overwhelming 72 per cent are between 18 and 34 years.
“The Leo platform has the same kind of authentication you find on all our digital platforms,” Abolusoro said regarding concerns around privacy and cyber security.
In 12 months since he was launched, Leo has won several awards, including the Euromoney Award which aptly validates his dominance in the digital banking space.
Euromoney is a globally renowned organisation which appraises more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class awards and the best Banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.
Zenith Bank Sustains Market Dominance With Improved Profitability, Declares N57Billion PBT Q1 Unaudited Result
In the first quarter ended 31 March 2019, Zenith Bank Group recorded improved numbers across key metrics, driven by a solid performance in all business segments.
This resulted in a Profit before Tax (PBT) of ₦57 billion, representing a 6% growth over the ₦54 billion achieved in the corresponding period in 2018.
The Group’s on-going commitment to cost optimization on the income statement and statement of financial position ensured earnings per share increased by 7% to ₦1.60 compared to Q1 2018.
The growth in net interest income and operating income by 23% and 1% respectively mitigated the decline in gross earnings. The effective management of cost-to-income ratio, cost of funds and cost of risk offset top-line declines to deliver an enhanced operating income in the period.
Our risk and asset quality continue to improve as cost of risk dropped significantly by 52% from 0.9% in the prior year to 0.4% for the period. This was achieved as impairment charges declined by 54%(₦2.5billion year on year reduction).
Our cost of funds also improved, declining by 25% from 4%in Q1 2018 to 3% at quarter-end. This was supported by a 22% decrease in interest expense of ₦10billion over the same period, affirming the Group’s robust treasury and liquidity management. Our prudent cost management led to a 5% decline in our cost-to-income ratio by 5% from 53.3% in 2018 to 50.9% in the period with an absolute reduction in operating expenses by ₦2.3 billion year-on-year.
The Group’s retail franchise continues to increase as retail deposits grew by N80bn between December 2018 and March 2019 representing a 9% growth notwithstanding the fact that total customer deposits dropped marginally by 3%. The drop in customer deposits was as a result of rebalancing of the deposit mix as expensive purchased deposits were forgone in favour of cheaper and stickier retail deposits.
The volume and value of transactions across our electronic and digital platforms continue to grow as new customers are being acquired. Our balance sheet continues to strengthen as liquidity ratio is at 66.7%, loan to deposit ratio closed at 43%, and capital adequacy ratio ended the period at 25% respectively and remain above the relevant regulatory thresholds as at 31 March 2019.
Going into the rest of the year and with improving economic fundamentals, we are confident of delivering value to all our stakeholders on our commitments even as we create more opportunities for businesses by supporting them through selective risk asset creation. We shall continue our investments in the retail segment of the market as we consolidate our leadership position in the corporate segment while maintaining a strong balance sheet.
GTBank Releases Q1 Unaudited Results, Reports Profit Before Tax Of N57.0Billion
Guaranty Trust Bank plc has released its unaudited Financial Results for the quarter ended March 31, 2019, to the Nigerian and London Stock Exchanges.
The Bank recorded positive performance across all financial metrics with gross earnings for the period growing by 1.2% to ₦110.3billion from ₦109.0billion posted in March 2018. Profit before tax improved to ₦57.0billion from ₦52.6billion recorded in the corresponding period of March 2018, representing a growth of 8.3%.
Customers’ deposits also rose by 6.0% to ₦2.410trillion in March 2019 from ₦2.274trillion in December 2018, whilst the Bank’s Loan book grew by 1.6% from ₦1.262trillion as at December 2018 to ₦1.282trillion in March 2019.
Balance sheet remained strong with the Bank closing the quarter ended March 31, 2019 with Total Assets of ₦3.556trillion and Shareholders’ Funds of ₦627.2Billion.
In terms of Assets quality, NPL ratio and Cost of Risk closed 7.03% and 0.05% in March 2019 from 7.30% and 0.34% in December 2018 respectively.
In addition, coverage for NPL stood at 90.12% while Full Impact Capital adequacy ratio remained very strong, closing at 22.25%. On the backdrop of this result, Post Tax Return on Equity (ROAE) and Return on Assets (ROAA) closed at 32.79% and 5.76% respectively. These indices are pointer to GTBank’s strategic positioning in Nigeria and other Countries where the Group operates.
Commenting on the first quarter results, the Managing Director/CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank plc, Mr Segun Agbaje, said; “Going into 2019, we knew that it would be a challenging year, but our strategy and unwavering focus on delivering value for our customers and shareholders continues to underpin our ability to consistently deliver solid results despite changing market variables. We carried on the momentum of the previous year, posting strong growth in earnings, effectively managing costs and leveraging our digital-first customer-centric strategy to deliver world-class services that are simple, cheap and easily accessible.”
He further stated that; “Whilst ensuring the long-term growth of our business is the greatest value that we can create for our communities, we are also leveraging our resources, expertise and network to help people thrive. That’s why, from April 28 to May 1, 2019, we are organizing the biggest food and drink festival in Africa to give small businesses in the food industry the platform, network and access to the markets that they need to grow.”
GTBank has continued to be best in class in terms of Profitability, Efficiency and Capital among Peers and other Financial Institutions in Nigeria. This is evidenced by its Earnings per Share of ₦1.74, Return on Equity (ROAE) of 32.79%, Cost to Income Ratio of 38.64% and Capital Adequacy of 22.25%.
These metrics are a testament to the efficient management of the Bank.
In recognition of the Bank’s bias for world class corporate governance standards, excellent service delivery and innovation, GTBank has been a recipient of numerous awards over the years.
Some of the Bank’s recent awards include 2018 Bank of the Year – Nigeria from the Banker Magazine and 2018 Best Banking Group and Best Retail Bank Nigeria from World Finance Magazine.
NOVA Merchant Bank Limited Rated Investment Grade by 2 Leading Rating Agencies
In furtherance of its plans to scale its operation this year, NOVA Merchant Bank Limited, in yet another milestone, has received an investment grade rating from both Agusto & Co (Bbb) and Global Credit Ratings (BBB-).
The reasons given for the Bank’s rating include the strength of the Board and management team, robust capitalization, prudent risk profile, good asset quality, and strong liquidity.
This achievement follows the recent publication of the Bank’s financial results where it declared a profit after tax of N1.15bn for the year ended 31st of December 2018, an increase from N510.6m in 2017.
Anya Duroha, the Managing Director/CEO, commented “The award of investment grade ratings by two leading rating agencies is another significant milestone in the history of the Bank. It further assists us in our plans to scale up our operations this year and deliver value to our customers and all other stakeholders”.
Mr. Phillips Oduoza, the Chairman of NOVA Merchant Bank further noted “These ratings are further validation of the strength of the foundation which has been laid for the continued future success of the Bank. On behalf of the Board, I will like to commend the management team for all their effort in achieving this milestone debut rating record.”
NOVA Merchant Bank will continue to focus on delivering on its overarching philosophy of “New Thinking, New Opportunities” to sustainably grow its business as it seeks to assist its clients achieve their strategic objectives and re-establish merchant banking as a key economic driver in the country.