Consolidating 2014 acquisition drive, initiatives with seamless integration

Sekibo-21-1MAJOR acquisitions by local players in the nation’s financial industry set 2014 apart in recent years. For one thing, indigenous banks showed their capabilities and eventually succeeded in making a strong statement at the end, with one set to go in the second quarter of this year. Beside acquisitions, integration of the acquired entities with the parent company has raised a major concern before now.

  But one of the trail blazers in last year’s acquisitions- Heritage Bank Limited, may have appeared set to sustain the record in 2015 with the ongoing process of integration of both Heritage and Enterprise banks, which expectedly would produce a formidable entity.

  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.

  Besides, 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 the “old and new” generation banks to land the Enterprise Bank that was up for grab. But that was how Heritage Bank impressively capped its innovation-laden foray in 2014.

  The surprise was not only that the bank’s bid for Enterprise Bank came tops in the bid process, but that against all industry predictions, it paid the total N65 billion purchase price within the timeframe specified by AMCON. Thus, the acquisition of Enterprise Bank, which currently has over 160 branches, over 177 Automated Teller Machines, 57 Cash Centres and 2000 POS Terminals spread across major markets and commercial centres in the country will surely increase Heritage Bank’s points of presence from the current 15 Experience Centers. This automatically transforms the bank from a tier-two player to a strong tier-one player.

  Already, what the industry and the economy as a whole stand to gain can be deduced from the words of the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, at a media briefing in Lagos, during 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”.

  Indeed, all eyes are now on the bank to show the leadership strategy that would fuse the “two worlds” together such that the remaining two that would eventually follow will see the success as a roadmap. That would also be the first sign of the promised commitment and revolutionized banking.

  Historically, for the financial institution, riding on a clearly defined blueprint has been its sole arsenal, a model that defied the thinking of some industry watchers, who saw its emergence from the ashes of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) in early 2013, as that of a bank which soul lies in uncertainty. Surely, the world was taken by surprise by the result of the “last game.” 

  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 perspective of wealth creation. This reflects in the naming protocol of the bank’s strategic divisions as 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.

  Of course, the bank found itself in a fiercely competitive environment, but 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.

  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 boosted 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.

 “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 the Group Head, e-Banking, Tobe Nnadozie, “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.

 “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,” he said.

  The seamless integration would also, not only fuse together diverse cultures as already evident in the cultural diversity of the workforce, but sustaining and initiating robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) portfolio, which presently has not gone unappreciated.

  The Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, Mrs. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo, once 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 chief said: “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.

 “Of all the banks in Nigeria, Heritage Bank has set itself apart as the only financial institution, which does not only celebrate the past glory of  our people aimed at establishing solid economic platform, but also immortalizes all the stages by making them the theme of their operations.”

  Last year, after the investiture of Sekibo as honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), the Institute’s leadership commended Heritage Bank for professionalism and innovative operations during a stakeholder engagement visit to the lender. Of course, the measurement of the seamless integration must be reflected in the continued commendation of this nature.

  The high-powered CIBN delegation described the 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 the President and Chairman of Council, CIBN, Otunba Debola Osibogun, who led the delegation, Heritage Bank 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.”

  Also, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) expressed delight in Heritage Bank’s dynamic strides in the banking industry in its short span of existence.

  The Vice-Chairman of ICC Nigeria, Banking Commission, Dr. Omolara Akanji, said: “We are happy to have Heritage Bank in our midst.  You have 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.”

  Heritage Bank’s sponsorship commitment in the areas of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development, sports, entertainment, charity and advocacy also stands out and these, expectedly, are being consolidated in 2015 through the integration process.

  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 project initiative was aimed, on the one hand, at providing practical leadership and encouragement to the massive youth population to embrace the agricultural revolution being propagated, 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 business management skills, in addition to offering support programmes aimed at developing survival strategies and growth capabilities.

  According to the Group Head, SME Banking at Heritage Bank, Bayo Ogunnusi, “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, it arranged in excess of $2 billion 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 and Arts, Education, Oil & Gas, Aviation and Haulage and public sector

  The successful finance of Forte Oil Plc’s acquisition of 100 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 Denco to set up a 6.5 MegaWatts Captive Power Generating Plant and a 25 kilometre distribution network to power public utilitiesin Lekki, Victoria Island 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.

  The significance of Heritage Bank’s project finance initiatives, according to the Executive Director, Manila Banking, Niyi Adeseun, is that “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”.

  But the Group Chief Executive Officer, Forte Oil Plc, Akin Akinfemiwa, attested to the effectiveness of Heritage Bank’s project financing portfolio. 

  “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,” he said.

  The recent rebasing of the nation’s economy spotlighted the entertainment industry as a major contributor to the country’s new economic status in the international arena- first in Africa and 26th globally. Fortunately, the sector is the turf that the bank is very familiar with, having recorded a strong backbone in CSR programmes. 

  In fact, 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 raised new expectations, as well as confidence in what socially responsible organisations alike can achieve. These are what seamless integration would advance further.

  As one of the key supporters of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, the Heritage Bank 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 midwifed over $100 million 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 lender in the entertainment business was again brought to the fore on January 1, 2015, with the successful sponsorship of the well-attended top-class comedy concert organized by Nigeria’s Comedy King, Ali-Baba.

 The seamless integration of both banks should promote employment rather than downsizing or right sizing and accommodate more of the Oluwasegun Famisa, a first class graduate of electrical engineering, from Obafemi Awolowo University, who got employed by Heritage Bank. Adebayo received the award for outstanding academic performance, which he proved by supplying concrete evidences of his graduation grades. 

  The Heritage Bank-sponsored event initiated The First Awards, christened- The Zakilo, where notable Nigerian icons were recognized, including 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, Leo Stan Ekeh; and the first and only female flight engineer in Nigeria, Mrs. Yewande Cole.

  In 2014, the bank recorded footprints in sports development, just like in entertainment industry, under its CSR initiatives. This was echoed during the recently sponsored Port Harcourt Amateur Golf Tournament now known as Heritage Cup Golf Tournament. 

  Sekibo, who was represented at the event by the Regional Director of Heritage Bank, South-South, 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.”

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