[dropcap]A[/dropcap] story began in 2012; a story of hardwork and determination when IEI Investments Ltd acquired Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria license from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, after meeting all requirements by Nigeria’s apex bank. Heritage Bank Plc was born and began its operations in Nigeria as a regional bank on March 14, 2013.
As wit acquired the license and structure of the old Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria which was closed down by the CBN for failing to meet the new capital requirements of N25 billion or $155 million for a national bank in January 2006, Heritage Bank returned 100% of existing SGBN account holders’ money which were frozen at the closure of the SGBN. This move brought a lot of smiles to the faces of former account holders and inspired many of them to open new accounts with Heritage Bank.
This was the beginning of a success story.
A year later after it began commercial operations, it became the center of the biggest event in the Nigerian banking sector in October 2014 after the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) announced that Heritage Bank had emerged winner of the bid for the acquisition of the defunct Enterprise Bank. Heritage Bank had successfully met all the terms and conditions set by the CBN and AMCON towards owning 100% shares in Enterprise Bank.
Heritage Bank which entered the market just a year before was able to withstand the might of top established players like Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, Skye Bank, Diamond Bank and others to win the bid for the acquisition of Enterprise Bank which also saw it inherit over 160 branches, over 177 ATMS, 57 cash centres and 2000 POS terminals spread across major markets and commercial centres in the country. This move automatically transformed Heritage Bank from a regional bank to a national bank and raised the bank from a tier-2 player to a strong tier-1 player. Still, as big a move as it was, it remained just one of the many strategic moves to change the banking industry and Heritage Bank has made a lot of them since it began operations in 2013.
With a management focused on innovation and a unique philosophy to create, preserve and transfer wealth to its customers, Heritage Bank found itself in a fiercely competitive banking environment but it remained guided by passion, resilience, innovation and a brand architecture that exuded quality service, performance and sheer excellence.
Heritage Bank introduced a zero Cost of Transaction to its customers in April 2013, implying that there would be no hidden charges as it continued its quest for 100% customer satisfaction. Heritage Bank also set a standard when it launched its pilot ‘Corner Shop’ to cater to traders at the Gbagada Plank Market in Gbagada Estate, Lagos to ease banking. The ‘Corner Shop’ was widely received and appreciated by the Gbagada traders as it saved them the time and money to visit a bank branch kilometres away.
Heritage Bank was not done yet. The bank went further to prove its trend setting profile by introducing Nigeria’s first pioneer portable POS solution named ‘PortaPOS”. The Heritage PortaPOS which is free to all Heritage Bank customers can accept all EMV chip and PIN cards, MasterCard, Verve and Visa cards. It is portable and light as a regular mobile phone and has a long lasting and rechargeable battery. It also syncs to phones and printers via Bluetooth technology!
Heritage Bank had clearly surpassed all expectations and continued to grow stronger every year. Heritage bank announced gross earnings of N24.2bn for the operating year of 2015 in an audited financial statement.
This represented the bank’s first full operating year since the acquisition of former Enterprise Bank in October 2014. The financial statement showed that the bank recorded a profit before tax of N1.5bn, profit after tax of N1.1bn and net interest income of N12.2bn.
The bank also attracted N312bn as deposits from new and old customers during the year which further indicated the confidence of the bank’s financial structure. The bank also stated that it supported businesses and individuals with loans and advances to the tune of N175bn achieving a total asset of N483.4bn for the year.
Pleased by the outcome of the 2015 financial statement the MD/Chief Executive of Heritage Bank, Mr. Ifie Sekibo stated that “The result is a testimony to the increased acceptability of Heritage Bank’s products and services by the banking public. It is also a reward for the diligent commitment of staff and management to our mission to create, preserve and transfer wealth across generations.”
Heritage Bank has found its feet quickly on the floor of the Nigerian Banking sector and recorded over 200% increase in the number of customers since 2013. It remains committed to its customers and continues to search for new heights to attain in the Nigerian banking sector. Heritage Bank is by far the fastest growing bank in Africa and can only continue to record new successes, whilst surpassing rivals. The story of Heritage Bank’s increasingly rising profile is a case study in corporate governance, leadership, vision and excellence.
In the midst of the bank’s audacity to dare and succeed, industry watchers have continued to ask; how are they doing it? The answers may not be far from the fact that this is one bank whose leadership team continues to exude the charisma of the Midas Touch. With Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo has proven over and over again that whatever he touches, turns into gold.
Kola Adebayo, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.