Treating the Customer as King
Access Bank Ghana continues to bring the latest in financial services to as many people in Ghana as possible, via its extensive footprint expansion and digital diversification
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Access Bank Ghana was named Bank of the Year in the country, in 2013, in what industry watchers called a meteoric rise to the top of the sector. The Bank now looks to grow through its commitment to customer service, investments in innovative technology and a policy of sustainable banking practices.
Launched in 2009 as a full service commercial bank licensed by the Bank of Ghana to offer universal banking services, Access Bank recorded a profit in its maiden year; a first for a new generation bank in the country.
Since then, the institution has grown from strength to strength, adapting to regional and international finance trends and insuring it keeps ahead of the curve in providing the most extensive and fulfilling range of services possible.
“Since 2009, Access Bank has maintained an upward growth trajectory across key financial indicators to give value and returns to all its stakeholders,” says the company’s Managing Director, Dolapo Ogundimu. “Access Bank’s growth during the first three years of operations was largely organic. The Bank expanded its reach to four locations in Accra and a first foray in Kumasi, the capital city of the Ashanti Region, bringing its total network to five branches.
“Given its strategic intent to become a market leader, the Bank was always looking for opportunities for growth.”
This opportunity came in the form of a takeover in 2011 of the erstwhile Intercontinental Bank Plc in Nigeria and its subsidiaries by Access Bank Plc, (the parent company of Access Bank Ghana).
Access Bank Ghana subsequently merged its operations with Intercontinental Bank Ghana (IBG), a development which resulted in a major shift in business strategy and focus.
“The merger benefits ensured that the Bank increased its footprint to 32 branches and seven agencies, after conducting a branch rationalisation in 2012,” Ogundimu continues. “This new scale and status attained has made the Bank one of the largest retail banks in Ghana, enabling it to play a more active role in the retail banking segment while it also catapulted Access Bank to the league of 10 most profitable banks in Ghana.”
Technology at the forefront
Applying its acknowledged expertise in corporate banking to the retail segment of the market, and technological systems in general, has been a key factor in Access Bank’s growth in recent years, fitting into its proactive philosophy of benchmarking its processes, systems and policies in line with global standards.
“As a result, there have been several investments in technology and infrastructure to secure the needed backbone to provide timely and innovative products and services for the Bank’s teeming customers,” Ogundimu notes. “In line with its value change and inclusive banking strategy, Access Bank is focusing on deepening its Corporate Banking franchise and at the same time expanding its share of the retail banking market.
“Technology is at the forefront of our banking business in Ghana. We have developed a bouquet of products that help our customers to stay ahead and manage their finances in real-time from the comfort of their home and office.”
These solutions are available to corporate, commercial and SME clients who are all able to track and manage their finances remotely through digital services such as Access Pay and the Access Trade Portal.
Ogundimu continues: “Our Trade Portal equips corporate customers with the ability to monitor their LC transactions and shipment from their offices; SME customers who also subscribe to our Access Pay platform are able to electronically manage their vendor payments and collections with ease and convenience.
“Individual and corporate customers also benefit from a bouquet of e-products including email/sms alerts, e-statements, internet banking and mobile banking, cheque scanning and the use of mobile money in partnership with selected telecommunication companies.”
Complimenting these core technological services is the growing private remittance offering which is currently boosting Ghana’s level of foreign direct investments (FDIs).
The Bank is at the forefront of championing Ghana’s “cash-light” economy being the first to introduce a local chip and pin card to boost transactions; an initiative subsequently supported by a vigorous roll-out of ATMs and POS across the country.
Customer as King
In deciding the services that Access Bank offers, the customer is always at the forefront of its considerations, beginning with its branch network and choice of locations as well as investments in its people and technology.
The Bank’s 43 business locations cover eight out of the 10 region of Ghana, while a further six are expected to open within the next 12 months.
“The strategy is to be present in all the 10 regions of Ghana, especially in all the commercial centres,” states Ogundimu. “But, in addition, the Bank is also investing in technology to use alternative channels such as mobile and internet banking, point of sale terminals and automated teller machines, to serve customers remotely.”
The Bank offers universal banking services to Corporate, Commercial, SMEs and individual customers. This is achieved through a blend of Corporate and personal loans covering Asset Finance, Working Capital Finance and Capital Expenditure. With its expertise in trade finance, Access Bank also support its customers’ trade transactions with Letters of Credit, Bills for Collections and Remittances.
Individual customers also enjoy a range of products and services including personal loans, salary advance, vehicle finance, overdrafts and a range of debit and credit cards with discount offers at selected partner retail outlets.
“At Access Bank each member of staff gives their best to treat the customer as King, to give customers an experience beyond service. The culture here is second to none,” Ogundimu adds.
This commitment to the customer and continuous improvement inevitably comes at a price, but Access Bank’s business model ensures that capital investments are targeted to meet customer expectations for maximum returns.
Thus far, the institution has invested GHs55.6 million ($15.4) into its online trade portal, online banking, mobile banking, cheque scanning, its data centre, ATMs, branch expansion, and its head office renovation; all to ensure it is keeping ahead of the industry curve.
“We believe that our continuing investments will help to create wealth, jobs and significant returns for our shareholders and the economy at large”, Ogundimu explains. “Additional investments have been made to support businesses operating in selected sectors of the economy.
“Last year, Access Bank secured a US$40 million facility from the French Development Bank, PROPARCO and its Dutch counterpart, FMO, to support its lending activities to the private sector in the Ghanaian economy; specifically in the export, manufacturing, agro-allied, infrastructure and services sectors.”
Forming elite business partnerships with the telecommunications industry is another strategy Access Bank is employing to reach more customers and capture the underserved and unbanked communities in Ghana. With its wide geographical spread and strategic business locations, Access Bank has partnered with mobile giant MTN to offer mobile money services. A similar arrangement is in place with Airtel Ghana to further enforce this diverse growth strategy.
The Bank is not just making strides to improve the quality of life for its customers but also has the same philosophy with regards to its workforce. Employees benefit from a variety of training programmes, internally and externally, to deepen their knowledge and skills in addition to the incentives and bonuses that support their wellbeing.
So central is staff development to the Bank that Access is creating a talent pool to feed its ongoing expansion.
“In 2009, the Bank began a novel training programme to absorb student graduates from the country’s top universities and to develop a pipeline of talented professionals for the banking industry,” explains Ogundimu. “The programme gives fresh graduates the opportunity to attend a fully paid residential four-month intensive training course in core banking at the Bank’s School of Banking Excellence, before they start working for the Bank.
“So far, more than 50 graduates have gone through the Access Bank School of Banking Excellence in Lagos, which has acquired an enviable reputation as a learning centre of excellence.”
Initiatives such as this along with the Bank’s Social Responsibility Projects over the years contributed to Access Bank being adjudged “Best Bank in Corporate Social Responsibility” for 2010 and 2013.
“We have instilled the principles of sustainability in all that we do,” Ogundimu concludes. “We think of our communities, impacts of our activities and loans we give out on the environment, adherence to best practices and high ethical standards. This sets us apart in many ways.
“We have now entered the next phase of our growth with a new strategy and direction that will propel us to rank amongst the top tier banks in Ghana by 2018. By this, we intend to place amongst the top three across all measurements, financial indicators and market performance.
“We know that our ambition is bold and audacious, but we are certain that our new offerings will provide long term value to sustain the Bank’s competitiveness. We shall continue to invest heavily in our products, services and technology platform to deliver excellent and world-class banking services.”