•Union Bank chair urges establishment of smart rural banks
The global economic headwinds occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia could have destabilised the Nigerian financial sector but for the ingenuity of the sector’s regulators, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the 15th yearly banking and finance conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Buhari, particularly, lauded the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), National Insurance Commission) and other critical stakeholders for their diligent work, which has ensured financial system stability in the country.
The President, who was represented by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, assured the entire banking and finance community that the government would continue to support the industry in all appropriate ways to ensure the sector continues to deliver on its mandates, while creating value innovation for its customers.
Buhari noted that what Nigerians urgently need is a Nigeria of the future that harnesses its strengths competencies, and cultural diversity to tackle the challenges that plague its people, from climate change to pandemics, and insecurity, saying, “government will continue to formulate and implement policies that are aimed at promoting self-sustenance in critical areas such as energy, agriculture, health and technologies.”
Buhari further noted that in the past seven years, his administration has, through various initiatives, supported the repositioning of the Nigerian economy within an evolving Glocal (global and local) context.
He mentioned such initiatives to include the government’s support for Nigeria’s creative industry and indigenous small and medium-sized businesses as well as the agricultural sector, which have enhanced the capacity of indigenous enterprises to compete with their counterparts from other countries while reiterating that the current efforts would be sustained and extended to more sectors of the economy.
The Chairman of Union Bank, Farouk Gumel, who delivered the keynote address, called for a more physical presence of banks in the rural areas, saying, “there has been a lot of talk about closing branches in the rural areas and be more efficient, but I think what is needed at this time is re-branching of banks into smaller entities such as rural branches that are targeted at meeting the banking needs of rural dwellers. We no longer need big branches but smaller and smart branches whose objective will be to provide banking services that are tailored to the needs of rural people who are mostly farmers.”
Gumel stressed that much progress has been made to take banking to the rural areas in the last six years.
“In the last few decades, the talks have centred around food, agriculture, farmers, and the fintech sub-sector. I think there has been a lot of awareness and that has led to a lot of interest and investment. People always talk about revolution, but I think it is more of evolution. It is difficult to change the attitudes of people overnight. Changing behaviours takes time and a lot of effort. So, expectations have to be managed while we work gradually to where we want to be.”
On his part, President/Chairman of the Council of the Institute, Ken Opara, submitted that innovation is bringing about new ways of doing things that are changing the landscape of the financial services industry more than ever before.
He added: “As a result of the dynamics, the financial services sector will need to adapt to this change much faster. Services, products and technological developments that were new and useful yesterday will no longer be necessary today. It is a statement of fact that the financial services sector has continued to change in the last few years than in any other time in history.”
He observed that as the world continues to evolve, the financial services industry will need to explore innovation and reconfigure its business to succeed in the future.