USMAN: MORE INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE IS NECESSARY TO GROW THE ECONOMY
Talking about reaching out, what are your plans for expansion? Also, what is your communication strategy now that you are a listed bank?
We started in 2012 with only three branches. One each in Abuja, Kaduna and Kano. Today, we have about 30 branches and these branches cut across at least five out of the six geo-political zones of the country. We have almost covered every zone of the country with our branch expansion and we are continuing to do so because we believe that we should be in all major commercial centres to start with across the country. Our communication strategy is to make use of all model of communication to reach out to a community of people who are interested in this mode of banking. They still need to understand what this product is all about. At the beginning we concentrated using radio programmes that are aired regularly around the areas we are operating as a regional bank, which is the North west and North east. As we are now a national bank, we have to spread our activities and communication as well. What we are trying to do is to use a mix of radio, TVC, social media, and of cause print media. Anywhere we go, we make sure that we meet with the media community to have interaction with them and they help us to convey the message.
You have investors who have been with you over the years and the bottom-line for them is for you to make profit and declare dividends, what has been your performance and prospects in this regard?
The year 2016 was a very difficult year for everybody. But let me say that in the Islamic banking world, Jaiz Bank has done excellently well. We set a record time for break-even. We broke even in 2014 and since then, we have been making profit. We made profit in 2015 and even in 2016 in spite of the difficulty witnessed in the economy. This year, 2017, looks better because fundamentals have started to improve and so our performance will follow the trend of improved fundamentals. We hope and believe that based on 2017 financials, we will be able to pay some dividend.
Most banks have niche. Does Jaiz Bank have a particular niche market?
By the circumstances of our birth, we have been doing proportionately more commercial banking than retail banking. But we are now moving towards retail banking. With the Sukuk, the infrastructure for us to support that strategy is being put in place. That is to say the urge to do commercial is going to reduce while we concentrate more on retail banking. So this is where we are driving at. We believe that is the frontier because obviously, there is a large potential customer base that we should target at the retail end and that also makes our operations safer and less prone to this seasonal economic circle that is happening and affecting major clients.
One of the issues is the challenging operating environment, how can government assist the banks to reach many unbanked Nigerians that are out there to enhance financial inclusion policy?
One of the most important interventions of government is to ensure that every Nigerian can be identified. This identity thing is very critical. The advantages are so enormous. But our lethargy as a nation to be able to execute it has been a big problem. If you can identify a person, it means you have done 50 per cent of due diligence. The next thing to look out for is whether you will be able to accommodate the level of financing he is asking for. This is very critical. Of course the issue of insurance, security and other infrastructural challenges such as roads and power are equally there because the small businesses you would like to support, if there is no power, they will just die with your money. Government needs to support and ensure that enough investment is made in infrastructure to ensure that power problem is sorted out and power is made available to as many Nigerians as possible so that they can be able to do some activity or businesses that the bank can support and the economy grows that way.
What is your last message to your stakeholders?
I believe that non-interest financing is the fastest growing sub-sector of the financial system globally. It is growing at an average of 15 to 20 per cent per annum. It is a strong growth area and it is being adopted in major financial centres around the world. It is a more disciplined way of financing and more conservative. It is more realistic. It is a system that tries to avoid the creation of paper assets rather it create assets that are supported by reality. It is profitable and it is growing fast. The evidence can be seen from Jaiz Bank. We have been growing at about 30 per cent per annum over the last five years. So to all our stakeholders, we assure them of the fact that Jaiz Bank is here to stay and also going to be adding greater value to the economy and to all our counter parties. The system is quite sustainable. It is supported by the reality of the economy and the specific situation of our commercial transactions. I believe we will achieve our plans and vision, which is to be a clear leader in this sector and to be a very serious contender in the rank and file of financial institutions especially banks in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa. To those who want to be associated with growth in profitability and sustainability, Jaiz Bank is the way to go.