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“We Are Top-notch Among Microfinance Banks In The Country”- NPF Microfinance Director

Mr. Akinwunmi Lawal holds a Higher National Diploma in Business Administration from Yaba College of Technology (1996) and an MBA in Financial Management Technology from the Federal University of Technology Owerri. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and Microfinance Certified Banker. He is also a fellow of the Association of Enterprise Risk Management Professional and an Associate of Certified Pension Institute of Nigeria.

With over twenty-eight years of quality banking experience having previously worked with FSB International Bank Plc. (1987-1993) and United Commercial Bank (1993-1994). Lawal joined NPF Microfinance Bank Plc over twenty-four years ago and has served the Bank in various capacities as Head of Accounts, Head Abuja Liaison Office, Head of Treasury, Head Financial Control and Head Enterprise Risk Management.

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Lawal has attended various local and international banking management and leadership programmes. He is a team player whose experience makes him well suited to play a leading role in repositioning the bank as a leading Microfinance Bank in the microfinance subsector of the Banking Industry. Excerpts:

 

What is the mission and vision of the bank?

NPF Microfinance bank’s vision is to be the clear leader in the provision of microfinance services. We are one of the foremost microfinance banks in the country and using all the performance indicators, we are topnotch among microfinance banks in the country. Also, we want to price ourselves and emerge as a leader in the microfinance business practice. The bank is a public limited liability company, quoted on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The Police Cooperative and Nigerian Police Welfare Insurance Scheme (NPWIS) have a joint 75% ownership while the remaining 25% is owned by the Police Officers and the general public. We provide micro services to our numerous customers diligently, efficiently and very effectively in our 27years of existence, first as a Community Bank before converting to Microfinance Bank.

 

How have you been able to drive efficiency across board?

The Regional structure that the Bank has in place is one of the reasons for the bank’s efficiency. It is divided into three regions; the North, the South and the East.  Currently, we have 35 branches where the Branch Managers report to their Regional Heads, who in turn, report to the Executive Director in charge of Operations. The supportive Board comprising of the 3 Executive Directors and 8 Non-Executive Directors with diverse knowledge in different human endeavors and the formidable and highly motivated management team have all aided me to drive efficiency. The Managing Director oversees the overall activities of the bank with support of the ED finance & admin who oversee the financial controls and administration of the bank while the internal control and compliance report directly to the board.

 

What are the challenges in the system?

The critical challenge is the availability of funding. Even though the bank has been in existence for more than twenty five years and has gained some level of trust and confidence from members of the public, most people do not like to keep deposits in Microfinance Banks and so the cost of fund is always very high attracting such deposits.

We are been supported by some funds from development banks like The Bank of Industry, Development Bank of Nigeria and the Central Bank of Nigeria. But there remains the challenge of the acceptability of microfinance banks by the general public as they perceive microfinance banks as where to source credit but not where to deposit. Our principal activity is to encourage savings habit with better financial inclusion and being able to encourage the downtrodden to inculcate the habit of saving and also support their business when the need arises. But they think of microfinance when they want to borrow and commercial banks when they want to save. I generally think microfinance banks should be their first point of contact. Overtime, I believe as the acceptability improves, we will experience better patronage. Apparently, it is changing gradually but it can always be better.

Also, the risk of non-payment of loan facilities which is a generality of what you see in the ecosystem because people now have weak purchasing power. There is a high risk of non-performing accounts in the sector but in mitigating the risk, NPF Microfinance Bank makes sure that proper appraisal (due diligence) is carried out before a facility is granted and strict monitoring of the loan to prevent high rate of delinquency. We have over and over again strengthened the internal control department to ensure that those risks are minimised or mitigated.

 

Can you share some of the successes recorded in 2019?

The unaudited figures show a tremendous improvement over that of 2018. The Total Assets have also grown by 1.8% over that of 2018. The loan portfolio has also grown by 3.1% over the 2018 performance. The Bank’s profit for the year 2019 showed a remarkable increase. Generally, we see an improvement is all the key performance indicators. The bank in 2018 adopted the T24 Core banking software which is being test-run as a project by the Central Bank of Nigeria to have all microfinance banks have a uniform software.

 

Do you think the regulators of the subsector have been doing enough to encourage microfinance banks in the country? 

The financial industry is a highly regulated industry. And a lot is being done in the area of support for the industry. And that area as I mentioned earlier is the area of funding for microfinance banks. When the idea was consummated, we presumed that maybe 1% of the state’s budgets would be directed as developmental funds by each state government to deploy to microfinance banks. That has not seen the light of the day, which would have gone a long way in supporting microfinance banks and the economic active poor of the country.

As microfinance banks are restricted from assessing any developmental funds, they should try and make those developmental funds easily accessible for the microfinance banks. That will go a long way in supporting the growth of these banks. Again, in the area of trying to adopt a uniform IT solution for microfinance bank, in spite of how the government is trying to see how they can support the subsector, a unit microfinance bank might not afford the necessary infrastructure in terms of IT. This might be too exorbitant or large to handle for a unit microfinance, believing that there would be a synergy in terms of numbers where one is identified for small microfinance bank and create a way to bring down the price and make it affordable for all. Eventually, if that is done, we that deal with the active poor at the bottom of the pyramid, would be able to access it at a lower cost.  And this would help to improve and impact positively on their lives.

 

How do you manage feedbacks and complaints from your customers?

We have a whistle-blowing policy and a toll-free line set down for feedbacks and complaints whenever the need arises. Most times, their complaints come through the head of internal audit department. The internal audit properly investigates the matter and come up with appropriate recommendations. In most cases where we found out that their complaints are genuine, we are responsive and correct whatever it is. And make sure we do everything to make the dissatisfied customers smile or happy.

 

What are the projections for 2020?

Basically for 2020, as I mentioned earlier, we have 35 branches and we intend to grow the numbers this year. We are currently represented in 25 states of the federation and we look forward to increasing the numbers of branches to cover the remaining 10 states in the country. And that is driven by our 3 year strategic plan 2019 to 2021. The strategic plan is for us to ensure that by 2021 we must have presence in all the states of the federation. So, 2020 is a direction to 2021 in terms of growing the numbers of our branches, growing the numbers of our clients in all states of the federation and also the adoption of electronic channels. Banking is now digital economy. So, we are going to enhance our electronic channels in driving our business in the year by adopting USSD to reach out to both prospective and existing customers.

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