Union Bank Chair Urges Banks To Adapt Product Offerings For Local Needs
The Chairman of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Farouk Gumel, has called on financial institutions to tailor their services to satisfy Nigerian customers while embracing global best practices.
Gumel made the call in a keynote address at the ongoing 15th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), themed ‘Repositioning the Financial Services Industry for an Evolving Glocal Context’.
“So, to “reposition” for a “glocal context”, we need also to look more inwards. We must adapt our products and services to what works for customers wherever they are,” he said.
Glocal is the area where what happens locally impacts the broader international environment, and vice versa, he explained, stressing that it is about thinking globally and acting locally.
“Working for TGI (Tropical General Investments) in some of our rural operations, I have come to realise that – as we embraced a global system – we have somewhat abandoned many of our local compatriots.
“That is not only a loss for them. It is also a missed opportunity for our financial services industry to help create the growth that lifts us all to collective prosperity,” the Union Bank chairman said.
According to him, this is why Nigerians are still talking about “financial inclusion” and how to bank the “unbanked” – after nearly 130 years since First Bank commenced operations in Nigeria.
Gumel said, “As leaders in banking, we are often drawn to focus on the latest global forces that are reshaping our industry.
“We connect with like-minded colleagues and debate how best to adapt the most recent global best practices and trends”.
He also urged banks to publish a study that shows the fastest growing retail banks in Katsina and compare those to Calabar, or the most trusted bank brand in Yola, and compare that to Yenagoa.
“And after we have seen that data, we should ask ourselves ‘Why is this so? It is at our peril that we lose sight of the local element of what it means to be Glocal,” Gumel said.
He noted that the World Bank recent estimate that there are 64 million unbanked adults in Nigeria, representing 55 per cent of the adult population by measure which is nearly the same as the entire population of the United Kingdom is worrisome.
“Those unbanked Nigerians are not only potential savers and borrowers. With our help, these are the entrepreneurs and founders of the businesses of the future.
“When we look at the valuations of Nigerian banks, we often base those valuations on the idea that they are serving 200 million people. The reality is that they are not. They are serving a far smaller country, divided between a handful of big cities that look abroad, as much as they look within,” he said.
The Union Bank chairman, who noted however that banking rural heartland presents its challenges, added, “To be truly Glocal, we must commit the same resources and investments to rural local customers as we have done to urban global clients.”
Earlier in a welcome address, the President/Chairman of Council, CIBN, Ken Opara, said the flagship programme offers the banking profession a platform to engage with stakeholders on the development affecting industries and Nigeria’s economy in general.
He said, “The event over the past years has explored prominent innovations reshaping the landscape of the financial services industry as well as equipping the players with the right information needed to set strategic directions for improved performance and sustainability.
“The global pandemic has been a wake-up call for the Financial Services industry, exposing gaps in digital service provision and cost structures.”
According to the CIBN president, this year’s edition of the conference aims to consider the forces that could significantly impact the overall landscape of the financial services industry in a rapidly evolving world.
“As a pivotal sector of the economy, we are not oblivious of the “brain drain or Japa syndrome” affecting the workforce in our country,” he added.