For the majority of Ghana’s banking public, today’s Ecobank Ghana is virtually unrecognizable from the bank that opened its doors to them 30 years ago. In 1990, Ecobank started out as a merchant bank, the Ghanaian subsidiary of a pan sub-regional experiment in multinational African indigenous banking. Today it is the largest universal bank in Ghana, offering both wholesale and retail banking with equal aplomb, as part of Africa’s widest reaching pan continental banking chain.
Indeed, the bank’s profound transformation is not just in size, but in the variety of financial products and services it offers, as well as in its reach, both within Ghana and all around Africa too. The bank is at the cutting edge of commercial banking for businesses, corporate banking for large corporations and institutional banking for the public sector, as well as retail banking for individuals and households. Added to all these are local and international treasury and a complete range of payment solutions on robust platforms.
Specialized financial services are offered through two wholly owned subsidiaries, Ecobank Investment Managers and Ecobank Leasing Company.
The bank’s leadership in Ghana is evidenced most clearly by the fact that, it remains the biggest bank in the country adjudged by total assets, which, by the end of 2019 stood at GHc13.229 billion, reflecting its superior financial muscle, compared with any of its competitors. By that time it also had the biggest loan portfolio in the country’s banking industry, reflecting its superior commitment to supporting needy and deserving customers, as well as the biggest deposit base in the industry, of GHc9.729 billion reflecting the unparalleled confidence the banking public has in it as a safe haven for their savings and investments.
Driving all this though is the most pivotal superiority of all – that of superior customer service quality, itself deriving from the most technologically advanced and most widely applied digital banking platform in use in Ghana’s financial services industry today. This enables Ecobank to offer the most customer-friendly banking product and service delivery channels in Ghana, allowing individuals, private and public enterprises to carry out all their banking activities from their homes, offices or simply through their mobile phones while on the move.
Ecobank Ghana has come a long way since it was established. It was incorporated on January 9, 1989 as a private limited liability company under the Companies Code to engage in the business of banking. It was initially licensed, to operate as a merchant bank, by the Bank of Ghana on November 10, 1989 and commenced business on February 19, 1990.
Ecobank went on to acquire a universal banking license in 2003, which enabled it to expand into commercial and retail banking, and was listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) in July 2006. Since then the Bank has embarked on a strategic shift from a predominantly wholesale bank to a universal bank with 67 branches, 1,500 Ecobank Xpress Points (serving as agents around the country), 15,000 accredited Merchants at EcobankPay points, who provide Mvisa and MasterPass QR code Scan and Pay solutions for customerswith over 200 ATMs well sited around the country.
A key milestone in Ecobank’s evolution occurred in 2012 when it was merged with the erstwhile The Trust Bank – a reputed mid-sized universal bank – following the acquisition of that bank by Ecobank Ghana’s parent company, the pan African Ecobank Transnational Incorporated. Ecobank Ghana thus became the largest bank in terms of both total assets and owners’ equity in 2012
Ironically, Ecobank lost its position as Ghana’s biggest bank to GCB Bank in 2017, when the latter acquired the good assets, and all the liabilities of two troubled banks, the erstwhile UT Bank and Capital Bank under a Purchase and Assumption agreement arranged by the Bank of Ghana.
Since then though Ecobank has used organic growth to gradually return to its erstwhile position, a feat ultimately achieved last year, just in time for its landmark 30th anniversary.
Digitization has been key to the bank’s success in this regard. About 80 percent of all transactions customers do through the bank are consummated on digital channels. Indeed, Ecobank has remained the pioneer in this aspect for the past two decades; in 1998, it pioneered internet banking in Ghana with its Econet technology platform, and more than 20 years later it is still leading the way, revolutionizing online merchant payments with its scan and pay platform and introducing the opening of bank accounts through the customer’s mobile phone among other novel products and services.
Indeed, Ecobank’s Mobile App registered over one million customers in Ghana in its first 18 months alone after its launch in November 2016, thus serving as the bank’s strongest growth driver.
This is a highly secured mobile application providing customers with fast, simple and convenient access to their bank accounts whenever they want, wherever they are. For instance, phone users can simply download and activate the app, using existing Ecobank account details or open an instant online Ecobank Xpress Account. Customers of other banks can also access the App using their Visa, MasterCard or Union Pay International card details.
Once activated, users can start transacting business on this unique platform without visiting any branch of the bank. They can also pay for goods and services from a variety of shops and do online shopping, using their mobile phones. Some of the services on the app include bill payments for DSTV, utility bills, travels, donations, government collections, post-paid bills, school fees and airtime top-up. The app can also be used for sending money to any bank account in Ghana and across the 33 countries in Africa where Ecobank has a presence, moving money between bank accounts and mobile money wallets, amongst others.
Indeed, being part of Africa’s widest reaching pan continental banking chain has also proved pivotal, as trade and investment, as well as mobility of people, across borders intensifies. Having started out with an ambition to be the leading bank across the West African sub region, thus taking advantage of the ECOWAS regional economic integration initiative, the Ecobank Group has exceeded its founders’ dreams, having expanded well beyond West Africa into Eastern Central and Southern Africa as well.
Now, Africa itself is catching up, with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) set to commence by the middle of this year. A single, pan continental, US$4 trillion market positions the Ecobank Group as the most useful bank available for enterprises, institutions and even households looking to maximize the potentials of being part of it; and with Ghana hosting its administrative headquarters, Ecobank Ghana is positioned to serve as a financial hub for Africa’s dramatically enhanced intra-continental trade and investment flows.
Therefore, even as Ecobank Ghana deservedly pulls out all the stops to celebrate its 30th anniversary it is also intensifying its efforts to become a financial hub for AfCTA as well as flagbearer for Ghana’s newly reformed – and indeed rejuvenated – banking industry.
To be sure it has the capacity and the commitment to be both, which means its aspirations can be expected to be fulfilled on both counts, making the commemoration of this year’s 30th anniversary all the sweeter.