Last week Ecobank held is AGM for the 2019 financial year, the first time the bank did so by virtual means. The bank’s shareholders were delighted to find that while COVID 19 has forced a postponement of its 30th anniversary, the pandemic has not slowed its growth; rather it is accelerating its industry-leading evolution . TOMA IMIRHE traces Ecobank Ghana’s path back to its position as the country’s largest bank.
The form of Ecobank Ghana’s Annual General Meeting last week, addressing the 2019 financial year, clearly illustrates the depth of change brought about by the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic. For the first time in its illustrious three decade long history, the bank resorted to hosting a virtual AGM rather than gathering shareholders under one roof. To be sure this was most befitting of an institution that prides itself in being Ghana’s most digitalized bank and indeed, the AGM went off seamlessly.
Most importantly, participating shareholders were left feeling satisfied with last year’s performance and confident that this year’s will be even better despite the challenges thrown up by COVID 19’s outbreak.
Crucially, Ecobank entered the turmoil being generated by the pandemic with rock solid financial strength, derived from a strong performance in 2019. The bank grew its total income by 21 percent to GHc1.585 billion, while keeping growth in operating expenses down to just eight percent. This translated to a lowering of the bank’s cost-to-income ratio to 45.82 percent, one of the lowest in the industry. In turn, this enabled an increase in the bank’s pre-tax profit of 27 percent to GHc444.95 million. Consequently the bank recorded outstanding return on average assets of 3.8 percent and return on average equity of 28.6 percent.
While this excited shareholders, its customers were exulting over the increase in its balance sheet size and its financial solidity, which combined have made it arguably the safest haven for depositors in Ghana’s financial intermediation industry.
Total assets grew by 27 percent to GHc13,228.79 million last year, while shareholders funds grew even faster, by 35 percent to reach GHc1,784.310. Instructively, Ecobank had the largest loan portfolio in Ghana’s banking industry by the end of 2019 – in line with its industry leading asset base – following a 30 percent increase in its loan book to reach GHc5,380.31 million. This was funded by a 28 percent increase in customers deposits to GHc9,728.76 million, the largest deposit base in the industry, illustrating the confidence the banking public continues to repose in the bank.
Speaking to shareholders at the AGM, the Managing Director of the Bank, Mr. Daniel Sackey said; “In 2019, we demonstrated our ability to navigate the difficulties associated with an increasingly complex environment, after a challenging period in the banking sector. We drove growth across the bank by deepening relationships with our existing customers, while also attracting new ones. We used our scale and technology to make it easier for our clients to seamlessly bank with us, using their preferred channels. We also leveraged technology and partnerships with MTN and JUMO to launch our first consumer digital lending proposition called Express Loans, during the year under review. This enabled our customers to borrow from the bank, using their mobile phones. In the seven months of its launch, we have advanced loans to over 1 million customers. This is a significant step in our digital drive, and our efforts towards providing our customers with convenient and affordable financial products to promote financial inclusion with the view of impacting lives positively”.