Mar 8, 2013, 10:26 AM
“Our bank has given financial support to all sectors of the economy in the form of short, medium to longer term financing,” says MD Femi Omotoso, in this exclusive interview.
Having operated in The Gambia for about 11 years now, what do you make of the banking environment in the country?
Let me take the opportunity to thank our valued customers for their support in the previous years and in 2013. The Gambia is still an attractive environment to do business especially in the area of banking. The Gambia runs a relatively liberal economy which gives it an added advantage as a financial hub in the sub-region. Notwithstanding the size of the economy coupled with the keen competition, the banking industry is largely liquid which reflects a safe and sound financial system. The system is well regulated and the capacity to do business by each bank is improving by the day. The industry has also witnessed consistent growth over the years. This conducive environment and sound financial system, we owe to the Government of The Gambia and The Central Bank of The Gambia.
How has GTBank fared in the market so far?
Our bank has fared creditably well in the market over the years. We celebrated 10 years of consistent success last year. Over this period we have won numerous awards. To name a few: in 2008 and 2011, GTBank received the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry Bank of the Year Award and in 2011, GTBank received the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation Employer of the Year Award etc. The bank has without doubt become a household name in the banking sector of The Gambia, ranking third in both Balance Sheet size and profitability in the market. For the year end 31st December 2012, we closed with a decent growth over the previous year in all key indices; we recorded an increase in profit of 80% from the previous year and increase in Balance Sheet size of 5% from 2011.
We are also a trailblazer in e-business and IT driven products. Our internet banking platform is 2nd to none in the industry. We recently invested to enhance the security of our IT platform in anticipation of the rollout of “switch”. Recently, we invested over GMD 4 Million to set up an Electronic Branch in the Tourism Development Area to give added advantage to our teeming tourists to enjoy the same banking services as in any developed country.
How does the bank support economic development and youth employment?
The arrival of GTBank in the market has changed the industry in terms of customer service. Our bank is actively involved in the provision of all conventional banking products and has given financial support to all sectors of the economy in the form of short, medium to longer term financing. Our bank is also in partnership with GRA [Gambia Revenue Authority] in collecting tax for the government.
Our involvement in the Telecom industry has been substantial; we pioneered the first successful D100million 5-year Medium Term Loan Syndicate Facility for Gamcel. GTBank acted as the Mandated Lead Arranger to provide the financing in a bid to ensure that Gamcel is able to meet its expansion aspiration. GTBank secured the mandate to raise D123 million for Africell to partly fund its Network expansion. In our role as the Mandated Lead Arranger, we put together a consortium of 4 banks.
In the tourism sector; we being the only VISA Principal member in The Gambia and the only merchant acquirer issuing Point of Sale Terminals and our VISA-enabled ATMs support the teeming tourists. A leading hotel in the country has been co-financed by GTBank and International Finance Corporation (IFC - Commercial arm of the World Bank). On the whole, GTBank is very active in all sectors of The Gambian economy.
In the area of youth employment, we have a policy of employing young, vibrant and fresh graduates. Currently, we have staff strength of over 260 people. Our lead role as responsible employers has been confirmed by being awarded employer of the year by Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation in 2011. In conformity with our mission statement of creating role models in society, we train and encourage our staff to study and develop their careers. Currently at least 12 of our staff are on study leave studying in various specialised areas of banking and finance both locally and abroad.
What are some of the initiatives the bank has carried out in The Gambia?
Tax and revenue collection for GRA, Loan Syndication, Dalasis VISA Card that allows our customers to access their funds anywhere in the world, GTBank Point of Sales terminals that provide a convenient, modern & efficient means of processing payments online and real-time as value is credited to the Merchant’s account within 24 hours, the VISA-enabled ATM machines and the Zero Dalasis account opening balance are some of the local initiatives we have pioneered.
We have also pioneered the Bankers’ Acceptance, an investment product for customers to have higher returns for their investments and at the same time wholesale borrowers to access funds at a competitive interest rate. Above all GTBank prides itself in excellent customer services offered to its customers which if I may say have changed the game in the industry.
What has the bank done in respect of corporate social responsibility?
It is the Bank’s policy to give back to the society that has helped us grow over the years. So in our CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility], we supported many laudable and deserving initiatives in the country, notably in the Health, Sports and Environment sectors. The Bank renovated the Paediatric Ward of the Brikama Major Health Centre at the cost of D0.5 million.
Apart from material donations to Fajara Police to enhance their work, GTBank contributed half a million Dalasis towards The Gambia Police Force’s efforts to accommodate and boost the morale of its personnel. For us supporting the police is a way of contributing to the maintenance of peace and security in the country.
Being the partner bank of The Gambia for Gold Initiative, we provide 1 million Dalasis each year for a period of four years in support of our national teams’ participation in international competitions. We have also provided over D3 million support to other national and community-based organizations among them, SOS Children’s village, and St. John’s School for the Deaf Nursery School in Brikama and construction of a Gutter at around Jimpex Road. This list is by no means conclusive!
What do you think attracts customers to the bank?
At GTBank we pride ourselves with Customer Service. The customer is at the centre of our focus. We are also recognised for our lead role in innovation. We try as much as possible to make banking as convenient as it can be here in The Gambia by our products, locations and technology platform. Also, our simple and friendly professional approach to doing business as well as the network/spread advantage of being part of an international group. In a nutshell, our customer-focused products and services attract customers to the bank.
How does the bank value (respect) her customers?
Customers are the reason we are in business, so we strive to build our products around their needs. We make sure that our products/services are flexible to meet every customer’s need. We deliver on record time with remarkable efficiency and maintain confidentiality of our relationships. For us at GTBank, the best ways to demonstrate respect to customers are enshrined in our orange rules: simplicity, professionalism, quality service, friendliness, excellence, trustworthiness, social responsibility and innovation.
What is the bank’s target for the year 2013?
GTBank is far ahead of the Central Bank’s GMD200M minimum capital requirement.
In 2013 we hope to consolidate the gains made over the years. We have completed the construction of an Electronic Branch at Senegambia Hotel area, where our customers can go during/off banking hours and do their e- banking activities at their convenience and privacy. This service is the first of its kind in The Gambia. We have recently added to our myriad of products GTCrea8 e-Savers Account and GTB Classic Account. GTCrea8 e-Savers Account is designed for Tertiary students while GTB Classic targets High Networth customers. Both accounts attract high interest rates and they also encourage financial discipline. We would be adding a few more ATMs to our existing 15 VISA-enabled ATMs.We are ready to deploy vending solutions on our ATMs including enabling our ATMs for NAWEC Cash Power and Airtime. To issue MasterCard is also very much in the centre of our strategy for 2013.