Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Arsenal Forays Into Africa (Partners UBA)

UBA has entered into a strategic partnership with Arsenal FC. The deal, signed at the Emirates Stadium, London on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 by officials of the bank and the football club will see UBA and Arsenal collaborate on a variety of Arsenal financial services and grassroots football initiatives.

The financial services will include co-branded electronic payment solutions such as debit and credit cards for consumers in all West African locations where UBA currently operates.
Arsenal has successfully developed a number of similar commercial and technical partnerships across the world but this represents the Club's first significant financial services partnership in the Africa continent.

Adrian Ford, Commercial Director at Arsenal said that ''This partnership with UBA represents an exciting opportunity for us. We are aware that Arsenal has an exceptionally strong following in Africa and we look forward to working with the bank in the development of financial services and football at grassroots level. The partnership will enable us to develop a closer affiliation with our supporters and give many fans the opportunity to visit Emirates Stadium, receive Arsenal merchandise and win shirts signed by our first team squad. UBA and Arsenal are also committed to renovating pitches across West Africa. Initially twelve pitches in Nigeria will be laid with artificial surfaces providing a durable and lasting facility for local players and we'll also provide local support with visits to the region by our community coaches”.

Angela Nwabuoku, Executive Director, Products and Segment Banking, UBA and Chika Mordi, Managing Director, UBA Capital Europe seen in the pictures with Arsenal FC Manager, Arsene Wenger signed on behalf of UBA.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

At The Mercy Of Nigerian Traders

Absence of vibrant consumer protection organisations in the country exposes consumers to exploitation by retail outlets. In this interview, Olusegun Adeoye of Tell magazine speaks with Uche Nworah, senior lecturer in marketing communications at the London Metropolitan Business School on the worrying exploitation of consumers by some retail outlets in Nigeria.

Q. Many Nigerians have been complaining about the poor after sales services rendered by some sales personnel especially that of electronic products. They say most of them refuse to honour agreement on the warranty leaflets, mostly in the area of repair and refund in case of damage. What do you think is responsible for this? Is it because of the economic situation, or ignorance on the part of the customers?

A. Consumers should be careful in selecting the outlets where they buy their electronic products. If you are going to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of naira on a product, it is better to choose either a known dealer or big importer where at least you know that they may honour the manufacturer’s warranty. Big dealers are expected to honour such guarantees as part of their exclusive distribution deals with the manufacturers although many of them choose not to. Unlike some of the small time dealers in Alaba and other electronics goods markets, it may be unfair to expect a refund or exchange from them because the goods may have passed through the hands of several middle men before getting into their shop, and so they are not in a position to honour such warranties because those higher up in the distribution chain would not do the same if they returned such goods. The onus is therefore on the customer, to ensure that he buys from big importers such as Tino Electronics or from any of the dealers in the various shopping malls springing up, their prices may be higher than market prices but at least their customer service guarantee will give the customer a peace of mind.

Q. What can be done to put an end to this?

A. You have to understand the nature of the Nigerian economy, at the moment the seller is still king. Because we do not have direct presence of the big electronics brand manufacturers in Nigeria, the local representatives do not care so much about the damage they are doing to their brand reputations by not honouring such warranties. The customer should for now choose carefully, rather than paying for a cheap brand that will pack up after one week, it is better to pay slightly higher for a brand that has been around for years, of which quality and durability have formed part of their brand equity.

A street vendor in Lagos. Photo by Vincent Nwanma

The Consumer Protection Council should also look into this by working directly with the electronics goods retailers association if there was such an organisation to prevail on their members to at least introduce an exchange policy for defect electronics products. Asking for a full refund may not be feasible but still because we still have a caveat emptor situation in the Nigerian market system, the buyer should always beware.

Q. How important is after sales services?

A. After sales service is very important in the sales function but we should also not forget the other components of good quality customer service such as giving customers good information and advice, providing in-store conveniences i.e. parking, toilets etc. There is no doubt that a satisfied customer would always come back and will also serve as an unofficial brand ambassador helping to spread the good virtues of the brand or firm through referrals and word-of-mouth.

Q. Your advice to the consumers, does it matter where they buy their goods?

A. The place you buy your electronics goods is very important, consumers who prefer the fly-by-night cowboys that hawk their electronic products on the expressway should really not complain about the quality of such products. I have noticed some people buying mobile phone handsets, pressing iron, fans etc from street vendors, how sure are such consumers that the sellers will still be at the same spot the next day should something go wrong with the products? This is why the big Cash and Carry shops are still preferable to some of these market store traders. Unless the item in question is not so much of high value or importance.

Q. How do we improve after sales services in Nigeria?

A. There is no universal formula to achieving this objective; it will vary from market sector to another. Several key stakeholders in the transaction process are important in this process; most importantly the customer should know his rights and demand same individually or collectively through the consumer council. The government should pass and enforce consumer protection legislations which guarantee the customer after sales and other customer services. The media should help highlight the unscrupulous acts of sellers just like the BBC consumer protection programme – BBC Watchdog. Of course we can not exonerate the sellers or manufacturers themselves, they should know that their actions and inactions directly impacts on the perceptions the customers have about their brand, therefore if they treat the customers right, the customers will come back, remain loyal and attract family and friends too through word of mouth.

Excepts from this interview were published in the Tell magazine of January 21 2008
Segun Adeosun (

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Lagos State Acquires World's First Boat Hotel

In its determination to create a new tourism destination proposition for Lagos State and a unique hospitality experience for local and international tourists, the Babatunde Fashola administration of Lagos State, on Wednesday 20, February 2008, made history when it officially finalised the process of acquiring the world's first boat hotel - the Sunborn Yacht Hotel. The cost of acquisition, transportation and up-grade of the spectacular hospitality facility has been put at about _25 million when delivered by the third quarter of this year.

The deal, initiated by the Fashola administration through the state's Ministry of Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, was bank-rolled by Diamond Capital Ltd, the investment banking arm of Diamond Bank Plc and facilitated by MIDC Ltd and Westcom Ltd, two Nigerian venture capital advisory firms. When delivered, the facility will bring Lagos State into the league of major cities of the World such as New York, Paris, Barcelona, among others, with prestigious yacht hotels, signaling the high points of their tourism earning efforts.

Speaking at the brief occasion of the final sales contract signing ceremony for the acquisition which has a Lagos-based firm, Planet Project Ltd as Project Managers and Consultants, at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, who represented the governor at the event, described the dream of the present administration to acquire a heritage hotel such as the Sunborn Yacht Hotel as indicative of the administration's desire to transform the tourism landscape in Nigeria and assume sector leadership in Africa and beyond.

He said: "The Hotel we have just acquired for Lagos with the support of Diamond Capital Ltd will be the first of its kind in Africa and indeed the Middle East and put us in the league of the first five major cities of the world with similar hospitality facilities and tourism earnings capabilities. This hospitality facility is the first that was custom-built. So it is a piece of heritage that we are buying into."

According to Afikuyomi, the success of the Lagos State government bid is a proof of the correctness of the often expressed belief of Fashola, that, what will move Lagos forward is, "a combination of the talents, assets, resources and potentials of the public sector and the private sector. Hence, this project is driven as Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative."

Afikuyomi ascribed the success of the acquisition bid, which saw Lagos beating the cities of Doha and Dubai respectively, two renowned tourism destinations in the world, to the inspiring leadership of Fashola (SAN), his colleagues at the Water Front, Physical Planning, Justice, Environment, Works and Infrastructure Ministries respectively as well as the encouraging efforts of the Special Adviser on Taxation and indeed the entire members of the Lagos State Cabinet who bought into the bold vision.

He said that "but for their support, Lagos would not have been able to make this history, as the quest by Dubai to acquire a QE2 Boat Hotel would have meant that the first Boat Hotel in the African continent and the Middle East would have gone first to Dubai. But today, we have positioned Lagos on the world tourism map and the results would be self-evident for all to see."
In his remarks, Hans Niemi, Executive Director, Sunborn International, commended the Lagos State government for the warm African hospitality his visiting team had been treated to. He described the move by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations to acquire the Sunborn Yacht Hotel for the City of Lagos as "a demonstration of uncommon bravery and courage on the part of those at the helm of affairs in the State."

According to him, "since we arrived in Lagos, we have seen what the term 'African hospitality' means. It's been truly wonderful to see the work you are doing in Lagos. It seems true that this is the right time, a very exciting time to be part of this industry in Lagos."

Hans further explained the vision of Sunborn International. "As a company, we are a very innovative company. We like to do things in creative and innovative ways. These are the kind of partners that we like to do business with and will do business with. Thanks for sharing the vision of Sunborn International. It means so much to us."
Speaking in the same vein, Lasse Heikkinen, the architect who designed the floating spectacle, described the experience of having the Sunborn Yacht Hotel in Lagos as very exciting, given the peculiar warmth and character of the people.

Mr. Tony Onwu, the Managing Director, Diamond Capital Ltd, praised the professional brinksmanship displayed by the Lagos State government team led by Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, describing the conduct of the government team "as promising that the administration is a trust worthy partner the organised private sector can do business with."
Onwu expressed the determination of his banking institution to continue to work with public sector players as the Lagos State government in the transformation of the key sectors of the state. He said: "We have absolutely no doubt in our minds that the vision of multiple tourist destinations in Lagos was achievable and achievable within a short time frame. We have absolutely no doubt that the asset we are jointly acquiring today as fast track executable transaction was something that was financiable and bankable from our perspective."
He expressed confidence in the Fashola administration saying, "this administration and its team are going to lead Lagos to the horizons we are thinking about."

The final sales contract signing ceremony, which followed two days of inspection of the proposed Marina waterfront site for the floating hotel facility by the team, was attended by key officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, Diamond Capital Ltd, MIDC Ltd, Planet Project Ltd and legal Consultant, Mr. Ovie Ukiri of Ajumogobia & Okeke.
The 105 luxury suites floating hotel is fitted with such breathtaking facilities as two exquisite royal suites with private sauna, separate bedroom and a living room, terrace balcony overlooking the water in 58 rooms, a central air-conditioning system for all the rooms and public places, fully equipped 5th deck restaurant with kitchen and cocktail bar for 100 people, a yacht club lobby bar for about 70 people, another upper deck banquet hall capable of seating over 200 people, and two inter-connected conference rooms, amongst others features.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Advertising agencies in search of new business model

By Kabir Alabi Garba

THEY abandoned the comfort of their offices in Lagos and headed to Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State where they spent two days strategising on how to re-position advertising practice in line with trend in the contemporary world.

They called it Business Retreat and in attendance were 76 delegates from member-agencies of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). Held at the newly built conference hotel, Ijebu-Ode between February 7 and 8, 2008, participants dispersed from the meeting with a resolve to herald a strong re-branding campaign for AAAN.

Such exercise, they argued, is long over due. Their belief was that it would not only enhance professionalism, but also engender better appreciation of the profession, especially by the users of the advertising services.

Another resolution is the need for a virile training academy for the industry to grow talent and capabilities. This is in addition to setting up business support services unit within the AAAN to member-agencies to upscale the practice.

Government was specifically called upon to stimulate growth and development of the advertising industry through the creation of an enabling environment that will protect local agencies and other businesses as a way of staving off foreign competitors. They also agreed to encourage protocol for clients desiring to change agencies including a well defined pitching process.

The business, they submitted, require huge capital base, the association would therefore, set up criteria to be redefined to match what is obtainable in most developed countries. Henceforth, strict enforcement of AAAN Code of Conduct would be pursued. The association is also planning to recommend a fee structure as the preferred mode of agency remuneration by clients.

Above all, part of the new thinking is to foster viable relationship between AAAN and other sectoral bodies such as the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON); and Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN). Others are the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN); and the Media Independent Practitioners' Association of Nigeria (MIPAN).

In his opening address, the AAAN President, Lolu Akinwumi, described the retreat as a "follow-up to the various formal and informal discussions we have all had in the last few months and the solemn promise I made during the last presidential campaign on the necessary and very urgent need to take a look at the practice and the association."

According to Akinwumi, "even the most disinterested practitioner has come to the conclusion that our association is not what it used to be and is clearly not what we want it to be. For us to move ahead and make meaningful progress, we need to go through a major review process like this." Also dubbed as extraordinary general meeting, the retreat, he asserted, was the "Executive Board's response to the necessary need to spend time together to review the affairs of the AAAN and advertising in Nigeria."

What pained the AAAN boss who is also Chief Executive Officer, Prima Garnet, was the fact that most of the challenges facing the association, nay the industry had been predicted few years ago, yet nothing seemed to have been done to confront those challenges.

In retrospect, he said, "During the AAAN's 30th anniversary in this same town in 2003, I had in the keynote lecture taken a future position on what I envisaged would be our major challenges within the next few years. I feel unhappy today to admit that prophetically, nearly all those things have either happened or are about to happen. To be sure, some of our challenges are being externally driven, while others can be traced to clear cases of self immolation, relapse and neglect.

"While the ad spend for example appears to have tripled in the last five years, the portion coming to our members in real terms is actually restricted to a few, and some will argue, on the decline, if you consider the activities of our cousins, the media independents, direct marketing companies, client contractors and agencies and the cost of doing this business. Add to this the issues of our relationships. Media contractors have become so hostile, unfairly utilising their ownership of the media to cast this association and profession in the poorest light. Clients have become our strongest competitors ensuring that as little as possible of the ad revenue gets to the agencies. Even prospects are flexing their muscles; they don't want to pay pitch fees!"

Expectedly, the current decision by the leadership of the NPAN to reduce commission rate to 15 per cent did not escape the attention of Akinwumi. He began, "permit me to use this opportunity to speak on the issue of NPAN and its decision to reduce the agency commission from 20 per cent to 15 per cent from January this year."

The unilateral decision, he noted "has been considered unprofessional and against the spirit of mutual cooperation which has guided our relationship over the years." Continuing, he said, "while the NPAN continues to talk about a global practice of 15 per cent commission to agencies, it was silent on the fact that we arrived at the 20 per cent years ago to compensate for the finance charges that agencies have to bear as a result of the introduction of the prepayment regime.

"While NPAN is also quick to quote global 15 per cent agency commission, it has remained silent on the fact that in those same communities, agencies don't prepay; neither has it come up with any appreciable reason, apart from increasing cost, why we continue to pay more when circulation remains on the decline. It is indeed shameful that as at today no Nigerian newspaper circulates 80,000 regularly."

He disclosed that at a meeting with the NPAN executives on February 5, 2008, the matter was raised, but nothing came out of it as the NPAN stood their ground insisting that the new commission rate has come to stay.

Akinwumi however acknowledged the promise of the print media owners to put structures in place to enforce the need to restore discriminatory commission to AAAN members. But the adamant position of the NPAN with respect to reduced commission rate notwithstanding, the issue, Akinwumi promised, would be further examined at the association's AGM as "the exco will advise on the next step to take to protect our members' interest."

He mentioned under capitalization as another challenge confronting the body. "We are grossly undercapitalized," he lamented. "Our business models," he noted, "are outdated and weak; we don't make enough margins; we are not able to compete for good staff with our richer partners and are sometimes not in a strong position to adequately fund good training programmes."

The issue of AAAN relationship within the Advertising Practitioners' Council of Nigeria (APCON) is another matter. He explained, "the unfortunate impression that has been created is that forces within APCON are working very hard to subvert the AAAN and weaken our influence within the body by the sponsorship of clearly anti-AAAN amendments to the APCON Decree.
"While a few portions of the proposed amendment are pragmatic, clearly others are hard to explain within the overall AAAN context. During our business session, the house will debate the proposed amendment and be updated on what our representatives on the council are doing on the matter."

He expressed optimism that the forum would be germane to "address the issue of corporate governance and how best to protect the interests of our members and show in concrete terms the benefits of belonging to this association as well as looking attractive to those who are reluctant to join, well beyond the benefits of cheaper airline tickets and hotel rooms!
"I am also hopeful that sometime and somewhere within the presentations, we will discuss the issue of our presence and influence within government and how we can strengthen this. We also will not leave out the issue of our esprit de corp. While we admit we are competitors, how can we continue to do this without devouring each other?"

In summary, Akinwumi envisaged that the retreat would not only afford "us the opportunity of re-examining ourselves as individual practitioners, our businesses as advertising agencies and our association as a professional body, but will also enable us articulate new and credible positions on the ever-increasing challenges that have been plaguing the advertising practice in particular and our association at large."

He however underscored the limitation of the duration of the retreat as "the two days cannot adequately give us the opportunity to solve and resolve all AAAN and advertising issues.
"I am however confident that we will go a long way in determining the future of the profession during the period as we set new milestones. The sessions offer us an opportunity to receive well-researched papers and even a longer time to discuss the issues associated with each paper. And because this meeting has the status of an AGM, we can also take decisions and if necessary make binding agreements."

He therefore implored members to put behind "all misgivings of the past, the lack of trust and confidence, both at individual and corporate levels, which sadly have sometimes characterised the practice, producing bitterness, unhealthy rivalry, the schism between the so-called big and small agencies and the needless fears of the systematic annihilation of some agencies by others."

Culled from the Guardian, Monday, February 18, 2008

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Virgin Nigeria entrusts its frequent flyer programme to Mercator and Skywards Consultancy Services

Virgin Nigeria, the flag carrier of Nigeria, has become the latest airline to opt for the CRIS frequent flyer and customer relationship management solution from Mercator, the IT division of Dubai-based Emirates Group.

Skywards Consultancy Services worked alongside Mercator during the design and implementation phases, revolutionising Virgin Nigeria's frequent flyer programme, 'eagleflier', bringing in a broad range of innovative, appealing and user-friendly new features. Virgin Nigeria's more regular travellers will be transformed into their most loyal customers. CRIS' powerful customer relationship functionality also means that Virgin Nigeria management will benefit from a continual stream of quality customer information, helping them to better understand their passengers and create services to match their needs.
Yemi Osindero, Chief Operating Officer, Virgin Nigeria, said: 'We're passionate about our customers and we always try our best to give them a quality travel experience whenever they fly with us. We make it our top priority to recognise and appreciate the support of these most loyal customers.'

'Mercator's CRIS will give us everything we need to make 'eagleflier' a truly unique loyalty reward programme. Our customers will enjoy a wide range of benefits, never seen before in this region, and we look forward to building a strong Virgin Nigeria customer family.'

Mercator will host CRIS for Virgin Nigeria at its state-of-the-art twin data centre facilities in Dubai. Patrick Naef, Head of Mercator and Divisional Senior Vice President IT Emirates Group, said: 'Virgin Nigeria is already a customer for our outsourced RAPID revenue accounting solution, and this latest deal for CRIS further cements our relationship. We look forward to working hand in hand with our friends in Nigeria on future projects and to contributing to the airline's continued success.'
Virgin Nigeria is 49% owned by Virgin Atlantic Airways, with the majority 51% being held by 20 Nigerian institutional investors. Its hub is in Lagos, with services running from Lagos to London and to destinations within Nigeria and West Africa. The network will rapidly expand to cover Europe, the US, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Mercator's smart and cost effective solutions in passenger experience, air cargo management, finance and revenue accounting are used by more than 100 airlines and airports all around the world. Customers for its CRIS frequent flyer and customer relationship management solutions include Air Astana, Emirates Airline, Jet Airways, Philippine Airlines and SriLankan Airlines.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Seven Deadly Sins Of Advertising

By Paul Ashby

Sin No. 1: And in many ways this is the biggest sin of them all! The total lack of genuine accountability and effectiveness. More and more evidence is emerging that there is ample justification for questioning a major advertising pretension that it does, indeed, work at all!The repetitious cry and certain belief that “creativity” is the answer to all marketing problems – it isn’t and frankly never really has been.It’s a given that all human knowledge is provisional but it is also incremental, the sum of what we know to day is far greater than thirty years ago – with, possibly, the sole exception of marketing/advertising.

Nothing new has been added to the armoury of advertising…no debate is taking place as to where to go next! Perhaps that is because there is no place else to go! However to day it is still an article of faith among advertising people that advertising will not change because "it works"!Facing the painful truth is the first essential step in devising a sensible strategy for the perpetuation of advertising. And the painful truth is “Advertising no longer works”!

Sin No 2: Is it because that, for financial reasons, you do not want to address the problem of clutter…because it is a huge and growing problem which contributes to the declining effectiveness of all advertising.

The poor old customer, or in advertising speak, Consumer, does not want to take delivery of even more messages, after all they do not appear to be taking much notice of the messages that exist already!The advertising world has dehumanised and depersonalised the process of communication and very little evidence of consideration of the consumer exists.

Sin No.3: You just don’t listen, whenever some well meaning person dares to question the “Advertising Works” article of faith, down comes a torrent of abuse, and the fact is it can only be a torrent of abuse because you do not have a solid fact to support your spurious claims.

Listen to your Clients:As one large Client recently explained: "In to day's marketing landscape, building a brand is about a whole lot more than advertising. An advertising agency alone cannot deliver everything we need – even though agencies may claim to deliver this, it's a myth".Or even listen to people closer to home:Derek Morris, Chairman and chief executive of ZenithOptimedia attended "Media 360 Conference" in Wales.

In a long letter in MediaWeek, he said, among other things, "But what are the lessons to bring home from South Wales? What should we actually do? And there, in the final session, reality caught up when the Client told us to "Change before you are dead".

Sin No.4: If you don’t want to listen then for Heavens sake forget the glorious past.Your current model of advertising was developed in the Sixties when product choice was much more limited and people were easier to stereotype into categories like income, sex and class. It was much easier for advertisers to target people and bombard them with sales messages.

Today’s marketplace is different and all the old certainties are gone. To be effective in your communications it is sound advice to start with the premise that you know nothing about the people that you believe your product is aimed at. You all have become too parochial, too introspective, too convinced by your on hyperbole.

Sin No.5: Stop this insane rush onto Web 2.0 it is not a medium intended for mass advertising, and, as has been recently established, “Users became more or less desensitised to the Advertising”That was recently said of advertising on social networking sites.

Clients are experiencing fast diminishing returns on their social networking ad investments.Clients are expressing disillusionment.Web marketers, ranging from Google at the apex of the ad triangle to the mass of small companies are showering social-networking sites with ad dollars without getting their hoped-for returns.The question is not "Has the advertising model broken"?

The question now is "What are we going to replace it with"?The complacency of the IPA is overwhelming, they appear not to be doing anything to answer the increasingly strident complaints.Complaints such as, clutter, and here the irony is that advertising agencies appear to think that placing more advertisements is the way to solve clutter!Complaints such as lack of accountability, to day, and after fifty years of extensive advertising, there are no reliable figures available on audience measurements.

And most certainly there are no effective studies as to the effectiveness of advertising…on sales…. As a return on ROI…and much more.To day it is more important that a close investigation as to the suitability of advertising on Web 2.0 be undertaken instead of rushing onto the Net and ignoring all the signs. These are that it is a highly unsuitable medium for advertising.After all it is "The Wild West" where anything goes!

Sin No.6: Your inability to move very rapidly into the post-advertising mindset is caused by you being unable to recognise Sins 1 through 5 above.Astonishingly, a sizeable percentage of marketers and marketing-service leaders seem mired in the advertising mind-set.The Cannes Lions Festival still celebrates ads-a position, one suspects, roughly equivalent to the Cannes Film Festival honouring silents. The One Show held two concurrent programmes this year-one for conventional ads, another for online. (One wonders who in this mix felt like a second-class citizen). In a transparent world, the power of an “ad campaign” to change minds is strictly limited, and getting more so every day. It’s way past time for the industry’s leaders to get naked and reinvent advertising…it they can!

Sin No.7: Your complete and utter lack of understanding of the word “communication” together with a lack of appreciation as to what can, and does, stifle effective communication. All advertising is a form of learning whereby the advertiser is asking people to change their behaviour after learning the benefits of the products or services on offer. However, we all tend to filter out information, which we do not want to hear.

This clearly alters the effectiveness of conventional advertising in quite a dramatic way.The final purchase decision is invariably a compromise and this leads to a certain amount of anxiety; the worry that perhaps the decision was not the best or the right one. In order to minimise this anxiety the purchaser seeks to reinforce their choice and begins to take more notice of their chosen product’s marketing communications.

So what are you going to do about this?Due to a lack of understanding of the communication process we have created a media society during the past 40 or 50 years, where the whole process has been de-humanised. There is now an extraordinary reduction in interaction because conventional advertising and marketing have become a one-way practice whereby information is disseminated in a passive form.

culled from

Friday, 8 February 2008

UBA Launches Europe Affiliate, UBA Capital

UBA Capital (Europe), the London-based investment banking and asset management affiliate of UBA Plc – West Africa's largest financial services institution – has formally commenced business following its official launch on Wednesday in London.

The impressive ceremony witnessed by UK and African business leaders, representatives of leading investment banking firms, clients in Europe and key players in the London and African financial markets, took place at the historic Duke of Wellington Arch, Hyde Park, London. The birth of UBA Capital was the result of the substantial equity investment by UBA in Afrinvest Ltd, a privately owned investment banking firm in London specialising in African securities.

L-R: ED UBA Plc,Mr. Chika Mordi, CBN Gov,Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, CEO UBA Capital(Europe),Mr. Phillip Iheanacho, Director UBA Capital(Europe),Mrs. Rose Okwechme and Chairman UBA Capital(Europe),Mr. Tony Elumelu during the launch of UBA Capital in London
This transaction resulted in a name change to UBA Capital (Europe) Ltd, providing UBA (and its subsidiary UBA Global Markets, one of the most innovative local investment banks and leading debt capital market originators and distributors) with a strategic presence in London from which it will be able to distribute primary and secondary securities of African issuers into Europe. In addition, London will act as an important addition to UBA's Pan African asset management business, providing international investors with access to investment opportunities across the African continent. As Africa's global bank, UBA has been expanding from Nigeria where it has attained dominant status, to other parts of West, East and Central Africa. The London affiliate will further extend the Bank's presence outside Africa in addition to its operations in New York and the Cayman Islands.

Leveraging the group's footprints in Africa, UBA Capital (Europe) has extended its range of products and enhanced the liquidity of its existing trade capabilities. Based on competencies built over the years as a London-based independent investment banking firm, UBA Capital is continuing the tradition, providing specialised research and investment advice for London-based institutions interested in the African markets as well as executing services for international institutional clients seeking to deal in African securities. In line with UBA's aspiration to be Africa's global bank providing comprehensive financial services, the mission for UBA Capital is to become the investment bank of choice for African issuers and international institutional investors.

"We are most delighted at the launch of UBA Capital. It marks a significant milestone for us as we leverage this platform for all transactions involving Africa and Africa-related businesses," Mr. Tony Elumelu, the Group Managing Director/CEO, UBA Plc, said.

UBA Plc is the largest banking group in West Africa with a balance sheet of approximately US$15bn and more than 6 million customers across the region. It is a full service financial services institution, offering retail banking, corporate and investment banking, private equity, asset management, stock-broking and custodian services. UBA has an expanding footprint across the African continent, and its local investment banking subsidiary, UBA Global Markets, has rapidly gained a reputation as an innovative originator and leading distributor of securities, having transacted over US$8bn in local securities in the past 18 months. UBA is rated as follows: Fitch A+, GCR AA+ long term and Agusto & Co AA+.

The Group is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and also has an unlisted GDR programme currently administered by the Bank of New York. Managed by a dynamic team of change-drivers led by its Group Managing Director/CEO, Mr. Tony Elumelu, the bank has won many awards over the years, most recently "Africa's Emerging Global Bank" as adjudged by a panel organised by the acclaimed African Banker Magazine.
Culled from This Day online (Friday February 8, 2008)

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Skills Gap In The Financial Services Sector

By Tunde Dabiri

THE banking consolidation marked the birth of a new era in banking services in Nigeria and formed a cardinal point in the financial services reforms being embarked upon by the government of Nigeria.

The process led to the transformation of 80 weak and struggling banks to 25 consolidated banks. The country has also witnessed reforms in the pension administration system, insurance sector and capital market. Beyond any doubt, more reforms and recapitalisations are still on the way.
In a bid to transform the newly consolidated banks to more virile, capitalised, stable and internationally competitive mega entities, the onus is on stakeholders to address the various deficiencies and shortcomings that led to the non-performance, weakened and liquidated status of the pre-consolidation era. The increasing spate of global competition in the banking and financial sector calls for adequate human resource realignment, technology integration, stakeholders concern and monitoring and supervision.

There is therefore the need to address the issues of skill gap in Nigeria's financial services sector and propose solutions and various mitigation processes. For the consolidated banks and other players in the financial services sector to render higher value and for the economy to benefit from the pre-conceived opportunities of consolidation, adequate and required skills have to available.

The need for adequate skills in the handling of financial services operations cannot be over-emphasised. The virtue of a professional banker is the possession of systematic knowledge and proficiency in a given field. This systematic knowledge constitutes the soft and hard skills that professionals trade for their placement and positioning. Skill shortages exist when employers have difficulty filling job vacancies or specialised skill needs at current levels of remuneration and conditions of employment.

Global competition and new technology have changed the type of skills demanded by businesses and its impact on skill formation. Training is no doubt the key tool in solving skill shortage problems. It is difficult for businesses to train workers quickly enough to meet new skill requirements at the expected proficiency level. Other interventions can be used to address these shortcomings include:
  1. Skill training programmes continually developed and adapted to meet rapidly changing skill requirements
  2. Upgrade and renewal of existing workers' skills
  3. Recognised pre-qualifications for new entrants to job markets
  4. Mentoring and coaching
  5. Job rotation initiatives to drive on-the-job training
  6. The provision of required skills by the financial institutions, regulatory bodies, professional bodies and educational institutions.

These skills are diverse. However, they can be narrowed down to a few which are critical and have been observed to be in short supply within the Nigerian financial services sector:

  • Credit risk management
  • Product sales and marketing capacity
  • Information and communication technology skills
  • Structured finance, and Real estate project evaluation skills.

Credit Risk Management (CRM) is the process of identifying, analysing and managing risk in an investment to aid profitable investment decisions. According to the Chief Risk Officer of Royal Bank of Canada, "risk itself is not bad. What is bad is risk that is mismanaged, misunderstood, mis-priced, or unintended."

Prior to the consolidation of Nigerian banks, most banks did not give adequate attention to CRM due to lack of competence and inadequate controls by the board and regulatory agencies. On the other hand, some executives intentionally undertook unmitigated risk investments in order to perpetuate fraud.

These unwise decisions led to so many bad credits that eventually crystalised a systemic distress of many banks. For example, the non-performing credits of Nigerian banks increased from N316 billion in 2004 to N356 billion in 2005. The asset quality of the banking sector actually deteriorated in 2005. Provision for bad and doubtful debts increased from N94.2 billion in 2001 to N138.8 billion in 2002, N227 billion in 2003, N256 billion in 2004 and N282 billion in September 2005. Availability of competent and proficient skills will no doubt mitigate some or all of these problems.

The Nigerian financial supermarket comprises few ranges of product portfolios, which are often replicated by all other institutions with different brand names. The industry currently lacks the required number of marketers and sales technocrats that can adapt to the continually changing and highly stimulating area of sales. The financial services industry requires marketers that can identify quality clients and discern the inherent needs of their targets, with a bid to working with the back office (research analysts, investment bankers and others) to satisfy the clientele need.
The new recapitalised status of Nigerian banks has engendered the need for the introduction of innovative products that will attract various segments of the population. There is the need to design and deepen the products suit as opposed to the current replication and plagiarising of products going on in the market.

Nigeria's un-banked population is still high as about 90 per cent of the populace transact businesses in cash. The 90 per cent are the people that the marketers need to seek out and stimulate their interest in the banking sector. To drive the above stated initiatives, Nigeria's financial institutions require proactive sales and marketing teams with the following guidelines:

  • Develop a marketing strategy, execute marketing and sales programmes to increase banking penetration (deposits, loans, mortgages and credit cards) with new wealth management clients.
  • Innovate product development
  • Benchmark and evaluate the effectiveness of marketing programs and return on investment, and
  • Leverage all client communication channels, both offline and online, to support marketing and sales.

The global financial services industry has emerged to become a village, square with constantly changing medium of communication and closing transactions. In Nigeria, electronic banking and payments services methods are still at the teething stage. For the country to be globally competitive and tap from the inherent opportunities that exist in Internet banking and other related services, there is the need for all financial services organisations to develop a robust Information and Communication Technology (lCT) platform.

Currently, the deployment of ICT in the local organizations is plagued with "no Internet access," "server is down," "financial institution not available," and "services currently not available," among other responses from the systems. Sending money to family members and business allies in the hinterland through branch network Internet banking is another nightmare. A few characteristics of efficient deployment of ICT in the financial services industry will:

  • Enable banks to reach a wider clientele within short periods of time
  • Decongest banking halls, resulting in bankers seeing to the needs of customers more quickly and effectively
  • Lead to good and efficient management
  • Give competitive edge over other non-ICI banks
  • Ensure time effectiveness - saving both customer and bank enough time
  • Enhance opportunity to bank at any time of the day, and
    Minimize human error.

Services that could be delivered with the aid of functional ICT include:

  • Internet banking - where customers make transactions outside the banking hall with the help of a computer with Internet access. SMS banking - making banking transaction with the support of a cell phone
  • Telephone banking
  • Receiving statement of account via e-mail, and
  • Slip-free transactions - customers making deposits and withdrawals without filling any forms.

In order to offer the stated opportunities, skill upgrade of ICT staff in financial services industry is inevitable.

Most Nigerian banks are well exposed to retail and consumer banking products and other generic banking products. This is because of the short-term life span of these products and the fact that the banks have funds that could only be invested on a short-term/medium-term basis.
However, structured finance and its other appendages (investment banking, infrastructural finance, among others) is an evolving field that requires multi-disciplinary approach and in-depth understanding of financial modeling. Presently, few banks, and in rare cases smaller firms, have competence in this field that is easily dominated by offshore financial services company or their subsidiaries in Nigeria.

Structured finance and investment banking products are typically big transactions that have a long gestation, delivery and returns period but could have a tremendous impact on the society and are profitable. There is the need to train and expose financial services staff to the intricacies of this tailor-made finance tool which transverses the collateral debacle and opens win-win opportunity vistas for the lender and borrower.

Real estates have the potential of continuous appreciation and yielding of good returns to holders. It is typically large-scale transaction with a long delivery period and seldom goes wrong. There is a gradual awakening towards the opportunity in this sector, especially with the on-going land use reform acts being undertaken by the current government. Players in the financial services market need to beam their searchlight to tap the juicy opportunities that exist in the sector.

Dabiri is the former MD/CEO of Sterling Bank Plc.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Retailing Of Financial Services, Products & Opportunities

By Okey Nwosu

SPECIFICALLY, the Nigerian retail financial services market consists of institutions such as banks, insurance companies, finance houses and assets management companies, among others, that deliver products to direct end users, the customers, being the largest and most visible single group of end users.

The retail products available to this group in its generic form include depository accounts, credits and payment services. Though statistics are sketchy, it would not be out of place to suggest that this market encompasses more than 300 businesses, which include the 24 commercial banks; mortgage banks, securities companies and brokers, insurance agencies, micro-finance banks and leasing companies, among others.

Retail financial services are considered heavily regulated, especially as offered by commercial banks. Though deposit rates have been deregulated, competition in the industry has kept rates in check. More radical changes in the industrial landscape has witnessed importation of the global trend of convergence between corporate banking, investment banking, retail banking and insurance, with universal bank licensing and the merger process laying to rest any lingering thought of product dichotomy.

It is not contestable that the merger and acquisition process has left banks with greater capacity to drive businesses, thus placing enormous strain on operational efficiency and financial performance, which the urban sector is struggling to cope with. The post-merger era has thus thrown up the challenge of taking retail financial services deep into the rural areas. Though the initial results from the industry restructuring are impressive, we have reached a stage where to drive the next phase, financial institutions need to look beyond the comfort of the urban centres and seek to derive value from the numerically larger rural population.

The immediate response by banks has been the resort to the cradle-to-grave banking philosophy whereby all banking relationships are managed on a product bundling criteria to avoid customers seeking alternative service providers. This, in turn, has heightened competition and resulted in product deepening and new delivery channel developments, with e-channels being the most appealing. For the industry, the new competitive frontiers have become Internet banking, e-payment systems, telephone banking and m-banking.

To remain competitive, banks in this changing financial services landscape must simultaneously expand their product lines, add new delivery channels, develop more effective market outlets and enhance service quality levels.

Of all these challenges, developing more market outlets profitably may be the most complex and difficult. We need to shift better and broader retail banking products and services to the rural markets such that they too can access many different types of service channels such as ATM, counter services, telephone banking and Internet banking, providing them with anytime, anywhere banking conveniences. We need to transform the banking landscape rapidly in order to provide the best available services to the rural areas, a key engine of the nation's economy.
Despite the opportunities provided by the evolving financial sector to the retail market, there is still the challenging problem of defining or indeed forecasting the needs of the increasingly discerning customer, designing solutions and the most convenient means of delivering such to them.

Nigeria's savings to GDP ratio of about 20 per cent is extremely low when compared to the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies or even those in other SANE (South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt) economies. Consequently, credit to GDP ratio is low at about 30 per cent as at June 2007. The challenge is to improve the savings rate more that five fold to generate comparative and equivalent funding basis for rapid economic development.

Most banks are still grappling with the difficult challenge of achieving integrated, multi-channel experiences for various customer segments despite the fact that this is the major ingredient for delivering the next generation of retail products that are emerging. The key from this dilemma has variously been defined by banks as aggregating the various individual customer needs under the generic products and utilising Information Technology (IT) to deliver same on an on-demand basis.

The market response in this guise has been a plethora of convenience products, among which are: The ATM, Flash-Me-Cash - the first robust mobile payment solution in Nigeria, Naira Debit and Credit Cards, U.S.$ Debit and Credit Cards, Consumer Credit Products, Share Acquisition Loans, Mortgage Loans and E-payment Products.

It is pertinent to note that most of these products are delivered on IT portals with e-platforms provided to affect an on-demand delivery. A typical example is the e-payment platform which allows customers to settle such bills as DSTV subscriptions, GSM phone subscriptions and school fees, among others, on an on-demand basis. For the customer, retail banking has totally redefined the term "convenience." Most transactions can now be carried out at the convenience of the customer without needing to leave the comfort of his/her immediate environment.
Convenience alone cannot attract the level of savings envisaged in the economy. Customers must look to the banks for provision of reasonable funding assistance in the form of consumer loans and other benefits in return for savings. In addition, the macro-economic indicators and fiscal policies must encourage a downward inflationary trend to encourage savings at a positive real interest rate.

Arising from the above, the major issue now facing retail financial institutions is how to reduce channel cost and capture value from the IT investments. The obvious answer is to keep teller-to-customer ratios low by encouraging customers to move transactions to alternative channels such as ATM.

To effect this change, the financial institutions need to: drive an increase in card usage, develop a credit data base accessible to all retailing institutions, create a credit factoring outlet to handle the inevitable delinquent card loans and leverage on insurance to improve the risk on delinquent consumer loans. The challenges that arise from this dilemma can best be viewed as opportunities.

However, it is becoming clear that most of the Internet and mobile banking opportunities have been stretched. Differentiation has become a prerogative which banks now seek to establish by gaining a simple view of customers, delivering consistently excellent services over multiple channels or delivering new services as quickly as clients demand. There is no doubt that e-channel technologies have paved the way for a multitude of different banking products being offered by industry players.

Development of non-core businesses such as insurance and stock brokering, revenue collections, passport and visa payment collection, among others, has allowed banks to tap into other potential avenues of revenue generation and improvement in payment services. These are all e-enhanced opportunities which, to a large extent, have been harvested in the urban centres but to which the rural centres has remained relatively immune.

The clustering of banks and their retail products in the urban centres leave more than 60 per cent of the bankable population (residing outside urban centres) unreached. The import of this fact is that there is an under-utilisation of available markets in retail financial service products.
How can we reach these markets at an economic and profitable cost?

The simple answer is to emulate the South African and Brazilian models. Retail institutions in Brazil have adopted a branchless model to reach remote areas with a total absence of bank branches, ATM or even MFl. The model consists of adopting outlets (mainly provision and supply vendors) as agents using P.O.S to facilitate bill settlements, salary accounts, cash lodgments and account enquiry.

Operating simple P.O.S machines, the agents credit or debit customer accounts on the basis of the cash they received or paid out to or from the operator's account. The South African "WIZZIT" model operates on similar terms. WIZZIT agents assist adopters use bank retail services, especially bill payment facilities, airtime top-ups and balance inquiry. The net effect of both models is the deepening of the retail financial service market as a wider scope of the population is reached. The statistics are staggering:

95 per cent rural dwellers now use retail service to transact in payment of bills,
51 per cent has opened bank accounts as a result of the service, and
In South Africa, 50,000 active rural users were signed on within the first two years.
For us in Nigeria, the key issues filter down to the following questions: Can technology make it profitable to deliver a range of retail financial services to the "unbanked" remote rural population? How can technology increase access to retail products for extremely remote customers?

Which technology can be deployed and how should they be adapted to help reach the rural areas where micro-finance has not yet impacted? What regulatory policies should we seek to encourage innovation while protecting businesses and customers? What role will the new micro Finance Banks (MFBs) play in this dispensation? How can universal banks partner MFBs to deepen the market for the unbanked rural population?


Current practices in the Nigerian retail financial market have shown in clear terms the impact of innovation. The combination of market segmentation strategies with customer-level-pricing, parametisation and loyalty programmes have increased retention.

The market is now crying out for the creation of innovative product combination spanning transactions, investments and insurance account delivered on a convenience portal of technology. This should be available, not just for the urban centres but also for the rural areas. Given that over 60 per cent of our potential retail market is still untapped, we must build our bundled product offering on this.

Going forward, the focus of retail strategic thought and technology investment should clearly be directed at the enhancement of delivery channel capabilities to drive both service excellence and cross-sell opportunities and establish a more efficient payment system.

Nwosu is the MD/CEO of First Inland Bank Plc.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

At The First Inland Bank European Investment Forum

Okey Nwosu, CEO and Managing Director of First Inland Bank Plc led an all-star cast of his management team including the Chairman of the Board, Dr. Theo Chike Osanakpo (SAN) to the Grand Ballroom of the Park Lane Hilton Hotel, London on Wednesday, January 17th 2008 to present to European investors and Nigerians in the diaspora the ongoing 100 Billion Naira public offer of the bank.

Amongst the guests were fund managers from top European finance houses, and also distinguished Nigerians including Nigeria’s Acting High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador Dozie Nwanna and the Minister of Trade at the High Commission, Mr. G.A. Zakari.

The Bank’s CEO, Mr Nwosu impressed the audience with his 3-part presentation which focused on the Nigerian economy, the Nigerian banking sector and the First Inland Bank public offer. He said that First Inland Bank is one of the success stories of the post-consolidated banking sector in Nigeria and charged guests to help spread the message of the bank’s offer. “We urge you to take advantage of the offer and to also share in our success story, at N9.50 kobo per share; you can see that this offer is of great value to the discerning investor”.

Speaking on the bank’s current position in the Nigerian banking sector, Mr Nwosu said that the bank currently has a network of 200 branches nationwide and is a leader in technology product offering. “This is our niche, the ability to deploy cutting-edge technology in all our product offerings in the service of our customers who are constantly delighted by our commitment and passion to exceed their expectations”. He also said that although First Inland Bank is currently in the Top 10 of Nigeria’s biggest banks, the bank is still on course to becoming one of the top 5 banks in Nigeria in the next 5 years, “Most importantly we hope to grow our balance sheet by 1 Trillion naira by 2009”. Concluding, he summarised for the audience the reasons for the bank’s offer which he said will be used for branch expansion, IT upgrade, developing subsidiaries in local and international markets and finally to boost working capital.

Mr Dozie Nwanna thanked the officials of the bank for bringing the offer to the attention of Nigerians in the diaspora. “We are always delighted at the High Commission when Nigerian banks come into town. As you can see, i have the Minister of trade at the High Commission with me here; this is to show how important we value events like these”. Mr Nwanna also pledged the support of the Nigerian High Commission to First Inland Bank and to other Nigerian banks wishing to come to London to source for investments.

Speaking later, Mr Christian Udechukwu, CEO of who facilitated the event thanked the guests for coming out to support the bank and hoped that as indicated, they would avail themselves of the opportunity of investing in the bank’s stock.

Other guests present at the event were Femi Okutubo (Publisher, Trumpet Newspaper), Senator Onyeabo Obi, Dr. Mark Abani, (Head of Process & Strategy, HM Revenue & Customs), Sarah Macinnes (Regional Director, Middle East & Africa – Int. Herald Tribune), Mike Abiola (Publisher, African Voice), Lady Olga Maitland (CEO, IAMTN) and many more.

First Inland Bank was formed out of a merger between First Atlantic Bank Plc, Inland Bank Plc, IMB International Bank Plc and NUB International Bank Ltd. For further information about First Inland Bank Plc, visit

The first Inland public offer closes on the 31st of January 2008.

To download Okey Nwosu’s power point presentation, click here.

Pictures of the event could be viewed on this blog:

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Diamond Bank Listed on London Stock Exchange

By Moses Obajemu

Diamond Bank Plc made history yesterday across the shores of the land as it became the first West African Bank to be listed on the Professional Securities Market (PSM) of the London Stock Exchange (LSE).The peak of the epoch making event, according to a statement from the bank, was the ringing of the bell by the Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, Mr. Emeka Onwuka, signalling the starting of trading on the floor of the London Stock Exchange.

The event was witnessed by captains of industries, top government dignitaries including the chairman of Diamond Bank, HRM Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; Mr. Pascal Dozie, Founder, Diamond Bank; and Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Prof Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke. Also among the dignitaries were the Director General of the Nigeria Security and Exchange Commission, Mr. Al Faki; and Mr. Chuka Eseka, MD Vetiva Capital Management Limited, who was the Financial Adviser/Domestic co-coordinator for the offer and a host of others. Commenting on the admission to the LSE, Diamond Bank CEO said “the listing is an important step in the evolution of the Bank’s strategy and is aimed at raising stronger capital base, attracting new shareholders, raising its international profile, enhancing the leadership position of Diamond Bank in the middle market and developing the Bank into a reputable financial conglomerate”.

Head of Primary Market, London Stock Exchange, Tracy Pierce, also stated: “I am personally delighted to welcome Diamond Bank to the London Stock Exchange. This is the second Nigerian company to be listed in the London Stock Exchange and the first Nigerian company to be listed on our Professional Securities Market, and we hope that many more companies from Nigeria will follow." In the same vein, Okereke-Onyiuke did not hide her emotions. She said: "This is a major fulfilment for me as Diamond Bank has placed Nigeria in the world map, especially the world financial system, by being listed not just in the London Stock Exchange but the first African company/bank to be listed in the Professional Securities Market of the London Stock Exchange. This is because the Professional Securities Market is the cream of the London Stock Exchange and you must pass through a rigorous process before being listed in this market. I do hope that many more Nigerian companies will come and be listed in this market."

The offer enabled Diamond to raise US$500million through 37.6 million newly issued GDRs, each representing 100 ordinary Diamond shares. The settlement price per GDR has been set at $13.30 and will be traded on PSM.The offer proceed will enable Diamond expand its footprint through traditional and electronic channels in order to seize the growing Nigerian retail market, enter new business segments like Mortgages, Insurance, Investment Banking and also strengthen its Francophone West Africa expansion.

Diamond Bank’s market capitalisation post-offering is now N263.2billion (US$2.3 billion as at January 02, 2008), while its shareholders’ fund is in excess of N100billion. Morgan Stanley is the Global Coordinator and Sole Book-runner for the offering.The Bank had its first major foreign equity capital injection in April 2007 when an international consortium led by Actis Capital LLP, as strategic investor, injected $134 million into the Bank. The investment gave Actis a 19.1 per cent stake in the Bank. Actis is a leading private equity investor in emerging markets, having significant investments across Africa, China, India, South East Asia and Latin America. Actis’ approach to investment is long-term and partner-oriented.

Diamond Bank has strategic relationships with international financial institutions and export credit guarantee agencies, thereby strengthening the Bank’s structured trade/project finance capacity and enhancing its contribution to the development of the economy. Such relationships include on-lending/trade facility arrangements with International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Investment Bank (EIB), Africa Export & Import Bank (AFRIEXIMBANK), US Export & Import Bank (USEXIMBANK), FMO and DEG.

The Group operates a leading Nigerian bank offering a wide range of financial services and products throughout Nigeria. Historically, the Group has focused on banking small and medium sized companies in Nigeria, with a particular strength in trade finance. In order to meet customers’ needs, the Group has maintained a geographical presence throughout Nigeria. In 2001, the Bank obtained a universal banking licence from the CBN and in recent years, the Group began to expand its products and services (including insurance and mortgage products), as well as its customer base.Established in 1991, Diamond remains one of the strongest in Nigeria and its core strengths lies in its unique SME business model and its solid brand associated with integrity, professionalism and good corporate governance.

The Bank considers itself to be a true “universal bank” in Nigeria, offering financial services across the entire client spectrum, through over 139 business locations in Nigeria with absolute commitment to quality. The Bank believes that it is well-placed to leverage its historical experience in the middle market to access the developing Nigerian retail market and expand into the existing market for large corporate clients.Members of the Group include one offshore banking subsidiary - Diamond Benin, which operates seven branches in the Republic of Benin and five non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs).

The NBFIs are Diamond Securities Limited, which provides brokerage, asset management and registrar services; Diamond Pension Fund Custodian Limited - one of the four institutions licensed in Nigeria to provide custodian services under the new laws following pension reform in Nigeria in 2004; ADIC Insurance Limited and ADIC Life Assurance Limited, which provide life and non-life insurance services in Nigeria; and Diamond Mortgages Limited - a licensed mortgage company. Diamond Bank earlier declared an impressive half-year results, showing 71 per cent increase in profit before taxation to N7.3 billion for the period ended October 31, 2007 from N4.2 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2006.

The remarkable performance of the Bank was as a result of the growth in business activities following the successful implementation of the Bank’s business strategy post-consolidation. In recent times, the Bank has introduced some innovative products and significantly enhanced its business model, gaining substantial mileage in the retail segment of the market. It has also strengthened its presence in the middle market where it has traditionally done very well. The Bank has introduced cutting edge products in its resolve to provide creative solutions to customers’ business problems. Some of the value-adding products introduced recently include Diamond Reach, a non resident account designed to offer Nigerians resident abroad the opportunity of maintaining account in their home country Nigeria.

The Bank also introduced a novel product called Diamond BusinessXpress Account. This is a specialised current account designed to support the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with attractive features like free transaction cost and easy access to credit facilities. In response to the need to facilitate effective payment for trade transactions between countries in the West African region, the Bank launched Diamond NGN/CFA EasyTrade. The product is meant to facilitate payment for goods/services by the Bank’s customers and non-account holders involved in intra-regional cross border trade between Nigeria and the Francophone West African countries, especially Benin Republic. The Bank also raised the bar in the international trade operations in Nigeria with the introduction of a document and transaction monitoring service tagged Diamond Trade Tracker. This is a web-based service designed to provide corporate customers access to on-line, real-time information on their international trade transactions at no extra cost.

The recent investments in promising financial services sub-sectors, i.e. insurance, mortgage and pension funds, will improve the growth, earning mix and profitability of the Bank’s business over time. Conscious of the fact that these businesses are outside its core competence areas, the Bank is working with very competent and experienced firms to speedily position the subsidiaries for market penetration. ADIC Insurance, for instance, has entered into a strategic alliance with a leading South African insurer, Hollard Insurance, toward the launch of a veritable assurance model in Nigeria.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Visafone Buys Bourdex Telecom

By Shina Badaru

Visafone Communications Limited has closed a deal to buy 100 per cent stakes in Bourdex Telecom, a private telecoms company headquartered in Aba, Abia State. With good footprint in the telecoms market in the eastern part of the country it plans to consolidate its planned rollout of national telephony service.

Technology Times sources in the know of the transaction confirmed that Visafone, promoted by MD/CEO of Zenith Bank International Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, and lead promoter of Boudex Telecom, who is also Chairman, President, CEO, and founder of the private telecoms player, Mr. David Ogba Onuoha, finalised the transaction in December last year. The price could not be confirmed at press time. The latest buy is viewed by industry analysts as a veritable platform to fast-track Visafone's entry into the telecoms market under its proposed plan to provide national service in the unified telecoms market.

This will allow players to offer mobile, fixed, data and a bouquet of other telecoms services with relatively minimal restrictions after the five-year market exclusivity granted GSM operators expired in February 2006. Visafone, the cherry-picking new entrant has lately earned more than passing interest among industry players when in one fell swoop it acquired two PTOs, Cellcom and Independent Telephone Network (ITN), just after clinching three carrier licences in the 800MHz spectrum band sold at N400 million by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last year.

So far, attention has focused on Ovia's entry into the market which has seen the banker aggressively snapping up relatively smaller market players like Cellcom, Independet Telephone Network (ITN) and lately Bourdex Telecom to build a formidable Visafone. Industry players reckon that Ovia's Visafone may be a player to watch in the new dispensation but are also quick to caution that, "extreme innovation and product segmentation" may need to be pushed harder than would have hitherto been needed. They say the result is as the creme of the market has been captured by the more aggressive mobile operators whose rapid service uptake has seen them raking up over 90 per cent of the overall telecoms market subscriber base that peaked at some 46 million users at the end of third quarter of 2007.

According to information obtained from the company’s website, Bourdex claims it offers, "better services, with larger, second to none coverage of the entire Eastern Nigeria and Niger Delta". According to the company, it has extended dial tone to towns like Asaba, Nnewi, Owerri, Abiriba, Item, Enugu-Ukwu and Onitsha. Others include Orlu, Mbaise, Ohafia, Nkporo, Mgbidi, Awka, Nkwere, Umuahia, Igbere and Arochukwu. It also extends to Ihiala, Abam, Isukwuato, Uturu, Uyo, Oko, Okija, Eket, Port Hartcourt, Bonny, Calabar and Ekwulobia. Bourdex was among the four new companies to obtain unified access service licences from the regulator including others like MTN, VGC Communications Limited, Dan Jay Telecoms Limited, Starcomms, Intercellular, Multi Links and Prestel, among others.

To cross the regulator's bar for unified licence, an operator must have an existing and operating network infrastructure; a minimum subscriber base of 10,000 or justifiable evidence of financial capability for substantial network rollout. It should also be up-to-date on submission of annual audited acc-ounts. Additionaly, the applicant must be up-to-date on payment of company tax, must be up-to-date with equipment type approval and in settlement of interconnection obligations. While telecoms market leader, MTN, was the first GSM network to secure a unified licence, PTOs have also show interest in the emerging dispensation opened by the market reform to enable them offer mobile roaming on their fixed wireless network with majority favouring the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology.

CellCom, a privately-owned phone company was in June last year bought by Visafone through his wholly-owned Internet Service Provider (ISP), Cyberspace Limited. Hitherto, Visafone emerged as winner of three carrier licences in the 800MHz spectrum band sold at N400 million by NCC while beating three other contenders including an existing player, Multi-Links Telecommunications Limited and two other new players, GiCell Wireless Limited and TC Africa Telecoms Network Limited to the spectrum favoured by CDMA operators. Visafone, which has licence to operate in 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is being integrated into the newly-acquired CellCom network as part of plans by the banker to evolve a major telecoms service provider in the new year.

Visafone's new licence (800 MHz Assignments, Rx MHz 881.31 882.57 883.83, Tx MHz 836.31 837.57 838.83) allows the company to roll out commercial service in 26 states including Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara and Edo. Others are Delta, Benue, Kogi and Niger. Others include Nasarawa, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and FCT (Abuja).

Ahead of Ovia's stakes in these top telecoms deals, South African mobile company, the MTN Group, had bought VGC Communications in a $65 million deal that added the fixed line player to its mobile network. Another South African company, Telkom SA also acquired 75 per cent stakes in Multi-Links, the nation's pioneer PTO in a $280 million deal that has placed its existing subscribers and long distance operator (LDO) licence in the control of the South African fixed line service.

Market consolidation in which bigger players have gobbled up their smaller phone companies have been set off since unified access service (UAS) was introduced first quarter of 2006 after the five-year market exclusivity granted GSM operators lapsed.

Sourced from This Day Newspaper 07-01-2008

Interview With Joe Anatune Of B3 Communications

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor

THE moment you step into the reception area of B3 Communications on Ajao Road, off Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, you are sure to be hit by the seriousness of the staff, as it wafts soulfully from the dozens of laptop in use. This, surely, is a tradition of many marketing communications firms.
There was a time when all about marketing communications were advertising and public relations. The executives of the agencies offering those services were suits-clad CEOs, whose works were done mainly in the office, with fun. Time has changed, now.

Though executives are still suits-cladded, strategies have moved from the pannelled room or ornate gate offices to the laptop, anywhere. There is a new thinking, and brand conscious executives' angle to get new ways of marketing a product, without being hemmed by the old ideas.

Marketing communications have become important issues in today's relationship between the producer and the consumer, and many companies performing such functions are leveraging customers and partners for opportunities to establish market leadership.
B3 Group is one such firm that has offered services that are not conventional advertising, which have enabled it to build solid relationships with the consumers and establish its clients as the leading providers of their services.

For the firm that is led by Joe Anatune, it is "more strategy, less stress."
Anatune, who left Dawn Function where he was the company's executive director and chief operating officer, says, B3 the company he founded in 2003, is showing enough seriousness in the industry so as to be highly regarded.

A fact, which suggests the empowering of staff to function well and equally, build the desired brand. He says, with a smile, "we are capitalising on the low cost infrastructure and overhead associated with maintaining big offices. We use talents who are interested in boding together to find fulfilment. The results are what we spend our time and energy on, not on office details. Our clients can attest to benefits of our model and with our team using high-speed secure Internet access it's just like we are right next door! Consequently, our teams are motivated, responsive and we can offer more competitive rates than traditional firms."

The B3 boss says, "the whole gamut about marketing communications solutions is 'customer interrogation'. Being able to design products, provide services and logos for your client's use."
He notes that his company has worked with a lot of clients to leverage integrated marketing and public relations campaigns so as to paint a clearer vision and focus in the market.
Anatune muses, "the era of marketing communications has slid in." And driven by activism in the boardrooms and threats of pulling out accounts by CEOs, agencies have become more consciously provocative with brands.

Brands were originally developed as labels of ownership: name, term, design, symbol. However, today it is what they do for people that matters much more, how they reflect and engage them, how they define their aspiration and enable them to do more.

He re-echoes the opinion that a great brand is one a consumer wants to live his or her life by, one they trust and hang on to while everything around them is changing. "One that articulates the type of person you are or want to be, one that enables you to do what you couldn't otherwise achieve."

When brand recognition builds up to a point where a brand enjoys a critical mass of positive sentiment in the marketplace, it is said to have achieved brand franchise. One goal in brand recognition is the identification of a brand without the name of the company present.
To him, three things are essential, especially in the process of brand building: "Nobody is inventing the wheel, no two individuals can be the same and above all, there is need to exploit whatever talent God has given you to get the best result."

Why B3?

He smiles and exhales; "B3 Communications was chosen to reflect our field, which is brand building. Our thinking was that we should break away from the conventional way of running advertising. We are brand builders. The basic thinking at the point was, let us help clients not just in advertising, but also, the totality of their marketing efforts. Based on that, we choose the name - Bold Brand Builders. So, the B3 stands for Bold Brand Builder. We have been in business for four years."

Atanune says products are no longer sold in the factories or shops, but the ability to win the consumer's mind. "With marketing communications solutions; MCS, B3 has successfully positioned our clients."

When B3 Communications began four years ago, the marketing communications segment was just beginning to gain attention from industry influencers. It was being talked about as an extension of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market, however, with the involvement of major players, the total idea has changed considerably.
What of conventional advertising? He answers affirmatively; "there is nothing wrong with it. Everything is all about how best you can be ahead of your competitors: how do you outwit your competitors."

He continues, "conventional advertising means that a client comes to you, you either produce a jingle for him, or produce a commercial advert or do a newspaper layout and produce newspaper advert. Advertising business is like that of a doctor. If a patient comes to him, the obvious thing that might be worrying that patient, may be, somebody might be telling him that he has headache but it may be a symptom.

So, what we are doing is, when a client comes to us, we subject his brief into serious research and in the course of the research, you will find out that it is not just advertising, rather, the problem might be distribution, your problem might be packaging. It will be wrong for us to say because we want to make money, go ahead and advertise, get our commission and all that, we want to be professional about it. Based on our background, we will tell you, look, this is where your problem lies. Perhaps, you have to address the problem before the advertising you want us to do for you will work. We have taken the issue a little bit deeper, not just the advertising. In the marketing climate, we are looking at the marketing process. I don't know, perhaps you may call it marketing clinic if you prefer that term."

Anatune believes that 2008 will be better. His optimism is buoyed by the fact that the real sector will be able to attract more funding this year, and this impact tremendously on the business. "If there are more products, there will be need for the services of marketing communications solutions company."

But do we have enough of them in Nigeria to handle the suspected upsurge? He answers, "we do not have. That's why we have companies handling conflicting accounts."

Anatune had his primary education in Awaka and secondary school in Emekuku, Owerri, Imo State. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to study marketing and graduated in 1985. Since then, he has been in general marketing and advertising management. He started his working life with a company called Nipol - a plastic manufacturing company based in Ibadan. From there, he worked briefly with May Manufacturing Company Limited. He later joined Dawn Function, where he rose to become Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Lagos office. He left the company and with some friends, founded B3 Communications Limited.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Leo Direct Repositions For Quality Service Delivery

By Michael Orie

IN a bid to raise the bar of value delivery to its clients and optimise performance, Leo Direct Limited, Rosabel Leo Burnett's direct marketing and customer engagement subsidiary, has entered into a working relationship with Ikineo, a South Africa-based customer relationship management (CRM) agency.

The need arose, as a result of the firm's desire to meet up with world standard.
According to the General Manager of Leo Direct, Dickson Eze, the partnership is necessitated by the common values that both firms share.

Eze said, "as a matter of fact, our partnership with Ikineo is because we share a common goal to enhance and improve the quality of service we offer our numerous clients. Also, what we have brought to bear in this relationship is opportunity to combine Leo Direct's local know-how of the marketing terrain with international practices, which Ikineo represents."

He also revealed that the choice of Ikineo is not a mistake because the South African firm has a huge command of global brands that Leo Direct will automatically be labelled after.
"Its track record and resume of clients they have worked for, the sphere of competence, which cut across all segments of manufacturing service, products, the measure of practice that is very scientific, is highly commendable."

In furtherance of this partnership, which was brokered about seven months ago in Cape Town, South Africa, Ikineo, which is one of the top agencies in South Africa -consumer relationship marketing - sent a two-man team to Nigeria on a weeklong working visit to Leo Direct to know most of the outfit's clients.

"While in Nigeria, the Ikineo team interfaced with some of the frontline clients of the outfit keep them abreast of the new alliance and lay bare the benefits it promises for the clients. Among such clients are Cadbury, UAC Dairies, Grand Oak Limited, Toyota Nigeria Limited and Procter & Gamble Nigeria. These clients were taken through the work process that would characterise the new paradigm. Expectedly, the clients' initial responses to the new offering were overwhelmingly positive," Eze explained.

Leo Direct / Ikineo partnership is expected to be a mutually benefitting engagement for both organisations, sharpen service delivery of the six year-old Rosabel Leo Burnett's subsidiary with a view to re-positioning it as a top-line player in the emergent keenly competitive CRM space in Nigeria. Above all, it would help raise the bar with existing clients and also come in handy in wooing new ones.

For Ikineo, the partnership affords it a wider network that would complement the outfit's current cross-country operations. The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Ikineo, Joshin Raghubar, said the partnership is " a marriage and equally opportunity on both side, so, all our strategy, equity would be shared with Leo Direct and theirs with us: Any opportunity for their clients and ours to work in the different market we must equally embrace. We are building a team; and whichever brand it is working on automatically is our brand, so long as we have the permission to run the brand in the country."

The Ikineo boss said, "we see Nigeria as a phenomenon growth market where we want to pursue an opportunity and at the same time, seek the right partner. Leo Direct, being part of the Rosabel family, has a pedigree of success and well-defined relationship with their clients. We are bringing experience, and new strategy process to form a strong unit. We understand how to manage customer data, which is what is lacking in some Nigeria marketing sector.

Leo Direct opened shop in 2001 as the Rosabel Leo Burnett IMC Group's experiential marketing subsidiary. Since then, the outfit has handled the emergent direct marketing / contact marketing briefs of some of the group's clients as well as sign on new businesses.

The agency currently holds the portfolios of Seaman's Schnapps, Guinness, North American Airline, UBA Moneygram, Accion Microfinance, Cadbury, Nando's Kitchen (UAC Franchising), Toyota and Chi Limited. Some of the brands previously on its clientele list include Friesland WAMCO, Procter & Gamble's Always, and Gordon's Spark. The agency is headed by Eze, erstwhile Associate Director (Client Service), Rosabel Leo Burnett, who is highly regarded for his broad social networking and uncannily non-conventional work style.

Ikineo is a compact brand activation / customer relationship marketing outfit, established in 2000, with a knack for creating authentic connections between brands and consumers that are the basis of sustainable long-term relationships.

The outfit's areas of strength include customer relationship, one to one engagements, and brand activations, all of which are empowered by the convergence of marketing and technology. Its broad-based clientele list spanning continents includes MTN, Coca-Cola, Volkswagen South Africa, Heineken UK, Primedia Lifestyle, Old Mutual Bank, British American Tobacco South Africa (Lucky Strike, Dunhill, etc), British American Tobacco Japan (Lucky Strike), Cape Town Tourism, amongst a couple of others.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Tribute to Felix Ohiwerei

By Mac Ovbiagele

BARELY three weeks ago, Nigeria's foremost drinks conglomerate, Nigerian Breweries Plc, sent off its Chairman, Felix O. A. Ohiwerei, in a lavish reception at The Civic Centre on Victoria Island, Lagos. In what the company tagged a Celebration of Excellence, speaker after speaker, whether through ad-libs or prepared text, extolled the virtues of this manager per excellence, who packed in 45 memorable years of meritorious service into Nigerian Breweries.

Visiting Heineken Director for Africa and the Middle East, personable Frank de Man, could not have put it any better when he described FOA as a key enabler of the company's success over the years and suggested the man was a compelling subject of study and research, in frontline universities with faculties of Business Administration and Management.

That was one evening, in which the many speeches had a reverberating resonance, more of truth than just compliance with protocol and convention. Even stand-up Orator, Ali Baba, let FOA go free, without scratches in the face. From the MD/CEO Mikiel Hermiij, whose welcome address blossomed into a full-blown toast of a visionary leader, to Professor Jadesola Akande, who announced the company's gift package of a grant to the Lagos Business School, Pan African University and the establishment of a Vocational Centre in Lagos, all at FOA's behest. Then add the contribution of another non-executive director, Ishmael Yamson's stimulating account, which will be remembered a long time, for both its poetic beauty and inspired delivery.

This writer first met FOA when he came calling as a member of Nigerian Breweries team, at a formal presentation in 1969. Then the biggest and arguably the most professional advertising agency at the time, was unveiling a new all-media subject for a lager beer. As such outings go, we had done our homework like mad, only just managing to contain our excitement about a campaign we thought would leave consumers die-hard loyalists of Star beer, for life.

With the creative work completed, Lintas then proceeded to field its first team - Norman Foreman, Tony French, Ifeanyi Moemeke, Olu Falomo, Erhabor Emokpae of blessed memory, Ted Mukoro and Creative Director, Hugh Andrews; all of them veterans of countless and I should add successful, high-profile pitches. This writer was there, as "Johny just come" Trainee Client Service Executive, strictly to be seen, not heard.

The moment arrived soon enough for the big masquarade to dance. Hugh turned it on, piping hot. A delicate frame, slightly bent it would seem, by a disproportionate weightload of wisdom, a re-assuring crown of grey hair, which in a way accentuated the deeper hue of grey matter inside, from which the ad agency had profited, in many a campaign. He was truly in his elements. Then bingo! Time for Client's reaction, which any honest agency professional will tell you, is always guaranteed to offer either joy or tears, hardly both.

Step by step, through logic and copious explanations from someone who knew his onions and had considered not just both, but all sides. FOA, in a manner of speaking, broke down our premises and ripped the campaign apart, in minutes. His final comment on that fateful day, still rings clear in my ears - ", this campaign platform cannot bear the weight of the product promise on offer." After a critical and dispassionate re-appraisal in-house, we found he was apparently right.

It must be said that many of us were comforted, and in later years impressed, that FOA had and even to this day, still demonstrates the courage of conviction, even if it is against the grain of popular or majority opinion.

As I had no speaking role during the entire presentation, I lapped up the reward of spare time, to soak it all in. To confess,I was bowled over by FOA's decency of language, his humility, a pleasing civilization I later discovered, derives from a nobility of birth. He left me with no choice that day, but to go scampering to register, as a fan.

FOA also contributed so much to the development of the Advertising industry. He was a strong advocate of meaningful and enhanced remuneration for the advertising effort in the success of brands. The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria gave due recognition to this fact when the body conferred Fellowship on him in 1994.

Quite a number of us, were multiple beneficiaries of FOA's admonition, if not veiled threat to Agency management, that personnel servicing their brands be deep-fried and well-seasoned, through regular quality training both here and abroad. That way, he reckoned, personnel on both the Client and Agency teams would sing from the same sheet and reap the fullest dividends of a tune, that is amplified by the unitary harmony of the various parts.

As he rose in response to Henry Nzekwu's summons to thank the gathering, he let all know in characteristic modesty, that it is to God and Him alone, that the success of his tenure was directly traceable. FOA claims to have trusted an unknown future to a known God. First, it was Nigerian Breweries he chose, from the stack of competitive openings at the time in 1962 and had the good fortune of earning his pips from tough but supportive bosses. Then the good luck of having a team that responded to him positively, on the ready. But above all, he celebrates God's gift of his sweetheart, one and only Janet Alero Ohiwerei, his wife of 40 years plus, with whom he lives in conjugal bliss; a union that has begotten bright, front-running offsprings. A family friend once summed up his family life in this sound-byte:- "....Felix is very family".

It is people like FOA that that Management scientist, Andrall Peason had in mind, when he cast an intense focus on what he called "sustained superior performance". Local and international business community will continue to respect this man as a valiant crusader for the highest possible standard of ethics in business, an unrepentant campaigner of due diligence, passionate apostle of integrity, a talented manager of men, material and matters, an exemplar of virtue.
So, there he goes, Felix Omoikhoje Aizobeoje Ohiwerei, OFR, loaded to the kilt as it were, with so rich a reputation, even the best supermarkets in the world do not stock. I have not ceased to wonder just why God blessed one man, so much. What a man!

Ovbiagele is a company executive in Lagos