Raheem Akingbolu writes on how innovation and adherence to global best practice earned the UBA brand the coveted trophy of the ‘African Bank of the Year’ award at the 2023 Bankers Awards, organised by The Banker Magazine; a publication of the Financial Times of London.
In positioning and management drive, the United Bank of Africa group has always made a brand statement that espouses its essence. Being a proactive brand with rich heritage, the bank and its promoters have continued to ride on innovation and excellent banking services to give patrons unique customer experience. In a way, this has in return reflected on its balance sheet. Like every good brand that understands the core message of positioning, the bank appears to truly understands its market and targeted audience and then works daily on its competitive advantage.
All these were confirmed recently when the Africa’s global bank, demonstrated its prowess on the international stage as it clinched nine prestigious awards at The Bankers Awards 2023, organised by The Banker Magazine, a publication of Financial Times of London,
According to the Editor of the world leading business newspapers, Joy Macknight, this milestone feat was achieved as a result of UBA’s consistent excellence in the financial services sector across the continent which has earned the bank great accolades overtime. She added that as always, UBA remains a clear winner across a wide range of criteria, having performed impressively across its footprint with a strong financial performance across most of its markets.
“In a year of strong competition among the continent’s major banking groups, UBA has gained the edge on its rivals to win the Bank of the Year award for Africa for the 2nd time in three years. Congratulations. The award recognises the bank’s strength across Africa, including many of its most competitive markets,” Macknight stated.
Apart from the Bank of the Year Africa award, the bank’s subsidiaries also emerged as the Bank of the Year in nine of the 20 countries where it operates in Africa.
The winning subsidiaries include UBA Cameroon, UBA Chad, UBA Ghana, UBA Cote d’Ivoire, UBA Mozambique, UBA Congo, UBA Sierra Leone, and UBA Tanzania.
Surviving against the odds
From Insurance to the fast-moving consumer goods sectors, banking to manufacturing, Nigerians, from time to time, witness the birth of new organisations. While some live to tell the story, some die as infants and some as stillborn, leading many analysts to conclude that Africans are not gifted in the art of brand management.
However, many brands are indeed making Africa proud in almost all the sectors as a result of their doggedness and global best practice approach to business. United Bank of Africa, First Bank, MTN, Dangote, THISDAY Newspapers and a few other brands fall in this category.
For 70 years, UBA has navigated Nigeria’s banking landscape, supporting businesses and building other brands. Though, its origin could be traced to 1949, when the British and French Bank launched its first branch in Lagos, the success of today’s UBA is obviously as a result of a smart move by Tony Elumelu’s STB, which gave birth to an amalgamation of the defunct STB and UBA in 2005, which has since been described as a fusion of legacy and dynamism by many commentators.
The new United Bank for Africa Plc took off on 1 August 2005 as Nigeria’s first megabank. With a network of over 425 business offices across the country, a balance-sheet size of over N600 billion, and an active customer base of over 2 million, United Bank for Africa Plc ranks as the biggest online, real-time bank in Nigeria and indeed sub-Saharan Africa.
From then, UBA commenced its pan-African expansion strategy, which has led to its presence in Republique du Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Congo Brazzaville, Congo DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Chad, Uganda and Zambia.
Bringing innovation to Banking
Since 2005, perhaps as a result of the dynamism of the old STB, innovation has remained a niche strategy for UBA. Just recently, the bank unveiled a new product, UBA Connect, which aims to enable its customers to conduct traditional banking transactions at any UBA branch in the 20 African countries where the bank operates.
In upholding the bank’s drive towards financial inclusion for the underserved, the management of the bank indicated that the service would be available to both customers and non-customers equally, encouraging intra-African trade. According to the promoters of the brand, the move would make the Nigerian-based bank a preferred choice for non-customers traveling to African countries where the bank is the domicile for easy access to funds.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of UBA Africa, the Group Managing Director, UBA, Oliver Alawuba, has consistently stated that “Africa stands to benefit substantially from intra-Africa trade, which is facilitated by the easy flow of capital within the continent.”
Three years ago, he pointed out that the bank is committed to creating superior value for its stakeholders and it focused on ensuring that it would continue “to contribute significantly to the development of Africa by improving accessibility and trade with UBA Connect, among other innovative services.
In a statement issued to confirm its recent achievement, the bank stated that “This is the second time in the past three years that UBA has won the regional award as the best bank in Africa. It emerged winner in 2021.”
The bank Managing Director, who received the awards on behalf of the banking group, expressed his gratitude and excitement about the awards
Alawuba noted the awards were a form of recognition and reassurance that the lender was on track in its goal of consolidating its leadership position in Africa and creating superior value for its stakeholders.
He said, “UBA is honoured to be named the Bank of the Year in these eight countries and to receive the overall Award for Africa. This accomplishment is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and innovative spirit of the entire UBA team. We remain committed to delivering top-notch banking services that positively impact the lives of our customers across the continent. We have our millions of customers across the globe and our many thousands of staff to thank for this. They are the very reason why we keep winning and receiving these accolades.”
UBA Braille Account Opening Form
The huge investment in marketing and advertising notwithstanding, business owners are always eager to take it up a notch through innovative relationship strategies with consumers of their brands. For players in the FMCG, the last quarter of the year is always a rewarding moment for consumers but for banking operators and their patrons, every day is important. In UBA, a reward system is key and it has remained a recurring decimal in the company’s strategic plans for decades.
In July, to demonstrate its inclusive banking philosophy, UBA launched the UBA Braille Account Opening Form, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the Nigerian and African markets, designed specifically to cater for the financial needs of the visually impaired.
Until now, this unique and special section of society has been disadvantaged, but with this ground-breaking initiative, UBA has fully demonstrated its unwavering commitment towards providing an excellent user experience for all its customers, regardless of their individual abilities or disabilities.
The new UBA Braille Account Opening Form was launched at the UBA Head Office in Lagos on Tuesday, in an event that had in attendance key executive members of the bank and guests including Multi-award winning, Nigerian Musician, Producer, and Songwriter, Cobhams Asuquo, General Manager, Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), Dare Dairo; Former Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Persons Living with Disability, Adenike Oyetunde-Lawal, as well as students from the Pacelli School for the Blind.
While endorsing the laudable initiative, Award-winning music producer, Cobhams Asuquo, described the Braille account form as an innovative initiative that presents UBA as a bank with a heart that pays keen attention to the needs of the blind and disabled.
Few years ago, the bank launched ‘UBA Bumper Account’, a hybrid account, targeted at transforming the lives of its customers. The account was said to be in line with the bank’s mission of creating superior value for its stakeholders while encouraging saving cultures among Nigerians.
The account, carefully crafted to improve the lives of the UBA customers offers account holders an opportunity to win cash prizes of up to N2 million.
Beyond innovation and promotion, one major thing that is working for the bank is in the area of human resources. Today, the bank is one of the largest employers in the financial sector on the African continent, with 35,000 employees group-wide and serving over 35 million customers globally. Operating in 20 African countries and in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and the United Arab Emirates, UBA provides retail, commercial and institutional banking services, leading financial inclusion and implementing cutting edge technology.
In 2020, the bank indicated its decision to refresh its workforce. Few weeks later, over 5,000 staff of the bank started the new year with a lot of cheer as it announced its promotion to new grades as well as salary upgrades with immediate effect in January.
Those who were beneficiaries of this exercise were said to have received up to 170 per cent increase in their salaries and benefits, whilst a good number were moved to higher grade levels.
In a carefully planned restructuring embarked upon by the bank in the last quarter of 2019, UBA transformed its grading system and processes to become one of the most competitive within the industry. The bank crashed its grade levels to 12 levels from entry-level to the top of the pyramid where previously it had been 16 levels.
Laurels all the way
Meanwhile, for the bank and its promoters, all these achievements weren’t going unnoticed. Within and outside Nigeria, UBA and its top executives have been winning awards and getting recognition for their contribution to the global economy and promotion of global best practice. For instance, three consecutive times, the UBA Group has emerged African Bank of the Year, while its subsidiaries have won Best Bank in Benin, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Congo, Sierra Leone at The Bankers Awards.
This is the third time UBA has clinched the prestigious award, having been named Best African Bank of 2017 and 2021 by The Banker magazine.