Stanley Amuchie, Executive Director, Chief Operations and Information Officer, Fidelity Bank Plc
Stanley Amuchie is the Executive Director, Chief Operations and Information Officer at Fidelity Bank Plc.
In this interview with Nairametrics, Amuchie outlines why the Bank has shown interest in buying Union Bank UK, and how it affects SMEs in Nigeria, Nigerians in diaspora and investors. Excerpt:
When exactly are you taking full control of Union Bank UK?
We have gotten the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria but the primary regulator in the UK has not approved. That process is in place now and nobody can say for sure the time it will take but we have consultants that would tell you it can take three months, six months or there about but we are working with one of the best consultants who is helping us with all the documentation and we have not seen anything. So it may take as much as next year before we fully take charge.
If the acquisition deal goes through, what does it mean to Nigerians, especially those who frequent the UK?
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That is the integration we are looking forward to doing. Normally, a bank that has operations in the UK should make things easy for guys over there but the only issue that banks have is the interest rate and liquidity in the market of foreign currency.
If you are fine with the exchange rate, you can transact on your card, and use it to buy foreign currency if available to replenish the account because there will be an integration between the two banks. The problem is that, if you are at the point of being debited, say the exchange rate is X, by the time they look for the dollar that is not available, before they get it, the exchange rate has risen.
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If it was stable enough at a particular price, if you want dollar, you will buy it. We know it is difficult here in the market but we believe we will find a solution to that to make things easy because those are the little innovations we will bring in to move you from where you are banking before to Fidelity.
How do you plan to engage customers who are already in the UK?
Our targets are Nigerians here in the country and those who are doing business in the UK. There are a lot of banks in the UK today. The likes of HSBC and Barclay among others, but we can’t compete with those and we must tell ourselves the truth, but we have our customers here. If you notice, for the most of Nigerian banks here (Nigeria) who are based there (UK), their income is mostly from Africa.
For instance, over there, they can give you a very cheap mortgage, but Nigerians there don’t want to have a house there. They don’t live there and even opening an account there is a difficult thing. But they are our customers here so we can facilitate that for them provided we do our KYC and ensure that the money is coming from a legal source.
After Union Bank UK, what next?
We don’t have any company in mind yet but we are looking out for synergy and opportunity. For instance, we had said we were interested in foreign expansion but we never knew that Union Bank was coming soon. So, basically, as we work and we see opportunities for positivity, we look at it and devise our own means.
We are observing African countries and where we see opportunity, we document and prospect. What we have seen is that it is difficult to get fresh licenses in most places today, so it is important we lookout for opportunities to make acquisitions.
Are there innovative plans in place for Fidelity Bank to indulge the Gen Zs and younger generations?
For me, it is a journey that we have embarked on. Even within the management level, we recognize that there is a lot we need to do to put ourselves out there for the young generation and it is also happening to other banks too. That’s why we have fintechs too.
Before, people look at the soundness of a bank and how secure the money is before transacting with any platform, but these days, the young generation doesn’t care about those things. They just keep things anywhere as long as it is convenient to do their transaction. They don’t want to go into the bank. They want to do all kinds of transactions through their phones or cards now. Every bank is rescheduling. For us, we are at the point of launching a very massive digital platform which is currently ongoing. We are trying to change the perception so that when people think about banking, they think about Fidelity – that is the whole idea.
A lot of people are coming in with different ideas to the table. For example, I have worked in Zenith Bank for most of my life but I am here today. I believe we can create a super bank including the microfinance bank. We have people who are coming here with new ideas of how to create this kind of affinity for young people because they hold the future of banking and other businesses. Those who are young today will be spearheading corporate in the future.
Also, we are already discussing some major issues. For example, we know that things like school fees is a major issue, therefore, we are creating solutions to help parents to pay. There are a lot of solutions we can bring in to be able to keep those people with us.
The thing about the interim dividend is when you have started, you can’t stop it, provided you are doing well – in terms of profit-making. As we have started the payment, it becomes a part of us. In fact, the board’s policy is to incorporate that as part of our activities. We hope to increase it subsequently as our performance improves.
The cost of doing business in the UK is quite high now. How do you intend to cope with this?
We see a lot of opportunities and we are going to optimize as much as we can. And again, Union Bank has been there earlier than most of the other banks and we are inheriting a good number of customers and we are going to build our own too.
If you look at the bank, the MD is white and they don’t know how we do our own businesses so we will bring our own skills and experience that would allow us to push further.
How would you assess the operations of fintechs in Nigeria, as some banks see them as competitors?
We are not seeing fintechs as competitors because we can’t compete with them. We have continued to be open to such opportunities. The issue however is that most fintechs are out there looking out for valuation. They may not be profitable, they can’t pay dividend. If you look at their numbers, most of them are still at a loss-making position but they want to get as many people as possible onboard. So with onboarding, they can do a lot of things. But the question is; is it a sustainable business? It’s a matter of time before we get to know because we all know that if you are doing business and you are not making profit over time, such business is not sustainable. But people believe that when you get certain platforms and you are doing business with them the business will become sustainable over time.
Every bank is also trying to improve its tech offerings and that will continue to happen. As for a bank like Fidelity, we are very much aware and we are doing so. We have the APIs where we can integrate with any fintechs.
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© 2022 Nairametrics