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A 'simple' way to soaring profits

Article - July 17, 2013
Guaranty Trust Bank is a prime example of how a simple strategy can result in big success
Amid a very successful 2012 across the whole of Nigeria’s financial sector, Guaranty Trust Bank – GT Bank – was one company that in particular turned a few heads.
GT Bank, named 2013 African Bank of the Year at the African Bankers Awards, enjoyed enormous takings last year with profits after tax amounting to over N86 billion (£348 million) compared to N52 billion in 2011.
Despite such impressive figures, Managing Director and CEO of GT Bank Segun Agbaje says that the high profits are a reflection of the company’s efficiency, which has over the years been characterised by a tried and tested, straightforward approach.
“We have a very simple strategy and vision. We do not reinvent the wheel – even when we leave Nigeria, we take a business model that has worked for us,” says Mr Agbaje.
Indeed while the bank’s model may be “simple”, recent results have shown it to be an extremely resolute and econom-ically resourceful one that strongly targets lending to the high-end market.
“We are the most cost-efficient bank in Nigeria and graphically what we present is a bank with a large retail base and low costs of funds, lending to the high-end side of the market, so non-performing loans are low.

“Our human capital is very strong and the organisation is young and vibrant”

Segun Agbaje,
Managing Director and CEO of GT Bank
“We also have a low cost-to-income ratio, our human capital is very strong and the organisation is young and vibrant.”
The company has also shown that it is likewise not afraid to find new ways to compliment an already well-oiled machine.  
“We were recently named number seven in the world in terms of credit institutions and banks involved in social media, a platform on which we are servicing over a million people,” proclaims Mr Agbaje. “We are using a lot of alternative channels in this regard such as mobile, internet and social banking to drive a very efficient business model.”
This pragmatic yet dynamic style is what drives the bank forward, contributing to its rise from a small and newly established business in 1990 to becoming one of the most well respected and highly profitable banks in Nigeria today.
In 1996, the Guaranty Trust Bank plc became a publicly quoted company and won the Nigerian Stock Exchange President’s Merit Award in the same year, having gone on to receive the same accolade a further seven times since then.
After undergoing a major rebranding in 2005, the bank made history two years later by becoming the first Nigerian company and first African financial institution to be listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, followed by the launch of a $500 million bond last year.
While such moves have seen significant heightening of confidence between the international finance community and shareholders, the bank is currently continuing with its aggressive expansion strategy by increasing the depth of its operations throughout West Africa and Europe.
In line with the company’s vision to make the bank one of the most prominent on the whole of the continent, GT has also recently ventured eastwards to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. As Mr Agbaje explains, such expansion is essential for ensuring the future growth and prosperity of the business.
“Part of what we decided to do when I became CEO was break into the top three in Africa and you cannot do that by remaining just in Nigeria. Our goal is that by 2016, our subsidiaries should account for about 10 per cent of the group’s profit, and to do that, you will need some high impact countries...We think East Africa is such a zone.”
Indeed while GT Bank points to a simple strategy as a reason for its success, this evident ambition indicates a company not just content on conquering the local market, but one that is intent on going places, and fast.