FNB targets entering Ghana retail banking by end of 2014

first national bankFIRST National Bank (FNB) CEO Jacques Celliers said on Friday that he was hopeful the bank would finally expand its retail operations to Ghana and Nigeria by the end of next year.

Judging by Mr Celliers’ comments, there is a possibility that FNB will try to get a banking licence in Ghana, build up the brand organically and then make a small to mid-sized acquisition to build scale.

This year, FirstRand’s efforts to clinch a deal in Ghana did not materialise, leaving it with an option to apply for a banking licence or explore another acquisition opportunity.

“We will approach it both ways, but you can’t always wait for deals,” Mr Celliers said.

In Zambia, FirstRand has opted to build the FNB brand organically after efforts to acquire Finance Bank of Zambia failed to materialise in 2011. FNB Zambia has now grown its branch network from seven in June last year to 10 in June this year.

The bank also opened an airport Slow Lounge in Zambia, the first outside South Africa.

In Nigeria, FirstRand has a merchant banking operation in the form of Rand Merchant Bank (RMB). RMB previously had a representative office but was later awarded a merchant banking licence in Nigeria.

The group has previously indicated that it is considering an acquisition of banks held by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, which holds Mainstreet, Keystone and Enterprise Bank.

But news agency Bloomberg reported earlier this month that FirstRand had narrowed its interest to Keystone and Mainstreet. In the rest of Africa, FNB has operations in Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Swaziland and Lesotho.

Mr Celliers said FNB had ambitions to enter Kenya, but nothing concrete was planned at the moment.

Following his appointment as FNB CEO, Mr Celliers, who was previously business banking CEO at FNB, said the bank had not yet appointed a CEO of business banking.

FNB’s business banking division will now be led by Ray Makanjee, who is currently FNB Wealth CEO, and Mike Vacy-Lyle, the CEO of FNB Commercial.

Mr Celliers said the idea was to drive synergies between the wealth and commercial units. The idea was for FNB to be able to cater for the wealth needs of a businessman and the business plans of a wealthy individual in a much more efficient way.

FNB’s earnings constitute 53% of the FirstRand group’s.

In the year to June, FNB grew earnings by 22%.

Mr Celliers said the economic climate had changed and South Africa’s retail banking market was becoming more competitive. FNB would continue to produce market-leading innovative solutions to boost growth.

The bank also appointed FNB chief economist Sizwe Nxedlana and FNB Africa CEO Jabu Khethe to the executive committee.

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