It is about 120 days and 120 nights since the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amcon) paid the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) to acquire the shares of three bridge banks-Mainstreet, Enterprise and Keystone. It was a very confusing pronouncement whose content kept analysts guessing for a good number of days. What made everything more confusing was the speed at which two principal issues were handled within a spate of five hours. The speed at which the ownership of the banks changed hands (from the CBN to NDIC, and then to (Amcon), was a classic record which qualifies for an award in strategic management. It was the fastest transaction ever recorded by the Nigerian investment market since the last fifty years. What remains a puzzle is how some critical documentation like corporate registration, trade mark and logo designs were achieved just few hours after the apex bank decided to hands-off the banks. This is really a case for the Guinness Book of Records.
About four months after, the initial suspense and brainstorming sessions on the way forward gradually crystallized, with each of the three banks trying to put itself in the right mode to face the task and the challenges posed by the mandate given to them. To some of them, the time to move is now as the banks have obvious issues of deprivation which must be sorted out so as to remain very relevant from the on-set in 2012.
The way to go about it may have been quite tasking based on the enormous issues that have been sidelined since the last five years the banks went to sleep. Apart from the identification crisis that tries to pitch the banks and the other very healthy ones, there are human capital issues which must be sorted out as the new banks would want to face the grueling money market with people whose skills can be considered as advantageous when compared with those of other banks whose major driving force is stability in the system.
There is this development in Enugu where a businessman was issued with an Enterprise Bank open cheque by his Lagos custom, with the consideration that the bank is few streets away from his office. On receiving the cheque, the businessman returned the cheque with a loud protest that the bank does not exist in Enugu. This reaction is silently going on as most of the customers are still not in tune with the new identities of the new banks. Having spent as much as four months in the saddle, one expects that the banks have to create that required synergy between them and the public or the customers for faster interaction and confidence building.
Looking at the programmes of two of the new banks, one feels that a new move to move into the market in a more organized manner capable of enabling them to win some stakes is already on. As a matter of fact, while Mainstreet Bank can count on its glowing past records and strong national spread and robust asset base as a pad in getting to the new destination, Enterprise Bank may be seriously retooling its processes which were largely battered after the 2005 consolidation exercise where the collage of numerous make-shift financial institutions created more problems for its survival than were intended to solve.
Right now, the banks are engrossed in series of retreats and presentations that could point the way forward. One could see that as deep as 11 pm every day, the executive management of these banks are still fresh on duty as they scramble over pieces of papers and laptops in search of a new expression. This is because they believe that they are a creation of a situation and everybody is watching them. They are always confident to espouse the theory that a bridge option in any economy is better than an outright liquidation, as such opportunities do not come handy.
Their core mandate which included repositioning the banks for profitability, safeguarding depositors’ funds and ensuring that jobs are not lost, seem to have been the major credo the banks are closely making in all their major decisions. From the figures that are now available, the new banks are holding their forte in the very busy money market.
One other area that is considered an important issue in the whole gamut is the issue of staff apprehension based on the liquidation of Afribank, Spring and PHB. The legal creativity of the three new banks may have provided a divide as to what the new banks can do as against the expectations of the workers. To demonstrate their openness to the entire process of rebuilding the banks and restoring the workers to earning their living the banks have reemphasized their readiness to work with the existing workers provided they can respond to the challenges that have become grossly very necessary. Much as the banks now claim that the onus of making any claims arising from their past resides with the government, they are equally displaying attitudes that explain their affinity to the workers whose fate have become enmeshed in a mere definition by the mandate handed down to the new banks.
A move is currently on by one of the banks to get the government look into the issue of terminal benefit for the inherited workers, most of who have put in over 20 years in service. Much as this is not within their mandate, the banks still feel that the workers are human beings and could only bring their best when they are happy. There is the impression that Mainstreet and Enterprise Banks have taken off the challenge, but my only worry is that their mandate are grossly misunderstood by many.