Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Retailing Of Financial Services, Products & Opportunities

By Okey Nwosu

SPECIFICALLY, the Nigerian retail financial services market consists of institutions such as banks, insurance companies, finance houses and assets management companies, among others, that deliver products to direct end users, the customers, being the largest and most visible single group of end users.

The retail products available to this group in its generic form include depository accounts, credits and payment services. Though statistics are sketchy, it would not be out of place to suggest that this market encompasses more than 300 businesses, which include the 24 commercial banks; mortgage banks, securities companies and brokers, insurance agencies, micro-finance banks and leasing companies, among others.

Retail financial services are considered heavily regulated, especially as offered by commercial banks. Though deposit rates have been deregulated, competition in the industry has kept rates in check. More radical changes in the industrial landscape has witnessed importation of the global trend of convergence between corporate banking, investment banking, retail banking and insurance, with universal bank licensing and the merger process laying to rest any lingering thought of product dichotomy.

It is not contestable that the merger and acquisition process has left banks with greater capacity to drive businesses, thus placing enormous strain on operational efficiency and financial performance, which the urban sector is struggling to cope with. The post-merger era has thus thrown up the challenge of taking retail financial services deep into the rural areas. Though the initial results from the industry restructuring are impressive, we have reached a stage where to drive the next phase, financial institutions need to look beyond the comfort of the urban centres and seek to derive value from the numerically larger rural population.

The immediate response by banks has been the resort to the cradle-to-grave banking philosophy whereby all banking relationships are managed on a product bundling criteria to avoid customers seeking alternative service providers. This, in turn, has heightened competition and resulted in product deepening and new delivery channel developments, with e-channels being the most appealing. For the industry, the new competitive frontiers have become Internet banking, e-payment systems, telephone banking and m-banking.

To remain competitive, banks in this changing financial services landscape must simultaneously expand their product lines, add new delivery channels, develop more effective market outlets and enhance service quality levels.

Of all these challenges, developing more market outlets profitably may be the most complex and difficult. We need to shift better and broader retail banking products and services to the rural markets such that they too can access many different types of service channels such as ATM, counter services, telephone banking and Internet banking, providing them with anytime, anywhere banking conveniences. We need to transform the banking landscape rapidly in order to provide the best available services to the rural areas, a key engine of the nation's economy.
Despite the opportunities provided by the evolving financial sector to the retail market, there is still the challenging problem of defining or indeed forecasting the needs of the increasingly discerning customer, designing solutions and the most convenient means of delivering such to them.

Nigeria's savings to GDP ratio of about 20 per cent is extremely low when compared to the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies or even those in other SANE (South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt) economies. Consequently, credit to GDP ratio is low at about 30 per cent as at June 2007. The challenge is to improve the savings rate more that five fold to generate comparative and equivalent funding basis for rapid economic development.

Most banks are still grappling with the difficult challenge of achieving integrated, multi-channel experiences for various customer segments despite the fact that this is the major ingredient for delivering the next generation of retail products that are emerging. The key from this dilemma has variously been defined by banks as aggregating the various individual customer needs under the generic products and utilising Information Technology (IT) to deliver same on an on-demand basis.

The market response in this guise has been a plethora of convenience products, among which are: The ATM, Flash-Me-Cash - the first robust mobile payment solution in Nigeria, Naira Debit and Credit Cards, U.S.$ Debit and Credit Cards, Consumer Credit Products, Share Acquisition Loans, Mortgage Loans and E-payment Products.

It is pertinent to note that most of these products are delivered on IT portals with e-platforms provided to affect an on-demand delivery. A typical example is the e-payment platform which allows customers to settle such bills as DSTV subscriptions, GSM phone subscriptions and school fees, among others, on an on-demand basis. For the customer, retail banking has totally redefined the term "convenience." Most transactions can now be carried out at the convenience of the customer without needing to leave the comfort of his/her immediate environment.
Convenience alone cannot attract the level of savings envisaged in the economy. Customers must look to the banks for provision of reasonable funding assistance in the form of consumer loans and other benefits in return for savings. In addition, the macro-economic indicators and fiscal policies must encourage a downward inflationary trend to encourage savings at a positive real interest rate.

Arising from the above, the major issue now facing retail financial institutions is how to reduce channel cost and capture value from the IT investments. The obvious answer is to keep teller-to-customer ratios low by encouraging customers to move transactions to alternative channels such as ATM.

To effect this change, the financial institutions need to: drive an increase in card usage, develop a credit data base accessible to all retailing institutions, create a credit factoring outlet to handle the inevitable delinquent card loans and leverage on insurance to improve the risk on delinquent consumer loans. The challenges that arise from this dilemma can best be viewed as opportunities.

However, it is becoming clear that most of the Internet and mobile banking opportunities have been stretched. Differentiation has become a prerogative which banks now seek to establish by gaining a simple view of customers, delivering consistently excellent services over multiple channels or delivering new services as quickly as clients demand. There is no doubt that e-channel technologies have paved the way for a multitude of different banking products being offered by industry players.

Development of non-core businesses such as insurance and stock brokering, revenue collections, passport and visa payment collection, among others, has allowed banks to tap into other potential avenues of revenue generation and improvement in payment services. These are all e-enhanced opportunities which, to a large extent, have been harvested in the urban centres but to which the rural centres has remained relatively immune.

The clustering of banks and their retail products in the urban centres leave more than 60 per cent of the bankable population (residing outside urban centres) unreached. The import of this fact is that there is an under-utilisation of available markets in retail financial service products.
How can we reach these markets at an economic and profitable cost?

The simple answer is to emulate the South African and Brazilian models. Retail institutions in Brazil have adopted a branchless model to reach remote areas with a total absence of bank branches, ATM or even MFl. The model consists of adopting outlets (mainly provision and supply vendors) as agents using P.O.S to facilitate bill settlements, salary accounts, cash lodgments and account enquiry.

Operating simple P.O.S machines, the agents credit or debit customer accounts on the basis of the cash they received or paid out to or from the operator's account. The South African "WIZZIT" model operates on similar terms. WIZZIT agents assist adopters use bank retail services, especially bill payment facilities, airtime top-ups and balance inquiry. The net effect of both models is the deepening of the retail financial service market as a wider scope of the population is reached. The statistics are staggering:

95 per cent rural dwellers now use retail service to transact in payment of bills,
51 per cent has opened bank accounts as a result of the service, and
In South Africa, 50,000 active rural users were signed on within the first two years.
For us in Nigeria, the key issues filter down to the following questions: Can technology make it profitable to deliver a range of retail financial services to the "unbanked" remote rural population? How can technology increase access to retail products for extremely remote customers?

Which technology can be deployed and how should they be adapted to help reach the rural areas where micro-finance has not yet impacted? What regulatory policies should we seek to encourage innovation while protecting businesses and customers? What role will the new micro Finance Banks (MFBs) play in this dispensation? How can universal banks partner MFBs to deepen the market for the unbanked rural population?


Current practices in the Nigerian retail financial market have shown in clear terms the impact of innovation. The combination of market segmentation strategies with customer-level-pricing, parametisation and loyalty programmes have increased retention.

The market is now crying out for the creation of innovative product combination spanning transactions, investments and insurance account delivered on a convenience portal of technology. This should be available, not just for the urban centres but also for the rural areas. Given that over 60 per cent of our potential retail market is still untapped, we must build our bundled product offering on this.

Going forward, the focus of retail strategic thought and technology investment should clearly be directed at the enhancement of delivery channel capabilities to drive both service excellence and cross-sell opportunities and establish a more efficient payment system.

Nwosu is the MD/CEO of First Inland Bank Plc.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

At The First Inland Bank European Investment Forum

Okey Nwosu, CEO and Managing Director of First Inland Bank Plc led an all-star cast of his management team including the Chairman of the Board, Dr. Theo Chike Osanakpo (SAN) to the Grand Ballroom of the Park Lane Hilton Hotel, London on Wednesday, January 17th 2008 to present to European investors and Nigerians in the diaspora the ongoing 100 Billion Naira public offer of the bank.

Amongst the guests were fund managers from top European finance houses, and also distinguished Nigerians including Nigeria’s Acting High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador Dozie Nwanna and the Minister of Trade at the High Commission, Mr. G.A. Zakari.

The Bank’s CEO, Mr Nwosu impressed the audience with his 3-part presentation which focused on the Nigerian economy, the Nigerian banking sector and the First Inland Bank public offer. He said that First Inland Bank is one of the success stories of the post-consolidated banking sector in Nigeria and charged guests to help spread the message of the bank’s offer. “We urge you to take advantage of the offer and to also share in our success story, at N9.50 kobo per share; you can see that this offer is of great value to the discerning investor”.

Speaking on the bank’s current position in the Nigerian banking sector, Mr Nwosu said that the bank currently has a network of 200 branches nationwide and is a leader in technology product offering. “This is our niche, the ability to deploy cutting-edge technology in all our product offerings in the service of our customers who are constantly delighted by our commitment and passion to exceed their expectations”. He also said that although First Inland Bank is currently in the Top 10 of Nigeria’s biggest banks, the bank is still on course to becoming one of the top 5 banks in Nigeria in the next 5 years, “Most importantly we hope to grow our balance sheet by 1 Trillion naira by 2009”. Concluding, he summarised for the audience the reasons for the bank’s offer which he said will be used for branch expansion, IT upgrade, developing subsidiaries in local and international markets and finally to boost working capital.

Mr Dozie Nwanna thanked the officials of the bank for bringing the offer to the attention of Nigerians in the diaspora. “We are always delighted at the High Commission when Nigerian banks come into town. As you can see, i have the Minister of trade at the High Commission with me here; this is to show how important we value events like these”. Mr Nwanna also pledged the support of the Nigerian High Commission to First Inland Bank and to other Nigerian banks wishing to come to London to source for investments.

Speaking later, Mr Christian Udechukwu, CEO of who facilitated the event thanked the guests for coming out to support the bank and hoped that as indicated, they would avail themselves of the opportunity of investing in the bank’s stock.

Other guests present at the event were Femi Okutubo (Publisher, Trumpet Newspaper), Senator Onyeabo Obi, Dr. Mark Abani, (Head of Process & Strategy, HM Revenue & Customs), Sarah Macinnes (Regional Director, Middle East & Africa – Int. Herald Tribune), Mike Abiola (Publisher, African Voice), Lady Olga Maitland (CEO, IAMTN) and many more.

First Inland Bank was formed out of a merger between First Atlantic Bank Plc, Inland Bank Plc, IMB International Bank Plc and NUB International Bank Ltd. For further information about First Inland Bank Plc, visit

The first Inland public offer closes on the 31st of January 2008.

To download Okey Nwosu’s power point presentation, click here.

Pictures of the event could be viewed on this blog:

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Diamond Bank Listed on London Stock Exchange

By Moses Obajemu

Diamond Bank Plc made history yesterday across the shores of the land as it became the first West African Bank to be listed on the Professional Securities Market (PSM) of the London Stock Exchange (LSE).The peak of the epoch making event, according to a statement from the bank, was the ringing of the bell by the Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, Mr. Emeka Onwuka, signalling the starting of trading on the floor of the London Stock Exchange.

The event was witnessed by captains of industries, top government dignitaries including the chairman of Diamond Bank, HRM Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; Mr. Pascal Dozie, Founder, Diamond Bank; and Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Prof Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke. Also among the dignitaries were the Director General of the Nigeria Security and Exchange Commission, Mr. Al Faki; and Mr. Chuka Eseka, MD Vetiva Capital Management Limited, who was the Financial Adviser/Domestic co-coordinator for the offer and a host of others. Commenting on the admission to the LSE, Diamond Bank CEO said “the listing is an important step in the evolution of the Bank’s strategy and is aimed at raising stronger capital base, attracting new shareholders, raising its international profile, enhancing the leadership position of Diamond Bank in the middle market and developing the Bank into a reputable financial conglomerate”.

Head of Primary Market, London Stock Exchange, Tracy Pierce, also stated: “I am personally delighted to welcome Diamond Bank to the London Stock Exchange. This is the second Nigerian company to be listed in the London Stock Exchange and the first Nigerian company to be listed on our Professional Securities Market, and we hope that many more companies from Nigeria will follow." In the same vein, Okereke-Onyiuke did not hide her emotions. She said: "This is a major fulfilment for me as Diamond Bank has placed Nigeria in the world map, especially the world financial system, by being listed not just in the London Stock Exchange but the first African company/bank to be listed in the Professional Securities Market of the London Stock Exchange. This is because the Professional Securities Market is the cream of the London Stock Exchange and you must pass through a rigorous process before being listed in this market. I do hope that many more Nigerian companies will come and be listed in this market."

The offer enabled Diamond to raise US$500million through 37.6 million newly issued GDRs, each representing 100 ordinary Diamond shares. The settlement price per GDR has been set at $13.30 and will be traded on PSM.The offer proceed will enable Diamond expand its footprint through traditional and electronic channels in order to seize the growing Nigerian retail market, enter new business segments like Mortgages, Insurance, Investment Banking and also strengthen its Francophone West Africa expansion.

Diamond Bank’s market capitalisation post-offering is now N263.2billion (US$2.3 billion as at January 02, 2008), while its shareholders’ fund is in excess of N100billion. Morgan Stanley is the Global Coordinator and Sole Book-runner for the offering.The Bank had its first major foreign equity capital injection in April 2007 when an international consortium led by Actis Capital LLP, as strategic investor, injected $134 million into the Bank. The investment gave Actis a 19.1 per cent stake in the Bank. Actis is a leading private equity investor in emerging markets, having significant investments across Africa, China, India, South East Asia and Latin America. Actis’ approach to investment is long-term and partner-oriented.

Diamond Bank has strategic relationships with international financial institutions and export credit guarantee agencies, thereby strengthening the Bank’s structured trade/project finance capacity and enhancing its contribution to the development of the economy. Such relationships include on-lending/trade facility arrangements with International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Investment Bank (EIB), Africa Export & Import Bank (AFRIEXIMBANK), US Export & Import Bank (USEXIMBANK), FMO and DEG.

The Group operates a leading Nigerian bank offering a wide range of financial services and products throughout Nigeria. Historically, the Group has focused on banking small and medium sized companies in Nigeria, with a particular strength in trade finance. In order to meet customers’ needs, the Group has maintained a geographical presence throughout Nigeria. In 2001, the Bank obtained a universal banking licence from the CBN and in recent years, the Group began to expand its products and services (including insurance and mortgage products), as well as its customer base.Established in 1991, Diamond remains one of the strongest in Nigeria and its core strengths lies in its unique SME business model and its solid brand associated with integrity, professionalism and good corporate governance.

The Bank considers itself to be a true “universal bank” in Nigeria, offering financial services across the entire client spectrum, through over 139 business locations in Nigeria with absolute commitment to quality. The Bank believes that it is well-placed to leverage its historical experience in the middle market to access the developing Nigerian retail market and expand into the existing market for large corporate clients.Members of the Group include one offshore banking subsidiary - Diamond Benin, which operates seven branches in the Republic of Benin and five non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs).

The NBFIs are Diamond Securities Limited, which provides brokerage, asset management and registrar services; Diamond Pension Fund Custodian Limited - one of the four institutions licensed in Nigeria to provide custodian services under the new laws following pension reform in Nigeria in 2004; ADIC Insurance Limited and ADIC Life Assurance Limited, which provide life and non-life insurance services in Nigeria; and Diamond Mortgages Limited - a licensed mortgage company. Diamond Bank earlier declared an impressive half-year results, showing 71 per cent increase in profit before taxation to N7.3 billion for the period ended October 31, 2007 from N4.2 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2006.

The remarkable performance of the Bank was as a result of the growth in business activities following the successful implementation of the Bank’s business strategy post-consolidation. In recent times, the Bank has introduced some innovative products and significantly enhanced its business model, gaining substantial mileage in the retail segment of the market. It has also strengthened its presence in the middle market where it has traditionally done very well. The Bank has introduced cutting edge products in its resolve to provide creative solutions to customers’ business problems. Some of the value-adding products introduced recently include Diamond Reach, a non resident account designed to offer Nigerians resident abroad the opportunity of maintaining account in their home country Nigeria.

The Bank also introduced a novel product called Diamond BusinessXpress Account. This is a specialised current account designed to support the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with attractive features like free transaction cost and easy access to credit facilities. In response to the need to facilitate effective payment for trade transactions between countries in the West African region, the Bank launched Diamond NGN/CFA EasyTrade. The product is meant to facilitate payment for goods/services by the Bank’s customers and non-account holders involved in intra-regional cross border trade between Nigeria and the Francophone West African countries, especially Benin Republic. The Bank also raised the bar in the international trade operations in Nigeria with the introduction of a document and transaction monitoring service tagged Diamond Trade Tracker. This is a web-based service designed to provide corporate customers access to on-line, real-time information on their international trade transactions at no extra cost.

The recent investments in promising financial services sub-sectors, i.e. insurance, mortgage and pension funds, will improve the growth, earning mix and profitability of the Bank’s business over time. Conscious of the fact that these businesses are outside its core competence areas, the Bank is working with very competent and experienced firms to speedily position the subsidiaries for market penetration. ADIC Insurance, for instance, has entered into a strategic alliance with a leading South African insurer, Hollard Insurance, toward the launch of a veritable assurance model in Nigeria.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Visafone Buys Bourdex Telecom

By Shina Badaru

Visafone Communications Limited has closed a deal to buy 100 per cent stakes in Bourdex Telecom, a private telecoms company headquartered in Aba, Abia State. With good footprint in the telecoms market in the eastern part of the country it plans to consolidate its planned rollout of national telephony service.

Technology Times sources in the know of the transaction confirmed that Visafone, promoted by MD/CEO of Zenith Bank International Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, and lead promoter of Boudex Telecom, who is also Chairman, President, CEO, and founder of the private telecoms player, Mr. David Ogba Onuoha, finalised the transaction in December last year. The price could not be confirmed at press time. The latest buy is viewed by industry analysts as a veritable platform to fast-track Visafone's entry into the telecoms market under its proposed plan to provide national service in the unified telecoms market.

This will allow players to offer mobile, fixed, data and a bouquet of other telecoms services with relatively minimal restrictions after the five-year market exclusivity granted GSM operators expired in February 2006. Visafone, the cherry-picking new entrant has lately earned more than passing interest among industry players when in one fell swoop it acquired two PTOs, Cellcom and Independent Telephone Network (ITN), just after clinching three carrier licences in the 800MHz spectrum band sold at N400 million by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last year.

So far, attention has focused on Ovia's entry into the market which has seen the banker aggressively snapping up relatively smaller market players like Cellcom, Independet Telephone Network (ITN) and lately Bourdex Telecom to build a formidable Visafone. Industry players reckon that Ovia's Visafone may be a player to watch in the new dispensation but are also quick to caution that, "extreme innovation and product segmentation" may need to be pushed harder than would have hitherto been needed. They say the result is as the creme of the market has been captured by the more aggressive mobile operators whose rapid service uptake has seen them raking up over 90 per cent of the overall telecoms market subscriber base that peaked at some 46 million users at the end of third quarter of 2007.

According to information obtained from the company’s website, Bourdex claims it offers, "better services, with larger, second to none coverage of the entire Eastern Nigeria and Niger Delta". According to the company, it has extended dial tone to towns like Asaba, Nnewi, Owerri, Abiriba, Item, Enugu-Ukwu and Onitsha. Others include Orlu, Mbaise, Ohafia, Nkporo, Mgbidi, Awka, Nkwere, Umuahia, Igbere and Arochukwu. It also extends to Ihiala, Abam, Isukwuato, Uturu, Uyo, Oko, Okija, Eket, Port Hartcourt, Bonny, Calabar and Ekwulobia. Bourdex was among the four new companies to obtain unified access service licences from the regulator including others like MTN, VGC Communications Limited, Dan Jay Telecoms Limited, Starcomms, Intercellular, Multi Links and Prestel, among others.

To cross the regulator's bar for unified licence, an operator must have an existing and operating network infrastructure; a minimum subscriber base of 10,000 or justifiable evidence of financial capability for substantial network rollout. It should also be up-to-date on submission of annual audited acc-ounts. Additionaly, the applicant must be up-to-date on payment of company tax, must be up-to-date with equipment type approval and in settlement of interconnection obligations. While telecoms market leader, MTN, was the first GSM network to secure a unified licence, PTOs have also show interest in the emerging dispensation opened by the market reform to enable them offer mobile roaming on their fixed wireless network with majority favouring the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology.

CellCom, a privately-owned phone company was in June last year bought by Visafone through his wholly-owned Internet Service Provider (ISP), Cyberspace Limited. Hitherto, Visafone emerged as winner of three carrier licences in the 800MHz spectrum band sold at N400 million by NCC while beating three other contenders including an existing player, Multi-Links Telecommunications Limited and two other new players, GiCell Wireless Limited and TC Africa Telecoms Network Limited to the spectrum favoured by CDMA operators. Visafone, which has licence to operate in 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is being integrated into the newly-acquired CellCom network as part of plans by the banker to evolve a major telecoms service provider in the new year.

Visafone's new licence (800 MHz Assignments, Rx MHz 881.31 882.57 883.83, Tx MHz 836.31 837.57 838.83) allows the company to roll out commercial service in 26 states including Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara and Edo. Others are Delta, Benue, Kogi and Niger. Others include Nasarawa, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and FCT (Abuja).

Ahead of Ovia's stakes in these top telecoms deals, South African mobile company, the MTN Group, had bought VGC Communications in a $65 million deal that added the fixed line player to its mobile network. Another South African company, Telkom SA also acquired 75 per cent stakes in Multi-Links, the nation's pioneer PTO in a $280 million deal that has placed its existing subscribers and long distance operator (LDO) licence in the control of the South African fixed line service.

Market consolidation in which bigger players have gobbled up their smaller phone companies have been set off since unified access service (UAS) was introduced first quarter of 2006 after the five-year market exclusivity granted GSM operators lapsed.

Sourced from This Day Newspaper 07-01-2008

Interview With Joe Anatune Of B3 Communications

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor

THE moment you step into the reception area of B3 Communications on Ajao Road, off Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, you are sure to be hit by the seriousness of the staff, as it wafts soulfully from the dozens of laptop in use. This, surely, is a tradition of many marketing communications firms.
There was a time when all about marketing communications were advertising and public relations. The executives of the agencies offering those services were suits-clad CEOs, whose works were done mainly in the office, with fun. Time has changed, now.

Though executives are still suits-cladded, strategies have moved from the pannelled room or ornate gate offices to the laptop, anywhere. There is a new thinking, and brand conscious executives' angle to get new ways of marketing a product, without being hemmed by the old ideas.

Marketing communications have become important issues in today's relationship between the producer and the consumer, and many companies performing such functions are leveraging customers and partners for opportunities to establish market leadership.
B3 Group is one such firm that has offered services that are not conventional advertising, which have enabled it to build solid relationships with the consumers and establish its clients as the leading providers of their services.

For the firm that is led by Joe Anatune, it is "more strategy, less stress."
Anatune, who left Dawn Function where he was the company's executive director and chief operating officer, says, B3 the company he founded in 2003, is showing enough seriousness in the industry so as to be highly regarded.

A fact, which suggests the empowering of staff to function well and equally, build the desired brand. He says, with a smile, "we are capitalising on the low cost infrastructure and overhead associated with maintaining big offices. We use talents who are interested in boding together to find fulfilment. The results are what we spend our time and energy on, not on office details. Our clients can attest to benefits of our model and with our team using high-speed secure Internet access it's just like we are right next door! Consequently, our teams are motivated, responsive and we can offer more competitive rates than traditional firms."

The B3 boss says, "the whole gamut about marketing communications solutions is 'customer interrogation'. Being able to design products, provide services and logos for your client's use."
He notes that his company has worked with a lot of clients to leverage integrated marketing and public relations campaigns so as to paint a clearer vision and focus in the market.
Anatune muses, "the era of marketing communications has slid in." And driven by activism in the boardrooms and threats of pulling out accounts by CEOs, agencies have become more consciously provocative with brands.

Brands were originally developed as labels of ownership: name, term, design, symbol. However, today it is what they do for people that matters much more, how they reflect and engage them, how they define their aspiration and enable them to do more.

He re-echoes the opinion that a great brand is one a consumer wants to live his or her life by, one they trust and hang on to while everything around them is changing. "One that articulates the type of person you are or want to be, one that enables you to do what you couldn't otherwise achieve."

When brand recognition builds up to a point where a brand enjoys a critical mass of positive sentiment in the marketplace, it is said to have achieved brand franchise. One goal in brand recognition is the identification of a brand without the name of the company present.
To him, three things are essential, especially in the process of brand building: "Nobody is inventing the wheel, no two individuals can be the same and above all, there is need to exploit whatever talent God has given you to get the best result."

Why B3?

He smiles and exhales; "B3 Communications was chosen to reflect our field, which is brand building. Our thinking was that we should break away from the conventional way of running advertising. We are brand builders. The basic thinking at the point was, let us help clients not just in advertising, but also, the totality of their marketing efforts. Based on that, we choose the name - Bold Brand Builders. So, the B3 stands for Bold Brand Builder. We have been in business for four years."

Atanune says products are no longer sold in the factories or shops, but the ability to win the consumer's mind. "With marketing communications solutions; MCS, B3 has successfully positioned our clients."

When B3 Communications began four years ago, the marketing communications segment was just beginning to gain attention from industry influencers. It was being talked about as an extension of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market, however, with the involvement of major players, the total idea has changed considerably.
What of conventional advertising? He answers affirmatively; "there is nothing wrong with it. Everything is all about how best you can be ahead of your competitors: how do you outwit your competitors."

He continues, "conventional advertising means that a client comes to you, you either produce a jingle for him, or produce a commercial advert or do a newspaper layout and produce newspaper advert. Advertising business is like that of a doctor. If a patient comes to him, the obvious thing that might be worrying that patient, may be, somebody might be telling him that he has headache but it may be a symptom.

So, what we are doing is, when a client comes to us, we subject his brief into serious research and in the course of the research, you will find out that it is not just advertising, rather, the problem might be distribution, your problem might be packaging. It will be wrong for us to say because we want to make money, go ahead and advertise, get our commission and all that, we want to be professional about it. Based on our background, we will tell you, look, this is where your problem lies. Perhaps, you have to address the problem before the advertising you want us to do for you will work. We have taken the issue a little bit deeper, not just the advertising. In the marketing climate, we are looking at the marketing process. I don't know, perhaps you may call it marketing clinic if you prefer that term."

Anatune believes that 2008 will be better. His optimism is buoyed by the fact that the real sector will be able to attract more funding this year, and this impact tremendously on the business. "If there are more products, there will be need for the services of marketing communications solutions company."

But do we have enough of them in Nigeria to handle the suspected upsurge? He answers, "we do not have. That's why we have companies handling conflicting accounts."

Anatune had his primary education in Awaka and secondary school in Emekuku, Owerri, Imo State. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to study marketing and graduated in 1985. Since then, he has been in general marketing and advertising management. He started his working life with a company called Nipol - a plastic manufacturing company based in Ibadan. From there, he worked briefly with May Manufacturing Company Limited. He later joined Dawn Function, where he rose to become Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Lagos office. He left the company and with some friends, founded B3 Communications Limited.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Leo Direct Repositions For Quality Service Delivery

By Michael Orie

IN a bid to raise the bar of value delivery to its clients and optimise performance, Leo Direct Limited, Rosabel Leo Burnett's direct marketing and customer engagement subsidiary, has entered into a working relationship with Ikineo, a South Africa-based customer relationship management (CRM) agency.

The need arose, as a result of the firm's desire to meet up with world standard.
According to the General Manager of Leo Direct, Dickson Eze, the partnership is necessitated by the common values that both firms share.

Eze said, "as a matter of fact, our partnership with Ikineo is because we share a common goal to enhance and improve the quality of service we offer our numerous clients. Also, what we have brought to bear in this relationship is opportunity to combine Leo Direct's local know-how of the marketing terrain with international practices, which Ikineo represents."

He also revealed that the choice of Ikineo is not a mistake because the South African firm has a huge command of global brands that Leo Direct will automatically be labelled after.
"Its track record and resume of clients they have worked for, the sphere of competence, which cut across all segments of manufacturing service, products, the measure of practice that is very scientific, is highly commendable."

In furtherance of this partnership, which was brokered about seven months ago in Cape Town, South Africa, Ikineo, which is one of the top agencies in South Africa -consumer relationship marketing - sent a two-man team to Nigeria on a weeklong working visit to Leo Direct to know most of the outfit's clients.

"While in Nigeria, the Ikineo team interfaced with some of the frontline clients of the outfit keep them abreast of the new alliance and lay bare the benefits it promises for the clients. Among such clients are Cadbury, UAC Dairies, Grand Oak Limited, Toyota Nigeria Limited and Procter & Gamble Nigeria. These clients were taken through the work process that would characterise the new paradigm. Expectedly, the clients' initial responses to the new offering were overwhelmingly positive," Eze explained.

Leo Direct / Ikineo partnership is expected to be a mutually benefitting engagement for both organisations, sharpen service delivery of the six year-old Rosabel Leo Burnett's subsidiary with a view to re-positioning it as a top-line player in the emergent keenly competitive CRM space in Nigeria. Above all, it would help raise the bar with existing clients and also come in handy in wooing new ones.

For Ikineo, the partnership affords it a wider network that would complement the outfit's current cross-country operations. The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Ikineo, Joshin Raghubar, said the partnership is " a marriage and equally opportunity on both side, so, all our strategy, equity would be shared with Leo Direct and theirs with us: Any opportunity for their clients and ours to work in the different market we must equally embrace. We are building a team; and whichever brand it is working on automatically is our brand, so long as we have the permission to run the brand in the country."

The Ikineo boss said, "we see Nigeria as a phenomenon growth market where we want to pursue an opportunity and at the same time, seek the right partner. Leo Direct, being part of the Rosabel family, has a pedigree of success and well-defined relationship with their clients. We are bringing experience, and new strategy process to form a strong unit. We understand how to manage customer data, which is what is lacking in some Nigeria marketing sector.

Leo Direct opened shop in 2001 as the Rosabel Leo Burnett IMC Group's experiential marketing subsidiary. Since then, the outfit has handled the emergent direct marketing / contact marketing briefs of some of the group's clients as well as sign on new businesses.

The agency currently holds the portfolios of Seaman's Schnapps, Guinness, North American Airline, UBA Moneygram, Accion Microfinance, Cadbury, Nando's Kitchen (UAC Franchising), Toyota and Chi Limited. Some of the brands previously on its clientele list include Friesland WAMCO, Procter & Gamble's Always, and Gordon's Spark. The agency is headed by Eze, erstwhile Associate Director (Client Service), Rosabel Leo Burnett, who is highly regarded for his broad social networking and uncannily non-conventional work style.

Ikineo is a compact brand activation / customer relationship marketing outfit, established in 2000, with a knack for creating authentic connections between brands and consumers that are the basis of sustainable long-term relationships.

The outfit's areas of strength include customer relationship, one to one engagements, and brand activations, all of which are empowered by the convergence of marketing and technology. Its broad-based clientele list spanning continents includes MTN, Coca-Cola, Volkswagen South Africa, Heineken UK, Primedia Lifestyle, Old Mutual Bank, British American Tobacco South Africa (Lucky Strike, Dunhill, etc), British American Tobacco Japan (Lucky Strike), Cape Town Tourism, amongst a couple of others.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Tribute to Felix Ohiwerei

By Mac Ovbiagele

BARELY three weeks ago, Nigeria's foremost drinks conglomerate, Nigerian Breweries Plc, sent off its Chairman, Felix O. A. Ohiwerei, in a lavish reception at The Civic Centre on Victoria Island, Lagos. In what the company tagged a Celebration of Excellence, speaker after speaker, whether through ad-libs or prepared text, extolled the virtues of this manager per excellence, who packed in 45 memorable years of meritorious service into Nigerian Breweries.

Visiting Heineken Director for Africa and the Middle East, personable Frank de Man, could not have put it any better when he described FOA as a key enabler of the company's success over the years and suggested the man was a compelling subject of study and research, in frontline universities with faculties of Business Administration and Management.

That was one evening, in which the many speeches had a reverberating resonance, more of truth than just compliance with protocol and convention. Even stand-up Orator, Ali Baba, let FOA go free, without scratches in the face. From the MD/CEO Mikiel Hermiij, whose welcome address blossomed into a full-blown toast of a visionary leader, to Professor Jadesola Akande, who announced the company's gift package of a grant to the Lagos Business School, Pan African University and the establishment of a Vocational Centre in Lagos, all at FOA's behest. Then add the contribution of another non-executive director, Ishmael Yamson's stimulating account, which will be remembered a long time, for both its poetic beauty and inspired delivery.

This writer first met FOA when he came calling as a member of Nigerian Breweries team, at a formal presentation in 1969. Then the biggest and arguably the most professional advertising agency at the time, was unveiling a new all-media subject for a lager beer. As such outings go, we had done our homework like mad, only just managing to contain our excitement about a campaign we thought would leave consumers die-hard loyalists of Star beer, for life.

With the creative work completed, Lintas then proceeded to field its first team - Norman Foreman, Tony French, Ifeanyi Moemeke, Olu Falomo, Erhabor Emokpae of blessed memory, Ted Mukoro and Creative Director, Hugh Andrews; all of them veterans of countless and I should add successful, high-profile pitches. This writer was there, as "Johny just come" Trainee Client Service Executive, strictly to be seen, not heard.

The moment arrived soon enough for the big masquarade to dance. Hugh turned it on, piping hot. A delicate frame, slightly bent it would seem, by a disproportionate weightload of wisdom, a re-assuring crown of grey hair, which in a way accentuated the deeper hue of grey matter inside, from which the ad agency had profited, in many a campaign. He was truly in his elements. Then bingo! Time for Client's reaction, which any honest agency professional will tell you, is always guaranteed to offer either joy or tears, hardly both.

Step by step, through logic and copious explanations from someone who knew his onions and had considered not just both, but all sides. FOA, in a manner of speaking, broke down our premises and ripped the campaign apart, in minutes. His final comment on that fateful day, still rings clear in my ears - ", this campaign platform cannot bear the weight of the product promise on offer." After a critical and dispassionate re-appraisal in-house, we found he was apparently right.

It must be said that many of us were comforted, and in later years impressed, that FOA had and even to this day, still demonstrates the courage of conviction, even if it is against the grain of popular or majority opinion.

As I had no speaking role during the entire presentation, I lapped up the reward of spare time, to soak it all in. To confess,I was bowled over by FOA's decency of language, his humility, a pleasing civilization I later discovered, derives from a nobility of birth. He left me with no choice that day, but to go scampering to register, as a fan.

FOA also contributed so much to the development of the Advertising industry. He was a strong advocate of meaningful and enhanced remuneration for the advertising effort in the success of brands. The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria gave due recognition to this fact when the body conferred Fellowship on him in 1994.

Quite a number of us, were multiple beneficiaries of FOA's admonition, if not veiled threat to Agency management, that personnel servicing their brands be deep-fried and well-seasoned, through regular quality training both here and abroad. That way, he reckoned, personnel on both the Client and Agency teams would sing from the same sheet and reap the fullest dividends of a tune, that is amplified by the unitary harmony of the various parts.

As he rose in response to Henry Nzekwu's summons to thank the gathering, he let all know in characteristic modesty, that it is to God and Him alone, that the success of his tenure was directly traceable. FOA claims to have trusted an unknown future to a known God. First, it was Nigerian Breweries he chose, from the stack of competitive openings at the time in 1962 and had the good fortune of earning his pips from tough but supportive bosses. Then the good luck of having a team that responded to him positively, on the ready. But above all, he celebrates God's gift of his sweetheart, one and only Janet Alero Ohiwerei, his wife of 40 years plus, with whom he lives in conjugal bliss; a union that has begotten bright, front-running offsprings. A family friend once summed up his family life in this sound-byte:- "....Felix is very family".

It is people like FOA that that Management scientist, Andrall Peason had in mind, when he cast an intense focus on what he called "sustained superior performance". Local and international business community will continue to respect this man as a valiant crusader for the highest possible standard of ethics in business, an unrepentant campaigner of due diligence, passionate apostle of integrity, a talented manager of men, material and matters, an exemplar of virtue.
So, there he goes, Felix Omoikhoje Aizobeoje Ohiwerei, OFR, loaded to the kilt as it were, with so rich a reputation, even the best supermarkets in the world do not stock. I have not ceased to wonder just why God blessed one man, so much. What a man!

Ovbiagele is a company executive in Lagos

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Oceanic Bank Honoured In London As Nigerian Bank Of The Year 2007

Oceanic Bank International PLC has won the 2007 Nigerian Bank of the Year Award. At an impressive awards ceremony organised by The Banker magazine, a subsidiary of the Financial Times of London held on Wednesday, 28th November 2007 at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel, London, Oceanic Bank was adjudged the Nigerian Bank of the Year for the second year running. The bank had earlier won the Nigerian Bank of the Year Award in 2006.

A delighted Dr. Mrs Cecilia Ibru, managing director of the bank who last month won the African Banker of the Year award in America said she was dedicating the award to all the staff of Oceanic Bank. According to her, “I am deeply blessed and honoured to be working with such talented, dedicated and hardworking team, without them, this award will not have been possible”. Dr. Mrs. Ibru said that Oceanic Bank is highly committed to delivering value to the Nigerian economy, and to its core stakeholders, “we will not relent in our efforts and will continue to maintain our usual high financial standards that stand us apart from our competitors”, Continuing she said that “This award will only spur us on as we continue with our various strategies towards being an African bank to be reckoned with in the international community”.

An excited Obaro Ibru, son of Dr. Mrs Ibru who spoke on behalf of the family said that he was pleased with his mother’s achievements in the corporate world. “You can see the turnout of the family here today. We are all delighted for her and Oceanic Bank and wish her and Oceanic Bank many more successes in the future”.

In his opening speech, Mr Philip Timewell, editor-in-chief of The Banker magazine paid particular tributes to banks from the emerging markets for turning in excellent financial performances when their counterparts in Europe and America were facing serious crises as a result of the recent spate of turbulences in the global financial market. “The banks being recognised and honoured today should feel proud of their superior performance in their respective countries”, he said. On the criteria used in deciding the winners, Mr Timewell said that the winners were selected based on a combination of factors mainly market capitalisation, growth, expansion, service delivery and shareholder returns amongst others.

The event was well attended by representatives of banks from over 143 countries which entered the awards. Highlights of the night included the lifetime achievement award given to William Rhodes, a 50 years veteran of Citibank.

Michael Buerk of the BBC who hosted the event had the audience reeling in laughter to his special brand of humour. Amongst those who came out to support Oceanic Bank included members of the Ibru clan led by Olorogun Michael Ibru, also present were the Ibru children – Oboden, Obaro, Ejiro, Osio and Rode. An elated Obaro praised her mum for making Nigeria proud, “She is truly an amazing woman, i am so happy and proud of her and wish her and Oceanic Bank continued success in the future”, he said.

Others present included Richard Jory of Structured Products magazine, Bismarck Rewane of Financial Derivatives, Hajia Amina Abdulahi (Group general manger in charge of investments at NNPC), Apostle Hayford Alile (Chairman of Oceanic Bank), Ambassador John Fashanu, Nkosana Moyo (Actis), Chris Udechukwu of, Obi Emelonye, Ovie Ukiri (Executive Director, Oceanic Bank), Dan & Doris Akpovwa, Francis Okumagba (Executive Director Oceanic Bank) and his brother Albert Okumagba (MD – BGL Securities), Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi and many more.
Click here for pictures of the event