Operating throughout West Africa, Ecobank has built an enviable reputation amongst its international peers by focusing on a regional network of branches that offer an ever expanding portfolio of quality business and private banking services. Ecobank is poised to further develop a raft of new banking products. African Business spotlights Ecobank's recent successes, and looks to the future, in this exclusive interview, conducted by ANVER VERSI, with JEAN N AKA, the bank's chief executive officer.
African Business: How do you classify the year 2003 in terms of the bank's performance over the last three years?
Jean Aka: Ecobank's financial performance in the last three years has been remarkably strong. After a rapid expansion in the late 90's, we went through a consolidation period up till 2001, when we achieved a modest net profit of $13m. However, we took great strides to record $16m and $30m net profits in 2002 and 2003 respectively. The year 2003 was a good year despite the problems in our region. Our total assets also reached $1.5bn in 2003.
AB Have you launched any new products over the past year, and have you any new ones in the pipeline?
JA: We successfully launched Visa Card in Ghana last year. We are now rolling this across the group. We plan to launch Mastercard in Nigeria later this year. Visa International has granted membership to seven affiliates in the UEMOA zone.
Other new products launched include internet banking, SMS banking, telephone banking, and we have others in the pipeline.
Ecobank Ghana and Nigeria are the first to introduce Visa and Mastercard in their respective markets.
By the end of September 2004, our seven affiliates in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and Togo plus Cameroon will launch ATMs using a common platform from our headquarters in Lome, Togo. In other words, our customers in these seven countries will have access to common ATMs in these countries to facilitate their business travel and other payments.
AB: What operational problems have you encountered in recent times?
JA: Ecobank operates in a multilingual and multicultural environment so we have to cope with locally embedded practices while at the same time ensuring that we inculcate the Ecobank group's culture of excellence. Otherwise, our experience is not different from that of any growing institution.
AB: What makes you different from other banks?
JA: Ecobank's unique strength is based on the fact that we are a West...