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How Brand Strategy Is Working For Access Bank

By Dipo Olowookere

Despite the economic headwinds that have been slowing down most financial institutions in the country, the Access Bank Plc has had a very successful outing in the outgone year.

The Bank which entered the nation’s banking landscape about 26 years ago with the ambition of becoming a solid brand that would command respect in many sectors, has since grown from that humble beginning into banking giant with reputation admirable reputation that transcends the local market.

Thus today, the bank offer a full service commercial banking, operating through a network of about 305 branches and service outlets located in major centres across Nigeria, Sub Saharan Africa and the United Kingdom. The great work that has gone into building the bank into a formidable banking brand, beyond just a cool logo or well-placed advertisement, but in terms of the cutting edge strategy and precision-driven is not lost on industry watchers and has been fetching recognitions in various forms.

For those who have watched the progress recorded by the Bank thus far, strategic branding has made the difference. Little wonder that few weeks ago, the innovation and creative ingenuity of its handlers paid off as it was named ‘Bank of the Year’ at the 17th annual Bank of the Year Awards black-tie dinner in London. To analysts, the feat was not by accident, considering various positioning tools deplored by the bank’s promoters in the last 10 years.

The award, which validates other nine international honours earned by the Bank over the past ten months for operational excellence, responsible business practices and technology-backed innovation, is unarguably one of the most coveted awards in the banking sector globally.

Over the years, Access Bank has established a reputation as one of the most formidable financial institutions in Nigeria. This is unconnected with its impressive growth trajectory and contributions to the development of the Nigerian economy through empowerment initiatives and practical SME schemes. As an acclaimed innovative industry pioneer, the Bank has remained the choice of international financial organisations and multilateral agencies seeking partnership in Nigeria.

The Banker Awards is an annual event of The Banker Magazine, a publication of the highly influential Financial Times of London; arguably the world’s leading monthly journal of records for the global banking industry, with expertise in monitoring and publishing developments in the African banking industry and beyond for more than 90 years. It is a mark of the award’s reputation that it was held in London, arguably the financial capital of the world.

For some of its pioneering initiatives and outstanding performances, the bank has earned a number of recognitions in the past months. The recognitions include the ‘Karlsrushe Outstanding Business Sustainability Award’, ‘BusinessDay Banking Award – CEO of the Year’, ‘BusinessDay Banking Award – Best Bank of the Year’, ‘EMEA Finance Best Bank in Nigeria Award’, ‘EMEA Finance Corporate Responsibility Award (Pan-African)’, ‘EMEA Finance CEO of the Year (Pan-African’ and World Finance Most Sustainable Bank of the Year Award.’

Presenting the award, Michael Buerk, BBC News journalist, commented: “In spite of the challenging operating environment and rapid changes in the industry, Access Bank has remained a formidable institution. Specifically, the Bank has been a purveyor of innovation in the Nigerian banking space and consistently outperformed industry forecast. It is firmly believed that its operational model, risk management and governance framework, which enable sustained superlative financial performance need commendation.”

Although this view is consistent with Analysts’ opinion on the Bank in the past one year, but its Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe who received the award for the Bank said, “While innovation, excellent risk and corporate governance framework might be the advantage we have over our competitors, the Bank is propelled by a vision of becoming the world’s most respected African Bank, and this requires us to do things differently to standout. He thanked the bank’s stakeholders for their support and assured them of improved performance in the years ahead.”

Few months ago, Access Bank broke a new ground in innovation by introducing PayWithCapture, a mobile payment solution that permits customers to make payments by scanning a merchant’s pre-generated QR-Code using the camera of their mobile device or via a one-step Beacon-NFC System. This is happening at a time a consortium of six banks and Unified Payments inaugurated PayAttitude, an electronic payment scheme that allows transactions in both online and offline platforms. The two products, though share some features, they are different in many areas. The bottom-line however is that both are introduced to create a hitch free transaction for consumers.

Two weeks ago, the bank launched the country’s first corporate-focused internet banking solution – “Primus” – to ease the complexities of daily supply chain and financial management of blue chip companies.

The multi-transaction management software dubbed “a 21st century-game changer,” is one of the 200 initiatives announced by the Bank in July after the presentation of its 5-year strategy for 2013 to 2017.

According to Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the product “does not exist in the Nigerian banking industry” and “will make every bank in Nigeria to rise to the occasion.”

The role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the overall success of any business has been well documented just as the importance of good corporate citizenship to bottomline has been well articulated in different business models. Little wonder that many businesses across different sectors now take CSR very serious.

According to the bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report, its CSR philosophy was developed in accordance to relevant international standards and guidelines such as the AA1000 Assurance standards and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3 sustainability reporting guidelines.

The Access Bank Innovation Challenge is a competition that invites teams of contestants to develop innovative solutions challenges noticeable challenges in the country, and provides them with educational guidance along the path to prototyping and possibly implementing their projects.

The 2016 Access Bank Innovation Challenge focused on the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects billions of smart devices to the Internet.

A total of 15 teams formed by the 76 attendees worked on solutions to problems in Agriculture, Transportation, Security, and Power. The N1 prize money was shared amongst the top 3 winners. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize winners received the sum of N500,000, N300,000 and N200,000 respectively.

Victor Etuokwu, executive director, Personal Banking, Access Bank Plc, who addressed participants during the training workshops said one of the Bank’s core values is ‘Innovation’ and this is visibly rooted in the culture and attitude of the employees of the Bank.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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