We Feared for Our Workers- Nduom explains GN Bank Downgrading

The President of Groupe Nduom (GN), Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, has said the management of GN Bank feared that workers of the bank would be laid off en masse if they allowed new owners to take over the bank.

According to him, all those who were interested in acquiring GN Bank, both foreigners and locals, were not interested in the model of banking that GN Bank was into – contracting of a lot of mobile bankers.

To that end, he explained, given that the management of GN Bank had workers at heart, they applied for a Savings and Loans licence after failing to meet the Bank of Ghana’s new minimum capital requirement of GH400 million cedis.

GN Bank opted to continue their operations as a Savings & Loans institution at the end of the 31 December 2018 deadline given by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) for universal banks in the country to recapitalise to GH400 million cedis.

The downgrading of GN Bank to a Savings and Loans firm was announced by the governor of the central bank, Dr Ernest Addison, on Friday, 4 December 2019 at a press conference.

Explaining the reasons behind the decision by GN Bank to downgrade, Dr Nduom told GN TV that: “…The third reason is that some of the other people in Ghana who wanted to become part of GN Bank or acquire GN Bank weren’t interested in our model of banking, and, so, we were afraid that our mobile bankers, more than a thousand of them, if we went into any arrangement, they will be sacked.

“For this and some other reasons, we and our shareholders and the directors, we got together and said let us go and ask the Bank of Ghana for their approval for us to go into a savings and loans licence and continue to keep our doors opened and do the sort of business that we do. We were savings and loans company as First National for eight years and that was how we built our national network.”

In an earlier statement, the Head of Corporate Affairs at Groupe Nduom (GN), owners of GN Bank, Frank Owusu-Ofori, said on Friday that their “doors will remain open for business as usual in January 2019 and beyond”.

He added that they have started the transition process and their immediate objective is to find the liquidity needed to serve the needs of customers.

“This means that as a licensed deposit-taking institution, customer funds remain safe with us. The decision allows us to concentrate on ensuring maximum liquidity to sustain the business, instead of raising funds for additional capital as a universal bank. We operated in the recent past successfully as a Savings and Loans Company for eight years, so, we can assure our customers that with our attention back to managing the business, instead of combing the world for additional capital, we are poised to deliver products and services beyond excellence,” Mr Owusu-Ofori noted.

It is necessary, he added, “For us to also point out that in the process of looking for additional capital, we made a conscious decision not to sell our bank to mostly foreign interests. These investors wanted the retail network we have built, but with the intention to abandon our vision of promoting financial inclusion and serving the needs of ordinary Ghanaians. We have been honest about who we are – a Main Street Bank and not a High Street Bank.

“We formed the company and started looking for a licence in 1997 to create a national bank for all Ghanaians wherever they may live, capable of ensuring financial inclusion and bringing the unbanked into the formal sector. It took the founding shareholder, Coconut Grove Beach Resort nine years and a lot of effort to obtain a licence from the Bank of Ghana on 8 May 2006 to operate as a Savings and Loans Company under the brand name, First National Savings & Loans Company Limited. Coconut Grove was joined by another Ghanaian shareholder, BB Acquisitions. Other shareholders have subsequently invested in the company.

“Our financial institution has two intertwined branches – traditional banking and micro-enterprise business. The power of the two makes us unique and special. It took hard work to be where we are, with 1.2 million customers and 20% of the Ghanaian banking retail outlets in Ghana.

“We invested heavily in opening offices in all the ten regions of Ghana. When we opened our doors, the unbanked population was 80%. Today, it has fallen to 55%. Our continued existence will ensure that the percentage of the population that is unbanked will reduce further,” he added.