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27.10.2004 Business & Finance

Ghanaian Banks are a turn-off

By Public Agenda

¨70% of money circulates outside the industry Mr. John Kofi Mensah, General Manager of International Commercial Bank has noted that about 70% of the money in the economy circulate outside the traditional banking industry, and that, the International Commercial Bank (ICB) was strategising to take advantage of the situation to increase its market share, and to support the national savings mobilization effort.

Speaking to the Public Agenda in an exclusive interview at his office on Thursday, Kofi Mensah said the bank was taking steps to widen its assets base in order to achieve a more balance portfolio, while developing attractive and innovative products to keep pace with the competition.

ICB, which started operations in 1996 as a unit bank, now has branches in Makola in Accra, Tema, Kaneshie - First Light, and Kasoa in the Central Region, with its Corporate Headquarters on the Ring Road Central, Accra East. It has successfully upgraded its banking software to connect all the five branches online to add value to its services, by providing greater convenience and quality service to its customers. It has also completed the installation of a Wide Area Network, which the General Manager said will facilitate the opening of two more branches in Kumasi and Dansoman next year.

The Bank, which has made tremendous progress since its incorporation in Ghana has seen its rating in the Ghana club 100 league, improving from 92nd in 2001 to 45th position in 2002.

While the Standcharts and Barclays are closing their branches in the poorer parts of the country, Mensah said: “Our challenge now is to make our services accessible to the hitherto un-served parts of the country.”

ICB branches have been strategically set up in key commercial and low-income areas, were it hopes to maintain its growth in business volumes, while providing banking services to the hitherto excluded.

The location of the corporate headquarters at Ring Road was to serve low-income earners and the army of self employed people around the Nima, New Town and Maamobi areas. Mensah advised small and medium scale enterprises not to be pushed by unfriendly banking practices in the country into keeping their money at home, or resorting to Susu Schemes, but take advantage of the low initial deposit of ¢100, 000 at ICB to open new accounts.

ICB lowered its minimum deposit required to open a new account last month, to ¢100, 000 for potential savings clients and ¢200, 000 for current accounts, to allow the lower income class access to the bank's facilities.

It has also introduced one of the quickest inward remittance scheme, in the industry, which makes it possible for customers to receive money hours after it has been transferred from abroad.

The General Manager disclosed that, ICB was poised to meet the criterion set by the Bank of Ghana for banks operating in the country to meet a minimum paid-up capital of ¢70 billion. “The shareholders of the bank have agreed to a zero- percent dividend for the next three years, so that, all bank's profile can go into increasing its capital base.

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