BY TEMITOPE ADEBAYO
Shareholders of Fidelity Bank Plc have unanimously endorsed the payment of a cash dividend of 22 kobo per share for the 2020 financial year.
This translates to a dividend yield of 9.2 per cent making it the 4th most rewarding Bank to investors in the Nigerian Capital Market.
This announcement was made at the 33rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Lagos on Friday.
Shareholders who spoke at the event praised the Board of Directors and the management team for the 38.7 per cent increase in total customer deposits, which rose from N1.225 trillion in 2019FY to N1.699 trillion and was driven by strong double-digit growth in both local and foreign currency deposits.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fidelity Bank, Mustapha Chike-Obi reassured shareholders at the AGM that the board and management of the bank would maintain the high corporate governance standards synonymous with Fidelity Bank and also ensure the bank continued in its growth trajectory in the years ahead.
“We will continue to strengthen our enterprise risk management capabilities to ensure the sustainability of our business while modelling our governance practices to align with international best practice”, said Chike-Obi.
Fidelity Bank Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe echoed the Chairman’s sentiments, stating that the bank’s financial performance for the period reflected the resilience of its business model in a challenging operating environment.
Ikpe revealed that local currency deposits grew by 49.6 per cent to N1.400 trillion and constitute 82.5 per cent of total customer deposits while foreign currency deposits grew by 3.3 per cent to N298.2 billion and now accounts for 17.5 per cent of total deposits.
She further highlighted that the bank’s retail banking push continued to deliver impressive results as total savings deposits increased by 54.2 per cent to N424.4 billion, making it the 8th consecutive year of recording double-digit growth in savings deposits.
Total savings deposits now account for about 25.0 per cent of total deposits, an attestation of the Bank’s increasing market share in the retail market segment.
Speaking on the strategy for the current financial year, Mrs Onyeali-Ikpe, said, “We will continue to focus on redesigning our systems and processes to enhance service delivery, deepen our cost optimization initiatives to reduce operating expenses, and enhance our overall risk monitoring capabilities to ensure both internal and external risks are identified and mitigated.
“Our growth aspirations will be sustained while we continue to identify new opportunities in the new normal.
“On the back of the evolving dynamics in the economy, we will continue to increase the adoption and migration of customers to our digital platforms and increase our retail banking market share through innovative products and services”, she concluded.
The shareholders expressed their continued confidence in the Bank for its 2020 performance which saw a 50.9 per cent increase in core operating profit to N44.9 billion.
The share price also rallied 22.9 per cent, outperforming the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) Index, which only gained 10.1 per cent.
According to Mrs Onyeali-Ikpe, the Bank showed “strong resilience to the adversities the global economy witnessed in 2020”.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr Farouk Umar, President, Association for the Advancement of the Rights of Nigeria Shareholders commended the bank for posting encouraging performance in 2020 despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Umar appreciated the bank for paying dividend the same day of the Annual General Meeting unlike their peers in the industry that pay a dividend a day after the AGM.
Also speaking, Mrs Bisi Bakare, National Coordinator, Pragmatic Shareholders Association of Nigeria, commended the bank for declaring a dividend despite the unfriendly economic environment and the COVID-19 pandemic challenges.
Bakare who welcomed Mrs Onyeali-Ikpe and Mr Chike- Obi, urged them to sustain the growth and ensure higher dividend in the years ahead.
In compliance with the guidelines of the Corporate Affairs Commission’s (CAC), the meeting was held by proxy and had in attendance very few shareholders because of the COVID-19 precautionary measures.
Onyeali-Ikpe thanked the shareholders and the members of the Board for their continued confidence in the management team and especially appreciated Fidelity Bank customers for their patronage and loyalty.
Fidelity Bank began the year on a positive note having recorded a strong financial performance in the first quarter of 2021, posting appreciable growth in profit for the period ended March 31, 2021.