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By NBF News
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AS part of its restructuring exercise, Wema Bank Nigeria Plc has unfolded strategic plans for the bank's migration to a regional banking structure.

The Group Managing Director (GMD) of the bank, Mr. Segun Oloketuyi, who outlined the plans in a press briefing held recently in Lagos, said the first phase is to reposition the bank to commence its core banking operations.

Under this arrangement, Olekeju explained that with the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the affairs of the bank for the period of 18 months during the crises, the new leadership decided to stimulise the bank in order to restore investors confidence and seek core investors to be part of the business.

He said in the process, a group called SWA acquired 40 percent holding of the bank, which took the management to the next phase of preparing the bank for growth.

Oloketuyi noted that the bank has not recorded any significant growth since after the 2006 banking consolidation as it lack the financial strength to compete with other banks in the industry.

Complete infrastructure upgrading to enhance operations, staff restructuring and development of new products that would help facilitate growth and enhance profit, as well as, enable the bank take its position in the industry.

The Wema Bank boss explained that the loan recovery unit of the bank embarked on a massive loan recovery exercise during the process, adding that as at November 2010, a total of N31 billion was recovered while the remaining part of the loan, which is expected to attract another N15 billion into the bank has been sold to the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON).

He also added that an additional N7.5 billion was generated by the bank through the fund raised from the stock market.

'We have returned the bank to the part of profitability. We have released three quarterly accounts and we made profit in all.

The bank that has negative capital of N66 billion in June 2009 has been recapitalised. We have installed good corporate governance into the bank, improve our financial audit result, create a new service delivery to improve customer service and above all, we have improved our risk management practice which was reason why we run into the crises.'

On the bank's resolve to operate within the regional scope, the GMD said the decision was not imposed on the bank but rather, it was a strategic decision taken to enable the bank operate within the geographical areas where it has more comparative advantage in terms of making profit.

He pointed out that the bank, as a regional bank offers physical operations in a geographical area, which is a defined area for the bank. He added that the bank can also offer same services rendered in national or international.

' In Nigeria, a regional bank can operate a minimum of six and a maximum of twelve contiguous states and the FCT.

For Wema Bank, it is a thought-out and strategic plan as we have greater proportion of our infrastructure in the target South South and South East and the regions accounts for 98.8 percent of our total loan portfolio and 96.9 per cent of our deposit as at October 2010.

Oloketuyi explained that at the end of whole exercise, 17 out of the 154 branches of the bank would cease operations also allayed the fears of both staff and depositors of the bank, noting that the bank has concluded plans to absorb the affected banks in the new branches to be opened soon in the strategic areas mentioned while the bank would continue its transactions with the depositors through a correspondent banking relationship with other existing banks.