THE BANKING INDUSTRY AND THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY POST-CONSOLIDATION By
DR. B. B. EBONG GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR/CHIEF EXECUTIVE UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC
INTRODUCTION Banks facilitate economic growth in a variety of ways. In the first instance, they act as financial intermediaries between the surplus generating units and the deficit spending ones. This is a two-fold function involving the mobilisation of savings from the former group which are then channelled to the latter to support productive economic activities. This intermediary role is important in two respects. First, by pooling together savings that would have otherwise been fragmented, banks are able to achieve economies of scale with potential benefits for the users of such funds. Secondly, in the absence of banks, each person or business seeking credit facility would have had to individually look for those with such funds and negotiate with them directly. This is a cumbersome and timeconsuming process of double coincidence of wants. By matching the preferences of savers with those of borrowers therefore, banks help in overcoming such difficulties. It is pertinent to note that it is from this intermediation function that banks normally not only earn the bulk of their income by way of interest margin but also pay out returns to savers, compensating them for the opportunity cost of their money. It is important to bear this point in mind because, as we shall see later, if any bank is unable to recover the funds it lends out, its own existence as a going concern would be undermined rapidly and ultimately. This is to the extent that its ability to meet the withdrawal needs of depositors would be impaired. It is for this reason that the officials of any bank cannot afford to toy with the management of its risk assets. Towards ensuring that the funds they lend out are recovered, banks have found it expedient to provide business advisory services to their customers. The essence of availing their clients these services is to assure themselves that the beneficiaries adopt modern management policies and practices in running the affairs of their respective companies which benefit from borrowed funds. The ultimate goal is to guarantee that these customers are in a position
to service their loan obligations as and when due. This, in turn, would enable banks meet their obligations to depositors while also earning a narrow margin to ensure business continuity and corporate growth. Banks also play a pivotal role in an economy by providing a mechanism for producers/buyers and consumers/sellers to settle transactions between themselves. They do this not only within a country but also across national...