To address rising competition in the banking industry and increase its brand equity, Diamond Bank recently hired a leading Public Relations firm to manage its corporate image. Raheem Akingbolu writes on how the decision would impact the banking public
Activities in many sectors of the economy in 2012 pointed to the fact that most brand owners in Nigeria have now realised the place of consumers in the marketing matrix.
Beyond advertising and promotion, the need to drive sales in a subtle manner without abusing the sensibilities of consumers made the handlers of many brands to think and look outside the box.
As a result of the marketing exploits, which gave consumers value for their money, pundits believe that the common marketing axiom that places the consumer as king and the reason for brand owners for being in business still holds sway.
The banking industry underwent a major transformation in recent times in the wake of the global financial crisis, which made the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to intervene in the management of about eight banks, as well as the enunciation of several policy measures to strengthen the industry.
The reforms of the CBN have led to a very strong banking industry with a few discerning banks trying to take leadership positions in the industry, which has made service providers to now go the extra mile to satisfy patrons.
According to the governor of the CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the reforms have brought about a new mindset to the industry as banks are putting in place best practices in the areas of corporate governance and risk management. Transparency and public disclosure of transactions have also remarkably improved.
Also, a number of banks have returned to the profit-making path and improved their balance sheets, as the recent results of their financial statements have shown.
Banks are gradually resuming lending to the private sector with the additional liquidity of more than N1.7 trillion injected into the banking system through the issuance of AMCON bonds, and significant progress in re-directing credit to the power sector and SMEs at single digit interest rates. These initiatives have saved and helped create thousands of jobs in the economy.
A new code of corporate governance has been issued by the Bank. The CEO of banks shall serve a maximum tenure of 10 years. Furthermore, all CEOs, who would have served for 10 years by July 31, 2010, ceased to function in that capacity and have handed over to their successors.
Nigerian banks are now key players in the global financial market with many of them falling within the top 20 banks in Africa and among the top 1,000 banks in the world.
The reform has culminated in moderating the spread between the lending and deposit rates to 9.7 per cent as at end of December 2011, from 12.2 per cent in 2010. This has contributed to the existing macroeconomic stability in the economy with inflation moderating to 10.3 per cent as at end of December, 2011.
The hitherto volatility in the exchange rate witnessed in the foreign exchange market has been brought under control, and the premium is within the international standard of 5.0 per cent. There is also greater cooperation between the monetary authority and the banks through regular meetings and collaboration on policy issues.
The reforms have brought about greater confidence in the banking system with the removal of distressed banks and the adoption of a strict code of corporate governance.
However, despite these laudable achievements, the industry is still confronted with certain challenges. Firstly is the wrong perception of the intent of the reform. The introduction of the new banking model, especially specialised banking (non-interest banking), is intended to broaden the scope of financial services offered by banks in Nigeria.
However, this has been given a religious connotation. The wrong perception and stiff resistance to the policy could potentially deter prospective investors in the banking industry.
Secondly, there is the reluctance of Nigerians to accept positive changes in global dynamics as another challenge. There is incontrovertible evidence that the excessive liquidity in the system, measured by broad money (M2), narrow money (M1) and currency in circulation, is partly attributable to the high cash transactions for economic activities, which has continued to undermine the efforts to achieve price stability.
Yet the cashless policy has faced significant resistance, despite its prospect for economic growth and development and the global trend in the intensity of usage of e-payments.
But, despite this shortcoming, a few discerning banks are already riding on the improved operating environment, to assert their leadership positions. One of such banks is Diamond Bank Plc, which began operation as a private limited liability company on March 21, 1991 following its incorporation on December 20, 1990.
As part of overall strategy to sustain its growth momentum, the bank recently refreshed its corporate identity from a silver colour to a more appealing colour as if to say it is closer to the consumer than before in recognition of the ever-dynamic public. Not a few people have commended the wisdom in the refreshed logo, which has retained its type face.
This initiative has been commended by industry analysts. According to Joe Brown, a financial analyst with Financial Hedge in New York, modern banking is in the mind and public perception is very important on how a bank wants to be perceived.
Boosting the Image
Against this background, it is therefore not surprising that the bank recently sought a reputable, experienced and creative PR agency through a pitch that included some of the leading lights in PR practice in Nigeria to reshape its public perception. At the end of the painstaking selection process, which took some agencies into the second round, TPT International was announced as the winner and agency of record.
The agency emerged from a highly competitive pitch process that involved four leading PR agencies selected for the pitch. Other companies include The Quadrant Company Nigeria, Mediacraft Associates, and C&F Portal Novelli.
According to a source in the bank, TPT however emerged the preferred agency, based on its creative direction during the pitch and its clear interpretation of the brief. Indeed it was a keen contest, according to sources, as all the agencies gave a good account of themselves.
Industry analysts have commended the management of the bank for engaging consultants in various aspects of the bank, which shows that the bank is very futuristic in a country where some banks find it difficult to understand the importance of hiring professionals and this will influence its going forward as a futuristic bank.
Partnership that Works
According to the founder and chief consultant of TPT International, Mr. Modupe Adetokunbo, this appointment offers his team the opportunity to once again partner a futuristic and innovative bank in delivering a desirable corporate perception. "The bank will definitely benefit from our rich experience in PR practice as well as our creative approach to perception management", he added.
Diamond Bank is a commercial bank, offering a full range of banking products and services in retail, corporate and investment banking. The business is based on strong, enduring relationships and is driven by innovation and leading edge technology.
The business development function of the bank is organised in a way that enables it service its clients in the various market segments optimally.
TPT International Limited is a full-service public relations firm maintaining practice areas in media relations, crisis management, brand PR, corporate communications, lobbying, lifestyle, fashion, strategic counselling, Information communications technology, social media and entertainment among others.
The agency is said to understand that an effective way of grabbing the attention of the media and ensuring multi-angled reportage is by engaging them in a captive environment spiced with informal interactions and constructive networking.
There is no doubt the appointment of TPT by Diamond Bank as public relations partner will further raise the corporate profile of the bank and position it effectively in the industry.
Looking at the pedigree of the bank as one that is noted for innovation and pace setting in the industry, one is not surprised that it is playing such leadership role in the industry post reform by appointing TPT, one of the leading lights in public relations practice in the country, to reshape its public perception.
Even though Diamond Bank is one of the new generation banks that was founded by Dr. Pascal Dozie, he had been able to transfer its management and direction from professionals to professionals in a bid to give it a new lease of life.
Dozie, who is reputed for high ethical standards and management prowess, has also relinquished his position as chairman of the board of the bank to others, unlike some of his contemporaries who have held on tenaciously to their banks, thereby denying them of new impetus to enhance their growth and modernisation.
A senior management staff of the bank told THISDAY that Pascal believes that Diamond Bank is a marathon and the baton had to pass from one hand to the other. "We commend the foresight of the bank for appointing a public relations agency that will reshape its public perception and we enjoined other banks to emulate it," the source said.