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Five banks spend N230.98bn on personnel in 9 months

2,477 lenders’ employees lose jobs in 3 months
6,408 contract staff sacked since January

Five deposit money banks (DMBs) in the country spent a total of N230.98 billion on personnel expenses in the first nine months of 2020, results released by the lend-ers show. The figure is N19.70 billion more than the N211.28 billion the lenders spent on staff costs in the corresponding period of last year.

The five banks are Access Bank, Zenith Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Guaranty Trust Bank and Fidelity Bank. A breakdown of the results shows that UBA’s employee benefit expenses rose by 20.67 per cent to N66.62 billion in the first nine months of the year from N55.20 billion in the corresponding period of last year. At N59.93 billion, Zenith Bank’s personnel expenses, in the first nine months of 2020, was 5.01 per cent higher than the N57.07 billion the Tier 1 lender spent in the same period of last year.

Similarly, Access Bank’s 9M 2020 results show that the first tier lender’s personnel and rent expenses rose to N57.09 billion from N54.70 billion in the same period of last year. Also, Guaranty Trust Bank reported that its personnel expenses increased to N28.72 billion in the first nine months of 2020 from N27.30 billion in the corresponding period of 2019.

Leading Tier 2 lender, Fidelity Bank‘s personnel expenses edged up to N18.62 billion in the first nine months of 2020 from N17.01 billion in the same period of last year. Analysts note that personnel expenses are heading north in the banking industry despite the fact that even before the advent of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its devastating impact on the economy, lenders were already embarking on tough cost cutting measures, including sacking redundant staff and shutting unprofitable branches in order to cope with the harsh operating environment.

The spread of the virus to these parts, in fact, seem to have been an opportunity for some lenders to intensify the cost cutting measures, as the coronavirus lockdown imposed by government led to most banks choosing to temporarily close branches they considered surplus to requirements in some parts of the country.

Indeed, bank workers took to social media at the height of the lockdown restrictions to complain that their employers were threatening them with mass sack, a development that pushed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) into issuing a press release in April announcing that it had agreed with DMBs to suspend the retrenchment of bank employees.

The apex bank said that: “In order to help minimize and mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 on families and livelihoods, no bank in Nigeria shall retrench or lay-off any staff of any cadre (including fulltime and part-time).” It also directed lenders to first obtain its approval before any staff member is laid off in the event that such a measure was absolutely necessary. Still, latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicate that the banking sector reduced its total headcount to 94,498 as of June 2020 from 96,975 in March of the same year.

Specifically, the numbers show that DMBs sacked about 2,477 of their employees in the second quarter of 2020, as major cities in the country complied with the lockdown restrictions imposed by the Federal Government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. New Telegraph’s analysis of the NBS data indicates that contract staff, which represents 43 per cent of total bank staff, constituted the most affected by the job cuts, making up 2,239 out of the 2,477 losses recorded in the period. Further review of data from the NBS reveals that banks have laid off a total of 6,408 contract staff since December 2019.

The NBS figures also show that banks have been employing more contract staff in recent years, as part of efforts to cut costs. However, employees designated as contract staff are always among the first group of workers to be sacked, as their contract do not provide them with the conditions of service enjoyed by permanent staff. Financial experts attribute banks’ rising personnel costs, despite the various cost cutting measures, to Nigeria’s inflationary environment as well as the industry’s unsustainable cost structure.

For instance, in a report titled: “The Productivity Agenda – Moving beyond Cost Reduction in Financial Services,” PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) urged banks to look beyond costreduction and restructuring measures for profitability and long-term survival. The multinational professional services network said in the report that traditional cost-cutting strategies come with inherent limitations, which it pointed out, affect the overall impact of the strategies on corporate performance and long-term sustainability.


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