Nigeria’s five Tier 1 banks spent a total of N94.70 billion as personnel expenses in the first three months of this year, compared with N92.96 billion in the corresponding period of 2020, findings by New Telegraph show. The nation’s first tier lenders are Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), FBN Holdings and United Bank for Africa (UBA). New Telegraph’s analysis of the banks’ unaudited Q1’21 financial statements shows that all but one of them spent more on personnel in the first three months of this year, compared with the corresponding period of 2020.
FBN Holdings, first instance, spent N24.81 billion on personnel as against the N23.96 billion it spent in the corresponding period of last year. Similarly, Access Bank’s personnel expenses rose to N20.06 billion in Q1’21, from N19.63 billion in the same period of last year. Also, Zenith Bank’s personnel expenses inched up to N18.55 billion in the first quarter of this year from N18.16 billion in the corresponding period of 2020. GTBank also reported a marginal increase in its personnel expenses to N9.98 billion in Q1’21 from N9.24 billion in the first quarter of last year.
Standing at N21.31 billion for Q1’21, UBA’s employee benefit expenses dropped by N668 million from N21.98 billion in Q1’20. New Telegraph had reported that the five Tier 1 banks spent a total of N378.17 billion on personnel last year, compared with N363.08 billion in 2019.
The lenders’ total personnel expenses increased by 4.2 per cent (N15.09 billion) in 2020 from the amount spent in 2019, despite most of them having had to reduce staff last year due to the harsh business environment occasioned by COVID- 19 crisis.
In fact, in the wake of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions imposed by federal and State authorities in April last year, bank workers in the country took to social media to complain that their employers were threatening them with mass sack. This led to a meeting between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bankers’ Committee, following which, the apex bank issued a press release in early May, announcing that it had agreed with DMBs to suspend the retrenchment of bank employees. Specifically, the statement said:“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 full-time and part-time). “To give effect to the above measure, the express approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria shall be required in the event that it becomes absolutely necessary to lay-off any such staff.”
Despite the CBN’s intervention, the “Selected Banking Sector Data: Sectorial Breakdown of Credit, ePayment Channels and Staff Strength(Q4’20)” report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in April this year, shows that the total staff strength of the nation’s Deposit Money Banks(DMBs) shrank by 8,584 employees between Q4’19 and Q4’20. According to the report, DMBs’ staff strength stood at 95, 026 in Q4’20 compared with 103, 610 in the corresponding period of the previous year. This means that in the one year period, 8,584 (8.28 per cent) employees either resigned or were sacked by the financial institutions. Further analysis of the NBS data shows that Commercial Banks’ staff strength comprised 209 Executive Staff; 17,017 Senior Staff; 36, 583 Junior Staff and 38, 945 Contract Staff.
This means that Junior and Contract staff accounted for 81.4 per cent of Commercial Banks’ total workforce. Commenting on the decline in banks’ staff strength in a report late last year, analysts at CSL StockBrokers Ltd said: “The decline in banking sector staff strength does not come as a surprise as the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria led to many banks closing some of their branches across the country which may have led to some redundancies but more importantly the pandemic must have restricted expansion and new hiring.” They, however, noted that despite having a reduced workforce, DMBs reported higher personnel expenses in the first half of last year. As the analysts put it, “the y/y decline in the staff count of the Nigerian banking sector did not feed into lower personnel expenses in H1’20.
For our eight coverage banks, total personnel expenses grew by 7.6 per cent y/y to N227.5 billion in H1’20 from N211.4 billion in H1’19. The increase was largely driven by double digit growth in UBA (up 19.9 per cent y/y) and Access (up 16.0 per cent y/y). “In particular, Access concluded an acquisition which may have impacted H1’20 personnel costs. For UBA, we reckon that the bank implemented an upward pay review in Q4’19, thus the low base of H1’19 was responsible to steep y/y rise in personnel cost.”