It is an undeniable fact that 2021 was a challenging year for all of us. As a Bank, we faced and managed a host of unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which required a total reset of our ways of working, interaction and our way of doing business. COVID-19 has certainly taught us that sustainability, transparency, and health should be global priorities.
Since 2008, Access Bank has applied the triple bottom line focus to our operations and activities, which means that beyond profit, we are very keen on measuring our environmental, social, and economic impact. Quite often, this sustainable approach to business ultimately boosts business performance.
Sustainability is at the heart of our business, and we will continue to focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals because we recognise our role in preserving the environment in which we operate. Our overall ESG strategy aims to impact society and our business conduct positively through responsible investment. To enable the success of the strategy, we developed an ESRM (Environment, Social, and Risk Management) credit review process and a governance structure.
Based on our understanding of impact investment and the role it plays in addressing social and environmental issues, expanding our market share, and building goodwill, we have prioritized our CSR focus areas to include Health, Education, Sport, Arts, Environment, and Social Welfare. Over the past five years, we have invested about N22 billion in various CSR efforts reaching 1,316 communities, impacting 30,075,356 lives and 793 NGOs. Employees of the Bank have committed over 2.7 million hours of their time and resources through our Employee Volunteering Scheme, with more than 500 communities impacted across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria.
As a result of our commitment to ESG, we have emerged a key player in the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP) Steering Committee, the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), the Equator Principles (EP), amongst others. In addition to driving real change through social investments over the years, we have been able to consistently identify and create roadmaps that have increasingly delivered long-term sustainable development in investment and financial transactions.
Through our lending and investment activities, coupled with our procurement practices, we have made significant indirect sustainability impacts whilst aiding the development of economies. With the understanding that climate change will have a social and economic impact on our customers, Access Bank ensures that we properly manage risk while capturing new markets. We imagine the endless possibilities that the future holds. Hence, with creativity, innovation, and speed, we are making vital contributions to creating a truly sustainable future while delivering value to all stakeholders.
Furthermore, we recognise the importance of maintaining and increasing the diversity of our workforce. Our people and culture are crucial to the success of our business, and it is our ambition to be the most accessible, inclusive, and sought-after employer.
We want Access Bank to be a workplace where everyone is valued as an individual and has equal access to opportunities. We work to ensure that colleagues are welcomed, respected, supported, and able to be their authentic selves. To this end, we have set up various initiatives which include mentoring, training, and networking events under the umbrella of the Access Women Network (AWN) – formed to support, develop, promote, and retain female employees in the Bank. We understand that gender equality can only be achieved with a focus on both genders. AWN provides a support network especially to all female employees, ensuring gender equality through policies such as the human rights policy, paternity leave, 6 months’ maternity leave as well as leadership programmes.
Access Bank through the “W” Initiative, our banking proposition for women, has provided over 1 million women with opportunities to benefit from our financial and non-financial offerings like market access, capacity building programmes, access to discounted health and business financing. We are using our “W” Power Loan to bridge the financing gap in women’s businesses, giving over 1,200 women access to $30 million in financing so far.
Over the last 14 years, the initiative has developed a strong presence in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, and Zambia with an array of offers tailored to meet the diverse career, business, and lifestyle needs of over 16 million diverse female customers. In the wake of the pandemic, a virtual desk (W Cares) was introduced to manage gender-focused complaints and enquiries. To help facilitate women’s access to discounted finance, we stimulated economic expansion by partnering with ESG (Enterprise Sustainability Group) to simplify loan application processing and tracking for women-in-business. This resulted in over N8 billion ($20 million) debt financing investment in more than 1,700 women-owned enterprises and N18.8 billion ($47 million) growth in lending to 750,000 female customers.
Leveraging initiatives like the Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton Africa – which in its second year recorded 39,982 applications spanning 8 African countries. The Bank provides business capacity building for female entrepreneurs by giving them access to internationally recognised education and funding for economically viable ideas.
Over the next 5 years, Access Bank will be the clear-cut digital leader in Africa even as we move closer to becoming Africa’s Payment Gateway to the World.
As we continue to expand our retail banking across major trading corridors in Africa, we will consolidate our earnings across all income lines, driven by a strong focus on consumer lending, payments and remittances, digitisation of customer journeys, and customer acquisition at scale. Furthermore, the Access Bank Group looks forward to another decade of growth as we begin the process of evolving into a holding company (HoldCo). The non-operating HoldCo, to be known as Access Holding Company Plc, would serve as the parent company for the Group – Access Bank and our many subsidiaries. The new structure would facilitate the Bank’s growth and expansion across Africa, ease consolidated financial strength, expedite capital and liquidity growth, provide flexibility to accommodate leverage with minimal risk to regulatory rations, and help to unburden the Bank from oversight functions and responsibilities of managing the subsidiaries, thus focusing on our core operations.