Regional financial services provider Equity Bank Group has recorded a 21 per cent growth in first quarter of 2014.

Emerging from a depressed operating economic environment as well as political skirmishes in South Sudan, Equity Bank pre-tax profits for the first quarter jumped to Sh5.4 billion up from Sh4.5 billion posted within the same period last year.

The Bank similarly realized a 21 per cent profit after tax which increased to Sh3.8 billion up from Sh3.2 billion earned in the same period last year.

Speaking during an investors briefing session at the Group’s Equity Centre headquarters in Nairobi, Equity Bank Group chief executive James Mwangi expressed optimism that the Bank’s performance is driven by new strategic initiatives, namely: SME; innovative delivery channels such as agency and mobile banking; merchant acquiring business and payment processing; diaspora banking and remittance processing, regional expansion and diversification into other financial services.

Dr Mwangi noted that the financial institution had registered significant improvement in the quality of its loan book from the strategies.

Customer deposits grew by 18 per cent, to Sh206 billion up from Sh175 billion, while the portfolio of customers grew to 8.7 million.

Driven by a rich portfolio of diversified investments, Equity Bank Group’s total assets grew to Sh295 billion up from Sh252 billion, representing a 17 per cent jump.
Net loans registered 28 per cent growth, from Sh140 billion to Sh179 billion at the end of the first quarter.

 “We are encouraged and at the same time humbled by our first quarter results which speak of utmost corporate resilience and a case of strategy gone right for Equity Bank Group. Notwithstanding the earlier projections for depressed performance and growing NPL’s, we are glad that our customers and the respective national economies continue to show resilience and project a positive outlook,” Dr Mwangi said.

Efforts by the Bank to diversify to a range of demand driven products and services, he added, are also paying off with thousands of Equity Bank customers now enjoying the convenient features of its recently introduced Equity Bank MasterCard Auto Branch ATM cards with PayPass technology which is an addition to the Bank’s cashless payments solutions.

The Bank’s sustained investments in mobile and agency banking, payment systems and money transfer and diaspora remittances and operating expenses reduction strategy, Dr Mwangi, noted will continue to contribute to the positive growth trajectory.

“We are highly optimistic that the growth momentum will be maintained throughout the year with a number of new products and services set to be launched in the coming months,” he said.

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