Business Maverick


FNB shows solid growth, but load shedding sends operating costs rocketing to R40-million

FNB shows solid growth, but load shedding sends operating costs rocketing to R40-million
(Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

First National Bank’s recent investments in its brand and digital interfaces have shown a return in the form of solid customer, transactional and deposit growth for the six months to the end of December 2022.

However, as with hundreds of other corporates countrywide, rolling blackouts exacted its toll. The cost of maintaining operations – given higher levels of load shedding during the six-month period – rocketed more than 500% from R6-million last December to R40-million for the period under review.

Operating expenses went up 12% on the back of inflationary pressures, investment in a brand refresh, increased headcount, salary increases and repricing of certain technical skills, as well as project spend to support improved customer experience and service levels on the platform.

“We recognise that the high cost of food, fuel and electricity continues to put financial strain on customers, and we will continue to provide them with adequate support.

“We are also assisting customers with funding for alternative energy sources such as solar, and we were proudly the first bank to participate in the government’s bounce-back loan scheme, which assists businesses in recovering from the effects of lockdown, unrest and natural disasters such as the KwaZulu-Natal floods,” says chief executive, Jacques Celliers.

The bank, which led the way when it came to digital adoption, saw digital log-ins exceeding 878 million, while there were 603 million log-ins on the FNB App during the period under review. 

The FNB App’s active transactional users surpassed five million, setting a new monthly record of 103 million log-ins in October 2022. 

“We’re seeing a growing number of customers taking up our digitally displayed offers, with 6.5 million proactive, pre-approved offers taken up in just six months – an increase of 21%. 

“Appetite for digital payments continues to rise, with customers making 41.9 million smart device payments with 3.9 million virtual cards and R15-billion in payments.

“Our first-to-market real-time Instant Payment innovation, which launched in October 2022, has already generated R50-million in payments. In addition, eBucks Travel delivered R450-million in sales using our platform rails, and we also sold R9.2-billion in third-party services such as electricity, airtime and digital vouchers via the FNB App,” he says.

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However, impairments increased 5% off the back of advances growth and the anticipated customer strain given the rate hiking cycle. The results statement says FNB’s overall lending approach is informed by internal and external data analysis related to affordability indicators, which still suggest that low- to medium-risk customers have capacity for credit and a higher propensity to take up a broader range of financial services products. 

Residential mortgages increased by 8%, with new production up 9%. 

Growth in unsecured lending, particularly card and FNB personal loans, picked up, but was offset by the continued contraction of the DirectAxis personal loans book (down 4%) and the runoff of the Covid relief book.

Excluding the relief book and DirectAxis, FNB personal loans grew 10% and card advances also increased 10%. Customer preference for the new Fusion product has resulted in lower overdraft advances. Revolving loans increased 2% as risk appetite for this product was tightened.

The results show that arrears are trending up, but at lower levels than anticipated. The current debt relief portfolio continued to perform better than expected and specific debt-relief outstanding advances amounted to R1.5-billion.

The non-performing loan ratio reduced to 6.22% from 7.22%, which management believes reflects the effectiveness of FNB’s credit management strategies and good customer curing due to focused collections.

On the retail side, new customers were up 5% while the number of eWallet users increased to 8.2 million. 

“We paid out R8-billion to house the families of first-time property buyers and R40-million in student loans to support individuals who are striving for a brighter future.

“We have paid out R612-million in pre-emptive life insurance claims since the introduction of FNB Life, and 50% of funeral claims are paid out within four hours. In addition, our short-term insurance policies increased to 275,000 (up 13%) in the last six months.

“Similarly, we see encouraging momentum in wealth and investments, as the number of accounts increased to 604,000 (up 3%) and assets under management reached R71.5-billion,” Celliers adds. 

Since the nav>> feature was launched, car owners have used it to renew 233,000 licence discs, and R406-million in vehicle loans have been financed through this channel. BM/DM


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