As BusinessDay prepares for its maiden banking awards this weekend, the International Monetary fund (IMF) has released its latest assessment of the Nigerian financial industry and concludes that Nigerian banks are in position to withstand significant shocks to their balance sheets. However, what emerges from the IMF report also is the fact that banks remain dominant in the Nigerian financial system, though pension funds are showing some muscle.
Some significant numbers in the IMF data stands out. First, is the significant growth in the asset base of Nigerian banks between 2006 and 2011. Within the period, the total assets of the banking system has tripled from N6.74 trillion to N18.5 trillion representing a growth rate of 174 per cent. The increase has not however come from an increase in the number of banks as the number of banks in the financial system actually dropped from 25 in 2006 to 20 in 2011.
So what has happened within the period is that fewer number of banks have essentially grown to be bigger taking on greater capacity to finance the Nigerian economy which has also witnessed significant growth within the same period.
Banking dominance of the Nigerian financial system has however dropped within the period. Banks in 2011 controlled 78.7 per cent of the financial system asset compared to 90.5 per cent of the financial system assets in 2011. The new elephant in the room muscling out the banking system dominance of the Nigerian financial system are the pension funds. The pension funds have grown from having just 4 per cent of financial system assets in 2006 to now having 12.1 per cent with total assets of pension funds rising from N300 billion in 2006 to N2.84 trillion in 2011.
This is good for the Nigerian economy as it represents the significant emergence of alternative funding for economic growth. It is even more significant considering that pension funds can conveniently provide funds the long term which commercial banks are not structured to do.
Other players in the Nigerian financial system have however not been able to match the significant growth rate recorded by pension funds. The insurance sector is important sector of the Nigerian financial system that is still lagging behind despite the significant growth in the Nigerian economy. Though the IMF data does not have comparable figures for 2006, the Nigerian insurance sector controlled just 2.6 per cent of the total financial systems assets of 2011. This is just slightly more than the size of financial system assets controlled by the smallest bank in Nigeria. The insurance sector is seen to be challenged by a general attitude by Nigerians towards taking up insurance policies especially Life Policies as well as low capital and lack of innovation by insurance companies.
Other Non-bank financial institutions control just 6.6 per cent of the financial system, up from 5.5 per cent in 2006. There are about 112 finance companies operating in the Nigerian financial system but they control less than one per cent of the financial industry. There are also about 254 securities firms but the IMF has no data on their market share though their market share is likely to be above one per cent either.
Fund managers are the dominant players in the non-bank financial institutions make segment controlling 4.6 per cent of the assets held in that segment of the market. Mortgage finance institutions and Microfinance banks are also key players in the non-banking financial institutions category but they control less than two per cent of the total financial industry assets as of 2011.
The insignificant share of the non-bank segment in the Nigerian financial industry means that banks have the burden of funding all aspects of the Nigerian economy including funding sectors where they have no clear expertise or even sectors that their balance sheets are not structured to support.
The long term solution is boosting the capacity of the non-banking financial sector to be able to provide alternative funding to economy. Already, the different regulators are implementing several reforms in the different sectors. For example, the no premium, no cover and compulsory insurance initiatives by National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) will significant boost the financial stability of Nigerian insurance companies if implemented to the letter. Also, the CBN is pushing for the recapitalization of Primary Mortgage Institutions (PMIs), an initiative that could see to the significant reduction of the number players in the sector and hopefully result in the emergence of stronger and more adequately capitalized players that can competitively create more mortgage assets.
But while the reforms are still in progress, the banks remain the dominant players in the Nigerian banking industry saddled with the gains and risks of supporting all sectors of the Nigerian economy. The implication is that they make all the profits in the Nigerian financial system and carry all the risks. Hence, when the banks sneeze, the Nigerian economy catches cold.
This article was first published in BusinessDay