By Anyway Yotamu
NMB Bank Zimbabwe says its loan book does not have significant exposure to business sectors that are most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
NMB chief executive Benefit Washaya said that loan book exposure to the hardest-hit sectors such as tourism was insignificant. “Our direct exposure to the tourism sector is minimum and as of 31 December 2019, the sector accounted for just 0.05% of the total loan book. Our customers in this sector have to date managed to meet their loan repayments,” he said.
The loan book is dominated by other industry sectors which were also affected by slowed economic activity from the national lockdown but the bank had seen improvement under the second phase of lockdown as more businesses were allowed to reopen.
Asked on the strategy the bank is using to increase interest income and which sectors of the economy they are targeting, Washaya said: “As a Bank, we are fully aware of our role in the economy as we conduct our business. We prioritise the productive sectors of the economy and of late we have been supporting the Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors which between them account for almost 40% of our loan book.”
The bank has also targeted the distribution and services sectors but overall seeks to increase its funding to the agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors as they are largely viewed as growth sectors.
“The high yielding retail lending space is also a sector that the bank plays in very well as we have extended personal loan facilities to well over 17,000 individuals,” said Washaya.
The Monetary Policy Committee resolved that in order to prevent banks from shocks and contagion, they should have their core capital indexed in US Dollars by the year-end of 2020. In December 2019, NMB had core capital equivalent to US$21.5 million and the bank remains confident of meeting the minimum capital requirement of tier 1 bank status pegged at US$30 million at the end of the year despite the volatility of the exchange rate.
“Regards increasing bank charges, there is an understanding between banks through BAZ and the Central Bank to freeze bank charges during this time of the pandemic. This move is meant to cushion the banking public during this difficult time when we are confronted by a pandemic that has shaken even the most advanced economies.”
The bank said it is still committed to this arrangement and will at the right time together with the rest of the market review its bank charges.
The bank suffered from a fall in deposits in 2019, but it plans to continue deploying Point of Sale machines as payments continue to be executed electronically. With digital account opening platforms still active NMB will continue to pursue more clients carrying on with the momentum they had before the pandemic.