The Managing Director of ARB Apex Bank Limited, Eric Osei-Bonsu, has commended the management, staff and shareholders of Ahantaman Rural Bank for its sterling performance and enormous contribution to the sustenance of the APEX Bank Limited.

Speaking at the Bank’s 23rd Annual General meeting (AGM) at its headquarters at Agona Nkwanta in the Western Region, Mr. Osei -Bonsu noted that there was significant increase in almost all the financial indicators of the bank in 2010, compared to 2009, although profit decreased slightly due to failure of borrowers to repay loans amongst other factors.

He added that the performance of the bank for the first half (6 months) of 2011, as compared to the same period in 2010, was even more remarkable.

The bank’s total assets as presented by its Board Chairman, Kwame Awuah Asante, stood at GH¢22, 939,387 in June 2011, compared to GH¢15,373,993 for the same period in June 2010. Deposits stood at GH¢19, 023,183 in June 2011, as against GH¢11, 953,560 in the same period in 2010.

Advances by sector for June 2011 was GH¢10, 280,262 compared to GH¢6,603,252 for June 2010. Shareholders’ Fund stood at GH¢2,909,999 for June 2011 as against GH¢2, 475,542 for the same period in 2010.

The bank’s profit before tax for June 2011 was GH¢606, 669 as against GH¢264, 111 for the same period in 2010. As at June 2011, the bank’s stated capital stood at GH¢757, 745, as against GH¢612, 487 in the same period last year.

Mr. Osei-Bonsu said “Apex Bank is very much impressed with the consistent growth and wonderful performance of the Ahantaman Rural Bank. It is this sterling performance which made it possible for the bank to be included in the prestigious Ghana Club 100”.

He however counseled the CEO Mr. John Dadzie, and his management team not to rest on their oars.

Speaking on challenges facing rural and community banks (RCBs) in the country, Mr. Osei-Bonsu said RCBs have a lot more to do by way of organizational and operational transformation particularly in the area of Information Communication Technology ICT.

He said “ICT had come to stay and RCBs like all other banks would have to avail itself for operational transformation or be overtaken by competition”.

He however admitted that embracing ICT comes with enormous challenges which require a collecti9ve solution by all RCBs.

The computerization and networking of RCBs, he said commenced under the Rural Financial Services Project (RSFP). This he said was being continued under the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) Project, which is funded by the US Government through the Millennium Challenge Account, MCA.

He said MiDA was paying for the cost of initial infrastructural development; therefore, the RCBs would have to brace themselves up to meet the maintenance cost of the ICT infrastructure.

This includes software maintenance cost, repairs, depreciation, upgrade and replacement of the computers and other equipment. He noted that all these were expensive considering the limited resources of some RCBs.

He said one way out of the challenge was for RCBs to raise more capital which he said is difficult due to the fact that poverty is endemic in most of the catchment areas of the RCBs.

The other option he said is for the RCBs to consider the idea of corporative mergers. He said although some RCBs dislike the idea of merger, it is the better of the two possibilities which are a merged RCB which continues to provide financial services in a wider catchment area and a stand-alone RCB which is financially liquidated as a result of its failure to raise the required minimum capital.

Mr. Osei-Bonsu called on RCBs to strengthen their internal control systems, and ensure excellent customer service which is crucial to their growth and sustenance. Among other things, he also urged RCBs to continuously upgrade the competencies of their staff through training programmes.

He also announced that the Apex Bank has signed an agreement with DANIDA, in respect of a project to support the rural banking industry. The project he said, has four key components namely, the Rural Finance Wholesale Fund, which will enable RCBs to finance activities which require loans; The Merger Fund, which will assist RCBs with plans to merge, to have access to consultancy services on the merger process, RCBs Capacity Building support Fund and Human Resource Development of ARB Apex Bank.

Management of Ahantaman Rural Bank engaged shareholders on the banks financial report, elected new directors onto its board, and presented awards to long-serving staff.