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Nigeria’s Banking Industry: Union Bank

Union Bank is one of Nigeria’s oldest financial institutions. It’s also among the country’s biggest, with its total assets worth over $4 billion as of 2018, and several million customers located within and beyond Nigeria.

Like the other traditional players in the banking industry, it presents itself to its customers as a reliable partner, one which has withstood the challenges of previous eras. The bank hasn’t remained unchanged, but it has stayed alive and evolved with the times.

History

Union Bank Nigeria began as a branch of the UK-based Colonial Bank which set up its Lagos office in 1917. As can be gleaned from its old name, the bank was established by British interests, to finance British traders doing business in West African colonies. By 1925, it had been acquired by Barclays Bank, also headquartered in the UK.

Although it later set up branches in other major towns of Nigeria, the bank expanded slowly in the decades that followed, partly because of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Once those hindrances had passed, its pace of growth sped up.

Following Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Barclay’s Bank began to allow more local business interests to interact with it. The government’s indigenization policies of the 1970s effectively shifted control of the bank’s Nigerian subsidiary to Nigerians. It was at this time that it changed its name to Union Bank.

Union Bank was recapitalized in 2012, with $500 million contributed by a consortium of Nigerian and international investors.

Products and Services

The customer base served by Union Bank comprises millions of individuals, numerous SMEs, and a number of large corporations. As such, it tailors its services to meet the peculiar needs of these businesses.

Current, savings, fixed deposit, target, and domiciliary accounts can be opened by anyone with Union Bank if they are of age to hold an account. Dedicated accounts can also be managed by small and medium scale businesses and large companies. Customers can also seek and get loans from the bank if they meet its laid out conditions.

Union bank issues bank cards with which its account holders can withdraw or transfer sums of money from their accounts. Some of these transactions can also be done online or on the Union Bank mobile app. Transfers can also be done with a special mobile USSD code.

Besides the usual financial products it offers small businesses (term loans, purchase orders, invoice discounting, and project finance), it also provides them with logistics, accounting solutions, digitization, intervention funds, payments, and other enterprise-building and support services.

Larger scale companies in the agriculture, construction, extractive, and manufacturing sectors can get financing from Union Bank, as can service businesses like telecoms companies, media organizations, and professional service corporations.

CSRs and Other Projects

Union Bank has been involved in a number of projects aimed at improving the lives of people in the districts in which it does its business.

It partnered with Connect Nigeria for the maiden edition of the Top 100 Emerging SMEs awards in 2018, which saw a hundred of Nigeria’s best small and medium enterprises and startups celebrated for the outstanding work they are doing in their industries.

It also organized the Campus Innovation Challenge in 2018 for students in Nigerian tertiary institutions. The competition offered to fund for ideas which would transform agriculture, education, creative arts, and millennial banking in the country. In 2019, it introduced the Ed-tech challenge, which invited Nigerians to profer tech-driven solutions to challenges facing the country’s education sector.  

Union Bank’s major Corporate Social Responsibility projects are published annually in its Citizenship, Sustainability, and Innovation (CSI) Report.

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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