– Paramount Chief of Bamvim
Story: Atta Kwaku BOADI
The Paramount Chief of the Bamvim traditional area, Bamvim Lana Mahama Abdulai one of the most respected chiefs in the Northern Region and in Ghana as a whole has added his voice to the call to bring back GN Bank. Bamvim Lana is one of the Oldest and a long serving chief in the Northern Region.
This he said would help the growth and development of micro and small business enterprises in the Northern Region and make saving easier for his people.
GN Bank could be found in all districts and trading centres in the Northern Region before it was closed down in 2019 by the Bank of Ghana. The Bank could be found in Gushegu, Yendi, Tamale, Wulensi, Saboba, Karaga, Walewale, Salaga and many other towns in the region. This made it easier for many to pay for goods and services without traveling long distances personally.
The respected chief was concerned about jobs lost as a result of the closing of GN Bank. In particular, GN Bank employed about 3,000 mobile bankers, young men and women, several in the Northern Region who have not been able to find any steady, meaningful employment. At its peak, GN Bank employed close to 7,000 people including security personnel, cleaners, drivers at its more than 300 locations. It supported several charitable initiatives, local festivals and gave scholarships to many students.
It will be recalled that a few weeks ago, many Ghanaians contacted by the Today Newspaper unanimously agreed that the Bank of Ghana must bring GN Bank back. They called on the Akufo-Administration to support this call. For many of them, the Bank was the only one that catered for their needs including services that allowed them to travel without cash to market centres across the country. GN Bank offered free life insurance to savings account customers and a high 9% on savings accounts. There are several towns like Tsito, Wulensi, Kwame Danso, Gwollu, Asebu, Hamile, Paga, Pusiga, and many others who are suffering due to the lack of a bank with a national spread.
In many locations, the people have not had any regulated financial institution to serve their needs. Traders are traveling several miles with cash to find a safe place to keep their money. People used to travel to Dzemeni in the Volta Region from Central, Eastern and Greater Accra Regions to sell in the Dzemeni market and would deposit their cash at the GN Bank there and pick it up in Kasoa, Accra and wherever they traveled because of the availability of the over 300 branches the Bank had.
Today recalls that Archbishop Agyin Asare wondered a couple of years ago if GN Bank couldn’t have been saved. Many professionals, senior citizens, researchers and people from other walks of life have in recent times questioned why Ghanaian-owned banks were collapsed at great cost to the nation instead of being saved with a smaller amount of money.
GN Bank was a leader in digital banking solutions something that no other bank since has matched. The Bank invested at great cost in digital solutions, something the Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia would find exciting and worthy of emulation today. Investment in technology made it possible for its customers to have access to their accounts and transact business at all corners of the country, north, south, east and west.
The Today newspaper recalls from the GN Bank story the following:
“In 1997, we set out to invest and develop “the People’s Bank”. After nine years of planning, preparation and interactions with the Bank of Ghana (BOG), First National Savings & Loans Company Limited was granted a license to open for business in May of 2006. A number of local companies and people were rejected as potential shareholders. Eventually, our company, Coconut Grove Hotels became the major shareholder, later to be joined by others. The required Capital was paid in and verified by the BOG.
“Our idea which became a passionate mission was to go where other people wouldn’t go. We wanted to do business in the major market centres and towns in every region of the country. Our aim was to offer safe banking to the ordinary person. Especially with the frequent news report of armed robberies on our roads, we wanted to provide a safe haven for the ordinary person’s money. We felt that we would make a contribution that would assist Ghanaians to develop the much needed savings culture.
We were particularly concerned about the unbanked. So, financial inclusion was the key reason for wanting to have a national, retail scope to our business. After a few years, we were proven right. Through our efforts and that of other Ghanaian financial institutions, unbanked numbers went down from a high of 85% of the population to 55% and still going down.
We started with SuSu like products and gave millions of Cedis to micro enterprises to trade and work with. There are thousands of business people today who owe their beginning to the small loans they took from First National. Included in this number are tens of local contractors who were helped to secure and execute GetFund, cocoa roads and Road Fund contracts with backing from First National.
We persisted with our mission of financial inclusion which is now the financial mantra of all developing countries, from India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Kenya and lately Nigeria. We came up with products such as “Wo Daakye”, which made it possible to open accounts with as little as 50 pesewas and earn interest every six months.”