BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
Steward Bank posted a strong financial performance in the full year to February 28, 2022, with net operating income rising by 73% to ZW$7,5 billion from the ZW$4,4 billion achieved in the prior year.
Profit before tax more than doubled.
The bank outfoxed the country’s worsening economic conditions, marked by high inflation and depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar.
This came amid official inflation rate increased to 131,7% in May 2022, from its lowest rate in recent times of 50,2% in August 2021.
Steward Bank chairman Bernard Chidzero said the financial institution saw improved performance all round in comparison to prior the year as its digital transformation turnaround started to bear fruits.
“This improvement was underpinned by the bank’s customer centric focus which provided for greater convenience for our customers,” he said in a statement accompanying the financial results.
In the period under review, the bank’s inflation adjusted interest income grew by 209% to close at ZW$2,6 billion.
Non-funded income improved 25% from ZW$4,1 billion recorded prior year to ZW$5,2 billion in the current year.
Chidzero said the implementation of a new core banking system in April 2021 enabled the bank to roll out a number of digital innovations that had improved and transformed the way customers transact on the bank’s platforms.
“We introduced the new Square digital banking application, which we zero-rated to bring convenience to our customers, enabling the financially excluded segments to access basic banking services. In addition to the successful system upgrade, the bank also focused on improvements in the back-office operations through various automations that led to an increase in the bank’s operational efficiency and service delivery.”
In the 12 months to February 2022, Steward Bank – owned by EcoCash Holdings Zimbabwe Limited – was among the first banks in the country to meet the US$30 million capitalisation deadline of 31 December 2021 through the support of its shareholders.
The bank’s CEO, Courage Mashavave said cost-containment measures and revenue growth helped the bank to weather the tough economic conditions.
“The bank achieved inflation-adjusted profit before tax of ZW$1.8 billion, a turnaround from a loss of ZW$1.4 billion incurred in the comparative period,” he said.
He also noted that Steward Bank’s balance sheet grew, in inflation adjusted terms, from ZW$22.9 billion to ZW$28.8 billion on the back of the capital injection by the shareholders.
Meanwhile, Chidzero said in the outlook period, Zimbabwe’s largest bank by depositors, will continue to focus on promoting digital financial intermediation to reduce disparities around financial access within the country.