Access Bank delivered strong results in the first quarter despite the challenging macroeconomic and regulatory environment. This shows the strong capacity of our business to generate sustainable earnings on the strength of our balance sheet, diverse revenue streams and our dedicated people.
The Group recorded a slight improvement in gross earnings by 6% y/y to ₦222.1bn (Q1 2020: ₦209.8bn), however, the bottom line saw a significant increase of 30% y/y to ₦60.1bn (Q1 2020: ₦46.3bn), on the strength of a 30% y/y growth in Net Interest Income. As a result of effective implementation of our cost reduction strategy, Operating Expenses remained flat y/y, despite the inflationary environment and increased regulatory cost.
Our retail banking business also showed steady growth with a 112% y/y increase in revenue to ₦57.5bn (Q1 2020: ₦27.1bn), and a 941,631 new customer sign-on via our financial inclusion drive during the quarter. This improvement is evidenced by the consistent and robust savings account
growth to ₦1.36trn (4% YTD), leading to a significant reduction in our Cost of Funds. With the increased adoption of our digital channels and the growing customer base, we recorded a 29% y/y growth in USSD Transaction value and 40% y/y increase in Mobile and Internet Banking Transaction
In line with our risk appetite and efficient risk management, our asset quality continued to improve as guided with NPL Ratio of 4.0% (Dec. 2020 4.3%), as we intensified our recovery efforts. Likewise,
we expanded our loan portfolio cautiously as reflected by the marginal growth in our net loans and advances to ₦3.65trn YTD (Dec 2020: ₦3.61trn).
Furthermore, we maintained robust capital and liquidity positions, well above regulatory levels with a Capital Adequacy Ratio of 22.2% and a liquidity ratio of 48.3%. Positioning us to support our customers across various markets and adequately execute our expansion strategy.
In furtherance of our vision to be the World’s most respected African Bank and Africa’s payment gateway, we remain committed to a disciplined and thoughtful expansion strategy. Leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), we will focus on key markets to drive outside
Africa and intra-Africa trade. In alignment with our objectives, we recently announced our intention to acquire a majority shareholding in African Banking Corporation of Botswana Limited to further strengthen our Southern African footprint Looking at the quarters ahead, we are poised for strong earnings growth fueled by our retail momentum, robust balance sheet, and operational efficiency.
Finally, I would like to thank our people, shareholders, and other stakeholders as we could not have achieved these results without their dedication, commitment, and support.
Chief Executive Officer