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The country Nigeria is located in the western part of Africa (Falola, 1999) and also the biggest country in Africa with an approximate population of 154,729,000 people living within its terrain (www.un.org). Nigeria being a federal constitutional republic (Falola, 1999) runs a democratic system of government and has a total number of thirty six states spread around the northern, southern, eastern and western regions of the country with its capital territory Abuja situated at the heart of the nation (ibid). Nigeria's economy is said to be one of the fastest growing economy in the world with a growth rate of 9% in 2008 and about 8.5% in 2009 (Aminu, 2008: Godwin, 2008). Similarly, as at 2008, Nigeria was said to have an estimated Gross domestic product (GDP/ PPP) total around $319.572 billion, per capita of $2,162 as well as an estimated nominal GDP total of $207.116 billion, and per capita of $1,401 (www.cenbank.org).
Furthermore, Nigeria is termed as the third richest country in Africa (Berkeley, 1987), which is also ranked as the twelfth major producer as well as exporter of petroleum crude in the world (Lewis, 2007) which serves 40% of GDP of the country (www.cenbank.org). Seemingly, other key areas that boost the growth rate of the Nigerian economy are said to be the agricultural sector, mineral resources sector, telecommunication sector, and lastly the manufacturing sector (www.cenbank.org).
4.2 An Overview of the Nigerian Banking Sector.
The Nigerian banking sector underwent major reforms in the year 2005 (www.cenbank.org) due to the vast number of banks in the country at the time with weak capital base (Kaikai, 2005). The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) oversees all financial related activities and transactions amongst its other functions, and it is the duty of this body to provide regulatory acts and guidelines for not only the banks but also for all other financial related institutions operating in the country (www.cenbank.org ). Before the financial sector reform of 2005, Nigeria had about 89 banks (ibid) which as mentioned earlier were mostly going distressed, hence CBN pronounced a new commercial banking regulatory guidelines which stated thus, a commercial bank must have a minimum of N25billion capital base prior to commencing operation (Kaikai, 2005). In addition, this led to the merger and acquisition (M&A) exercise in the banking industry in 2005 which is in order for banks to meet the operational requirements of CBN and thus downsized the number of commercial banks to a total number of 25 operating banks till date (ibid).
4.3 Inside the Nigerian Primary Mortgage Institution (PMI).
A PMI can be defined as institutions that specialise in generating liabilities, receiving and saving deposits for its customers at one end and further creating mortgage financing and other loans for other customers at the other end (Rose and Haney, 1990). Furthermore, mortgage business in Nigeria date back to the post independent era, with government creating several strategies to provide shelter for the growing population at that time (Ogu, 1997). He further mentioned some of these strategies to be inter-state resettlements, slum clearance, state and federal housing programs, which the latter is a policy mainly focused towards civil servants working across the country (ibid). Hence, there is need for lending housing/mortgage institutions to help government provide its mass population housing in the country.
In Nigeria, PMIs' are regulated by the CBN thus this institution lays down the regulatory acts for lending procedures and operational guidelines for lending houses in the country (Ogu and Ogbuozobe, 2001). It is also pertinent to mention that there are currently 98 mortgage banks/lending houses operating across the country (www.cenbank.org) and these PMIs' are termed as either building societies, microfinance banks and savings and loans institutions (www.sciencedirect.com/nigeria) and amongst this PMIs' is my case study organisation Aso Savings and Loans Plc.
4.4 Case Study Organisation: Aso Savings and Loans Plc (Aso)
Aso Savings and Loans Plc is the biggest player and the fastest growing PMI in Nigeria (www.asoplc.com). Furthermore, this organisation was incorporated in 1995 as a limited liability company and was later converted to a public liability company (Plc) in 2005 (ibid). However, like other PMIs', Aso also falls under the regulations of CBN thus abiding by the mortgage institution decree NO.53 of 1989 in order to conduct mortgage activities across the nation (ibid).
Initially, the government has the majority share in the organisation before it subsequently became privately owned with government having 16 per cent share. According to (Lynch, 2006), a focused organisation systematically has a strategic mission and vision, which defines where the organisation aspires to be in the long run. Consequently, Aso being an organisation aspiring to be in the competitive front of the mortgage industry states its mission and vision statements thus;
Mission Statement: "To build mutually profitable relationship anchored on a passion for excellence" (www.asoplc.com).
Vision Statement: "we will be the national leader in mortgages and a leading financial service provider by 2012" (ibid).
Aso is headquartered in the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja where it runs a corporate office and has 19 branch offices within Abuja and its environs as well as across the country. This organisation currently employs 568 workforces and has a potential goal of expanding its services tremendously into almost every state, town and city across Nigeria. The company has a tradition of providing exceptional customer services of quality standards to its customers, increased opportunities for associates, and profitable returns on investment to shareholders and owners.
4.4.1 Organisational Structure
According to (Watson and Gallagher, 2008) structure is a consistent evolutionary chain of every organisation. This does not only mean the basic organisational structure, but also the links between the other two aspects of organisational structure which are the operative mechanisms and the decision mechanisms.
Figure 8: Chart adapted from: Watson and Gallagher, 2008, Managing for Results, fig 8.1)
The basic structure at Aso is divided into two sub-sections which revolve around the three aspects of organisational structure as shown in Fig 1. (Mohammed, 2009). The basic structure has the corporate office which mainly handles the decision mechanisms and subsequent branches which deals with more of the operative mechanisms (ibid).
4.4.2 COMPANY ORGANISATIONAL CHART ( BASIC STRUCTURE)
Corporate Office: This section of Aso handles the decision mechanisms in terms of the company's mission and vision which sets the direction for the company, policies and practice, the decision making, hiring and firing procedures, the brand and product standards. It also handles the global accounts and supplies for all the bank's branches across Nigeria (Mohammed, 2009).
This unit consists of three major divisions namely, Finance and Risk (FAR), Operations and Technology (O & T), and the Products, and Markets (P & M). These divisions are head by executive directors and are further broken down into small units, which are head by several managers. The corporate head office is sub sectioned thus CEO's office and twelve corporate departments across the three divisions, which are shown below in figure 9.
Figure 9: Self-diagram Corporate office Structure
Source: personal interview with Group Head Human Capital and Corporate Management Aso Savings and Loans Plc. October, '09
Branch offices: This is handles the bank's operation activities for the organisation, which is head by the Business Manager (B.M) with an operations unit that handle monetary transactions. This section deals with day to day banking activities like generating liabilities, opening and managing customer accounts, handling credit/mortgage appraisals as well as capturing the local market position, administering organisations' strategies for in order to exceed customer expectation with trained of employees skilled to enhance service standards. Marketing and relationship officers support the business manager, while the operations' manager is assisted with customer service officers (CSO), head teller, cash tellers, funds transfer officer and an internal control officer.
4.5 Customer Service Practice in Aso
Customer service is an aspect that is taken very seriously in Aso (Taylor, 2009) thus this organisation as a department that is solely dedicated to customer service. However, amongst the services this department handles are; advising customers on the organisation products and services, handling customer complaints and queries as regards the organisations' services as well as reviewing customer accounts and analysing their mortgage repayments to list a few (ibid).
Seemingly, Aso organises a quarterly customer forum which is a one-on-one customer-management interaction that is focused towards receiving customer feedbacks on the organisations' services (ibid). In addition, this organisation uses mystery shoppers to analyse and assess employee behaviour towards handling customer transactions (ibid).
However, in addition to customer service management, Aso also indulges in several corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes focused towards the development of the communities within which it operates (www.asoplc.com). CSR has no specific definition, it all depends on the way an organisation structures its responsibility to the outside environment. CSR is in line with organisational standards as well as the way businesses conduct their dealings in relation to the external environment (Lynch, 2006). To sum this all, Osseo-Asare (2009) reported that "CSR is closely linked with the principles of sustainable development'' which he pointed that it form the basis of decision making that are mostly related to environment, social, financial, legal, economic factors.
Consequently, some of the CSR programmes Aso offers to the community are thus (www.asoplc.com);
Educational Services through provide books, financial donations, and sponsorship to wards in different communities (www.asoplc.com).
Health Care Services through promoting and safeguarding healthy living. "We also strive to provide tools and information to help the community make proactive and educated health care decisions'' (www.asoplc.com).
Provision of low-income housing initiatives.
Youth development services through sporting activities like football
Provision of free counselling as regards mortgage services and also other products and services the organisation offers.
Conclusively in the researchers' view, Aso's competitive strategy is tuned towards the differentiation strategy. The organisation does not only focus on providing housing services to Nigerian nationals but also focused towards developing the communities at large.