The mini-central bank of rural and community banks (RCBs) in the country, ARB Apex Bank, is strengthening its monitoring and supervision arm to be able to properly police the operations of the 139 banks nationwide.
It is doing that by working with the respective RCBs to strengthen their internal controls, improve the skills level of their staff, make the banks more responsive to emerging threats and help increase their ability to quickly detect and counter risks.
Beyond it being a requirement of the Bank of Ghana, the acting Managing Director of Apex Bank, Mr Alex Kwasi Awuah, said formalising the operations of the RCBs was needed to ensure that they were well positioned to be able to contribute meaningfully to economic development.
As a result, he has asked the general public to have confidence in the ability of the rural banks to leverage the strong systems and structures that the Apex Bank and the central bank have jointly inculcated into their operations.
These systems were needed to ensure that the RCBs are resilient and robust to support economic growth and entrepreneurship in the hinterlands, where majority of them operate.
“Generally, I will say that the general public should have confidence in the RCBs because we here at Apex Bank have the necessary systems and structures to manage them well,” he said in an interview.
“Apex Bank, together with BoG, will continue to be safe and sound,” he assured.
This, he said, was needed to ensure that the banks were well positioned to support micro and small-scale enterprises (MSMEs) to grow into big-time companies.
Rural banking is an age-old practice in the country’s financial space. Started in the late 1970s, the practice evolved from the maiden RCB at Agona Nyarkrom in the Central Region to 115 banks in 2002 before peaking to the current 139.
As an initiative of local communities to support their developmental agenda, the banks are generally owned and managed by indigenes.
These local entrepreneurs normally pool resources to provide financial intermediation for businesses and individuals within their communities.
The strong growth in their numbers and services necessitated the creation of the ARB Apex Bank in 2000 to serve as a mini-central bank for the RCBs alone, but under the supervision of the BoG.
The Apex Bank has since built enormous systems and structures, expertise and capacity, which it continually leverages to the advantage of the RCBs.
In spite of the strong structures in place, Apex Bank’s acting MD said his outfit was intensifying its regulatory and supervision mechanisms in a bid to catch-up with modern-day challenges.
“We are up scaling, both on-site and off-site to ensure that each of the banks do not get into challenges. For those that are in challenges, we help them to get out,” he said.
He explained that the bank was doing that in conjunction with the Bank of Ghana.