Standard Bank Group expects to grant personal and business loans of more than R50-billion in South Africa this year as consumers and companies cautiously regain their appetite for credit, and as the group continues a concerted effort to grow responsible lending.
Peter Schlebusch, CEO of Personal and Business Banking at Standard Bank Group in South Africa, says the group's drive to grow responsible lending has seen it become the number one mortgage lender in South Africa with 31% market share as well as the leader in credit card advances with a 31% market share.
"There is now an appetite among both businesses and consumers to borrow again, but with a better sense that they will be able to service loans. Current indications are that we are on track to improve on last year's R50-billion new loan payouts, which was the highest level since the recession began in 2008," says Mr Schlebusch.
Mr Schlebusch says there are encouraging signs that businesses and consumers have absorbed recession-induced lessons about when to use credit and for what purposes.
"Currently banks around the world are frequently criticised for being reluctant to lend. That reluctance is partly due to the blame attributed to them over the causes of the recession. But there is also legitimate concern because the ability of banks to lend is critical to lifting an economy.
"Many thousands of businesses and individual consumers rely on banks like Standard Bank to help them grow again. The recession has indeed affected perceptions about whether and how much banks are prepared to lend, but the fact is we are very much open for business."
Mr Schlebusch says that the solid growth of the loan book in South Africa is demonstrable evidence that Standard Bank embraces its role in broader society and its responsibility to the whole spectrum of its stakeholders.
"Of course there must be a balance between the need to lend and the requirements to be both prudent and profitable. Our experience to date is that bad debts continue to improve even as the loan book grows. We remain careful not to give customers the impression that we are opening credit taps irrespective of prudent lending principles, principles governed by the National Credit Act and the Consumer Protection Act."
Mr Schlebusch says new lending continues to be done at interest rates that are based on a thorough assessment of risk, but that are still fair and equitable to both client and bank. "Many borrowers in the market are paying very high rates on loans while having their attention drawn to low transaction fees. We try to be as reasonable as circumstances allow in both lending and transactional business."
He believes Standard Bank Group's ability to actively grow lending is based on its strong balance sheet, extensive distribution footprint, size and scale.
"Like many businesses and consumers, Standard Bank also felt the cold winds of recession and had to adjust to the conditions. But even in this challenging time we still had to do business in a responsible way. After all, lending fuels economic growth, and it is only through growth that we can create the jobs that South Africa needs."
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