The Managing Director, Gateway Mortgage Bank, Mr. Olawale Osinsanya in this interview with Salaudeen Raimot explains how the mortgage sector performed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, among others related matters in the sector.
How has the mortgage sector performed amid COVID-19?
Well, it is diverse depending on the operators. Operators know that in a situation like this, you need to be dynamic, change your tone.
As you know, this is a new era and an operator needs to operate differently. As you know, this COVID-19 brought up the issue of limited movement, a result of the lockdown.
Therefore, an operator that is customer-centric will have to device a method through which he will have to contact operators, and for us, we just have to up our game on electronic products because that is where the whole thing is heading.
Gateway Mortgage Bank upped its game by making sure that we developed high level technology products, and by making sure that all our ATM machines were fed during that time, and based on that, people were able to access their fund easily through the machines.
Apart from that, customers have access to their fund through other electronic products and internet product. Even in requesting for loans and advances from us (Gateway mortgage bank), customers can request for it online.
Specifically, those were the steps expected of any mortgage institution during this COVID-19 era.
How can your customers reach you without having contact with you because what is being preached is social distancing?
Apart from that, COVID-19 has affected many as to their ability to pay mortgage because when people don’t go out, their source of income is affected. Many were unable to service their loan for a while and it is like CBN gave palliative to some critical sectors.
We were thinking on how to make it easier for all our prime customers by redeeming their mortgage during this COVID-19 period. Based on that, many customers were visited and we have listened to them share their feelings, know how they were affected and see how they can work out the payment programmes that will be easier.
It may be through elongating of time, it may be through reduction of interest. All these are part of forbearance and those are the steps we have taken so far to reduce the burden of this COVID-19 on our customers.
Were those with housing mortgage redeemed their payment during the lockdown?
Like I said earlier, some were not able to, because many were not working during the lockdown.
So what we did was work out a repayment pattern that will help them.
It may lead to reduction in the amount to be paid drastically and it is like postponing some of the payment.
Some were even able to redeem their payment. As you know, this COVID-19 is a mix bag of gains and losses. For instance, those in the food industry were thriving as you know, everybody must eat.
Some moved to the production of face mask and people like that who have mortgage with us were able to service it, also we are specialized in an area we call informal sector.
Informal sector involves the people they call unbanked, but those in the informal sector have to be visited in their shops daily to be able to manage them. And for sure the business has been going fine.
Now that the lockdown has been eased down, the business is coming up gradually for customers.
Can we conclude that the sector was among the sectors that were critically affected by COVID-19?
There is no sector that was not affected by COVID-19. There is no company or sector that is dealing with finance that will not be critically affected.
Critically affected in the sense that, in the economic sense, funding is major and money is the life of every economy.
Therefore, anybody dealing with money if anything happens to him, it is going to be critical. So financial institution not only mortgage institution in charge of money were affected. If you read newspaper, you will see that the non-performing loan in Nigeria has risen to N1.3 trillion just within period. So will you say such sectors are not affected?
The mortgage sector was seriously affected. A lot of finance institution may have to write off bad loans in the nearest future. If they are not careful, most especially if you have a customer that is permanently affected, it will be difficult for them to come alive.
You know, after the COVID-19 and such customer owes you, you have to look into ways to solve the problem.
So our sector is actually critically affected by that. Apart from that, inability of people to go and save money in the bank during that time was also a challenge.
I can imagine some banks that don’t have access to cash during that time because nobody was going out, nobody was making money or even taking money to the bank. In fact during that time, we were lucky to have some few customers who dealt with daily cash, and we had to go collect cash from them to feed our ATM machine.
What mortgage products do you have right now, saleable to potential someone that wants to own a home in Ogun state?
Even before COVID-19, there were products that can make you own a home. Buying of properties is not like buying a cloth.
So you need to be serious and disciplined to own a home, whether it is a room or whatever kind of home you want to have, you need to be disciplined.
Therefore, the product we have, which starts from the fact that, you can buy land, house directly through us, you can even renovate if you have one.
Maybe you inherited it and it is devastating, you can renovate it through us. If you are the type, thinking of buying a house right now, we have rent advantage with us which you borrow to rent a place.
Ogun state has embarked on infrastructure development right now of its suburbs and when we talk of infrastructure, housing is included.
Of recent Ogun state went ahead to develop some few houses at a very ridiculous rate. Though for now, it is meant for the civil servants.
As you know, it was given to civil servants but they come to us to obtain what we call a fund call national housing fund for them to be able to buy those houses.
In Ogun state, the house of assembly has just passed a bill which will regulate ownership of land, to make it easier than before. It will also help those that want to invest in housing to come and invest because that has been the fear of the investors that makes them run away from investing in housing business in Nigeria, because it takes time to perfect it, and go to court.
This foreclosure law is regulating all that, so those are the efforts so far for those that want to own a home in Ogun state.