Nigeria has a total of 4,437 commercial bank branches, and these branches are owned by a total of 33 banks.
These 33 banks have commercial bank licences that are on three levels;
- International level
- National level
- Regional level
An international commercial banking licence gives a bank the power to operate throughout Nigeria's 36 states and outside the country.
However, the countries it chooses to operate in are subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the host country. The paid-up capital required for this level is ₦50 billion ($63 million).
For the national-level licence, the paid-up capital required is ₦25 billion ($31.7 million). This license level gives the bank the authority to operate throughout Nigeria. The regional-level licence, on the other hand, allows the bank to operate in a minimum of six states and a maximum of 12 states with a paid-up capital of ₦10 billion ($12.6 million).
This means the number of branches a bank has could be a function of the kind of licence it has. Without further ado here are the top 10 banks with the most branches in Nigeria as seen in the Nigerian Financial Market Service report by Intelpoint.
Top 10 banks with the most branches in Nigeria
10. Unity Bank: 210
Registered in January 2006, Unity Bank has 210 branches, making it the tenth commercial bank with the most branches in Nigeria.
It has a national-level licence, which means it can operate in every Nigerian state.
Per Vanguard, Unity Bank recorded profit before tax of ₦1.1billion in 2022.
9. Guaranty Trust Bank: 235
In ninth place is Guaranty Trust Bank with 235 branches.
Licenced on August 1, 1990, Guaranty Trust Bank has an international-level licence that allows it to conduct offshore banking operations. It has subsidiaries in other countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and the UK.
In 2022 it made ₦214.42 billion ($271.1 million) in profit before tax, a 3.3% decline from what it made in 2021.
However, 2023 is looking good for the bank as it has already recorded a profit of ₦74.1 billion ($93.8 million) in Q1, a 36.5% jump from the ₦ 54.3 billion it made during the same period in 2022.
8. Union Bank: 240
At 240 branches, Union Bank is ahead of Guaranty Trust Bank with five branches.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the bank was registered in 2006 but has been licensed (international level) since 1969. It also started operating in 1917 making it one of Nigeria's oldest banks.
Although the bank has had its licence for over five decades, its profit is dwarfed by newbies like Guaranty Trust Bank.
In 2022 it recorded a profit before tax of ₦30.2 billion ($30 million).
7. Fidelity Bank: 244
With just four more branches, Fidelity Bank takes the seventh spot from Union Bank.
Fidelity Bank is also a licensed commercial with international authorisation.
In 2022 it reported a profit before tax of ₦53 billion ($67.2 million) stating a 112.9% annual growth.
6. Polaris Bank: 252
Polaris Bank has 252 branches. It was registered in 2018 after it purchased the assets and liabilities of now-defunct Skye Bank. It is a licensed commercial bank with authorisation to operate nationally.
It made ₦10.96 billion ($13.8 million) in profit before tax, a 46% drop from the ₦16 billion it made in the previous year.
5. Ecobank: 273
Ecobank Nigeria was licenced in 1988 with authorisation to operate nationally. With 273 bank branches, it is the bank with the fifth most branches in Nigeria.
Ecobank made ₦230 billion in profit before tax in 2022.
4. Zenith Bank: 393
Licenced in June 1990, Zenith Bank has 393 branches in Nigeria.
Like Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank has authorisation to operate beyond the shores of Nigeria.
It recorded a profit before tax of ₦284.7 billion ($360.1 million) in 2022, surpassing the ₦280.4 it made in 2021 by 4%,
3. United Bank for Africa (UBA): 460
UBA was licenced in 1961 with the authority to operate beyond Nigeria. With 460 branches across Nigeria, it sits comfortably as the third bank with the most branches in the country.
UBA made ₦200 billion ($253.6 million) in profits before tax in 2022, trumping 2021's ₦153 billion.
2. Access Bank: 583
Licenced in 1988, Access Bank has jurisdiction to conduct banking operations outside Nigeria.
With 583 branches across the country, it is the second bank on the list of top 10 banks with the most branches in Nigeria.
It's also a top bank in terms of profit. It made ₦167.68 billion ($211 million) profit before tax in 2022 making it one of the biggest earning banks in Nigeria for the year.
1. First Bank: 591
First Bank is first on the list with 591 branches in Nigeria.
Established in 1894, First Bank is Nigeria's oldest bank. It started operations in Lagos as Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) until it changed its name to First Bank of Nigeria Limited in 1979.
First Bank is a top player in Nigeria's banking industry recording ₦147 billion ($186 million) in profit before tax.
Do we have enough banks?
With a population of 121 million people above the age of 15, this means that one commercial branch has to cater to 27,000 people. And with financial inclusion growing slowly in the country, we need more banks.
However, bank branches are an expensive venture. Most banks don't have the incentive to set up more branches, and even when they do, they set it up in Lagos, where it's profitable.
Interestingly, Lagos does not need more banks, 30% of all the banks in the country are already there.
Our best bet is agency banking. Read about how they might and might not work here.