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COVID-19: FIRSTBANK’S FIRSTMONIE LEADS THE PACE IN AGENT BANKING

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By Bolatito Adebola

In this COVID-19 era where movement is restricted in some major parts of the world – including Nigeria – with many Banks and business reengineering efforts to improve the adaptability of their customers to electronic ways of carrying out business, Firstmonie Agents, an agent banking initiative from First Bank of Nigeria Limited is bridging the gaps and helping people to meet their needs of accessing the funds to buy food items and groceries as well as to send money to their loved ones.

This is one of the many measures by the premier financial institution in Nigeria to support the need to promote social distancing and the reduction of physical interactions of people in large numbers, thereby guarding against the spread of the coronavirus.

FirstBank introduced this innovative channel three years ago, with the aim of bringing banking to close those who live

in the rural areas and to every Nigerian -regardless of where they are in the country.

Firstmonie Agents also ensure individuals in the suburbs do not have to travel for long hours to the city for their banking activities. The gap between the tech-savvy and the low literacy clients has been bridged as Firstmonie Agent network represents the convenient and comfortable alternative for customers that are unacquainted with the sophisticated digital channels.

With over 53,000 Firstmonie Agents spread across 99% Local Government Areas in the country, the laudable initiative by FirstBank is another way to bank – without visiting a Bank – which allows you to make cash deposit, transfer money to any bank and enjoy other banking services like bills payment and purchase of recharge card amongst others.

Recently, Halima, a FirstBank customer who is a housewife and petty trader, residing in a remote area in Abuja expressed her delight on the Firstmonie Agent initiative as she was able to easily get cash from an agent nearby to procure groceries for herself and her three children. Her bank being far away in Garki was too far to visit to get money. Thanks to Firstmonie which she discovered through her co-tenant, her joy knew no bounds as Halima was able to access her money at the Firstmonie Agent outlet close to her, as well as send money to her mother in far away, Maiduguri in Borno State.

Another customer in Lagos, Adeoye, a civil servant also lauded this brilliant initiative from FirstBank and narrated his experience when he visited the stand of Firstmonie in Ojota area of Ogudu, Lagos. He explained that he was able to do his transaction with ease.

According to Mrs. Sadia Folorunsho, she said ‘I did not know FirstBank has this wonderful service within my area as it actually saved my family from hunger as I was able to perform banking activities without being in the bank,’ she stated.

These are what the management of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, led by its CEO, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan has been able to make available well ahead of time, since no one knew there might be a pandemic that will warrant a lockdown.

Its Firstmonie Agents at every nook and cranny in Nigeria has been able to remove the burden from the shoulders of Nigerians and allow many to carry out several transactions at Firstmonie Agent locations, within close proximity of their home.

Firstmonie Agent banking is a channel specifically designed by FirstBank to bring financial services closer to the unbanked and underbanked segment of the society whilst promoting existing businesses within the communities to deliver their services and contribute to the growth and development of the economy.

With the spread of its Agent Banking network, FirstBank has been able to indirectly create over 150,000 jobs as the Firstmonie Agents have had to employ the services of other individuals to build their businesses and meet the financial needs of individuals in its community.

So far, the Bank has deepened financial inclusion through Firstmonie Agents with 237.3 million transactions processed through the network at a monetary value of over 4.08 Trillion Naira.

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Paxful builds fourth school of its 100 school initiative supporting communities in emerging markets

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Global peer-to-peer bitcoin marketplace, Paxful (www.Paxful.com), has announced that they will be building a fourth school in its #BuiltwithBitcoin’s (https://BuiltWithBitcoin.org) 100-school initiative which aims to bring quality education centers to emerging countries. Located in Nigeria, the school will come fully equipped with a state-of-the-art solar-powered and water well system.

The new school will be built in the Ankara Nandu community of Sanga Local in Nigeria and will serve an estimated 100-120 children between the ages of three to six years old. Home to roughly 4,000 people, the city currently has only one school facility which is being used for both primary and secondary school purposes.

“We chose this particular community because of the limited resources and school infrastructure,” says Ray Youssef, CEO and co-founder of Paxful. “They are in dire need of quality learning spaces and this school is an honest representation of the impact Bitcoin can have on societies as a whole, and more specifically, how it can enhance education.”

The new school will double as an adult learning space in the evenings assisting in providing hundreds of people with a supplemental education. In response to safety requirements associated with COVID-19, The company will also provide Personal Protective Equipment for all teachers and students including face-masks and hand sanitizers.

Earlier in September, the company revealed (https://bit.ly/35Vrj88) its business expansion into Nigeria, their leading market in Africa in terms of volume and number of users. To strengthen operations and cement a physical presence in the country, Paxful appointed Nena Nwachukwu as Regional Manager for Nigeria.

Movement to empower education in Africa

Supporting over 400 students at present, Paxful’s #BuiltwithBitcoin initiative began in 2017 with partner Zam Zam Water, a humanitarian organisation devoted to eradicating poverty by providing clean, sustainable water and access to quality education to villages across the globe. The first two schools were built in Rwanda and the third school was built in Mukalala Village in Machakos County in Kenya earlier this year.

Through the 100-school plan, the company expects to bring education to nearly 15,000 young people throughout Africa while providing jobs to nearly 300 teachers. All schools, including the newest location in Nigeria, come with water filtration systems, not just to supply the locals, but also to give them an opportunity to sell the water to their local community at a very affordable price.

All the schools are also equipped with solar panels to cut spends on electricity and bypass regular electricity cuts. Paxful covers all fees associated with running a school including teacher and support staff salaries, bills for electricity and water as well as school supplies and uniforms for the students.

Supporting ongoing development and tracking success

All the completed schools under the #BuiltwithBitcoin initiative are progressing and performing very well as the company remains committed in providing the necessary tools and opportunity for the students to succeed. Continuous upgrades are made, and maintenance of the schools are monitored.

The passing rates within these schools have been higher as the confidence of the students are boosted with each child receiving their own textbooks in addition to basic school stationery supplies. Usually students share handbooks and textbooks and leave them at the school for use by other students.

As the communities always have more students than what the schools’ capacity can cater for, the initiative adopted a two-tier class approach, by having all the schools provide classes in four-hour blocks in the mornings and in the afternoons. This helps to support the highest number of students possible and not allow the quality of education to be affected. Desk space has also been limited to two to three students per bench to facilitate a healthy teaching environment.

Understanding the important role, they play in the success of the schools and learning journeys of the students, teachers and educators at these schools are also paid 15% above the national average of their salary, respective to their country.

“Each one of our schools follows the curriculum of their respective ministry of education. All textbooks, guidelines, and calendars fulfill all necessary requirements for testing and progress. Local officials have been supportive of the initiative’s efforts as we simply want the students to be able to succeed and graduate onto higher education by ensuring their educational foundation is strong and capable,” adds Youssef.

Aside from building schools, #Builtwithbitcoin has also supported a number of other philanthropic causes in various countries including Kenya and South Africa.

Donations are accepted on a rolling bases on https://BuiltWithBitcoin.org and will be used to aid in the completion of the new school in Nigeria among additional #BuiltwithBitcoin initiatives including Paxful’s Africa Fund for COVID-19. Paxful will kick off donations for building the school in Nigeria with an initial injection of $35,000 of funds in BTC.

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BUSINESS

Heritage Bank’s MD calls for more impactful role in banking to aid speedy economic recovery

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In the quest to aid speedy economic recovery and impactful service delivery to stakeholders caused by macro-economic headwinds and Covid-19, banking sector’s players have been charged to maximize the opportunities by re-strategizing its roles that will address emerging risks.

The MD/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo made the call during the 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN) with the theme “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” held virtually on Microsoft Team’s platform, which was organized and hosted by the Heritage Bank, at the weekend.

Sekibo who was represented by his Executive Director, Jude Monye, whilst addressing internal auditors of banks, inquired from the bankers on the readiness of the Internal Audit function to lend the necessary support in exploiting and maximising the opportunities without impairing their independence.

He, however noted that with the rapid changing developments forced by the pandemic sweep across globe that have upended organisations in every sector of the economy, banking inclusive; internal auditors would notice that their modus operandi are outdated.

To this end, he stated that this was the most auspicious time for Chief Audit Executives to rethink how they perform various aspects of their audit assignments.

Sekibo suggested that auditors must “become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

He further hinted, “Embracing new processes and tools to modernize and maximize the audit function helps not only with the perception of internal audit’s value, but also the reality of its contributions. Opportunities to evaluate include virtual auditing, electronic workflow management, and distance team-building and development.”

According to him, it becomes imperative for audit teams to embrace change, harness it and use this season to strategize on what internal audit can be in the future, whist noting that only Chief Audit Executives that maximize the opportunity to refresh and reposition will make their role more relevant and impactful for stakeholders.

Meanwhile, he commended auditors for their contributions to the industry including inputs made in shaping policy directions by regulators and the fight against fraud and other financial crimes which helped in no small measure in deepening confidence of the banking public.

In the same vein, the Chairman of ACAEBIN, Yinka Tiamiyu, reiterated the need for internal auditors to maximize opportunities of the current challenges facing the industry, as each day brings new developments that directly influence the likelihood and potential impact of banking future.

According to him, there are challenges on our part as Bankers in meeting up with the needs of our customers and the general public, and we must ensure that such challenges are surmounted.

He stressed on the need for regular annual audit plan to be reviewed quarterly to address current events that have significant impacts on the business, whilst ensuring that the key players continuously provide banking services to customers in a convenient and safer way.

“On our part, the need for improvement in service delivery and safety of customer’s funds as we digitalized our product offerings are concerns facing the industry, as such we must not relent in our efforts to get strong authentication mechanisms as we make our services more convenient and easier for Customers.  Banks should strive to find solution to the problems associated with identity theft as we pursue digital products and inclusive banking. This is to ensure that customers are happy with us and complaints minimized,” Tiamiyu urged internal auditors of banks.

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FIRSTBANK’S CEO, ADESOLA ADEDUNTAN, BAGS FORBES BEST OF AFRICA AWARD

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Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has announced that its Chief Executive Officer, Dr.  Adesola Adeduntan, has been honoured with the Forbes Best of Africa Award. The award presentation was held on Friday, 11 September 2020 at a virtual event by Forbes in conjunction with the Foreign Investment Network (FIN).

 

The online roundtable discussion themed “Harnessing the financial resources and social capital of philanthropy to making a lasting impact” was supported by the World Philanthropy Network and featured a keynote address by former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR). The opening remarks was presented by Mrs. Olayinka Fayomi, Chairman, Foreign Investment Network (FIN).

 

Other award honourees were Captain (Dr.) Idahosa Wells Okunbo, CEO of Ocean Marine Security Ltd; Mahmood Ahmadu (OON), Founder and Executive Chairman of Online Integrated Solutions Ltd. Her Excellency Badria Al Mulla, Chairman, International Emirates Business Group (IEBG) was honoured with the FIN Award.

 

The discussions at the event were by Baroness Osamor Martha, Incumbent Member of Parliament, UK; H. E. Prince Dapo Abiodun, Executive Governor of Ogun State, Nigeria; Sir. Chief Kessington Adebutu, Chairman, Premier Lotto and H.E Zulfiquar Ghadiyali, Director at the Royal Office of Sheikh Tahnoon Al Nayhan Abu Dhabi; Mrs. Onikepo Akande, former Minister of Trade and Industry, Nigeria, amongst many others. The closing remarks was by Mr. Nick Kochan, Managing Partner Foreign Investment Network (FIN).

 

Appreciating his award, Dr. Adeduntan said, “I am truly humbled to receive the Forbes Best of Africa Award and I am grateful to the Forbes team for this coveted recognition and award. I owe profound gratitude to our customers; and to the Board, Management and Staff of First Bank of Nigeria Limited and all our Subsidiaries, for their cooperation in delivering the best to our esteemed customers and shareholders, and ensuring that we give back to the society in which we have sustained our business for over 126 years.”

 

“This Forbes Best of Africa award is an incentive to do more in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability as Africa’s bank of first choice. Therefore, I dedicate this award to my colleagues at FirstBank and its Subsidiaries who are fully committed to our quest to remain truly beyond comparison – a haven of resilience, trust, safety, security, excellent corporate governance, entrepreneurship, professionalism, innovation and customer-centricity,“ he enthused.

 

According to a statement by Forbes “Adesola Adeduntan believes strongly in the importance of doing well by doing good. In March 2020 he spoke at the Edinburgh School of Business about financial institutions’ role as drivers of financial inclusion.”

“In his leadership role at First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank), Adeduntan is part of a 126-year legacy of sustained development-oriented services. FirstBank is the region’s foremost financial inclusion services provider.”

 

The Forbes Best of Africa Award is for business personalities with a record of creating and building great global businesses that have made far-reaching contributions to the development of Africa.

Only recently the FirstBank Chief was conferred with The Cranfield Alumnus 2020 Award by Cranfield School of Management Alumni and The African Banking Personality of the Year 2019 by African Leadership Magazine.

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