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FirstBank: Empowering Staff; Driving Productivity against the Odds

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By Segun Adams

 As the coronavirus pandemic forces firms to downsize and cut their wage cost to cope with the adverse economic realities, First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is bucking the trend with a different approach that puts its staff first, writes Segun Adams. 

In a pandemic year where employees are agreeing to pay cuts to keep their jobs and businesses are either downsizing or simply liquidating, First Bank of Nigeria Limited is an outlier, taking an unusual approach to demonstrate how organisations can still ensure the best outcomes for both employer and employees.  

The first-tier lender last Friday promoted a crop of its staff across all levels in a rare show of corporate resilience in the banking industry and beyond, both locally and across the borders.

According to FirstBank, keeping staff motivated during these unprecedented times is not only crucial for the soul of businesses, but it also demonstrates corporate responsibility.

In the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic, there have been unprecedented layoffs across the world as companies went bust, unable to generate cash to sustain their operations.

The United States, the world’s biggest economy has recorded a historic rise in unemployment with over 45 million initial unemployment claims in the last three months.

In Britain, HSBC, a giant global bank, is reviving plans for a 35,000 job cut due to pre-existing problems thought to have been worsened by the pandemic. Big banks like Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Barclays, Société Générale among others have announced about layoffs exceeding 60,000 jobs.

In Nigeria, 38% of the workforce was jobless in April due to the virus and lockdowns, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimates. In the MSMEs sector, 50,000 jobs were lost and 10,000 businesses have shut down according to Auwal Bununu Ibrahim, the National Vice President, North Central of the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, (NASME) and in the Aviation industry, some 24,000 jobs were lost as of April.

While banks in the country have been barred by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from laying off staff without regulatory approval, there is no obligation for banks to implement promotions or raise pay. In fact, most lenders have initiated pay cuts to cope with the excess capacity arising from skeletal operations and depressed levels of economic activities in the economy which is reeling from the coronavirus and lockdown shocks.

But against the odds, FirstBank promoted its staff and didn’t cut down salaries.

In a recent article, Forbes stated that the manner in which firms treat their employees during the ongoing health and economic crisis will not only be remembered for years to come but have a direct effect on their productivity going-forward.

“How businesses respond will have a lasting impact on employee behaviour including, engagement, productivity and loyalty,” the American business magazine noted.

Hertzberg’s Two-Factor Theory also known as dual-factor theory postulates that career progression is a motivating factor for employees to work harder.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on the mental health and focus of employees in the country, and across the world, due to uncertainty of job status, lower income and a disruption to their career development, FirstBank stands out as a safe and rewarding place to work.

The stability and confidence enjoyed by the bank’s staff are the vital environment human resources experts say is necessary for firms that will successfully navigate the tides of current realities.

In a recent BusinessDay Webinar, Nkemdilim Begho, CEO, Future Software Resources Limited advised that businesses can engage their team and see how they can help in creating new ideas and products that the company can deliver. The resultant effect will be greater efficiency of staff and innovation whereas, elsewhere organizations are bound to struggle with a demotivated workforce which could lead to inefficiencies and higher costs for the businesses with adverse implications for bottom-line.

To realise optimal human resources contributions, Begho acknowledged the need for firms to sustain team bond and ensure that morale of their staff is high.

Even before current events, FirstBank has always proven to be conscious of the impact a stimulating and rewarding environment can have on the overall employee performance and thus, provided value accretion to shareholders, customers and other stakeholders.

From its competitive remuneration across cadres including mid-level and senior-level employees to benefits that cover medical insurance and disability insurance, sick leave and vacation, and retirement options, FirstBank puts its workforce first ensuring that they are well motivated and equipped to deliver higher productivity.

FirstBank has featured on some of the best workplace rankings including A Great place to Work and Jobberman. Last year, the big bank ranked among the Jobberman 2019 best 100 companies to work for in Nigeria, a list that scrutinizes over 60,000 companies to pick the best 100 based on strict metrics. The bank has enjoyed positive reviews from credible job/career sites like Indeed where it banks a 4.1/5 positive rating.

A former employee of the bank Aderemi Adebiyi commended the institution for its keen interest in the welfare and career progression of its employees. “I worked in the Bank for 15 years and do not regret it. It’s fast-paced, performance-driven with varied streams of career development,” Aderemi said. “The company also offers paid trainings.”

FirstBank’s talent management strategy is aimed at supporting employee engagement, employee motivation and increased productivity, and leadership development across all levels of employees within the organization, according to its website. As a tenet of career development, FirstBank has devoted itself to creating a culture of continuous learning tailored to the needs and aspirations of the employees and the business itself.  

The bank’s FirstAcademy and learning centres strategically located around the country allows for e-learning, mobile learning, physical classrooms and virtual libraries to allow all employees the opportunity to equip themselves for future roles that benefit both them and the organization. This means pandemic or not, learning is continuous and uninterrupted.

FirstBank also prides itself as an equal opportunity employer so that qualified persons irrespective of gender, culture, age, nationality, sexual orientation, disability or social background can participate in its business.

At the same time, FirstBank remains a performance-driven organization and merit-based, allowing individual talents to be rewarded for their hard work and contribution to overall organisational goals.

With people as one of the bank’s greatest assets, it strives to maintain a pool of multi-skilled and well-rounded employees relying on initiatives like Job Shadowing, Coaching, Counselling, Mentoring, Succession Planning and Career Maps to develop and retain talents at all levels of the organisation’s operations.

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BUSINESS

FIRSTBANK HOSTS FINTECH SUMMIT 4.0, PROMOTES THE GROWTH AND REINVENTION OF BANKING TECHNOLOGY IN NIGERIA 

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 First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced that the 2020 edition of its annual FinTech Summit is scheduled to hold on Thursday, 6 August 2020 by 12.00 noon. The event will be virtually held via Zoom Meetings.

The 2020 edition of the summit, which is the fourth in its series is themed; “How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt FinTech in Nigeria” and will be discussed by experts, key and leading players, policy influencers and regulatory officials in the Nigerian financial, banking and technological climate. To participate in the event, click the link https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/business-banking/smeconnect/fintech-summit/registration/ to register.

Chinedu Echeruo, founder of HopStop which was sold to Apple for $1bn will be leading the discussion as the Keynote speaker alongside other panelists; Musa Itopa Jimoh, Director, Payments System Management Department and Aminu Maida, Executive Director, Technology & Operations, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS).

Representing FirstBank in the panel of discussants are Callistus Obetta, Group Executive, Technology & Services and Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products

Speaking on the event, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited said; “at FirstBank, we have been at the forefront of employing technology in the delivery of financial services in the country exemplified by our various products and services such as FirstMobile, USSD Banking services, FirstMonie Wallet, FirstMonie Agent Banking, FirstAdvance loans provisions

 The 2020 edition of our FINTECH summit will build on the successes achieved in the last three editions. We welcome the panelists as we look forward to the shared knowledge which will be integral to deepening the continued growth of banking technology, especially its impact on the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria and the continent at large.

 Technology continues to play a fundamental role in driving financial inclusion and strengthening the growth of SMEs that contribute significantly to the development of the country.

We encourage members of the public, players in the fintech and financial climate to register, as there is knowledge for everyone,” he concluded.

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FBN Holdings posts 56.65% growth in profit in 6 months

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By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma

FBN Holdings Plc on Wednesday announced Profit After Tax (PAT) of N49.5 billion for the six months that ended June 30.

The PAT represented an increase 56.65 per cent when compared with N31.6 billion achieved in the corresponding period of 2019.

Profit Before Tax (PBT) grew by 14.36 per cent to N41.4 billion from N36.2 billion posted in the comparative period of 2019.

FBN Holdings unaudited results released by the company by the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) show that gross earnings stood at N296.4 billion from N280.3 billion in 2019, an increase of 5.74 per cent.

Also, its total assets stood at N7.1 trillion, an increase of 14.9 per cent against N6.2 trillion achieved in December 2019.

Its customer deposits rose to N4.4 trillion compared with N4. 0 trillion in December 2019.

Commenting on the results, Mr Urum Kalu Eke, FBN Holdings Group Managing Director, said they reconfirmed its consistent focus on enhanced shareholder value.

“The H1 (first half) 2020 financial results are impressive and reconfirm our consistent focus on enhanced shareholder value.

“Despite the difficult operating environment, the H1 results demonstrate our resilience and capacity to deliver on long-term ambitions.

“The growth in profit after tax for the period is a testament to the strength of our organisation to continually deliver exceptional services to our customers in these unprecedented times.

“We have been able to achieve this feat by leveraging our agent banking network, innovative e-banking capabilities, and operational efficiency, utilising technology,” said.

Eke said that FBN Holdings successfully divested from the underwriting (insurance) businesses to focus on banking operations.

“We are confident this will enhance greater value to our stakeholders and strengthen the group’s resolve to consolidate its leadership of the banking sector.

“Following the divestment, FBN Holdings injected Tier 1 capital into FirstBank, effectively increasing its capital adequacy ration to 16.5 per cent.

“This provides a comfortable buffer against regulatory requirements with the potential to support any emerging business opportunities.

“Looking ahead, we remain cautious, but we are confident that our business is fundamentally strong to withstand any future challenge toward enhanced performance,” he said.

Also commenting, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank Chief Executive Officer, said the commercial banking group, during the period, increased its gross earnings and PBT.

“Over the period, the commercial banking group increased its year-on-year growth in gross earnings and PBT by 6.1 per cent and 9.2 per cent respectively, despite the economic shutdown and varying degrees of challenges in the operating environment.

“Notwithstanding, we have continued to provide services to our customers with minimal disruption in a safe environment, supported by seamless transactions through our increasing agent banking network and digital platforms (FirstMobile and USSD).

“Furthermore, continuous focus on operational efficiency remains a priority, as improvement in non-performing loan ratio has further been sustained.

“As the economy reopens gradually in Nigeria and other key markets, as in the rest of the world, we are adopting a pragmatic approach with optimism on propelling our performance for enhanced profitability through customer-led innovation and disciplined execution,” Adeduntan said.

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BUSINESS

United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) Group Announces Global Management Appointments

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United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), the leading pan-African financial services institution, announced the appointments of Rokia Hacko, Chioma Mang, Chinedu Obeta, Bode Aregbesola, Kingsley Ulinfun and Usman Isiaka as chief executive officers of six of its 20 subsidiaries across Africa, subject to regulatory approvals. The new CEOs will drive the Group’s strategy and activities in Mali, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Tanzania and Sierra Leone respectively.

In addition, Ogechi Altraide has become the new Head, Retail Banking; Amadao Konate, Head, Treasury & International Payments for UBA America. These international appointments compliment the prior appointments of Sola Yomi-Ajayi as the CEO of UBA America, and Patrick Gutmann as the CEO of UBA UK. UBA provides a full suite of corporate banking products and services to businesses, multilateral institutions and governments transacting from and with Africa.

Earlier this month, UBA announced the appointment of Ayoku Liadi and Oliver Alawuba respectively, as Deputy Managing Directors in charge of the Group’s Nigeria and Africa businesses, attesting to the importance of UBA’s African business and its strategic positioning as “Africa’s Global Bank”.

UBA Group Chairman, Tony O. Elumelu, stated “The appointments further reflect the strong growth of the Group’s pan-African businesses, currently responsible for over 40% of total Group revenue and the increasing importance of our international businesses in London, Paris and New York, offering superior treasury, trading and corporate banking solutions to clients globally. We are committed to catalysing growth on the African continent and the new CEOs are taking up roles at a very exciting period, as the Group executes its innovative digital play across the African continent’’.

Also announced were the appointment of three new country Executive Directors – Haoua Cisse as the Executive Director, Wholesale, UBA Mali; Samba Fall as the Exceutive Director, Wholesale, UBA Senegal and Julien Kouassi as Executive Director Wholesale, UBA Côte D’Ivoire.

United Bank for Africa is one of the largest employers in the financial sector on the African continent, with over 20,000 employees group wide and serving over 20 million customers, across its approximately 1000 branches and over 30,000 ATMs, PoS and agencies in Africa.  Operating in 20 African countries and globally in the United Kingdom, the United States and France, UBA provides retail, commercial and institutional banking services, leading financial inclusion and implementing cutting edge products, including the first ever banking chat bot in Africa, LEO.

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