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FIRSTBANK SUSTAINS POSITIVE IMPACT, WELCOMES BACK CUSTOMERS

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FirstBank; Nigeria’s leading financial institution and Africa’s Bank of Choice has expressed its appreciation to the public – especially its customers – for their continued patronage of its services during the COVID 19 lockdown, whilst assuring the public that stringent measures have been implemented to ensure its branches and locations across the country operate in line with the health and safety guidelines issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

 

Expressing the Bank’s delight at welcoming customers to its branches and locations from Monday, 4 May 2020, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, the Bank’s CEO noted that these safety measures include ensuring personal protection, as wearing face masks is now mandatory; maintaining social distancing by reducing physical contact by at least one meter from the next person and queue guides and markings are in place to guide customers; as well as enhancing the practice of personal hygiene as hand washing stations and hand sanitisers have been provided.

 

Speaking on the impact made by the Bank across its sub-Saharan business Dr. Adeduntan said “We are glad that our investment in technology over the years has really borne fruit as many of our staff were able to work remotely during the lock down with effective IT support to hand.  We were therefore able to actively support our customers, their families and businesses through these challenging times.

We ensured business continuity across eight countries – Nigeria, Ghana; Democratic Republic of Congo; Sierra-Leone; the Gambia, Guinea; Senegal and United Kingdom.  We recognize that this has truly been a trying period and are poised to continue to provide as much support as we can to our customers and communities we operate in”.

 

Coming back home, the Bank’s Chief explained that during this period it proactively reviewed products and services to support customers better and expressed his appreciation to Nigerians for the whole hearted adoption and patronage of its electronic services, as these indeed demonstrated the trust which the public repose in the Bank and in return the Bank commits to always live by its resolve on being true to its mantra – You First.

He said “It is for this reason; putting our customers first, that our Bank working to regulatory, Federal and State Government directives worked assiduously to keep over 50 percent of our branches open across all nooks and crannies of the country.

At the same time the call centre was restaffed in the most efficient manner and retooled as we provided even more opportunities for our customers to reach us for their banking needs”.

 

He further provided a snapshot of transactions carried out across FirstBank’s e-banking channels during the five-week lockdown in various parts of the country:

  •         We recorded approximately 12.6 million withdrawals amounting to about N156bn across our ATMs well placed across the country.
  •         Nigerians with FirstBank cards used them 105 million times to make payments or withdrawals worth about N1.18 Trillion as they relied on us to settle their banking needs
  •         Our customers made transfers over 106 million times with a total value of about N8.18 Trillion across our digital channels.
  •         During this period, our 53,000 plus agents have processed over N512bn worth of transactions
  •         We have also recorded over 275,000 new sign-ups to alternative channels covering our Firstmobile; USSD and First-Online platforms.

As one of the leading SME banks in the country, with a drive to ensure SMEs are supported, Dr. Adeduntan, also stated that FirstBank has enhanced palliatives such as introduction of special waivers on repayment fees on its credit cards, and a 90-day loan moratorium on selected products across markets, to help cushion the impact of the toll on employment and livelihoods.

Our Wholesale business was also not left out as advisory services and a range of financial needs were met to the delight of our Corporate and Commercial customers.

 

On community impact, the Bank partnered with other organisations  in the private sector to collectively help those most impacted by this pandemic. It has contributed N1billion and several volunteer staff towards the efforts of the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) to meet the intervention objectives in the key areas of health; testing, provision of much needed health infrastructure, isolation units and raising public awareness and where needed providing food to the most vulnerable.

 

This is a time when we all must step up and do our bit by our people and our communities.

In addition FirstBank in keeping with its long standing tradition and focus on educational support and talent development has partnered with several organisations in a bid to  help 1 million students access e learning.

“It is important in all this not to forget the children whose needs can so easily be overlooked at a time such as this”.

 

‘’ As the lock down is lifted nationwide, we will continue to provide seamless service to our customers ensuring the highest levels of support whilst operating as efficiently as possible, ensuring safety of all is paramount and empowering our staff to drive these goals. We will do these with three things in mind: ensuring you are staying safe; supporting your business; and safeguarding our future’’ Dr, Adeduntan said.

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BUSINESS

Heritage Bank, PWC, Deloitte canvass use of tech to rescind effects of Covid-19, tackle fraud

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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s Most Innovative Banking Service provider has called on internal auditors of banks to adopt the various digital technologies to prevent fraud and annul the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the financial ecosystem.

Speaking at the just concluded 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN), the MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo disclosed that for improved banking operations and safer financial system for stakeholders, internal auditors must be dynamic and quick to adopt various digital measures.

Raising the alarming impact of fraudulent activities in the banking sector, Sekibo quoted PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC’s) Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, revealing that that the total cost of cybercrimes is worth an eye-watering $42 billion, which was cash taken straight off companies’ bottom line, whilst 13% of those who had experienced  fraud said they had lost $50 million-plus.

Sekibo, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” organised virtually and hosted by the Heritage Bank, urged, “While it was sufficient for yesterday’s auditor to understand regular and routine banking practices such as credit, treasury, etc in his traditional assurance role, for him to be relevant in harnessing the opportunities in today’s business world, he 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.”

In her keynote address, titled, “Elevating Internal Audit Role In The Face Of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” Ibukun Beecroft, Partner Risk Advisory at Deloitte, noted that the banking industry in Nigeria today has adopted various digital measures to keep the business running and delivering services to the customers but there was need for Internal Audit (IA) positioned to provide the required assurance and consulting services in the face of the changes and attendant risk, particularly increased cyber-risks.

Quoting 2018 Financial Stability Report by the Central Bank of Nigeria, she stated that Banks recorded 25,029 confirmed cases of fraud and this resulted in a loss of N2.21 billion. More than 90% of fraud cases in 2018 were perpetrated via technologically driven channels.

“As Internal Auditors, the knowledge of technology would enable us identify gaps in our core banking applications and other applications and provide relevant recommendations to eliminating loopholes that may serve as an avenue for potential fraud.

She, however, advised auditors on the need to focus on advanced technologies and risk management operations as reflected around the Three Lines of Defense (3LOD) churned out by the Institute of Internal Auditors, which create opportunities for IA and its future role.

Beecroft warned that the ever-changing landscape and evolving risks in the banking industry could render the current internal audit plan obsolete.

According to her, internal auditors should reprioritise the audit plan as soon as possible to provide assurance over the most consequential risks while being cognisant of the impact on operations.

“To take advantage of these changes and disruptions, auditors need to rethink their role by adapting to and embracing change, enabling the IA function to become more agile, nimble, and forward-looking, thus driving change through the 3LOD,” Beecroft stated.

Yetunde Oladeji, Director Internal Audit Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PWC), who spoke on the theme, “Elevating IA’s role to meet today’s emerging risks,” advised that the banking sector should be dynamic, prioritse digitization and flexibible workforce strategies as these would determine its ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances to survive and thrive.

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Banking

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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Energy

Lagos Explosion: How BBC Ignored NNPC Explanation

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A plot may be afoot to damage Nigeria’s interests by attacking the integrity of certain institutions of government to discredit them for yet unknown reasons.

A recent report by the BBC Africa Eye on the pipeline explosion that occurred in Sabo, a Lagos suburb, on March 15, 2020 appear to fit a pattern of media blackmail of critical government institutions, especially the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

The report said the BBC Africa Eye had obtained new evidence which contradicted NNPC’s official explanation on the cause of the explosion which claimed 23 lives.

NNPC had claimed at the time that the explosion occurred as a result of a truck that hit gas cylinders around the petroleum pipeline, where people had turned into a residential and commercial area contrary to regulations and in blatant disregard for the pipelines right of way.

But the media house said its evidence – a five-minute video and three sources (said to be experts in petroleum pipeline safety) – showed that there was a leak of “vaporized liquid” from the point of explosion on the pipeline.

The media house then said the evidence indicated that there was inadequate protection of the pipeline from soil erosion and that the NNPC failed to maintain industry standard.

The BBC Africa Eye, in the tradition of true journalism, sent a questionnaire to the NNPC requesting for the Corporations response to the allegations, including claim that victims of the explosion were not compensated.

But the medium breached all rules of balance and objectivity when it published the report of its investigations without reflecting the position of NNPC to all the allegations raised.

The media house portrayed the report as premeditated when it sent it out to some local media in Nigeria, including this website, with a plea to help republish.

But the NNPC response to the BBC Africa Eye questionnaire, dated August 28,  obtained by this website, contained details of its own investigations and conclusions which were ignored.

The Corporation responded to all the five allegations put to it in details, insisting on its initial explanation that the explosion was caused when a truck heavily laden with stones hit gas cylinders around the pipeline..

In a detailed response addressed to Marc Perkins, editor of the BBC Africa Eye, the Corporation insisted that a truck, heavily laden with stones,  was in the vicinity of the explosion, which clearly “indicated that it was instrumental to the explosion. A close look at the area would show that most of the people carrying out their businesses there were in breach of the Corporation’s Pipeline Right of Way which is 15 meters on either side of the pipeline.”

The NNPC stated further that residents of the area engaged in LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) vending, saw-milling, cement trading, auto repair, cooking, roasting  and  other activities inimical to a pipeline right of way.

“The eye-witness reports we got indicated that the explosion occurred when the above-mentioned truck hit cylinders at the LPG shop,” the document stated.

On the claim that there was a leakage on the pipeline which released vaporized liquid that caused the explosion, the Corporation stated that there was no leakage of PMS or any other vaporized liquid from its pipeline at the point of the explosion prior to the incident.

Instead, it said, “At about the time of the explosion (0852hrs to 08S7hrs), a pressure drop from 42 to 8 bar was observed during our pumping operations and the pipeline was immediately shutdown. Any leakage prior to the incident would have resulted in a drop in pressure. But that was not the case.

“It must also be noted that both Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) are petroleum products that essentially burn the same way. Since there was an LPG vending shop at the location, it is more likely that the incident was caused by LPG explosion. The incident was typical of gas explosion.”

But curiously, a report on the explosion circulated in the local media by BBC Africa Eye made little or no reference to the official response of the Corporation, but instead repeated claims made by its sources which were at variance with the official explanations it requested from NNPC.

Its only reference to Nigeria’s official explanation was to its third and fifth allegations that the pipelines were not well protected and that the Corporation did not pay compensation to victims of the explosion.

But even the NNPC’s responses to the allegations were largely ignored, and got only a passing mention.

The Corporation had described claims of inadequate protection of the pipeline against erosion as incorrect, and that the pipeline was not exposed at the vicinity of the explosion, but that “the pipeline was excavated to enable repair works after the incidence and the area has since been restored and the pipeline re-commissioned for operations.”

According to the document, the Corporation insisted that its pipelines were designed “operated and maintained in strict compliance with the safely and regulatory guidelines of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and API/ANSI/ASME standards,” maintaining there was no issue of negligence in terms of ensuring the integrity of the pipeline.

In conclusion, the Corporation stressed that despite the fact that the explosion was not caused by any  negligence on its part, it still worked “closely with the Lagos State Government in  providing a  N2billion relief  fund for the  victims,” contrary to the allegation made by the media house.

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