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KPMG REPORT: FIRSTBANK REINFORCES RETAIL BANKING DOMINANCE, CREATES 150,000 INDIRECT JOBS  

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By Collins Nweze

The unbanked and underbanked, two groups at the centre of retail banking, need to be captured for the financial system to achieve its full potential. The KPMG Nigeria Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey says customers have expectations about how their needs will be met and meeting this requires banks deploying the right network and technology. First  Bank of Nigeria Limited has through its Firstmonie Agent Banking Network created over 150,000 indirect jobs for Nigerians and executed three million transactions via 45,000 agents, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

Banking is no longer where you operate, but what you do. And doing more in today’s banking world requires the right tool, network and technology. Capturing the retail segment of the sector requires the right technology and product. The KPMG Nigeria has for the 13th consecutive year released the Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey, which showed banks playing formidable roles in the retail segment of the market. The retail segment of the report showed that FirstBank scored 71.8 percent, an improvement from 65 percent score in the 2018 survey.

The KPMG report showed that 53 percent of retail customers considered quality of service experience in choosing their bank, 13 percent chosen their bank based on financial stability while 12 percent chose their bank based on image and reputation.

For First Bank of Nigeria Limited, achieving these milestones did not come by chance. It took several decades of investment in the right technology, product and quality leadership.

As the oldest financial institution in the country, founded in 1894, FirstBank has over 28,000 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), launched the first cash deposit ATM in Nigeria in 2011, has appointed over 45,000 FirstMonie Agents spread across the country, targeting 500,000 agents and operates in over 750 business locations. The bank has also created over 150,000 indirect jobs through the FirstMonie Agents scheme as at December 31, 2019.

Also, the bank’s alternative channels were the first to launch WhatsApp banking, among other milestones. Achieving the 80 percent financial inclusion target set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will require the support of commercial banks and use of technology. First Bank of Nigeria is one of the financial institutions which have taken steps to make the target a reality by deploying technology in its operations by way of Agent Banking Network. FirstBank has expressed its commitment to continue to drive financial inclusion through its First-monie Agent Network in 99 per cent of the 774 local government areas and has processed over N2 trillion through the initiative.

The Firstmonie service provides financial/banking solutions to rural and semi-urban locations across the country. Such solutions include account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals, airtime purchase, and bill payments. Through this channel, the bank is committed to providing convenient services that engender and provides ease of access to banking products, thereby saving time and travel costs for users of the network. Speaking at the Firstmonie Agent Banking National Awards in Lagos, FirstBank’s Chief Executive Officer, Adesola Adeduntan said: “The initiative has witnessed several changes in the operating structure and value proposition of FirstBank

In December 2017, the bank ran a pilot test with over 400,000 transactions processed and following the success of the first run, it re-launched in 2018.”

According to Adeduntan, through Firstmonie, the bank has remained at the forefront of driving nation-wide inclusion, given our belief that access to financial services is part of lifting people out of poverty and fostering collective national economic development.

Adeduntan said: “The key strength of the bank’s services is to look at the gaps in the society and develop products and services that address the gap. As an integral part of our strategy, we believe in working with the CBN to improve financial inclusion index of the country. We would, at FirstBank, assist Nigeria to address poverty and hunger, thereby promoting security of life and property. Because when people are gainfully employed, the implication is that they will think less of crime.”

The bank’s Deputy Managing Director, Francis Shobo, noted that the agents are the most critical part of the ecosystem because they take deposits, make payments and open accounts, provide transfers and sell airtime at locations with little or no access to financial services. He said there are switches and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) has also supported the Firstmonie network. Shobo praised the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, stating that the the apex bank has made changes in regulation around agency banking. “They have allowed the programme to scale as much as it has scaled,” he said. At the event, 31 agents at the state level won N250,000 each, five agents N1 million each at the regional level and a grand prize of N2.5 million at the national level.

FirstBank Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said the Bank has, through the First-monie initiative, empowered communities by connecting them to the financial system. She said the bank will continue to support Firstmonie agents. She said customers’ expectations were changing and that it’s the bank’s duty as a customer-focused bank to ensure that customers were provided with the means to carry out banking through any channel they desire. FirstBank has also recognised the opportunities for inclusive growth and influence of financial technology not just in banking but also business operations across industries.

One of the Firstmonie agents said: “I have been with Firstmonie since they started, and I can say that it has been a life-changing experience. I have been able to build trust of the communities around me as many workers in my area have forgotten the last time they visited any bank branch for basic banking services. I am a proud employer and as a result, my members of staff are well paid and comfortable.

“Firstmonie has created an enabling opportunity for dwellers of my immediate community and neighbouring towns to carry out banking transactions with less time, money, resources and risks as people don’t have to waste time embarking on long journeys to the city, added to the dangers of being robbed on the highway.’’ FirstBank has also partnered National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). The deal seeks to leverage the human traffic and commercial activities at various motor parks across the country to ease access to financial services. FirstBank is also in partnership with Azuri Technologies Limited, an off-grid power distribution firm to make access to off-grid power easy, especially in rural communities, as well as other institutions, that seek to provide resources to cushion the effects of economic and social shocks on low income individuals. Under this deal, FirstBank and Azuri will co-brand and co-market Azuri’s solar home television product.

The pay-as-you-go customers will also pay for their solar photovoltaic (PV) system via FirstBank’s Firstmonie agents and mobile payment solution, thereby deepening financial inclusion. Banking with Technology Banking and technology are becoming inseparable. FirstBank under Adeduntan is driving growth and customer services with technology. The Financial Technology (Fintech) Summit organised by the bank was an opportunity for the bank to emphasise the need for technology in e-business, digital offering, agent banking, wholesale/ transaction banking, retail/consumer lending and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) productivity. He noted that as a Tier-1 lender, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last March, the bank had been able to maintain its leadership position in the industry by leveraging technology to offer innovative solutions through its product offerings.

FirstBank is also taking advantage of the opportunities created by cash-less banking to innovate and give value to customers. The bank has introduced the Visa Multi Currency Card, an All-in One-Card and first of its kind to be offered by any financial institution in Nigeria. This card can be linked to four currencies: Naira, United States dollar, Euro and British Pounds Sterling accounts. With the Visa Multi-Currency card, FirstBank customers – within and outside Nigeria – can enjoy the luxury of having their local and foreign denominated accounts in any currency, linked to a single debit card.

Many banks have continued to make impact in the e-payment space. The Nigeria Postal Service and Fidelity Bank Plc have also entered into a collaboration to deploy modern banking services to Nigerians in 266 rural communities. The move is part of the measures to boost the level of financial inclusion in the country and reduce the number of those not yet in the formal financial system. Speaking at the launch of integrated banking services between Fidelity bank and NIPOST in Abuja, the bank said the collaboration would enable the bank to deploy all its banking services in 266 locations using NIPOST offices.

Access Bank Plc has introduced agency banking to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria, to enable branches to focus more on complex customer obligations. A banking agent is defined as an authorised third party (a retail or postal outlet) contracted by a financial institution to process clients‘ transactions. The Head, Agency Banking, Access Bank, Michael Ogbaa, while introducing the bank’s Omni-channel agency banking application at the bank’s agency banking forum, in Lagos, on Tuesday decried that there are only 307,000 PoS terminals in Nigeria as at last July, of which only 167,000 are active.

Also, the adoption of e-transactions for customers earned Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), United Bank of Africa (UBA), and other eight banks N135.15 billion between January and September, last year. A look at the unaudited 2019 third-quarter reports of the banks, showed that their revenue from electronic transactions grew by 57 per cent as against the N86.312 billion they earned from the first 10 months of 2018.

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FIRSTBANK TAKES ITS SMES BUSINESS CLINIC TO PORT-HARCOURT AND ABUJA

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In recognition of the significant role SMEs play in achieving sustainable growth and development in the economy of the country, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited would host SMEs in its 2020 second edition of the SME Business Clinic. The event themed “Building a sustainable Business” would be held on 25th and 27th February 2020 in Port-Harcourt and Abuja respectively.

SMEs are encouraged to take the FirstBank SME diagnostic tool by visiting https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/ in order to stand a chance to be amongst the participants that will be in the SME Business Clinic in Port-Harcourt and Abuja. The FirstBank SME diagnostic tool is designed for SMEs to check the health of their business, better understand it and drive profitability. The SME Clinic will feature one-on-one business advisory services, mentoring, networking opportunities and participants will also be acquainted with the requisite knowledge and business tools needed to drive efficiency in the day-to-day operations of their business.

Speaking on the event, Gbenga Shobo, the Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank, said “at FirstBank, we are proud of the giant strides we have taken over the years towards enhancing the SMEs for their businesses to thrive, have a fair play in the market and contribute to the Gross Domestic Product of the country. We remain the trusted financial partner of SMEs and reiterate our resolve to be known as the brand that enables their success; much the same way that we have for over 125 years enabling Nigerians and the economy at large”.

The coaches at the event are Seye Olurotimi, Lead Consult at Cedar Tribe Limited, an SME branding expert and business growth consultant with vast experience helping SMEs grow effective brands and Robert Yakubu, founder of the Instabiz Academy and the Business Mastery Program, a digital entrepreneur and business strategist empowering entrepreneurs, marketers and business professionals in Port-Harcourt and Abuja respectively.

The SME Clinic session is organized in partnership with SME Traction, a leading business coaching platform aimed at empowering SMEs to make informed choices about their businesses, thereby facilitating growth and bolstering their contribution to the development of the economy.

Expressing her delight on the impact the inaugural SME Clinic has had on her business, the CEO, Nibbles Plus More Ventures, Owoeye, Oluyomi, stated that “the first step I took after the SME business clinic was do a strategic road map for my business. Riding on the information I got from the business trend session on consumer landscape, I had a clearer understanding of who my target audience are and have included that in my business plan. The feedback we believe will help us identify untapped markets and problems in our industry, how to reach them and what value we can offer them”.

Like we were told at the clinic, progressing into the counter intuitive zone of the business model reinventing box is what brings about Innovation. Something must trigger innovation and not just our intuition. Hence, we have chosen research, she concluded.

 

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Standard Chartered Bank arranges a US$ 1.46 billion financing to fund the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Project

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The Government of Tanzania Ministry of Finance has signed a facility agreement with Standard Chartered (SC.com) Tanzania for a US$ 1.46 billion term loan financing to fund the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project from Dar es Salaam to Makutupora.

Running approximately 550 kilometres long, the SGR project is one of the country’s biggest projects connecting Dodoma to Dar es Salaam via Morogoro and Makutupora. Once complete, the SGR Rail project will provide a safe and reliable means for efficiently transporting people and cargo to and from the existing Dar es Salaam Port.

According to the Tanzania Railways Corporation, it is expected that the railway will address current congestion challenges and decrease freight service charges by 40%, as the railway will be able to haul up to 10,000 tons of freight, equivalent to 500 lorries, per trip. It will also connect Tanzania to Burundi, Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, thereby playing a key role in enhancing regional trade.

The project has already created more than 8,000 new direct employment opportunities for Tanzanians and has opened up opportunities for the local communities surrounding the project area to access social services such as shelter and food.

Standard Chartered Tanzania acted as Global Co-ordinator, Bookrunner and Mandated Lead Arranger on the facility agreement that is the largest foreign currency financing raised by the Ministry of Finance to date. The biggest component of financing comes from the Export Credit Agency Covered Facility(‘s) from the Export Credit Agencies of Denmark and Sweden.

Speaking at the event to sign off the deal, the Minister of Finance and Planning, Hon. Dr. Philip Mpango, commended and thanked Standard Chartered Tanzania.

“I am very delighted to sign off on this deal on behalf of the Government of Tanzania and its people. With the help of Standard Chartered and our partners, the project financing will further increase direct employment in Tanzania, and more importantly, enable our local communities the thrive as they will be able to gain access to wider social services such as food and housing.”

Mr. Mpango also commended and thanked the Governments of Sweden and Denmark, which were represented by their Ambassadors in Tanzania, for their confidence in the country’s economic growth. “These two nations, Sweden and Denmark, have shown us their true friendship not only in words but also in action. Please convey our country’s sincere appreciation to the Export Credit Agencies and lenders in your countries that have supported this signature project. As a country we shall honour our commitments as we have always done.” Hon. Dr. Mpango said.

In addition to thanking the Export Credit Agencies and lenders, Hon. Mpango also thanked the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the Trade and Development Bank (TDB) and the African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim), for supporting the project in partnership with Export Credit Agencies from Denmark and Sweden.

He added that the funding would enable the project to be completed in good time as per the set plans.

Mr. Sanjay Rughani, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Tanzania, said the deal signified investor confidence in the market and demonstrated Standard Chartered’s international network capabilities and commitment to Tanzania.

“As a leading international Bank for Africa, with over 100 years of being in Tanzania, the African continent remains a key corridor not only for Standard Chartered but also our global clients. We are delighted to have reached this milestone in Tanzania to fund the SGR project that will deliver massive benefits to Tanzania and support the government’s 2025 vision of making Tanzania an industrialised country.” Mr. Rughani said.

Mr. Rughani added that the Bank will continue to leverage its unique network reach, and the credibility it has built over time, to further position Tanzania as the go-to destination for investments.

Sunil Kaushal, Regional CEO, Standard Chartered Africa and the Middle East said the deal signified the benefit of our unrivalled network capabilities into the region. “There is considerable appetite from the global investment community into Africa, with 80 percent of our top Corporate & Institutional clients using our Africa and Middle East network.  For Standard Chartered, Africa remains a priority for our business and clients, and we are proud to be able to use our expertise to support the Government of Tanzania with the finance needed for the SGR project.”

The sign off ceremony was also attended by the Ambassador of Denmark to Tanzania, H.E Mette Norgaard Dissing-Spandet and the Ambassador of Sweden to Tanzania, H.E Anders Sjoberg.

In attendance was also H.E Robert Mengoni, the Ambassador of Italy to Tanzania and Mr. Calumm Mcallum, Country Director, International Trade – for the British High Commission. The Country Manager for the Africa Development Bank Dr. Alex Mubiru and Resident Representative for the IMF in Tanzania, Mr. Jens Reinke also attended the event.

Other key Government Officials included the Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Mr. Doto James, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Tanzania responsible for Economic and Financial Policies, Dr. Yamungu Kayandabila, and the Director General of the Tanzania Railway Corporation, Mr. Masanja Kadogosa.

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CSR: Ikeja Electric donates medical equipment to Ikorodu General Hospital

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Ikeja Electric Plc (IE), Nigeria’s leading electricity distribution company has donated an ultramodern phototherapy machine and clinical supplies to General Hospital, Ikorodu, as part of its CSR activities towards improvement of healthcare.

At the presentation held at the hospital, Ikeja Electric team comprising staff from the Headquarters in Ikeja and Ikorodu Business Unit presented the items to management of the Hospital in Ikorodu. The company’s Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), Mrs. Enobong Ezekiel, expressed the Disco’s unwavering commitment to positively impact on lives and give back to the society.

Mrs. Ezekiel said: “Ikeja Electric is a customer centric organization and it means that we are also committed to ensuring that we make impact on communities where we operate; that is why we are here. Today is significant to us too, as the entire world is celebrating love. For us at Ikeja Electric, our theme this year is ‘Clean Love.’ So, we are celebrating pure love and saying ‘no to drugs’, as well.

“Being here today is motivated by love. And to donate the phototherapy equipment and clinical items to the Paediatric Unit is something significant that will add value to what already exist in the hospital. Ikeja Electric has also come to appreciate the management and staff for providing healthcare services to the neighbourhood and residents of Ikorodu town. We love the fact that you are our customer. And we have come to do our community service.”

While commending Ikeja Electric, Dr. Olufunmilayo Bankole, the Medical Director, General Hospital Ikorodu said: “Ikeja Electric today gave us a donation of a phototherapy machine. As a hospital we are really elated to receive them, we are very happy that we have other organizations who like to partner with government to make healthcare service in Lagos State much better than it is currently”.

“That phototherapy machine given us today is going to serve a lot of children in treating Jaundice. And we believe that if we are able to treat more people, we will be able to have a better health in our population in Lagos State. This phototherapy machine is going to go a long way in making a difference in the lives of these children.

“We want to say congratulations to Ikeja Electric. This is a noble cause. We know if they continue to do this as well as other agencies or individuals, who would like to partner with government to improve healthcare services in Lagos state, we will really welcome them to Ikorodu General Hospital.,” she added.

Speaking on the PCSR initiatives, Felix Ofulue, Head of Corporate Communications, Ikeja Electric, said: As a business, we are very passionate about giving back to the society in which we operate. A lot of people know us as power distribution company, but beyond that there are many other things we do.

“One of them is CSR, which is predicated on three pillars – education, empowerment and health. This is one of the interventions for us to give back to the society. The selection of today is very deliberate because it is a day when love is expressed all over the world and we felt that this is another way of demonstrating love especially to children in Ikorodu,” he explained.

The presentation of the medical equipment and clinical supplies was done at children’s ward of the hospital.

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