Written by Collins Nweze
Capital is crucial in driving sustainable Small and Medium Enterprises’(SMEs’) growth and uplifting the economy. First Bank of Nigeria Limited, as part of the launch of its specialised SMEs’ propositions, has continually supported SMEs through diverse initiatives. The bank says its support for SMEs is in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive on improved funding for SMEs to ensure economic growth and development.
The economies of great nations thrive on the strength and performance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) seen as engine of growth.
For Nigeria, the Central Bank (CBN) defines SMEs as enterprises with asset base (excluding land) of between N5 million and N500 million and labour force of 11 and 300 people.
The benefits of funding SMEs have attracted many banks with eye on the future to invest and support SMEs in the interest of the economy.
For SMEs to achieve these goals, operators’ easy access to credit must be promoted.
First Bank of Nigeria Limited is one of the banks that is investing and supporting SMEs. Following research by the bank over the years, it identified these seven strategic pillars that are essential to the sustainability and growth of the SMEs.
These include access to infrastructure, access to talent, capacity building, policy and regulation, access to resources, access to market as well as access to finance.
The bank has also held its SMEs’ Week in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano and Owerri. The week-long event was rounded off with a live webinar, facilitated by Gbenga Shobo, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director.
According to Shobo, “FirstBank has, over the years, been at the forefront of supporting businesses, especially the SMEs, as we recognise that the SMEs are the engine of the economy.
We are committed to ensuring that we leave no stone unturned as we connect with them in their continued contribution to national development in terms of the employment opportunities they create as well as their contribution to the nation’s GDP amongst many economic values.
“The FirstBank SME Week is driven to promote the Bank’s SME proposition, thereby having SMEs across the country optimally enlightened on how to plug in. We believe this will help SMEs bolster their contribution to the growth and development of the economy.”
The 2019 Nigeria banking industry customer experience survey report recently published by KPMG Nigeria showed that in the retail segment, the top two performers have remained the same for the fourth consecutive year.
GTBank, Zenith Bank are top-rated bank in the 2019 ranking. Sterling Bank, FirstBank and UBA are the biggest movers in 2019, coming in third, fifth and seventh places.
Commitment to fashion and entrepreneurship
FirstBank sponsored the Sixth Africa Fashion Week, which held last December in Lagos.
The event themed ‘’Africa Unites’’ was a convergence of fashion entrepreneurs and the public to promote the creativity and innovation of Nigerian and African brands through worldwide visibility, distribution and manufacturing.
Dignitaries at the event include wives of the Ekiti, Ogun and Kwara state governors, Mrs Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Mrs Bamidele Abiodun and Mrs Folake Abdulrazaq. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; former Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation,Mrs Omotayo Omotosho; television presenter and model, Idia Aisen; model and beauty influencer, Whitney Madueke were also there. FirstBank was represented by Helen Ogboh, Business Manager, Corporate Banking.
Speaking on FirstBank’s sponsorship of the event, the Bank’s Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said: “We are pleased to identify with Africa Fashion Week Nigeria as it showcases creativity by African fashion designers to the teeming public, leading players and enthusiasts of African fashion while promoting their contribution to the growth of the fashion industry.
“We will continue to drive advocacy for this as it can create jobs that will deepen opportunities for the revival of our textile industry resulting in SMEs’growth along the value chains especially, with the growing demand in the fashion industry.”
Recently, the bank promoted the use of local fabrics with a ‘What If’ campaign to commemorate the country’s Independence. It ran across the social media channels, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, focusing on the creativity of sewing local fabrics as a national symbol vis-a-vis our outfits, clothing accessories, household furniture, in line with the bank’s celebratory 125th Anniversary, themed, “Woven into the Fabric of Society”.
Ani-Mumuney said the bank would continue to empower the society, including the support for small businesses and promotion of the growth of the entertainment industry.
Also, on the list of fashion sponsorship credentials of the Bank is the Fashion Souk, as well as Street Souk organized in partnership with Eventful Limited. Ani-Mumuney said “Street Souk was designed to encourage the youth to channel their talents to genres as music, arts and fashion. It’s a platform that identifies opportunities, which promote the innovative spirit in youngsters.
She noted that Street Souk was tied to the FirstBank’s initiative to empower the society, including small business owners. According to her, the initiative is also tied to the promotion of the entertainment industry.
Manager XIIG Glover, a merchant at the Street Souk, Mr Obembe Abiola, said he was happy to be part of last year’s (2019) street trading.
“We are here to showcase what we also have as a brand which is African made and to reach out to people to know about the brand. Last year (in 2018), we were also here and it was a great time out to meet up with new clients, customers and to meet up with other brands and this year is a lot more better than last year. We are large in number, new faces and everything is going on fine,” Abiola said. He commended FirstBank for organising the event aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship.
Also, Creative Director, Dmf Designs & Shopwith5k, Adebayo Bankole, a participant, said she was glad to showcase her brand to people. “I have finally found my target audience here, people that are interested in street Souk culture in Nigeria. They are my target audience,” Bankole said.
She stated that sales had been very amazing and that it was worth-while being part of this year’s Street Souk.
“I really appreciate the fact that FirstBank is doing this because most banks go for ankara or made- in-Nigeria but this is promoting a different culture in Nigeria. Street trading is not common in Nigeria, the fact that FirstBank is able to support the promotion of street Souk in Nigeria is amazing,” Bankole added.
The bank also said it would remain committed to the Federal Government’s diversification drive with the development of agricultural value chain to boost employment.
FirstBank’s Chairman, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, stated this at last year’s edition of ‘Food Souk’, an event the Bank convened in partnership with Eventful Limited, an events management firm.
Mrs Awosika said the bank would continue to support the agricultural value chain from production to consumption to create opportunities for SMEs in the food sector to create job opportunities. “As you have noticed, we have been doing a chain of Souks with Eventful. It is critical for the economy of the nation that we encourage the SMEs sector across different industries,” she said.
According to her, the Food Souk was introduced to diversify the economy through agricultural development. “When we have 200 million people, food is big business because everybody will eat. So, what we are trying to do is in support of the nation’s building. We are seeking to encourage small, medium and big enterprises in different sectors of the economy.
“One is to help create jobs because if we think that 65 per cent of our population is made up of people under 40 years and the highest unemployment rate is within the segment that is between 20 and 35, so you need to create jobs.
“But you will only create jobs when you create entrepreneurs, as we create more businesses you are creating job opportunities,” Mrs Awosika said.
She added that the bank’s focused on the growth of the economy with the hope it would benefit from it as a provider of financial services. “As we grow the economy, as we build lives of Nigerians, as we support the government’s investment in the diversification of the economy and help to create jobs through the enterprises we will ultimately benefit,” Mrs Awosika stated.
The Chairman said FirstBank, the largest retail bank in the country, would continue to support growth and development of SMEs. “A lot of big businesses of today that grew in Nigeria are businesses we supported from scratch. “We are starting with different generations of new businesses and events like this help you to see the trends. It helps you to see the companies that need nurturing.
“It helps you to see the companies that you can support. It also gives you information about how you can best support them and engage them in their terrain to see businesses and understand their feelings to create the kind of product that will support their businesses,” Mrs Awosika said.
A food vendor, Ms Ijeoma Ebeneme, the Chief Executive Officer, JEM N Iris, commended FirstBank for putting the event together. Ebeneme said she was at the fair to make profit, meet new clients as well as create the needed publicity for her brand. Food Souk, formerly known as Fiesta of Flavours, is a food and wine fair, that holds yearly at Harbour Point in Victoria Island, Lagos, since its premier edition in 2015.
The fun food and beverage fair hosted by Eventful and sponsored by FirstBank provides an avenue for attendees to experience the entertainment, art and business of food. It showcases the best in local and international cuisine, cutting-edge food technology and cooking techniques, and the best beverages, wines and spirits the world offers. It provides management and training seminars, food demonstrations and performances.
FIRSTBANK’S SPONSORED MOVIE, ‘AYINLA’, PREMIERES THIS SUNDAY IN LAGOS
First Bank of Nigeria Limited announces its lead sponsorship of the movie titled ‘Ayinla’, which is billed to premiere on Sunday, 13 June 2020.
The movie is suspense-driven, narrating the life of Ayinla Yusuf, popularly known as Ayinla Omowura (an Apala musician), his rise to fame, his identity, the depth of his craft and music, and the basis for his relevance after his tragic death forty years ago as a result of a stab from his manager, Bayewu, during a bar fight on the 6th of May, 1980 in Abeokuta.
Ayinla is directed by multiple award-winning and globally acclaimed Nigerian filmmaker and director, Tunde Kelani, and produced by Jadesola Osiberu.
According to Tunde Kelani, filmmaker and founder, Mainframe Opomulero Productions,” the making of Ayinla allows us to throw a glance over our shoulders to our often-neglected intangible heritage. Nigeria is blessed with huge cultural diversity and locked away are thousands of stories we can share with a global audience. FirstBank’s partnership with us at this stage is not a mere coincidence, owing to its over hundred years of historical contribution in unlocking the huge potentials in Nigeria which can offer continental and global audiences”.
With the sponsorship of similar socio-cultural initiatives in the creative arts industry like Moremi, Makaliki, Oba Esugbayi stage drama, October 1st (a movie) and the Calabar Festival. The Bank’s sponsorship of ‘Ayinla’ affirms the Bank’s support for the development of arts in Nigeria under its First@arts initiative.
First@arts is FirstBank’s platform for consolidating all its efforts in the arts, supporting the entire value chain of the creative arts, providing much-needed financing and advisory support, showcasing and facilitating the successes of the industry, and enabling customers to explore and access the wealth of opportunities the creative industry has to offer.
Achieving these and a host of many others have been implemented through strategic partnerships with organizations like the British Council, Duke of Shomolu Productions, Live Theatre Lagos, Freedom Park, Terra Kulture, and the Cross Rivers State Government (Calabar Festival), amongst many others.
Ayinla appeals to a multifaceted audience that cuts across fans of highlife and afrobeat music, the youth, and the elite Yoruba demography. It features some of Nollywood’s favorite stars including Adedimeji Lateef who played the role of Ayinla Omowura, Kunle Afolayan, Bimbo Ademoye, Mr. Macaroni, Omowunmi Dada, Ade Laoye, Jumoke Otedola, and Bimbo Manuel.
Speaking on the movie, Jadesola Osiberu, Movie Producer & Founder, Greoh Studios said, “Working with the great Tunde Kelani is something I have wanted to do for a long time, and I am so glad that we were able to do it on a project like Ayinla. This collaboration was an interesting experience, and I am glad everyone finally gets to see the film we made in the cinemas nationwide from 18 June 2021. I’d like to thank the management of First Bank of Nigeria Limited for choosing to come on this journey with us.”
Expressing her delight on the movie, Folake Ani-Mumuney, Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, FirstBank said; “For over 127 years, FirstBank has been at the forefront of nation-building; enabling Nigeria and Nigerians through resourceful partnerships to build the Nigerian creative industry value chain, especially the arts and entertainment sub-sectors. We remain proud of this sponsorship that creates an excellent platform to showcase Nigeria to the world as being part of a collective goal to continually keep dreams and hope alive; holding strong to our commitment to reignite cultural heritage.”
“Without a doubt, the movie industry remains part of the creative and entertainment industry value-chain across the globe and indeed a powerful channel to drive our heritage and culture, which resonates with our legacy of being woven into the fabric of society.”
According to research disclosed in PWC’s recent Entertainment & Media Outlook report, Nigeria’s entertainment is expected to rise from $4.46 billion in 2018 to a $10.5 billion market by the end of 2023. In addition, with this initiative and other sponsored event, FirstBank is committed to strengthening its contribution to the development of the entertainment industry in the country.
Another shot in the arm for Adeduntan as FirstBank wins Global Banking and Finance’s Retail Banking CEO Award
While the age-old saying and philosophy of virtue being its own reward (or seeing doing good as its own reward) remains a strong motivating factor in doing good persistently, it helps when virtue gets recognition from time to time. Even though anyone or organisation committed to doing good will keep doing so with or without recognition, recognitions for virtue tend to act like a shot in the arm for such people or organisations, spurring them to commit even more to doing good.
That is what the recent award of “Retail Banking CEO of the Year Nigeria” to Dr Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, is to both him and the bank he leads. It is a shot in the arm of this foremost CEO of Nigeria’s most enduring financial institution that is also the pioneer in retail banking development in Nigeria, the premier bank in West Africa and the leading financial inclusion services provider in Nigeria for over 127 years, to keep steering the bank in the right direction, energising and expanding retail opportunities for all Nigerians in the process. It is a well-deserved recognition for a man and the institution he leads that would rather keep off the spotlight and focus exclusively on attending to Nigerians’ banking needs as best as they can – which is what has kept them going for 127 years and counting.
This critical role is one FirstBank is better suited to lead than any other lender given the robust retail banking framework that the bank has in place, that is riding on its innovative technology-driven operations, over 750 branches across the continents and 100,000 Firstmonie Agent banking network spread across 772 local government areas in Nigeria. It is little wonder that FirstBank, which is intricately woven into the fabric of the Nigerian society, has been an essential player in the retail space, empowering Nigerians of all walks of life by providing them bespoke and innovative financial products and services that address their multidimensional needs. The bank has been at the forefront of bridging the financial exclusion gap and enabling customers and the general public to carry out both individual and corporate financial activities which contribute to the growth and development of the national economy.
The award by Global Banking and Finance Magazine, according to Dr Adeduntan, “speak[s] to the investments we [as FirstBank] have made over the past years in…enhancing financial inclusion….” It is a loud testament to the incredible strides FirstBank has made and continues to make in the retail space under the able and dynamic leadership of the management team led by Dr Adeduntan.
The strides are in turn underpinned by the bank’s resolute commitment to putting the customer and other stakeholders at the heart of its business. Dr Adeduntan reiterates this view when he wasted no time in dedicating the award to all the bank’s “customers, as the trust they reposed in us being their bank of first choice in meeting their business and financial needs has been instrumental to the success we have achieved in our existence of over 127 years.” “We remain committed,” he continued, “to putting you, our customers, first as we contribute to the growth and development of our host communities.”
Organised to identify the banks across the world that have excelled across a number of areas, including corporate governance, sustainability and innovation, and have played a key role in the industry’s growth, the Global Banking and Finance Awards reflect the innovation, achievement, strategy, progressive and inspirational changes taking place within the global financial community. The awards were created to accord recognition to companies of all sizes which are prominent in their areas of expertise and excellence within the financial world. For Dr Adeduntan and FirstBank, the award is further proof of FirstBank’s enduring commitment to providing excellent retail banking services to all its customers as reflected in the bank’s strategic vision, diverse and inclusive workforce and performance-oriented organisational structure.
FirstBank: Nigeria’s Premier Eco-Friendly Financial Brand
By Jeremiah Agada
As the world gears up to celebrate the World Environment Day (WED), Brand Communicator’s focus on Eco-Friendly Brands in the Nigerian market falls on Nigeria’s premier and perhaps the strongest financial institution, First Bank of Nigeria Limited. The focus is on the Bank’s environmental policies and its impact on the global environmental issues.
This brings to fore the importance of environmental sustainability in our world today. Environmental sustainability is one of the biggest challenges and most important targets of the present times. Stakeholders (researchers, academicians, scholars, governments and non-government organizations involving individuals, communities, countries, and the continents, are increasingly focusing their attention on how to tackle the challenges associated with driving environmental sustainability. Key stakeholder concerns include the constant exploitation of the environment due to economic development. While the current generation is enjoying the fruits of economic development, they tend to be oblivious of the uncertainty and dangers that future generations would confront as a result of scarce natural resources and polluted environment. It is therefore, our responsibility to leave the planet as a self-sustainable system providing equal opportunities of survival not only to our future generations but also to all other species co-habiting with us.
In Nigeria, studies have shown that various sectors of the economy are vulnerable to climate change. These include human settlements and health; water resources, wetlands and freshwater ecosystems; energy, industry, commerce and financial services; agriculture, food security, land degradation, forestry and biodiversity; coastal zone and marine ecosystems.
Because of the seriousness of climate change and the impact it poses to the environment, an organization like First Bank of Nigeria Limited is leaving nothing to chance in ensuring an eco-friendly society. Its recognition of the environmental and social impacts of its operations has made it adopt policies and procedures that minimize negative environmental and social impacts.
In doing business, the Bank, which is Nigeria’s first and arguably its most prestigious, takes cognizance of potential environmental risks with a view to nipping them in the bud. This it has done by constant interactions with stakeholders, driving sustainable insurance and putting necessary frameworks in place towards ensuring that its actions as a corporate entity does not impact negatively on the environment.
As such, the sustainability of the societies and physical environments in which the Bank operates are critical to its own sustainable success. Therefore, the Bank has shown over the years that it is committed to making positive contribution wherever it does business while avoiding or minimising any direct or indirect negative impact on communities and the environment resulting from its activities, beyond its responsible lending and investment efforts.
The acknowledgement of the fact that its environmental impacts can be indirectly linked to climate change and its global effects has led the bank to adopt an approach to environmental sustainability which is two-fold based on its direct and indirect impacts. The approaches to reducing the direct impacts of its operations include approach to minimising carbon footprints and carbon offsetting; work towards carbon neutrality as well as promote wildlife and biodiversity conservation and preservation.
In minimising waste, the Bank works to improve energy efficiency in its data centres and offices as well as reduce air travels and implement safe paper use initiatives. It also increased the use of conference calls for meetings as against attending physical meeting schedules thereby minimizing fuel consumption and carbon emission from vehicles. Its ‘Going Green’ efforts have also seen the Bank purchase renewable energy; promote tree planting initiatives and the indirect impact of its activities focuses largely on responsible lending.
The Bank’s key objectives of minimizing carbon footprints through the planting of trees, creating awareness among school children of the need to preserve wildlife and biodiversity, developing and educating environmentally conscious students through partnerships with reputable NGOs and institutions, are huge. The challenge in implementing this project is not just in identifying suitable locations with the right soil and climatic conditions for tree planting, but also ensuring students’ participation.
These objectives and FirstBank’s responsible approach to protecting the environment has seen it partner with Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Nigeria’s premier non-governmental environment conservation foundation dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable development in Nigeria. Its on-going partnership with the NCF has seen it actively support annual activities promoting conservation and preservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
The FirstBank Conservation Initiative is part of our long-term approach to promoting sustainability, which involves minimising our direct and indirect impacts on the environment. And the success of this initiative is dependent on our meaningful engagement with our stakeholders.
With its huge expertise in environmental issues, the Bank found a worthy and perfect partner in the NCF to help implement this programme successfully. The NCF used its experience and influence to engage the various stakeholders to support the programme. This included utilising its conservation clubs, which provided educational sessions for the students on the importance and benefits of conservation and supporting biodiversity. The subsequent enthusiastic participation of the students, and the encouragement they received from the Ministry of Education and school authorities, enabled the programme’s objectives to be achieved.
So far, 240 trees have been planted at the Lagos State Civil Service Model College Igbogbo in Ikorodu, and Evboesi Mixed Secondary School, Benin City. More than 1,000 environmental sustainability champions have also been appointed in these locations. These champions are young people who look after the trees and ensure that they are adequately cared for to help the bank achieve its afforestation goals. “The planting of trees is just part of our efforts to contribute to Nigeria’s green economy and to combat deforestation/desertification, while recognising the key role of children and young people in the sustainability agenda,” the Bank in a statement disclosed.
Through its partnership with Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN), FirstBank sponsored the National Company of the Year (NCOY) Competition. The competition is an extension of the COY programme that brings secondary students together to form a company, choose a business name and elect officers to oversee operations of the company for the programme duration. It teaches students to put theory into practice in order to fully understand what financial literacy and entrepreneurship is. At the end of the programme, the students that complete the programme successfully, compete in the regional competition and represent their school in the National Company of the Year competition in Lagos. In 2020, the New Phase from Brookstone Secondary School, Port-Harcourt, Rivers state emerged winner, producing an eco-friendly block. The eco-friendly construction blocks were made from plastic waste. These sustainable blocks are the next wave of sustainable construction.
Beyond the initiatives above, responsible lending remains one of the strategic pillars in delivering the sustainability goals of the FirstBank Group. FirstBank has put in place an Environmental, Social and Governance Management System (ESGMS) to help the Bank integrate environmental social and governance considerations into its decision-making processes. This includes an ESG policy and procedures for screening transactions. The ESG policy is based on existing policy documents and international best practice, while procedures to screen transactions are aimed at conducting ESG due diligence on potential transactions. These are based on Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Banking Principles, IFC Performance Standards, and international best practice and are tailored to FirstBank’s procedures, risk management framework, risk appetite and tolerance, and adapted to its strategic objectives
The key objective of this policy is to ensure that all the transactions that FirstBank is considering funding, include adequate provision for actions necessary to prevent, control and mitigate negative impacts on the environment and communities, and improve environmental quality.
With this, FirstBank has shown its commitment to integrating social and environmental principles in all its operations; promoting good corporate governance and ensuring social and environmental considerations are included in the business decision making; reviewing and managing potential social and environmental risks in its lending and investment processes and activities and reviewing all borrowers against the criteria like exclusion list; the International Finance Corporate Performance Standards, and other applicable international standards as well as the Nigeria Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP) requirements.
Others initiatives are, providing constant education and training for all staff on issues of environmental and social responsibility relevant to the business; regularly communicating to all stakeholders on progress of commitments including achievements, challenges and future direction; continuous improvement on the way in which it identifies, assesses and manages Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risks within its businesses.
The successful and productive implementation of the ESGMS has propelled the bank to integrate the associated checklist (which is usually completed by a relationship manager and verified by an analyst against the EIA report), into the bank’s credit application platform designed for reviewing credits. The goal is to ensure efficiency through automation as relevant implementation documents such as the environmental, social and governance risks screening checklist will be fully automated.
These initiatives over the years and activities have shown that environmental sustainability remains a key corporate responsibility & sustainability focus for FirstBank.
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