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LCFE, Heritage Bank, others unlock N445trn commodities ecosystem for economic industrialization

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Lagos Commodities and Future Exchange (LCFE), Heritage Bank Plc, Capital Market players and other stakeholders have unlocked the $1trillion (N445trn) commodities ecosystem as avenue to diversify the economy from a crude oil dependent economy to other critical economic sectors.

This was revealed at the historic Commissioning Ceremony and Official Launch of Lagos Commodities & Futures Exchange, with the theme, “New Order, Driving Nigeria’s Economy Through the Commodities Ecosystem,” on Thursday in Lagos.

This feat, according to key stakeholders will catalyze and transform the Nigerian economy to create value, wealth restore growth and build global competitive economy.

Giving his Goodwill message, the MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, specifically stated that as the Lead settlement bank in partnership with key stakeholders that are critical to the success of this project, it considered the launch of LCFE as huge potential to unlock the opportunities and wealth of the four asset classes- Agriculture, Solid Minerals, Oil and Gas and Currencies.

“I believe that this is the beginning of how we are going to possibly create values in areas that hitherto we have taken for granted. First thing it will bring about is sustainable commodity trading ecosystem, being a catalyst for capital formation, unlocking the long-time financing for the solid mineral and mining space. A frontline push to diversify the economy of this country from oil,” he emphasized.

Hinting on the partnership, Sekibo explained, “the Collaboration between Heritage Bank and LCFE is designed to align the market to transparent price discovery, standardised platform for trading of commodities across defined asset classes and straight through processing to settlement.”

He affirmed that the promotion of investment in commodities ecosystem by Heritage Bank in partnership with LCFE in its various assets traded Agriculture, Solid Minerals, Oil and Gas and Currencies would increase liquidity support from local commodity exportation to boost the race for the $200billion in FX repatriation and reduce the pressure on exchange rate.

Sekibo added that the partnership was one of the many initiatives of the bank’s foundational objectives of wealth creation, preservation, and transfer across generation.

In his address, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu who appreciated the efforts of all the stakeholders, stated that the successful commissioning of LCFE will better fulfil the catalysts of growth which is to attract cutting-edge ideas and innovation and improve the inflow of financial transactions and great ideas that will enable businesses to flourish.

This, according to him, will improve the living environment, for businesses, and for the investments in Lagos and our country.

Akin Akeredolu-Ale, MD/CEO, LCFE said, “As we are all aware, the Capital size of the Nigerian Commodities Ecosystem is so large and like I have said in the past, it can be considered as a $1trillion economy cutting across Agriculture, Oil and Gas, Solid Minerals and Currency. With a capitalisation this large, it was important to lay the right foundation as the means determined the end for us and we could not afford, not to get it right.”

He said the Exchange identified that Nigeria’s crude oil has been traded extensively outside the country in Switzerland and other areas by large scale trading companies.

“Nigeria produces only high value, low sulphur content, light crude oils – Antan Blend, Bonny Light, Bonny Medium, Brass Blend, Escravos Light, Forcados Blend, IMA, Odudu Blend, Pennington Light, Qua-Iboe Light and Ukpokiti This makes Nigeria’s crude very desirable.

“By way of sovereignty, our oil and gas products should be traded and priced within Nigeria. 400,000bbls on arbitrage can be traded on the LCFE. Whenever prices drop, we can plan for our trades in the future. This will boost the balance sheet, enhance liquidity, and shore up the value of the Naira; External reserve will become both external and internal reserves. The Exchange is currently setting up frameworks and structures to achieve this and more details will unfold in due time,” Akeredolu-Ale explained.

He noted that one of the asset classes in which LCFE has made tremendous giant strides in is the Solid Minerals asset class.

“We noticed there was an urgent need for structure, regulation, funding, and data collation in this sector and this is where Commodities Exchanges play strategic roles in introducing structure to this ecosystem,” he stated.

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BOOSTING SMES GROWTH THROUGH FIRSTSME ACCOUNT

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited created FirstSME Account to add to its SME product family in support of small and medium scale business owners by sustaining and expanding their business. AMAKA IFEAKANDU looks at what the facility offers and how SMEs owners can key in to boost their businesses.

There is no doubt that Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) are essential for rapid and sustained economic growth and development of any nation, including Nigeria, Africa and other growing countries of the world. First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the nation’s most valuable bank brand, has over the years shown commitment towards the success and growth of SMEs business in Nigeria.

The bank has severally introduced different customised products to provide solution that would grow SMEs in the country. Given that SMEs industry is the backbone of the economic development and the major contributor to employment  opportunities and export growth, First Bank is committed to ensuring  the sector  sustains business growth by providing all the necessary financial support needed to grow their businesses and Nigeria economy at large.

Although the SME sector is awash with various industries and business, FirstBank is always at the forefront of packaging products and service that suit their various businesses. The bank, which has been in existence for over 127 years, has been a pillar of support to businesses in Nigeria and always develop the right products to provide flexible and dependable services that would help SMEs achieve the expected growth profile in all areas of their business lines.

 

FirstSME Account 

The FirstBank’s leading SME Initiative – FirstSME account – was specifically created on August 2020, to support SMEs towards the sustenance and expansion of their businesses.

The FirstSME account, which comes in two variants – FirstSME Classic and First SME Deluxe – is offered to SMEs irrespective of industry and a tailor-made current account with a clear value proposition aimed at harnessing the huge opportunities available in the SME sector in Nigeria.

The product also exposes SMEs to a wide range of services that are essential for their continued growth and playing their roles in contributing to national development.

Apart from supporting SMEs, FirstSME account is also available to all non-individual entities like Limited Liability Companies, Public sector institutions, Enterprises/Sole proprietorships, Partnerships & Associations, Religious Bodies, Traders NGOs.

Benefits to customers

FirstSME account has been beneficial to a lot of companies, especially SMEs, in terms enhancing the capacity to sustain growth. The major benefits of these accounts include; access to Temporary OverDrafts (TODs) and other facilities subject to meeting Risk Adjustment Capital (RAC) of each product; immediate enrollment on all digital platform; free access to FirstBank SME events; free access to extensive business promotional and networking opportunities on the SMEConnect portal; access to a wide range of discounted and promotional offers and access to SMEConnect.

Other opportunities

Other available opportunities for operating   FirstSME account is its connection to   SMEConnect initiative of FirstBank which is a platform through which SMEs access the bank’s unique description   that will equip them with the essential tools required for the growth of their business.

The SMEConnect portal is also designed to help SMEs identify various gaps affecting the growth of their business. Beyond financial support, SMEConnect offers strategic advisory services, business seminars periodic updates as well as information that will guide you in growing your business.

 

Importance of SMEConnect

SMEConnect is created to bring under one umbrella relevant resources, products and services aimed at helping SMEs in Nigeria. FirstBank has tailored -made products targeted at the specific needs of SMEs in Nigeria. These loan products have been designed for financing the activities of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) under the U-First Scheme

The leading financial institution also provides Business Advisory and Support services and business-oriented credit access, customer/market, financing structure, access/availability of raw materials sales/cash flow  projections, marketing/distribution/logistics  and business strategic plan.

The platform provides other features including the SME Connect blog, business categories, e-newsletter, special offer and upcoming events and programme.

Accessibility/criteria for opening account 

The FirstSME classic account is specifically designed to support small scale enterprises to   grow and scale up their business with a minimum opening and operating balance of N50,000 and turnover limit caps at N100 mIllion with annual maintenance charge on the excess at 0.50k/mile.

The account also attracts Zero/mile annual maintenance charge subject to minimum operating balance and turnover limit.

But on the other hand, the FirstSME Deluxe account expects holders to have minimum opening and operating balance of N500,000 and N1 million respectively with zero annual maintenance charge subject to minimum operating balance and with no turnover limit caps.

FirstSME Connect’s scope of coverage

FirstBank’s SMEConnect services cover small/medium scale manufacturing firms, merchants (both suppliers, distributors), professional firms including law, consulting, audit, agricultural, Churches, Mosques and NGOs whose annual debit turnover is between N5 million and N500 million.

SMEs and FirstBank’s FirstSMEs account

The FirstBank’s FirstSME account is unique when compared with other SMEs accounts operating  in the  nation’s banking industry and the  bank is passionate about helping SMEs to grow on all fronts

 Another thing that makes the product stands out from products of other banks  is that FirstSME customers get to enjoy services such as; zero account maintenance charge, access to webinar/training, various credit facilities, workplace resources, access to SMEConnect portal and directory and It is specially made for MSMEs and SMEs.

SMEs’ importance  to FirstBank 

 Across the globe and Nigeria in particular, SMEs are known to be responsible for the majority of new jobs created and they are crucial to Nigeria’s success in the global economy, in so many ways namely: For government, SMEs, contribute to wealth creation and generate tax revenues; in business, SMEs represent an important source of innovation and in the society, they are an important source of employment.

Furthermore, SMEs drive consumption because they operate in every sector of the economy, and they have extensive local knowledge of resources, supply patterns and purchasing trends. In the same vein, the sector constitutes an important source of local supply and service provisions to larger corporations and makes a significant contribution to the revenue profile of most financial institutions.  The SME sector stimulates growth and development within the economy.

NBS data

Available data from Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that SMEs in Nigeria have contributed about 48 per cent of the national GDP in the last five years, account for 96 per cent of business and 84 per cent employment. With about 1.7 million people , the sector accounted for about 50 per cent of the industrial jobs. In other word, SMEs is one of the sectors that cannot be ignored in any given country

These also imply that First Bank of Nigeria Limited understands what it takes to turn around the nation’s economy, knowing fully well that supporting the SMEs will bring multiple effects on individuals, society and economy in general.

The bank also has deeper understanding that providing support, loans facilities and training to SMEs through SMEConnect would not only help their business to thrive, but increase employment opportunities, reduce high rate of crime, open doors for more investments in the country and bring return on investment and increase  individual’s  ability to save.

Impacts beneficiaries/economy 

The FirstBank FirstSME account will go a long way to reducing cost of operating corporate account which frees up funds for the beneficiaries to grow their businesses faster. The resultant effect on the economy is the increased growth of SMEs.

Challenges of SMEs

Without any iota of doubt, the SMEs in the country is faced  with different challenges ranging from poor capital structure, high cost of production, limited access to long term funds, poor business continuity/succession plan, weak value chain: supply, distribution, logistics, poor managerial and technical skills to lack of access to international market.

 The FirstBank’s FirstSME account has  provided an answer to some of the SMEs challenges by its readiness and commitment to  providing  the Nigerian SMEs with the  necessary support needed to grow their various businesses

In all, for any SMEs company  to move its business to the next level- both locally and internationally-, such business owner needs to open FirstSME account to avail him/herself of all the advantages provided by First Bank of Nigeria through its SMEConnect.

Operating FirstSME account is one step away from any form of distress, as all the  training opportunities from SMEconnect and credit facilities embedded in the account  will help to revive the company and place it on the path of growth.

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FIRSTBANK BAGS A HAT TRICK OF AWARDS AT THE GLOBAL BANKING AND FINANCE AWARDS 2021

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider, has been awarded the 2021 ‘’Retail Banking CEO of the Year Nigeria’’, ‘’Most innovative Retail Banking App Nigeria’’ and ‘’Best CSR Bank Nigeria’’ awards by Global Banking and Finance magazine.

The respective awards conferred on the Bank are in recognition of the indelible roles it plays in deepening financial inclusion in the country; advancing the digital banking eco-system as well as impacting people in its host communities with technology to make learning available to individuals of all ages, amongst many others.

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 recognize companies of all sizes which are prominent areas of expertise and excellence within the financial world.

With its over 750 branches and 100,000 Firstmonie Agent banking network spread across the nook and cranny of the country, FirstBank’s robust retail banking framework has been at the forefront of bridging the financial exclusion gap, thereby empowering Nigerians to carry out their financial and business-driven activities in contributing to national growth and development.

Also, in order to put customers ahead in enjoying state of the art digital banking services, the Bank’s industry-leading banking application, FirstMobile, is configured with modern banking functionalities which are regularly upgraded and designed with self-service features to ease the navigation capability and proficiency of customers to carry out their respective transactions with no hassles.

The smart banking application is also embedded with a card protection service for customers to enable and disable cards on channels, account switch off as well as second-factor authentication and device registration. With the upgraded FirstMobile, customers can remotely initiate the request for a new debit card as well as the replacement of a lost or damaged one.

Woven into the fabric of society for over 127 years, overcoming challenges and remaining a dominant player in Nigeria’s financial services landscape, FirstBank has been partnering and supporting various sustainable activities towards the continued growth of its host communities and the nation at large.

As a responsible corporate organisation committed to supporting all its stakeholders in the most sustainable manner possible, the bank partnered with various state governments through the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) intervention to promote the readiness and efficiency of health care professionals and other compatriots at the forefront of fighting the pandemic.

The Bank also forged a formidable partnership with the Lagos State government, Robert & John, IBM and Curious Learning amongst others to promote e-learning of school children that were affected by lockdown at the height of the pandemic. The initiative is still enjoyed by thousands of individuals, irrespective of age.

Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, the CEO of FirstBank commenting on the awards said ‘’we are proud to be recognized with these awards, which speak to the investments we have made over the past years in bolstering our electronic platforms for our customers; enhancing financial inclusion through agent banking as well as empowering our communities in the education space especially by bridging the digital divide through e-learning initiative.

These awards are dedicated to all our 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 to putting You, our customers First as we contribute to the growth and development of our host communities” he concluded.

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THE VOICE NIGERIA: FIRSTBANK IMPRINTS IN ENTERTAINMENT, YOUTHS DEVELOPMENT

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By Israel Bolaji-Gbadamosi

One of the key metrics that well defines a truly 21st century brand beyond profit making is its ability to connect with customers and stakeholders as a complete enabler, touching on vital aspects of their lives, creating exciting memories and enabling them to access more enjoyable and convenient lifestyle, in shopping, studying, working, traveling, family living, entertainment and aspirations.

Its ability to also give back to the community through tangible corporate social investment programs that significantly translate to improved living and not just mere formality and publicity stunts is also pertinent.

First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is giving a good account of itself in this regard not only as a truly financial powerhouse but also as a life enabler, helping Nigerians live better and achieve their dreams.

In retrospect, banking, decades ago, was essentially about providing financial services and products to merely aid customers’ financial transactions. However, the smart ones are indeed changing the game. Not only is the envelope being pushed to ensure that the unbanked are banked through financial inclusion offers even to the remotest villages, FirstBank has taken banking to another level. Backed by superior technology firepower and capacity, it is assisting not only adults but also Nigerian youths to live better and fulfil their dreams.

The Nigerian nation and the most populous black nation of the world indeed has a youths bulge as observed by many experts with a growing army of young and vibrant people below 25 years of age constituting over 60% of its 200million population! While an unrelenting rate of unemployment, weak economy, soaring inflation and despair appear to dominate the national mentality, many youths are finding solace in entertainment, breaking the ceiling with their creative ingenuity, shunning out award winning hits and in fact making global headlines in music and other entertainment offshoots like movies, comedy skits and contemporary dance.

Nigeria’s 29 year old singer, Damini Ogulu popularly called Burna Boy in March shocked the world winning the world’s most coveted Grammy Award in the Best World Music category during the 63rd annual edition in Los Angeles Atlanta while another 30 year old Nigerian artiste, Ayo Balogun aka Wizkid was also a co-winner in the Best Music Video category for Beyonce’s Brown Skin Girl. These young Nigerian global music icons were raised and honed their skills in the suburbs of Nigeria through home grown competitions and platforms.

Music reality shows have also unveiled and nurtured music and entertainment talents like Timi Dakolo, Iyanya, Praise, Omawumi and other A-list musicians in Nigeria. This is why FirstBank’s intervention and sponsorship of a music and youths talents harnessing platform like The Voice Nigeria is strategic and instructive, and quite capable of helping to harness and nurture music and entertainment talents into celebrated musicians, make global stars of Nigerian youths, and truly help them achieve their dreams. Obviously, Firstbank has been a prominent force visibly empowering talents and the nation, and without the much-needed lifeline, many young talents would be taking to crime or other vices.

For over 127 years, the premier bank has been at the forefront of nation building; supporting through resourceful partnerships to build the Nigerian creative industry value chain which contributed 2.3 per cent (N239 billion) to Nigeria’s GDP in 2016 (NBS).

The bank’s support for the Voice Nigeria is also a demonstration of its commitment to contributing to the projected revenue of US$86m by 2021 from the Nigeria’s music industry aimed at promoting a diversified economy in line with the Federal Government’s diversification policy.

The bank assured that it has given voice to Nigerians for the past 127 years, and will continue to give voice to Nigerians by creating employment, economic empowerment in the country through its products, services and initiatives and it remains committed to strengthening the creative industry which is fast growing into a multibillion-dollar business, with potential to be a leading contributor to Nigeria’s GDP in the near future.

In fact, FirstBank has the network; reach and digital capability to enable the Voice. With its agent banking network across the nooks and crannies in country, it is helping in the search for the talent that will become a true inspiration to all.

True to the name, the Voice Nigeria has lived up to its promise, as it offers exciting and relaxing entertainment to families, music lovers, and other entertainment loving Nigerians who look forward to fresh seasons and episode of the well-crafted music program.

Now in its season 3, the Reality TV show has been a masterpiece in the last six episodes of the current season as viewers are serenaded by several awesome performances and display of raw talents on the show’s blind auditions which ended on Saturday, May 1. The episode ended with raging emotions, exhilarating sensations and blistering anticipation as the four judges – Falz The Bad Guy, Waje, Yemi Alade and Dare Art Alade had one final opportunity to forge their winning team.

So far, the coaches, hosts, producers and amazing talents have been a great delight to watch. They have been awesome with their good-natured banters, hilarious drama, top-notch fashion, electrifying opening performances, talent courting speeches, and chair turning and bell thumping spectacle. The optics is exciting! The expectation on the show has been so intense; you could cut with a butter knife. The coaches’ approach at winning talents over to their team has been fun and a fine blend.

There were no holds barred, as the judges were very warm, animated, upbeat, inspiring and full of energy. They were definitely not a team of avuncular examiners waiting to pass judgments. They brought much gusto and effect to the big stage! While Falz threw up his magical comic card severally, Dare maintained the cool dude posture while Yemi and Waje both brought on the alluring feminine appeal with Waje sometimes speaking in Igbo to convince a talent. In all, they fared well, each getting a fair share of talents to mentor and their combination depicted a perfect combo.

The talents on their part have not disappointed viewers. They came in different shades across both genders, with varying voice textures, mix and pitches – smooth, silky, velvet, shrill, husky, coarse or simply rough. And to the best of their abilities, they did justice to many songs, including some classic tunes and old hits. The creative fusion of multiple genres of music by some smart talents who beautifully delivered unique blend of music made good impressions which won the judges hearts. The awful looks on the faces of those who the judges would simply not behold, having failed to captivate their attention with the voice. The uncontrollable joy of those who got the bell ring and standing ovation and the incredible looks on their loved ones who came to show support. Not forgetting the jazzy presence and reassurances from the co-hosts including Toke Makinwa and Nancy Ikime which also complimented the soothing potpourri.

Interestingly, FirstBank made some smart moves on the show, with the bold inscription of “This is the moment you have been waiting for, Time to put You First”, clearly displayed at the entry of the contestant for the stage performance. This reinforces the bank’s thrust as an inspiration to motivate the talents and youths at large to excellence. It has also promised viewers mouth-watering prizes just by watching the show regularly and following updates on FirstBank verified social media handles.

Now that the Blind auditions stage has come to an end, it is game on! The next phase of the show is the highly anticipated Knockout Stage which starts on May 8. In this stage, the coaches will select the most outstanding talents to proceed to the battles. In this stage, there is so much to come and fans will certainly not be ready for all that is in store.

More than ever, the show’s fans are hopeful that the knockout stage will even be more entertaining but that will certainly not be a challenge with the dexterity of the handlers so far.

With all that has been seen so far, it is difficult to believe that this is only the beginning; it is certain that there is so much more to come.

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