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FirstBank: Redefining the ‘Heritage’ of first’ with smart digital banking



By Ehime Alex, (National Accord)


As information technology evolves rapidly, the disruption or advancement in the banking sector will continue to be digitised. Only the bank that can transform itself into truly effective digital organisation and embrace the changes in digital technologies and consumer behaviour will survive and thrive in both the current and future digital environments.

Leveraging experience spanning over a century of dependable services, Nigeria’s premier financial institution, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, also called FirstBank, has kept pace with the evolving global operating environment, responding to the dynamic needs of its customers, investors, regulators, host communities, employees and other stakeholders. Through a balanced approach to plan execution, this iconic banking Brand has consolidated its industry leadership by maintaining trans-generational appeal and continually boosting its customer-base, which cuts across all segments in terms of size, structure and sectors.

With these unbroken business operations experience, FirstBank has continued to build relationships and alliances with key sectors of the economy that have served as strategic building blocks for the wellbeing, growth and development of the country. Also, with its huge asset base and expansive branch network, as well as continuous re-invention, this Nigeria’s strongest banking franchise has maintained market leadership on all fronts in the nation’s financial services industry.

Minds are still refreshing on the 125 years anniversary of this leading financial services solutions provider in Nigeria. A milestone that will continue to speak volume of FirstBank’s journey through the ages, her footprints traversing the nook and cranny of Nations with indelible landmarks of several firsts in the development of the banking industry in Nigeria, and contributions to banking sectors across Africa, the World at large.

It cannot be forgotten in a hurry, not so soon, how on Friday, March 1, 2019, FirstBank had the world stand still as it held its symbolic flag hoisting ceremony across Nigeria and other countries where it does business – a historic happening which officially flags off the bank’s commemoration of attaining the milestone year of 125th.

The last 125 years has passed, FirstBank says it is now focusing in building for the next 125 years and beyond to purposefully blaze the trail in its industry thereby sustaining leadership position and remaining youthful; an effort, no doubt, that is aimed at redefining the “Heritage of First” into the world of digital banking.

According to the digital banking report for 2018, in the past, providing a seamless customer experience has only ever been secondary to other higher priority items for banking institutions.  This has to change to providing digital solutions for customers in and out of the institutional doors.

Meanwhile, before the transition to digital banking in Nigeria, conventional banking system had held sway which historically started in 1952. As it lasted, the industry witnessed a lot of regulatory and institutional advances, with FirstBank notable as one of the five out of 89 banks then; and all through, when in 2004 the banking industry went through reformation.

It could be observed that, when today’s customers evaluate financial institutions, they don’t compare different banks anymore, they compare experiences that impact everything in their lives as consumers for better than ever, with real-time, smart digital services being delivered through various devices 24/7 at the snap of their fingertips.

To survive the digital environment, FirstBank has continued to put in place the right framework to compete and succeed in the banking industry of the future, with goals set to create more efficient operations, higher profits and happier customers, “You First”.

According to FirstBank’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the digital banking offerings of the Bank have been optimised to ensure ease of banking and convenience via other channels such as FirstMobile app, Firstonline, FirstMonie, USSD banking and WhatsApp banking. Fundamental shifts where staying relevant means becoming an active part of a customer’s digital life!

Explaining about the chat banking on WhatsApp, during one of its occasions, FirstBank’s CEO said, “It is one of the ways First Bank puts You First and enables you to stay connected with your contacts, loved ones, friends and finances all on the go while you chat with them because, at First Bank, we are driven to bolster relationships on all fronts, anywhere and anytime.”

It can also be recalled that, Dr Adeduntan said, “Mobile and digital banking leverages native and responsive digital innovations to deliver aesthetically consistent physical and digital experiences to customers. Thus, we deliver real time event driven information and offer to proactively serve the immediate and long term financial needs of customers.”

As the saying does go, with digital opportunity comes digital risk, FirstBank recognises that as customers continue to gravitate to the ease and speed of digital banking, the associated risks will be on the rise.

Telling it as it were to curb the anticipated risks head-on, FirstBank CEO said, “We have adopted a disciplined approach to deliver unique customer experiences through best in class value and customer service; enabling customers to initiate, pause and restart transactions across various channels at any time. Also, we use advanced analytics to evaluate customer behaviour, determine preferences and deliver personalised customer services.” The FirstBank Boss added that, “The bank is focusing on the feelings and behaviour with the aim to provide real value for the customers so as to have a positive impact with the product and the services provided to its customers.”

With FirstBank’s involvement in every stage of national growth and development, the Bank has recorded laudable feats since the advent of digital banking in Nigeria. Starting from 1991, when the Bank introduced first ATM (automated teller machine) in Marina, Lagos, it now has more than 2,700 ATMs across its 730 business locations, 18,000 Agent Banking spread and has earned itself the 2nd Bank in Africa and 1st in Nigeria to issue 10 million cards.

In 2007, FirstBank introduced the innovative credit administration software called Innovative Finnone credit administration software, being the first bank in Africa to pioneer the service. Other notable corporate transformation projects included the launch of FirstContact, the 24/7 multi-lingual integrated and interactive customer service contact centre, a key component of FirstBank’s service delivery transformation, which revolutionised customer feedback processes.

FirstBank is also the first to launch Biometric ATM in Nigeria, consistent with its tradition of pioneering far-reaching innovation in the financial services industry. In 2010, FirstBank becomes the first organisation to be granted notable international standardization certifications, the prestigious Information Security Management System (ISMS) Certification, which is the world’s highest accreditation for information protection and security; and Business Continuity Management System Certification, both from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), following rigorous certification processes by the British Standards Institution (BSI), a leading organization in the field of auditing management systems and processes.

In 2011, FirstBank launched the first Cash Deposit ATM. The Bank has earned recognition as the “Most Innovative Bank in Africa” by the African Banker, attesting to its forward-thinking approach; and named “Nigeria’s Number One Banking Brand” by Brand Finance Top 500 Banking Brands by The Banker, an international banking magazine published by Financial Times, Ltd.

Acknowledged by Interswitch, Africa-focused integrated digital payments and commerce company, as the first financial institution in Nigeria to achieve 100 million sustained monthly transactions in electronic payment, in December 2015 and again in May 2016. Same year, FirstBank celebrated 20 years of partnership with Western Union Money Transfer.

In 2017, FirstBank total number of Firstmonie (FirstBank money wallet) users hit 4,035,307 and with over 6 million digital banking users (the fastest mobile banking penetration across Africa).

Indeed, FirstBank is the first indigenous organisation in Nigeria to launch Human Resource Solution in the Cloud. As at 2018, it won Best Retail Bank in Nigeria (an award given by the renowned Asian Banker Awards) for the 7th consecutive time. In that same year, processes the highest number of transactions on electronic channels in the industry annually, representing above 1.6 billion (about 33 per cent of the industry volume).

Awarded a second time back-to-back recognition for Digital Bank of Distinction, Nigeria; Firstbank, last year, won the Best Bank in Nigeria award for the 15th time, both by Global Finance Magazine.

By and large, FirstBank continues to seek out better solutions to digitise its offerings whilst optimising its workflow and lowering operational costs for the future ahead in digital banking.

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Zenith Bank appoints Henry Oroh Executive Director, Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, Non Executive Director



Henry Oroh, Executive Director, Zenith Bank Plc

Also, the Board has approved the appointment of Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, FCA, as an Independent Non-Executive Director.

Both appointments are effective September 1, 2019, and have been approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Henry Oroh holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from the University of Benin, Edo State and an MBA from the Lagos State University as well as an LLB Degree from the University of Lagos. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN), Nigeria.

He has over two decades of banking experience. He began his banking career in 1992 at Citibank where he served for seven (7) years in Operations, Treasury and Marketing.

He joined Zenith Bank in February 1999 and has worked in various Groups and Departments within the Zenith Group Office. His expertise spans Operations, Information Technology, Treasury, Marketing, including the Manufacturing, Food and Beverages, Pharmaceuticals, Oil and Gas, Public Sector, Consumer, as well as Corporate Banking and Business Development.

In April 2012, he was seconded to Zenith Bank Ghana Limited as an Executive Director and became the Managing Director/ Chief Executive in February 2016, where he successfully spearheaded the phenomenal growth of the Zenith Brand both within the Ghana market and the West African sub-region.

Henry has attended several Leadership Programmes and Executive Management Courses at the Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, New York, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, HEC Paris, JP Morgan Chase, UK and the Lagos Business School.

He comes to the Board of Zenith Bank Plc with strong competencies in Credit & Marketing, Operations, Information Technology, Treasury and impressive Leadership skills.

Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar is currently the Managing Director of Apt Pensions Funds Managers Limited.

He is a graduate of the Leeds Polytechnic, UK. He is a renowned Chartered Accountant and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

Dr. Abubakar has extensive and tremendous experience in the financial services industry, audit and consulting. He worked with the firm of Akintola Williams Deloitte between January 2000 and November 2008, and rose to become the Partner and Board Member of West Africa sub-region. Prior to this, he had served on the Board of several financial institutions in Nigeria.

He has attended several management and leadership training programmes and conferences both within and outside the country.

He brings to the Board of the bank tremendous track record in Risk Management, Credit & Marketing, Auditing and very outstanding leadership skills.

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FirstBank Agric Expo set to promote new Agribusiness opportunities  



Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has announced that its 2019 FirstBank Agric Expo would hold on Friday, 30 August 2019 at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos. The 2019 edition – the third in the series –  is themed “Agricultural Value Chain – Spotlighting Opportunities and Managing Risks” would have Professor Benedict Oramah, President of AFREXIM Bank as the Keynote Speaker.

The annual FirstBank Agric Expo, launched in 2017 provides the lead in national discourse on sustainable agriculture value-chain as a substantial source of Nigeria’s economic development, improved contribution to her balance of trade as well as foreign exchange.The 2019 edition would host over 600 delegates and over 60 exhibitors to display the latest technology in farm equipment, tools and machineries as well as packaged finished agricultural produce, logistics and supply, thereby keeping the participants and sundry agribusiness practitioners abreast with new opportunities in the Agricultural industry.

Besides the plenary session, the expo will feature three (3) Masterclasses with in-depth analysis on specific areas of Agribusiness, facilitated by enterprising Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The Masterclass facilitators include Mr. Leonard Anyanwu, Group Executive Director, Saro International Limited; Mr Segun Ogunwale, Team Lead, Kominity Digital and Mr Bamidele Ayemibo Managing Director, 3T Impex Trade Centrewho will provide insight as well as share success stories and experiences.

Expressing his delight on FirstBank’s leading role at not just promoting Agriculture but diversifying the Nigerian economy, the CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan said ”in the last 125 years, more than any other financial institution, we have played a key role in financing different sectors of not just the Nigerian economy but other economies in sub-Saharan Africa. As Nigeria expands opportunities in its non-oil sector – especially Agriculture – we remain committed to the growth of the agricultural sector and its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.”

“Our consistency in convening the FirstBank Agric Expo, which is in its third consecutive edition, is a demonstration of our commitment to building the agribusiness economy which is capable of delivering sustained prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, supporting sustainable income and creating employment opportunities”, he concluded

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Unity Bank partners Signal Alliance and Businessday to host SME Clinic



As part of collaborative initiative to consistently promote Small & Medium scale enterprises (SMEs), Unity Bank recently held its maiden edition of SME clinic in conjunction with Signal Alliance and Businessday Newspaper as a capacity building workshop to bridge knowledge gap.

The SME clinic was designed to boost SMEs operators by leveraging effective branding and marketing strategy expected to play key role in creating added value for products and making start up become a big brand enterprise.

Coming on the verge of the 5th industrial revolution and the need to put SMEs ahead of the fast paced developments, the clinic provided platform to expose participants drawn amongst Fintech operators, Retailers, Social services, Schools, Contractors, Professional service firms, Wholesalers, Manufacturers, Hospitality, NGOs, Clubs and Associations, Supplies and Agric value chain to the opportunities available as convergence of technology and human begin to take center stage.

Commenting on the Clinic, the Head of SME, Unity Bank Plc, Opeyemi Ojesina said that as a key market focus contributing about 48% of the national GDP in the last five year, 50% of industrial jobs and nearly 90% of the manufacturing sector in terms of number of enterprises, hosting a capacity building initiative of this nature enables the Bank to have more insight for enhancing financial inclusion plan for SMEs.

He further stated that as a leading Bank in the advocacy for SME, Unity Bank has developed innovative products for SMEs aimed at enhancing greater access to financial services, financial advisory and cluster marketing initiatives.

Participants were of the view that the SME clinic gave practical insights into techniques for creating distinctive brand concept centered on consumers and appreciated the three entities that organized the workshop.

The Chief Technology Officer, Signal Alliance, Mr Uchechi Nwaukwa used the platform to launch CloudGo, an IT product built on Microsoft cloud platform.

As a “solution that enhances communication, collaboration and scales innovation for business becomes a necessity” he further stated that “the product is a results of huge investment in IT infrastructure which helps to overcome upgrade challenges, enhance data protection and disaster recovery challenges faced by small businesses.

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