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FINTECH 5.0: Evaluating How FirstBank Strengthens Collaboration

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…To drive financial inclusion

It was Sir Isaac Newton, in his letter to Robert Hooke in 1675, who wrote the now-famous quote: “If I have seen further (than others), it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

The shoulders of giants Sir Newton referred to has to do with leverage provided by the discoveries and experiences of people who have gone before or walked that same path earlier, that pave the way for and enable other people and a new generation to take things to a totally new dimension.

The truth is, giants whose shoulders provide such leverage to the next generation can be found in various fields and various nations. In Nigeria, for example, such giants exist in various fields and they are known and recognised.

Take the fintech (financial technology) space in Nigeria, where one bank is known to have stood as a giant with very broad shoulders, having capacities that have been built up and accumulated over 127 continuous years. Every year since 2016 (apart from 2017 when it was implementing ideas from 2016, including a Digital Innovation Lab), this well-recognised bank has provided a platform for the most robust engagement of the fintech industry in Nigeria. Tagged Fintech Summit, the annual engagement has continued to help in catalysing the fintech sector to ever-higher levels from year to year.

Held in Lagos the commercial capital of Nigeria and arguably the fintech capital of Africa, given Nigeria’s status as the leading nation in the fintech space in Africa, the annual FirstBank Fintech Summit has attracted an average of a thousand participants, who are mostly fintech owners, workers and enthusiasts, yearly. Last year’s Summit, Fintech Summit 4.0 with the theme

“How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt Fintech in Nigeria”, however, drew an unprecedented number of participants – over 6,000 from across 52 different countries. It was the first virtual Summit due to the restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and it featured as keynote speaker Silicon Valley-based innovator of international repute, Chinedu Echeruo, who founded HopStop that was later sold to Apple for US$1 billion. Imagine the inspiration, dreams and aspirations young people soak up while listening to speakers with such a profile.

Far from being one-directional – with all the talk flowing from only the speaker to the audience – the yearly Summit is actually a platform for multidimensional engagement involving various stakeholders in the fintech industry – operators, regulators, investors, enthusiasts, fintech journalists and writers, bankers, et cetera.

It offers an unequalled opportunity for networking among fintech and other stakeholders, leading to opportunities for collaboration within the community. For small businesses and start-ups powered by FirstBank’s support, the annual Summit has been a veritable platform for showcasing them. The platform has also served for the announcement of policy initiatives coupled with pronouncements that provide clarifications to policy. This is due to invitations extended to regulators and the important role they are assigned in conversations facilitated during the Summit.

The Summit that preceded last year’s, i.e., the third edition of Fintech Summit 3.0 held in 2019, featured another heavyweight in Nigeria’s fintech industry, Victor Asemota, founder of Swifta Systems & Services, as keynote speaker. The theme “Banking + Tech = Solving Real Problems”, included panel sessions featuring experts with over two hundred combined years of experience in both the financial and technological industries.

They applied their knowledge, expertise and experience to address challenges in the technologically-driven business world, structured in terms of Solving Business Problems; Solving Regulatory, Security and Legal Problems; and Solving Lifestyle Problems. At the end of the Summit, participants must have felt that the Summit delivered on the confidence the Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Adesola Adeduntan, had expressed when he remarked in his welcome address, “I am optimistic that every organisation represented here will be empowered to provide services with greater speed and solve real societal problems to the advantage of the Nigerian populace through the insights that will be gained from this event.“

Fintech Summit 3.0 had built on the success of the second edition, Fintech Summit 2.0 held in 2018, which had “The Future of Banking – The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data” as a theme. Adia Sowho, the Managing Director of Mines in Nigeria, had, as the first keynote speaker, stressed the importance of collaboration between legacy banks and fintechs in the overall good of their shared financial services space. The Deputy Managing Director of FirstBank, Gbenga Shobo, had, in his welcome address, said that FirstBank was committed to finding the right balance in its approach in supporting the budding fintech industry. It is gratifying that the bank has since found that right balance and pushed ahead enthusiastically with the continual annual engagement that is its yearly Fintech Summit.

For those who like to bring up the argument that deposit money banks (DMBs) and fintech are rivals competing in the same space for the same customers and wonder why FirstBank, a leading deposit money bank, would itself be involved in efforts to catalyse the fintech industry, they need to wake up and smell the coffee. FirstBank is continuously evolving and staying on the cutting edge of technology in order to better serve its customers, who are themselves evolving and adapting to newer and more efficient and convenient technologies as they become available.

And FirstBank is on a journey to a future where it is happy, in the spirit of the African tradition of Ubuntu, to take all fintech along with it. In the words of another famous quote, “The sky is too big for two [or many] big birds flying in it to collide.” FirstBank believes there is ample room for all players – deposit money banks, fintech, et cetera – to fulfil their unique roles. Therefore, collaboration, not competition, is FirstBank’s watchword. And FirstBank considers fintech partners in progress in its avowed commitment to driving financial inclusion.

FirstBank’s own evolution and the transition is causing some people to question its continuous classification by the Central Bank as a deposit money bank (with a preponderance of bricks-and-mortar banking operations) rather than a digital bank. And the reasons for their argument cannot be easily waved aside. In 2020, for example, over 85 per cent of the banking transactions that were required by customers of FirstBank were performed on the bank’s self-service channels.

That means customers of the bank only needed the attention of the bank’s staff or branches for just 15 per cent of all the banking transactions they required in 2020. There are now as many as over 16 million customers between FirstBank’s digital channels of online banking (called FirstOnline), mobile banking (christened FirstMobile) and USSD banking (called *894# quick banking).

Between FirstOnline and FirstMobile, a growth of 21 per cent in the user base was experienced in 2020. Customers on both platforms conducted approximately 256 million transactions worth N15.7 trillion in the same year. FirstOnline, as of June 2021, had an impressive 597,466 customers on the service, a 17 per cent growth on the previous year and 578,292 transactions per month, averaging a value of N388 billion per month.

For FirstMobile, besides the impressive gain in numbers, it gained recognition as “Best Mobile Banking App” at the Global Finance Best Digital Bank Awards, for providing excellent self-service through its user-friendly app. FirstMobile had, as of June 2021, 4,596,203 users on the platform, which is a nine per cent growth on the previous year and an average of 27,730,830 transactions every month. While these numbers point to the giant statue of the bank, none of it excites FirstBank as much as Firstmonie, because of its invaluable role in driving financial inclusion at the grassroots level, one of FirstBank’s overriding commitments.

Firstmonie, the agent banking network of FirstBank, currently has over 130,000 agents across the country, making it the largest bank-led agent network anywhere in Africa. As the foremost financial inclusion service in the country, it has achieved over 750 million transactions worth N15 trillion (about US$30 billion) processed from inception to date.

Over 295 million of those transactions with a total value of N6.65 trillion were processed in 2020 alone – the same year COVID-19 caused widespread disruptions across the globe. Firstmonie agency banking scheme has empowered agents across all Local Government Areas in the country, providing employment to thousands of people.

FirstBank through the Firstmonie platform further supports the fintech industry via partnership collaborations with local and international fintechs. All these are geared towards expanding financial inclusion and providing a variety of services to customers of the bank with giant shoulders that customers and fintechs can stand on to see further.

As for Sir Isaac Newton, the giant of a scientist whose famous quote began this piece, if he could read us from the grave, he would feel very proud today to see that celebrated line from his 1675 letter being aptly used to represent the relationship that exists between the broad, energetic and dynamic shoulders of Nigeria’s banking behemoth, FirstBank, and the rapidly emerging beautiful bride of Nigeria’s economic sectors, the fintech industry. This relationship climaxes every year in the annual Fintech Summit and the forthcoming Fintech Summit 5.0 promises to take the relationship to a whole new dimension.

Culled from BusinessDay

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Stanbic IBTC Showcases Strong CSI Through Together4ALimb Initiative, Others

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As a socially responsible organisation, Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC is big on positively impacting lives within its host communities in Nigeria through its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives.

Stanbic IBTC’s CSI is hinged on three core pillars: education, health, and economic empowerment, and aims to meaningfully contribute to enhancing the wellbeing of Nigerian communities, especially at the grassroots.

One of such is the Together4ALimb initiative, where the company provides support to enhance the quality of life of children with missing limbs. Through the provision of prosthetics and educational trust funds worth millions of naira, Stanbic IBTC ensures these young people can live a normal and productive life like their counterparts.

The Organisation understands the need to make an impact in the lives of children living with missing limbs, either by birth or via accidents, and is determined to do so through its signature CSI. It is important to give these children hope for the future, and enable them see the endless possibilities for greatness in life, irrespective of societal prejudices they face owing to their circumstances,  which could pose a threat to the achievement of their dreams and aspirations. The educational trust support provides a platform for  young people to access quality education needed to enable them maximize their potential and become whatever they want to be.

The signature CSI comes with an awareness drive, “Together4ALimb charity walk”, which is designed to draw attention to this health challenge and hopefully garner financial and government support for survivors. The annual Together4ALimb walk has recorded over 5,000 participants since inception.

Stanbic IBTC reiterates its commitment to empowering and creating better narratives for communities in Nigeria. In 2021, the Organisation took on several value-driven charitable initiatives such as  school renovations, orphanage, nursing homes and special needs centre visitations, , all targeted at empowering and enriching the lives of less privileged Nigerians.

A memorable CSI initiative taken on last year by the organization was a visit to the Ketu Special Children Centre, where the organisation presented medical and physiotherapy equipment to the facility. The donations made will go a long way to help improve the wellbeing of children living with cerebral palsy, a condition which causes other health issues like vision impairment, hearing and speech problems, and learning disabilities.

Other CSI initiatives taken on by Stanbic IBTC last year include the presentation of hospital equipment to Batagarawa Primary Health Care, Katsina; presentation of a CT Scan room and other medical facilities to Mother and Child Hospital, Kano State; the donation of medical items to Mother and Child Hospital, Ebonyi State; the commissioning of a borehole donated to the LEA Primary School FCT Abuja; renovation of the Antenatal Care Unit at General Hospital, Mushin, Lagos, as well as empowering young people via financial knowledge on the World Savings Day in various schools nationwide and mentoring sessions for students at Estate Senior Grammar School, Ilupeju, amongst others

Stanbic IBTC is focused on delivering relevant and impactful CSI projects in communities where development is most needed. In 2022, Stanbic IBTC promises to deliver more social and economic initiatives to facilitate growth and improve the welfare of the Nigerian communities, especially those in rural areas.

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Future Face Africa: Ecobank Leads As 18 Models Qualify for Grand Finale in Lagos

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Ecobank Nigeria says it is a proud partner of the Future Face Africa (FFA) model talent search as preparation reaches concluding phase to host the grand finale of the competition in Lagos, Nigeria. After a rigorous selection process involving physical castings in 8 African countries, as well as thousands of digital applications from all over the world, the Future Face Africa judges have selected 18 finalists who will be flown into Lagos, for a shot at turning their modelling aspirations into a reality.

The Grand Finale event will be taking place on Sunday, 30th January 2022 at Eko Hotel & Suites, where models will be competing for a chance to win a 2-year modelling contract with a top international modelling agency, as well as a $5,000 USD cash prize.

Commending the FFA project, Head Marketing and Corporate Communication, Ecobank Nigeria, Babajide Sipe said Ecobank has increasingly shown that it means well in its intent to promote Africa’s finest in lifestyle vis-a-viz giving talented young people the opportunity for global stardom and to become African Fashion Icons.

“Future Face Africa aligns with Ecobank’s commitment to providing a veritable platform for actualizing the dreams of many young talents who will participate in the competition by gracing the international stage and ultimately interested in the fashion and beauty industry”.

Future Face Africa, no doubt Africa’s largest model search competition is headed by Elizabeth Isiorho, a pioneer in the African modelling industry and the founder of Beth Model Management Africa, Africa’s largest modelling agency, and the organisation behind Future Face Africa. Over the past 17 years, Beth Model Management has served as an industry pacesetter, helping to launch the careers of dozens of internationally placed models, and has cultivated some of the best talents in the industry, such as Mayowa Nicholas and Davidson Obennebo.

Elizabeth Isiorho previously organised Elite Model Look Nigeria, but after a 2-year hiatus, re-emerged with Future Face Africa to expand her model search beyond the borders of Nigeria alone, and offer a wider range of hopefuls a chance at success.

FFA will be giving opportunities to people from various countries, backgrounds and skin tones, aiming to go beyond the buzzwords of “diversity” and “inclusivity” to create an initiative that truly celebrates the range of beauty that the industry has to offer.

FFA will be equipping selected models with the knowledge and skills to achieve international success and to have long-lasting careers in a very competitive industry. For these models, Future Face Africa will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that could change their lives forever.

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Nestlé Wins 2022 Top Employer Award, Promises More Safety, Wellbeing Practices

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The 2022 Top Employers have been announced and Nestlé has been recognised as a Top Employer in Nigeria.

Being certified as a Top Employer showcases an organisation’s dedication to a better world of work, exhibited through excellent HR policies and people practices.

Mr. Wassim Elhusseini, MD/CEO of Nestlé Nigeria PLC says, “We are pleased with the recognition as a Top Employer 2022 and will continue to focus on the wellbeing and safety of our people who are indeed our greatest assets.”

The Top Employers Institute programme certifies organisations based on the participation and results of their HR Best Practices Survey. The survey covers six HR domains consisting of 20 topics including People Strategy, Work Environment, Talent Acquisition, Learning, Well-being, Diversity & Inclusion and more.

David Plink, CEO, Top Employers Institute says: “Reflecting on the demanding year that has, like the year before it, impacted organisations across the world, Nestlé Nigeria has continued to show that it prioritises maintaining excellent people practices in the workplace. The company continues to meet the challenges of the changing world of work while working tirelessly to make a positive impact on the lives of their workforce.

We are pleased to celebrate and applaud the organisations that have been certified as Top Employers in their respective countries this year.”

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