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FirstBank as Synonym for Growth of SMEs in Nigeria

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By Eric Elezuo

It is not by accident that banks need to be at the heart of the SME business, providing support, capital and innovative solutions to help small businesses prosper. It is also not accidental that most countries can boast of some quality banks that hold sway the prosperity of small and medium enterprises. In Nigeria, that bank is FirstBank Nigeria Plc, unarguably the best bank in the country going by its very many firsts, awards, honours and initiatives.

At inception 125 years old ago, FirstBank, having known that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the growth engines for much of the world’s economy as well as its sources of innovation, development and jobs, took it upon itself to pioneer the growth of the sector in Nigeria.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by every standard play a major role in most economies, particularly in developing countries, and especially Nigeria. SMEs account for the majority of businesses worldwide and are important contributors to job creation and global economic development. They represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide.

According to the World Bank, 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce, which makes SME development a high priority for many governments around the world. This is the yardstick FirstBank has keyed into to circulate among all and sundry through the provision of funds and technical know-how to practitioners of SMEs.

Again, in emerging markets, most formal jobs are generated by SMEs, which create 7 out of 10 jobs. But because access to finance is a key constraint to SME growth, and of course the second most cited obstacle facing SMEs to grow their businesses in emerging markets and developing countries, FirstBank has stepped in to bridge the gap with clear cut modalities and activities tested and trusted to grow SMEs and lift not a few out of the poverty line.

It is worthy of note that the business of SMEs invariably refer to ‘individuals who are working alone, in growing firms or as part of platforms to create economic well-being’.

However, SMEs can basically be explained as businesses with 10 to 2,000 employees and an annual revenue of US$1m to US$500m. They make up a large, diverse group — both globally and across the industry.  However, many of these businesses face common challenges throughout their lifecycle such as access to working capital, talent and the expertise needed for growth.

It is in the light of the above that FirstBank has taken it upon itself to raise men and women who have what it take to develop businesses from the scratch, and nurtured to great heights in other to continue generating diverse revenue to sustain world economy and eradicate hunger in every form.

According to Ernst and Young 2019 Global Fintech Adoption Index, 25% of SMEs worldwide have used services in the past six months provided by FinTechs in all of these four categories: banking and payments, financial management, financing and insurance.

The bar FinTechs and big tech companies have raised notwithstanding, FirstBank has remained resolute in providing the needed assistance to SMEs and other developing businesses through the provision of funds and needed enablements for growth and sustainability.

It is on record therefore that FirstBank has in a space of just two years (2017 – date) released a total of N170.3 billion in terms of loans to SMEs, the product type notwithstanding while in the same vein a total of 70, 703 different and diverse kinds of SME businesses have been supported and given new leases of life within the last three to seven years. That is pure, transparent dedication to lifting Nigerians from poverty, and out of financial doldrum.

Over the years, FirstBank has delivered innovative solutions to SMEs for basic financial services, such as customer payments, foreign exchange hedging and cash flow management.

And in retaining their dominance, FirstBank has remained at the heart of the SME business, using technology to better understand the needs and context of the business.

As part of its efforts to further launch its specialized SME propositions to its customers, FirstBank cleverly designed a wide range of events and activities during its SMEs week, specifically targeted to and for the growth of SMEs operators. This includes the SME Masterclass with a mind boggling theme “Designing and Implementing a Growth Strategy for your Business”. There was also a specialized one on one sessions with renowned business coaches, culminating in the launch of seven unique pillars which make up the brand’s SME propositions. These and many more are available via SMEConnect – The FirstBank SME portal.

The SME portal is a platform through which SMEs can access FirstBank’s unique propositions specially tailored with the essential tools needed for the growth of their business. The SME portal, according to FirstBank, is also designed to help SMEs identify various gaps that hinder their business growth leveraging the brand’s innovative Business Diagnostics Tool, with a view to proffering tailored solutions and creating opportunities for business improvement, profitability and sustainability.

In addition, FirstBank through extensive research in the past years, has identified these seven strategic pillars to be essential for the sustainability and growth of the SMEs. These seven pillars are access to infrastructure, access to talent, capacity building, policy and regulation, access to resources, access to market as well as access to finance. The pillars, rightly named, have duly informed the bank’s strategy and propositions for SMEs.

To this end, FirstBank’s weeklong activity dedicated to operators of SMEs and held across six locations in Lagos, Abuja, Rivers, Oyo, Kano and Owerri in the month of August was practically centred on one on one coaching advisory sessions. The business owners came out of the sessions better equipped and prepared for the task ahead.

Buttressing FirstBank’s unalloyed leadership status in SME projection in Nigeria, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director, Gbenga Shobo, hinted thus:

“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 event promoted the Bank’s SME proposition, and helped SMEs bolster their contribution to the growth and development of the economy.

Consequently, every SME operator can visit www.firstbanknigeria.com/SMEConnect/ to take the FirstBank SME Diagnostics test and get guidance for business improvement opportunities.

It must not be forgotten that in October, at the prestigious Oriental Hotel, Lagos, FirstBank celebrated some SME operators, better known as Firstmonie Agents, when it held the Agent Banking National award in an event themed Planting Community Heroes Nationwide. The Agent Banking Scheme was initiated in 2017, and ever since, has recorded giant strides at promoting financial inclusion across the nook and cranny of the country. There are about 40, 000 agents raised by FirstBank in the 774 local government areas of the nation. Through this medium, FirstBank is leading the effort at supporting the Federal government objectives to deepen access to financial services.

Summing it up, FirstBank’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Asesola Adeduntan noted “the unwavering efforts and remarkable contributions by our Firstmonie Agents at promoting financial inclusion in Nigeria, and indeed very much appreciated. Within the past two years, we have been able to create not only 40, 000 access points, but over 150, 000 indirect jobs. We remain committed to doing more, strengthening business activities, driving economic growth and development thereby reducing poverty.”

The CEO is of the opinion that FirstBank will never rest on its laurels as every individual’s contribution to national growth and development is important to the bank, and so will spiritedly continue to support the growth of SMEs.

Over the years, FirstBank has develop customer loyalty through development of a clear value proposition and strategy to partner with their SME customers, and offer them a broad range of solutions to run, control and grow their businesses. The following are some of the ways

  • Helping SMEs connect with an ecosystem of suppliers, distributors and other SMEs
  • Using their expertise across industries, channels and regions, to offer growth opportunities and insights
  • Supporting business productivity by offering solutions, such as cash flow management, HR, talent and tax; and keeping their businesses safe through education on regulatory compliance.

With all these, FirstBank has got the basics right, and it is therefore not surprising that the bank has become a synonym for growth of SMEs in Nigeria.

Additional information from:

https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/smefinance

 

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Business

FirstBank Hosts SME Clinic, Reiterates Commitment to Building Capacity of SMEs

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By Ugo Aliogo

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has reiterated its commitment to driving growth and building the capacity of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

Speaking at the FirstBank SMEConnect Business Clinic, held in Lagos on Thursday, the Group Head, Lagos Island 1, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Olufunke Smith, stated that the business clinic provides an opportunity for SMEs to understand how to develop their business plans, and run their business. It is one of the key initiatives that the bank has put in place to drive development of the SMEs. She further noted that the Bank’s SMEs proposition is based on seven pillars that would connect SMEs to- capacity building, market, infrastructure, talent for business development, policy and regulation, finance and resources.

According to her, “Building the capacities of SMEs is an ongoing process. SMEs are the engine of growth of any society. At FirstBank it is our responsibility to bring them on-board through support, knowledge sharing, and advisory in order for them to add value to the society. The SMEs attending the clinics today have gone through a selection process and it is the first of 2020, there will be more clinics to be held in the course of the year.

“SMEs are the bedrock of economic growth of any society. It is when you have functional SMEs that the country can grow. It is noteworthy to mention here that SMEs are great employers of labour. When you have viable SMEs they provide various services and innovations that traditional corporations may not provide. These strongly underscore our commitment – at FirstBank – to strengthening their impact on the economy.

“This clinic is part of giving back to the society, thereby ensuring we continue to develop SMEs. FirstBank has recognised that for it to serve SMEs adequately there is a need to offer more than traditional banking services. We know that connecting SMEs to the right information and business tools can save turnaround time, cost and give them a competitive edge in the sector that they operate. It is on this knowledge that we have created value propositions for SMEs that cover financial and non-financial services.”

We expose SMEs to the best deals and they have access to tools that position them at an advantage for growth.”

 

In his remarks, the Managing Partner, Traction, Dolapo Adejuyigbe, said “we have a coaching marketplace that SMEs can come on our platform and even firstbank platform to book vetted coaches that can provide advisory services to them either for one session or a number of sessions. We also consider re-emerging how our business clinics can work and how to bring insights and make it practical. The FirstBank business diagnostic tool enables SMEs identify the needs, especially operational, of their business and the business clinic is designed in such a way we can follow up on the impacts and also track the business after three to six months. The focus of this business clinic is to help them design the strategy for 2020. A core part of that is for them to understand the economic trends, and we have catered for different kinds of businesses and how the economy is going to impact them.”

In his remarks, one of the speakers at the event, Gospel Obele, said the clinic provided an opportunity to develop a business and market outlook for SMEs, stating that the goal was to scale economic knowledge into useable insights for SMEs.

 

Commending FirstBank on the SME Clinic, Obele noted that the event exposed SMEs to lots of opportunities for their business growth like how the Nigerian business environment is going to look like through the year as well as the transition dynamics of the consumer.”

 

He said: “Examining strategy from the outlook that was presented today, it is more of how SMEs rework their internal systems to respond to the changing environment that we have. Nigeria is a high fluid and dynamic economy which means that our own business environment is changing faster than advanced economies”

 

One of the participants at the clinic, Tayo Oginni, President/CEO, International Energy Market Place Ltd., said attending the seminar provided background knowledge on how to develop a road map for setting up a business in a structured manner.

 

He asserted that the business clinic taught SMEs the things to be aware of when starting a business, “the facilitator created an atmosphere of things that need to be done. I will strongly recommend that SMEs need this kind of intervention.”

Ogini also lauded FirstBank and Traction for organising the clinic, noting that one of the key areas discussed at the clinic was financing where SMEs were taught that cash flow is key in business, therefore they have to watch their cash flow.

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NCAC, Belgium Plan Cultural Exchange Programme For 2020

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One of the cultural programmes Nigerians can expect this year is a major exchange between the National Council for Arts and Culture and the Kingdom of Belgium.

The Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency, Mr. Daniel Dorgent, stated the need to come together and work on projects which will be of mutual benefit to both nations via fashion exhibitions, music and dance, art and crafts, cultural festivals amongst other noble initiatives.

The Envoy revealed this while on a visit to the NCAC to solicit collaboration from Otunba Segun Runsewe (Director-General) in this regard.

Dorgent said Nigeria was a country with great potentials adding, “we stand to benefit from some of these interesting potentials.”

He was also quick to add that the project could involve Nigerians and Africans in the Diaspora.

On his part, Otunba Segun Runsewe promised to provide the necessary logistics like venue, publicity and security to ensure a successful outing.

Runsewe observed that Nigeria and Belgium have a long relationship in sports while sharing mutually beneficial economic ties with no less than 40 Belgium companies doing extremely well in Nigeria.

According to the NCAC chief, “As far back as 1984, over eleven Nigerian professional footballers plied their trade in the Belgian league. You will recall also that in the last Olympic, Nigeria and Belgium played the volleyball final.”

Speaking further, Runsewe added that, “as a body we have collaborated with Iran, Bangladesh and China. So for your exhibition, we will put in our best to ensure the programme meets international standards.”

The meeting ended with the exchange of promotional materials on behalf of the two nations.

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…And the Winner of Best Mobile Banking App Award is FirstBank

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited has been named 2019 “Best Mobile Banking App” and “Fastest Growing Retail Bank”  by Global Business Outlook.

The Global Business Outlook Award recognises and rewards excellence in business in companies across the world, both in the public and private sectors. The award rewards innovation, creativity and the drive to create value.

FirstBank earned the Fastest Growing Retail Bank recognition because of its leading role in promoting financial inclusion in the country, a drive which has resulted in its 44,000 Agent Banking network designed to complement the provision of bespoke financial services at its over 750 branches nationwide.

Speaking on the awards, Folake Ani-Mumuney, the Bank’s Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications said, “We appreciate the recognition of these awards by the respective awarding bodies. The awards are dedicated to all our customers across the globe as their continued patronage of our services is appreciated.

We remain steadfast and would not rest on our laurels at rendering bespoke financial services tailored to meet the financial needs of our valued customers, irrespective of where they may be.”

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