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FirstBank: Empowering Staff, Driving Productivity against the Odds

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By Segun Adams

As the coronavirus pandemic forces firms to downsize and cut their wage cost to cope with the adverse economic realities, First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is bucking the trend with a different approach that puts its staff first, writes Segun Adams.

 

In a pandemic year where employees are agreeing to pay cuts to keep their jobs and businesses are either downsizing or simply liquidating, First Bank of Nigeria Limited is an outlier, taking an unusual approach to demonstrate how organisations can still ensure the best outcomes for both employer and employees.

 

The first-tier lender last Friday promoted a crop of its staff across all levels in a rare show of corporate resilience in the banking industry and beyond, both locally and across the borders.

 

According to FirstBank, keeping staff motivated during these unprecedented times is not only crucial for the soul of businesses, but it also demonstrates corporate responsibility.

In the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic, there have been unprecedented layoffs across the world as companies went bust, unable to generate cash to sustain their operations.

 

The United States, the world’s biggest economy has recorded a historic rise in unemployment with over 45 million initial unemployment claims in the last three months.

In Britain, HSBC, a giant global bank, is reviving plans for a 35,000 job cut due to pre-existing problems thought to have been worsened by the pandemic. Big banks like Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Barclays, Société Générale among others have announced about layoffs exceeding 60,000 jobs.

In Nigeria, 38% of the workforce was jobless in April due to the virus and lockdowns, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimates. In the MSMEs sector, 50,000 jobs were lost and 10,000 businesses have shut down according to Auwal Bununu Ibrahim, the National Vice President, North Central of the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, (NASME) and in the Aviation industry, some 24,000 jobs were lost as of April.

 

While banks in the country have been barred by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from laying off staff without regulatory approval, there is no obligation for banks to implement promotions or raise pay. In fact, most lenders have initiated pay cuts to cope with the excess capacity arising from skeletal operations and depressed levels of economic activities in the economy which is reeling from the coronavirus and lockdown shocks.

But against the odds, FirstBank promoted its staff and didn’t cut down salaries.

 

In a recent article, Forbes stated that the manner in which firms treat their employees during the ongoing health and economic crisis will not only be remembered for years to come but have a direct effect on their productivity going-forward.

“How businesses respond will have a lasting impact on employee behaviour including, engagement, productivity and loyalty,” the American business magazine noted.

Hertzberg’s Two-Factor Theory also known as dual-factor theory postulates that career progression is a motivating factor for employees to work harder.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on the mental health and focus of employees in the country, and across the world, due to uncertainty of job status, lower income and a disruption to their career development, FirstBank stands out as a safe and rewarding place to work.

The stability and confidence enjoyed by the bank’s staff are the vital environment human resources experts say is necessary for firms that will successfully navigate the tides of current realities.

In a recent BusinessDay Webinar, Nkemdilim Begho, CEO, Future Software Resources Limited advised that businesses can engage their team and see how they can help in creating new ideas and products that the company can deliver. The resultant effect will be greater efficiency of staff and innovation whereas, elsewhere organizations are bound to struggle with a demotivated workforce which could lead to inefficiencies and higher costs for the businesses with adverse implications for bottom-line.

To realise optimal human resources contributions, Begho acknowledged the need for firms to sustain team bond and ensure that morale of their staff is high.

Even before current events, FirstBank has always proven to be conscious of the impact a stimulating and rewarding environment can have on the overall employee performance and thus, provided value accretion to shareholders, customers and other stakeholders.

 

From its competitive remuneration across cadres including mid-level and senior-level employees to benefits that cover medical insurance and disability insurance, sick leave and vacation, and retirement options, FirstBank puts its workforce first ensuring that they are well motivated and equipped to deliver higher productivity.

FirstBank has featured on some of the best workplace rankings including A Great place to Work and Jobberman. Last year, the big bank ranked among the Jobberman 2019 best 100 companies to work for in Nigeria, a list that scrutinizes over 60,000 companies to pick the best 100 based on strict metrics. The bank has enjoyed positive reviews from credible job/career sites like Indeed where it banks a 4.1/5 positive rating.

 

A former employee of the bank Aderemi Adebiyi commended the institution for its keen interest in the welfare and career progression of its employees. “I worked in the Bank for 15 years and do not regret it. It’s fast-paced, performance-driven with varied streams of career development,” Aderemi said. “The company also offers paid trainings.”

 

FirstBank’s talent management strategy is aimed at supporting employee engagement, employee motivation and increased productivity, and leadership development across all levels of employees within the organization, according to its website. As a tenet of career development, FirstBank has devoted itself to creating a culture of continuous learning tailored to the needs and aspirations of the employees and the business itself.

 

The bank’s FirstAcademy and learning centres strategically located around the country allows for e-learning, mobile learning, physical classrooms and virtual libraries to allow all employees the opportunity to equip themselves for future roles that benefit both them and the organization. This means pandemic or not, learning is continuous and uninterrupted.

 

FirstBank also prides itself as an equal opportunity employer so that qualified persons irrespective of gender, culture, age, nationality, sexual orientation, disability or social background can participate in its business.

At the same time, FirstBank remains a performance-driven organization and merit-based, allowing individual talents to be rewarded for their hard work and contribution to overall organisational goals.

With people as one of the bank’s greatest assets, it strives to maintain a pool of multi-skilled and well-rounded employees relying on initiatives like Job Shadowing, Coaching, Counselling, Mentoring, Succession Planning and Career Maps to develop and retain talents at all levels of the organisation’s operations.

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Business

Nigeria Joins League of Nations with Professional Association for CSR and Sustainability

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The Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN) will host an industry conversation to discuss the urgent need for attaining an inclusive economy in Nigeria and the roles that Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals can play in this regard on Thursday, November 26, 2020.

The dialogue, which doubles as the formal launch of the professional group, will explore the need for synergy among sustainability experts, subject-matter specialists, and advocates to support the efforts of government and drive private sector leadership for social inclusion as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) in line with the beginning of the Decade of Action. After many years of mainstreaming CSR and Sustainability through various initiatives, milestones, and adoption of all major international conventions on Business Sustainability, Climate Change, Environmental Standards, and other development agendas; Nigeria formally joins the league of nations with professional associations specially set up for the practice of CSR and Sustainability.

ASPN is a non-profit organisation founded in August 2019 to redefine and improve the practice and profession of Sustainability and CSR in Nigeria. Through various strategic partnerships, policy formulation & advocacy activities, ASPN seeks to set standards for professional ethics, best practices and long-term systems thinking amongst individuals and businesses to foster the sustainable development of Nigeria.

To formally unveil the ASPN, the event will feature discussions on the theme: Professionalising Sustainability for an Inclusive Development and has been slated to hold on Thursday, November 26, 2020. Professor Wayne Visser, Founder, CSR International will participate as the Guest Speaker whilst other speakers will include: Professor Chris Ogbeche, Deputy Dean, Lagos Business School; Solape Hammond, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on SDGs; and Dr. Aisha Mamood, Sustainability Director, Central Bank of Nigeria. Also, in attendance at the event will be government and regulatory agencies, sustainability experts, corporate organisations, and industry experts, non-governmental organisations and the public.

Nigeria, like most present-day societies, has adopted various measures to minimize pollution and promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability as a fundamental component of socio-economic development. For example, the last decades of the century witnessed increased concerns – with the private sector at the forefront, about climate change. Therefore, the need to develop, implement and drive cohesive policy, that would go a long way in meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet its needs is paramount. Consequently, a need to have a body that drives cohesive policies seeking sustainable development and growth in the country in a more coordinated manner is essential.

According to the ASPN President, Prof. Kenneth Amaeshi, “We are excited about the formal launch of the ASPN because we have existed for so many years as a community of passionate and committed advocates. We look forward to strengthening our alliances and contributing significantly to Nigeria’s active role in the Decade of Action”. The ASPN is led by passionate and renowned professionals with many years of experience committed to practicing advocating teaching and mentoring on sustainability-related issues within Nigeria and internationally. These professionals are Ini Abimbola, Founder, ThistlePraxis Consulting. Ismail Omamegbe, Head, Media & External Relations; Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, FirstBank; Bekeme-Masade Olowola, Chief Executive, CSR-in-Action; Ken Egbas, CEO, TruContact CSR Nigeria; Eunice Sampson, Head, Sustainability, Dangote Cement Plc; Ibrahim Salau, Managing Director, Environmental Accord; Bolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head, Sustainability, Access Bank and Kenneth Amaeshi who serves as Chair in Business and Sustainable Development and Director of the Sustainable Business Initiative at the University of Edinburgh.

To join the conversation and participate in this event, please visit: https://bit.ly/ASPNUnveiling or follow ASPN on social media on @ASPNigeria on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For more information, please visit the ASPN Website: https://aspn.org.ng  or email, info@aspn.org.ng or call: 0706 752 3702.

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Nigeria Slides into Recession, the Worst Since 1987

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Nigeria has officially slid into its worst economic recession in over three decades, TheCable can report.

According to gross domestic product numbers released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Saturday, the nation recorded a contraction of 3.62 percent in the third quarter of 2020.

This is the second consecutive quarterly GDP decline since the recession of 2016. The cumulative GDP for the first nine months of 2020, therefore, stood at -2.48 percent.

The last time Nigeria recorded such cummulative GDP was in 1987, when GDP declined by 10.8 percent.

According to World Bank and NBS figures monitored by TheCable, this is also the second recession under President Muhamadu Buhari’s democratic reign — and his fourth as head of state.
TheCable

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Unity Bank Posts N33.9bn Gross Earnings in Nine Months, Grows Assets Base by 44%

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Unity Bank Plc has declared gross earnings of N33.906 billion for the nine months’ period ended September 30, 2020 and also recorded a 44% asset growth during the period.

A review of the unaudited results released to the Nigerian Stock Exchange showed that the gross earnings of N33.906 billion represents an 8 per cent growth from N31.256 billion recorded in the same period in 2019.

The lender’s total assets rose significantly to N420.870 billion in the nine-month period ended September 30, 2020, from N293.052 billion in the corresponding period of 2019, representing a whopping 44% growth.

This is even as the Bank grew its bottom-line by 6% as Profit Before Tax, PBT moved up to close at N1.710 billion from N1.611 billion in 2019.

Profit After Tax, PAT equally grew by 6% to N1.573 billion compared to the N1.482 billion recorded in the same period in 2019.

Specifically, in the Q3, the lender declared a N590 million Profit Before Tax, PBT, representing another 6% increase from the N559.381 million recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2019.

This performance comes on the heels of the unmitigated impact of the global pandemic on the economy, which lingered throughout the quarter with its attendant headwinds that slowed down economic activities.

The lender also substantially grew its customers’ deposit portfolio to N332.362 billion from N257.691 billion for the same period in 2019, creating a 29 per cent increase, affirming the confidence reposed by its wide spectrum of the banking public. The lender, it was gathered, rolled out massive customer-centric products to the public especially in the retail space which accelerated the banking patronage during the period.

Commenting on the result, Unity Bank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Tomi Somefun welcomed the steady growth of the balance sheet especially from both assets and liability side of the business and across key performance indices.

She said that this has had sustained impact on the bottom-line, even as the Bank continues to innovate in its e-business product bouquet to target and support value chain business with robust technology and thus diversify its earnings base’’.

Looking ahead, Mrs. Somefun stated that “One of the areas that will define our strategic direction going forward is investment in alternative channels leveraging further deployment of resources in technology. COVID-19 gave us a chance to test the integrity and scalability of our technology, the IT infrastructure, and the electronic banking channels, and provided us an opportunity to see where we needed to improve and strengthen, knowing that the future of sustainable banking business is in alternative channels”.

The results can also be attributable to the Bank’s growing brand profile and leadership in agribusiness, especially having provided loans and financing to over one million smallholder farmers especially those in primary production and other value chain businesses in the agricultural sector.

During the period under review, the Bank enhanced and deepened its collaboration and partnership with major commodity associations including the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria and the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) to finance over 400 smallholder farmers’ crop production with its overall strategic intent of fostering food security, employment generation and aggregate economic welfare of citizens across the value chains.

The Bank also worked with processors and members of Millers’ Association of Nigeria to provide working capital through the CBN’s various intervention funds, while providing credit facilities to large number of input suppliers and vendors through the Anchor Borrower’s Programme.

In recognition of the above, Mrs Somefun added that the Bank will continue to focus on agriculture, while deepening business in various new markets that have been developed alongside to pull more resources and enhance multiple streams of income.

In the view of analysts, the consistent upward trajectory in the performance of the Bank as shown in Q1, H1 and Q3, 2020 results continue to reinforce growing market confidence as well as demonstrates the commitment and drive of the management to enhance shareholder’s value.

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