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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

FirstBank Hosts FinTech Summit 4.0, Promotes Growth, Reinvention of Banking Technology in Nigeria 

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced that the 2020 edition of its annual FinTech Summit is scheduled to hold on Thursday, 6 August 2020 by 12.00 noon. The event will be virtually held via Zoom Meetings.

The 2020 edition of the summit, which is the fourth in its series is themed; “How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt FinTech in Nigeria” and will be discussed by experts, key and leading players, policy influencers and regulatory officials in the Nigerian financial, banking and technological climate. To participate in the event, click the link https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/business-banking/smeconnect/fintech-summit/registration/ to register.

Chinedu Echeruo, founder of HopStop which was sold to Apple for $1bn will be leading the discussion as the Keynote speaker alongside other panelists; Musa Itopa Jimoh, Director, Payments System Management Department and Aminu Maida, Executive Director, Technology & Operations, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS).

Representing FirstBank in the panel of discussants are Callistus Obetta, Group Executive, Technology & Services and Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products

Speaking on the event, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited said; “at FirstBank, we have been at the forefront of employing technology in the delivery of financial services in the country exemplified by our various products and services such as FirstMobile, USSD Banking services, FirstMonie Wallet, FirstMonie Agent Banking, FirstAdvance loans provisions

The 2020 edition of our FINTECH summit will build on the successes achieved in the last three editions. We welcome the panelists as we look forward to the shared knowledge which will be integral to deepening the continued growth of banking technology, especially its impact on the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria and the continent at large.

Technology continues to play a fundamental role in driving financial inclusion and strengthening the growth of SMEs that contribute significantly to the development of the country.

We encourage members of the public, players in the fintech and financial climate to register, as there is knowledge for everyone,” he concluded.

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FirstBank Offers Support To SMEs in Education Sector Through the Pandemic

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By Chinyere Nwokeoma, NAN

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has offered to give financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Education Sector to cushion the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic. Mr. Bankole Adediran, Head, Transaction Banking Products, FirstBank, made this known at the Bank’s SMEConnect webinar with theme: “Managing Your School through the Pandemic: Engagement and Retention Strategies”.

Adediran said that the Bank was ready to partner with SMEs in the education sector through the period of the novel coronavirus pandemic to sustain their businesses.

“FirstBank, as an institution, is very passionate about education, and will continue to support the sector,” he said.

He said that the Bank would continue to reinforce its leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country.

Adediran said that the Bank had an array of financial products that could be accessed by SMEs in the educational sector in the period of COVID -19.

He said SMEs in the sector could key into FirstEdu Loan targeted at private nursery, primary and secondary schools to assist the schools in achieving their desired growth in medium and long terms.

According to him, the product provides funding advancement of up to N20 million for schools with a minimum of 100 students with school fees collection domiciled at FirstBank.

Adediran said that, with the product, school owners/proprietors could stay ahead to make learning easy and conducive for students.

He said the Bank had launched various interventions and initiatives to support the sector to navigate through challenges occasioned by COVID -19.

He noted that FirstBank recently launched an e-learning initiative aimed at reaching out to one million students across the country to ensure they would be academically engaged while at home.

Adediran also said that the Bank supported 10 universities and three secondary schools across the country with major infrastructure projects.

He added that the Bank donated 20,000 e-learning devices to the Lagos State Government to promote online learning for students in the public schools.

Adediran urged schools must learn from the COVID -19 pandemic by embracing automation to plug leakages in the sector.

Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, Commissioner for Education, Lagos State, who was a panelist at the webinar, commended the Bank for donating 20,000 devices with six months data, to the state for e-learning.

Adefisayo said the state reached out to many companies for support at the wake of the pandemic and that FirstBank came to its aid.

She disclosed that all the schools were not prepared for the situation, noting that most children in public schools did not have device and data for online learning.

“This pandemic has been a terrible thing, and one lesson from it is that we have not invested enough in solutions we can deplore at a time like this,” Adefisayo said.

She said that the pandemic had forced Nigerians to be more creative and innovative, adding that schooling would no longer be the same again.

Adefisayo called on teachers to change their teaching and learning strategies, saying that COVID -19 had changed learning.

Also, Dr. Yomi Otubela, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), said the association had responded greatly by interfacing between government and its agencies since the beginning of the pandemic.

Otubela said the Central Bank of Nigeria was working out modalities for palliatives for schools and teachers who had not been receiving salaries since the pandemic started.

He noted that there had been an increase in rape, kidnapping and robbery as a result of COVID -19.

Mr. Wale Abioye, Team Lead, Customer Practice in Management Consulting (KPMG), said the pandemic had impacted negatively on many sectors of the economy, especially education.

Abioye highlighted some of the negative impacts of the pandemic to include financial/economic, structural, social and policy challenges.

He said many SMEs in the educational sector could be out of business due to the pandemic, thereby increasing unemployment rate.

Mr. Babatunde Vaughan, Education Lead, Modern Classroom, Microsoft Nigeria, said the company had introduced a lot of products to make online learning easy and interesting.

“COVID -19 is a very unique period for everyone, change has come and we will continue to experience change.

“We must be more proactive than reactive,” Vaughan urged.

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FirstBank Convenes SMECONNECT Webinar, Promotes Growth of Education Sector

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced the convening of a Business Clinic to promote the growth and sustainability of the educational sector, especially in the light of the coronavirus which is having an adverse effect on the operations of schools across the world. The event is scheduled to hold via Zoom platform by 11:00am on Thursday, 23 July 2020.

“Managing Your School through the Pandemic: Engagement and Retention Strategies,” is the topic of the event and will be discussed by experts, leading players, policy influencers and proprietors in business and education management that have carved a niche for themselves at promoting the growth of education and business, towards impacting the national economy. To participate in the event, follow the link https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/webinar  to register.

The panellists at the event include; Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, Honourable Commissioner of Education, Lagos State; Otunba Yomi Otubela, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS); Wale Abioye, Team Lead, Customer Practice in Management Consulting (KPMG); Babatunde Vaughan, Education Lead, Modern Classroom Microsoft Nigeria; Tinu Aluko, Proprietor, Busy Bee & West Mills and Bankole Adediran, Head Transaction Banking Products, First Bank of Nigeria Limited.

Speaking on the event, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank said “the education sector remains the bedrock of the growth and development of any nation – without a viable educational system, the human capital would be incapable of driving national growth and development. FirstBank is delighted to convene this event as it reinforces our leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country, over the years.

A recent example is the current pandemic in which the Bank has spearheaded the continued learning of school children, with a view to moving over 1 million Nigerians to e-learning, an exciting journey that has had over 45,000 active participants on the respective platforms, notably Roducate and IBM.

We appreciate the panellists invited to speak and we look forward to the knowledge and ideas that would be deliberated towards having participants enlightened on essential activities to not just sustain their schools but reinforce its growth against the odds of COVID-19. We implore players, policy influencers, school and business owners as a whole to register and participate in the event because indeed there is knowledge for everyone,” he concluded.

FirstBank has held various SME clinics in the course of the year, including a virtual event to ensure Social Distance is adhered to in this sensitive period of the COVID-19.

These events include the SME Clinics in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja as well as the Virtual SME Clinic, recently held in May.

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