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FirstBank’s Giant Strides in FinTech Leadership

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By Eric Elezuo

It is not by accident that Nigeria’a leading financial institution and financial inclusion services provider, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, scaled all hurdles to hit the peak among players in Fintech network.

Fintech, a portmanteau or what can easily be referred to as abbreviation of finance and technology, forming the phrase financial technology, is the technology and innovation that aims to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services.

While to most financial institutions, the process is emerging, to FirstBank, it is an already established and improved variety that has helped customers conduct banking activities without making physical contact with the bank or bank staff, but leveraging on the use of handheld mobile smartphones, and regular phones as in the case of *894# services. By this means, the bank has provided mobile banking, investing, borrowing among many other financial technologies aimed at making financial services more accessible to the general public.

Fintech is an integral part of FirstBank, and both are interrelated and are more like twelve and a dozen. In the words of the Group’s Executive, e-Business and Retail Products, Chuma Ezirim, FirstBank is a technology company offering financial services. Nothing could be farer than this truth!

FirstBank, without a doubt, the foremost player and leader of Fintech via its various electronic and digital offerings, boasts of the following but not limited technological innovations including the ever reliable *894#, highly prolific Firstmobile, FirstOnline, Whatsapp banking which thrives on the simple mobile number, 08124444000, FirstAdvance details among a host of other ‘first’ innovations and services.

Consequently, the bank has picked awards after awards with the FirstMobile App, among which is the Best Mobile Banking App in Nigeria in 2019 by the UK-based Global Business Outlook.

These services, have in no small measure, become the focal point, using alternative channels and electronic banking, especially as the world battles the ‘new normal’ with the principle of safe distance, thus reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

To this end, the Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, during the just concluded edition four of the FinTech Summit, which reiterated activation of vibrant ecosystem, hinted that FirstBank’s involvement in the FinTech revolution is the fastest in the industry, and is mostly run by a sizable number of entrepreneurs. He mentioned that FirstBank has been positioned as the Fintech partner of choice, having established relationships with notable companies such as PiggyVest, Terragon, VoguePay and PatStack.

“FirstBank has become the foremost financial inclusion solutions provider with over 9 million USSD users, processing over 200 million transactions to date. Also, with more than 60,000 Firstmonie Agent Banking locations we have to date processed over 320 million customer transactions worth over NGN6 Trillion on the FirstMonie Agent Network as at July 2020, further cementing our leadership in the Agency Banking space,” Adeduntan said.

He noted that the bank’s rating has soared with its digital payment channels, and has remained in the forefront of providing financial inclusion solutions across board and round the clock with it’s FirstMobile app, USSD (*894#) and FirstMonie, as well as the popular Firstmonie Agent Banking Network.

It is not therefore, out of place to say that the Bank has led other banks in the field of FinTech, having supported Nigerians to meet their needs through these innovative digital platforms. Not only that, families and companies have paid bills through this channel, individuals and corporate bodies have purchased airtime to keep in touch with families, loved ones and staff just as procurement of data to surf the net and stay current with recent trends across the globe have been made absolutely easy through the FirstBank innovative FinTech channels.

While most establishments mourn the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, FirstBank leveraged on the scourge to become innovative in providing services for the benefit of its customers who found a costless outlet to fulfill all their financial inclusion needs. The era in question provided ready canvas for stretching and exploits, and the over 9 million USSD users are the happier for it. This is a bank that processes 90 customer initiated transactions per second on its digital channels, and has not stopped to assiduously re-architect its systems towards innovating newer FinTech channels for its teeming customers for a stress-free banking activity.

With over 9.5 million customers using the FirstBanks Unstructured Supplementary Service Data within a period of five years, the Bank has clearly demonstrated that it is the leader in electronic banking. The USSD banking services it provides have been proved to be easy to use, convenient, fast, user friendly, and as such several and various banking activities have been carried out therein across the four major GSM network operators in Nigeria through mobile phone, and surprisingly, without the use of internet. It therefore means that FirstBank’s (*894#) services can be obtained irrespective of the type of phone a customer uses. Among services available through this channel are data and airtime top-up for self and third party, quick balance enquiry, fund transfers, BVN enquiry and linkage, mini statement, account number enquiry, opening account, merchant and first advance loan service – this a service that enables salary earners take a loan of up 50% of their monthly salary. That is the power of *894#.

Ezirim sums up this leadership roles as follows:

“At FirstBank, we are excited about the impact our innovative solutions are making in the Nigerian payment landscape. Our *894# USSD banking has been a viable platform through which we take our banking services to the doorstep of our customers, right on the palm of their hands, without the limitation of an internet connection. We remain committed to creating various avenues to enable Nigerians carry out various financial activities conveniently, safely and securely anytime, anywhere in Nigeria.”

In addition, and following through the standard of excellence, FirstBank has also upgraded its mobile banking application, FirstMobile, with new and improved features to promote safe and convenient mobile banking experience for customers.

The award winning application, which has been termed dynamic, has been redesigned with improved security and self-service features to ease the navigation capability and proficiency of customers. In addition to the improvement of the services, which offers unified and streamlined banking experience, the aesthetics are not left out as it comes with a unique cool blue coloured appealing background.

Among features that speak of the uniqueness of FirstMobile app are card protection service for customers to enable and disable cards on channels, account switch off as well as second-factor authentication and device registration. Customers can remotely initiate the request for a new debit card as well as the replacement of a lost or damaged one, whilst managing activities on their card and account, thus balance enquiry and statement, amongst others.

Again, the app is embedded with biometrics, which allow customers to use their fingerprints to consummate all transactions. This is strictly to validate transactions. There are others such as frequent transaction, which enables users to access their frequently completed transactions like airtime, transfers and bill payments; dashboard flexibility and personalisation, smoother transaction experience and improved beneficiary management.

The FirstBank accessibility galore has also improved airtime top-up and data purchase as customers are able to select phone numbers directly from their phone contacts.

In addition, with a smoother experience on funds transfer, bill payments and airtime transactions, customers can add and delete beneficiaries without having to repeatedly enter the recipients’ details over and over again. Users can also take a photo or select from the Avatar (available icons) to personalize their dashboard and beneficiaries for Transfers, Bills Payment & Airtime Transactions by uploading a picture to associate with their beneficiary, especially the more frequent ones.

Furthermore, the dashboard has been designed to reflect the lifestyle and social pattern of the user as it can be customized by adding any profile picture of choice. The dashboard also enables users to monitor their spending patterns over a period. It shows the inflow and outflow of funds on their account.

There are endless possibilities with FirstMobile. It covers and puts the customer at an advantage with the FirstAdvance and Nano Loan features. So accessing loans is quicker than the touch of a button. Not only that, FirstMobile also guarantees access to movie ticket(s) ahead of time and flights at the earliest convenience.

Hear Chuma Ezirim again:

“The upgraded FirstMobile is built to reflect FirstBank’s resolve at reinforcing the digitisation of our payment systems, whilst putting our customers at an edge to conveniently meet their everyday needs at any time, irrespective of where they are. Indeed, this upgrade makes the application new, as it is designed to suit the social pattern and lifestyle of our customers.

“With over 3.7million active users on FirstMobile across android and ios devices, we remain steadfast at regularly reinventing our services on the App with dynamic and innovative capabilities to resonate our focus to deliver state of the art digital solutions to all our customers at all times, irrespective of where they are.”

It would be recalled that halfway into the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Nigerians with FirstBank cards used them 105 million times to make payments or withdrawals worth about N1.18 Trillion as they relied on the Bank to settle their banking needs.

In addition, the Bank’s CEO noted that approximately 12.6 million withdrawals to the tune of N156 billion were carried out across FirstBank’s ATMs nationwide. That explains the height of faith customers have in FirstBank.

“Our customers made transfers over 106 million times with a total value of about N8.18 Trillion across our digital channels. We have also recorded over 275,000 new sign-ups to alternative channels covering our Firstmobile, USSD and First-Online platforms,” Adeduntan informed.

From every indication, FirstBank has, and will continue to embrace emerging FinTech opportunity for the sole benefit of its numerous customers. To this end, it has held four editions of FinTech Summit. It is therefore, necessary that as many that are yet to get on board do so now for a hitch-free banking services from anywhere in the country.

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FBN Insurance Brokers Hosts Webinar to Sensitise SMEs on Risk Management, Cyber Security

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FBN Insurance Brokers Limited, a subsidiary of Nigeria’s leading financial services group, FBN Holdings Plc, has announced a webinar to sensitise SMEs on risk management and cyber security. Spearheading discussions at the webinar are seasoned experts on insurance brokerage, cyber security and risk management.

The event is themed Risk Management and Business Continuity amidst COVID19 and scheduled for 10:00am on Thursday, 17 September, 2020.  To participate in the event, click here to register.

Olumide Ibidapo, MD/CEO FBN Insurance Brokers will speak on Risk Management; Harrison Nnaji, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), FirstBank will drive conversation on Cyber security and Jamie Eaton, Regional Director, Financial Lines and Client Management, Howden One Insurance Brokers will focus on Cyber Insurance as a risk transfer option for cyber risks.

Speaking on the event, Olumide Ibidapo, MD/CEO FBN Insurance Brokers said; “SMEs remain the engine of growth of any economy, especially developing ones like ours and we recognise the indelible roles they play at creating jobs and meeting the economic and social needs of individuals.

We are excited with this webinar and implore every business owner to participate, as they will be exposed to very vital information to keep their business afloat and overcome various risks as well as operational challenges, including cyber security threats that have been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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FirstBank Promotes Career Development of Staff, Graduates Third Set of SMDP Participants

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider,  has graduated 12 successful candidates in the third edition of its Senior Management Development Programme (SMDP). The graduation ceremony held virtually, via the Zoom video conferencing platform on Wednesday, 2 September, 2020.

The Senior Management Development Programme (SMDP) is FirstBank’s intensive modular programme for a select group of senior managers to principal managers who are proven leaders in their respective functions and have been identified as central to the Bank’s succession plan.

Prior to the 2020 programme, 40 exemplary staff had successfully participated in the SMDP. 23 staff graduated in the inaugural edition that held in 2017 and the 2018 programme had 17 graduands.

According to Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited; “I am delighted with the performance of the third set of the Senior Management Development Program (SMDP) graduands. The set’s performance and response to the various trainings and initiatives have been very impressive and exemplary. The set has demonstrated the gold standard of value and excellence in banking services which FirstBank stands for. The SMDP has been an insightful and impactful journey for the Bank and the participants.”

“I encourage each graduand to maximise the experience and knowledge garnered from the program as they build on their individual and collective contribution to the Bank’s continued growth as well as its efforts in enabling and impacting Nigeria, and the Africa continent at large,” he concluded.

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To Enhance Ease of Doing Business, Banks in Ghana Commence Use of GH QR Code

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Six banks in Ghana have initiated services to allow the public pay for goods and services through the universal Gh QR code.

The banks are Ecobank, GCB Bank, Zenith Bank, Bank of Africa, Fidelity Bank and Agriculture Development Bank. Other banks are still in the process to enable them begin the rollout.

The Ghana Vice President, Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, launched the universal QR code in March this year. The service adds on to the plethora of electronic payment solutions that the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) has rolled out over the years.

With the QR code, customers only need to scan the codes displayed at various shops and other outlets with their smartphones to make payment. Those who do not have smart phones can pay with their feature phones by dialling a code that will also be displayed at the merchant’s location. QR code is cheap and easy to set up. It is also a quick and secure way to make payment.

It takes away the direct contact associated with cash transactions, which makes it safer to use during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ecobank had earlier deplored QR codes but could only be used by their customers. However with the introduction of the Gh QR code, Ecobank has converted most of their existing QR codes of clients, to make them acceptable to all customers regardless of their banks. The other five banks have begun deploying their Gh QR codes at various outlets.

Chief Executive of GhIPSS Mr. Archie Hesse commended the banks that have started deployment and encouraged businesses to liaise with banks to have the Gh QR code installed to increase their payment options to customers. Mr. Hesse also challenged the remaining banks to quicken up the processes, as they risk losing their clients to other banks.

The QR code for payment is simple to set up as it only involves generating unique QR codes which can be a mere sticker posted on the wall of the shops or on a small stand.

“Once you find the QR Code displayed, you just have to scan and you pay or dial the USSD code and pay, it is that convenient. Gh QR is universal so anyone can use any of them, regardless of your bank”, Mr. Hesse stressed.

A wide range of businesses including taxi drivers, small shops, super markets, pharmacies, chop bars, restaurants as well as major service providers can all use QR codes to accept payments, the GhIPSS Boss noted.

Ghana’s payment system has been modernised with the introduction of many electronic payment solutions that have made payment a lot more convenient, secure and faster.

The addition of the Gh QR code has increased the choice that customers have to pay for goods and services. This will eliminate the several instances where businesses lose out, because the customer has run out of cash.

Currently customers can pay from either their bank account or mobile money wallet through different channels such as MoMo pay, POS and now Gh QR code among others.

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