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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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FirstBank Deepens Financial Inclusion with Largest Agent Banking Network, Empowers SMES

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At present, there are over 86,000 banking agents across 772 out of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, a demonstration of FirstBank’s commitment to deepening financial inclusion and ensuring the unbanked are adequately catered for. In an interview with BusinessDay, Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank’s CEO, noted that over N9.6 trillion had been processed through the bank’s agent network.

As he explained, FirstMonie agents have supported several government and NGOs’ cash transfers to the poorest of the poor in the rural areas. Additionally, selected FirstMonie agents in the rural communities are equipped with BVN enrolment devices; as such they are able to enrol and open accounts for rural dwellers that hitherto may not have had the opportunity to be included in the formal financial services system.

The bank’s commitment to providing access to finance for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) was also highlighted by the CEO, who hinged this on “their potential to impact the economy”.

He discussed the bank’s value adding solutions that have created a functional ecosystem for SMEs to thrive. The ecosystem includes propositions such as connection of the SMEs to talents and resources/cutting edge tools, access to business finance and market, capacity building opportunities and policy advocacy.

These are all aggregated on its SMEConnect platform as value adding products and services for easy access and at rates (prices) that are competitive and mostly discounted. The SMEConnect is a digital platform that allows the SMEs connect to FirstBank’s offerings from the comfort of their locations anywhere in the world.

This, according to Adeduntan, has been well received by the SME community as we engage across the country.

Culled from BusinessDay

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AfCFTA: We Are Well-Positioned to Make Payments Smooth for Our Customers – Ecobank CEO

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The Group Chief Executive Officer, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), Ade Ayeyemi, has affirmed that the pan-African banking group is facilitating smooth and instant payments across Africa as countries start the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

Ayeyemi who made this assertion during an interview with the media recently, pointed out that Ecobank has been able to effect international payment across the 33 countries where it operates on the continent through its Rapid Transfer platform. He reiterated that the bank’s platform can be scaled to accommodate other African countries under the AfCFTA based on their respective regulations.

According to the Ecobank Group Chief, the banking group is one of the key supporters of the AfCFTA which he believes will be of great benefit to both the continent and customers of the bank. “With this Pan-African exposure, the governments and our customers will re-evaluate their businesses to efficiently take charge of bigger opportunities. So, if you manufacture goods in Aba for the Nigerian market, you can now start thinking of how to expand your manufacturing capacity to be able to export across West Africa and also other African countries, not just looking at Nigeria as a market alone. And as you change your demand forecast, you need to now improve your capacity to produce and that will mean importing new machinery to expand your manufacturing base, develop bigger market and hire more people.”

He is optimistic that the introduction of the AfCFTA would curb the regulations and government policies limiting the flow of foreign exchange. “Banks will work with other banks like Afrexim Bank to provide a swift payment platform as Africa will be the first market for most African products. For instance, there is no need for Nigeria to import rubber from Malaysia when rubber is being exported by Côte d’Ivoire.  It is better within the African space. So, there is a whole range of businesses that we are having conversations with our customers, the governments and the African Union, because of our pan-African presence.”

The AfCFTA which came into effect this January, aims at creating a single African wide market for goods and services. It will pave the way for rapid dismantling of impediments to cross-border trade leading to free movement of business, persons and investments across the continent, thus leading to the establishment of the Customs Union. It will bring together all 55 AU member states, covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people. It is set to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization In terms of numbers of participating countries.

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Union Bank Renews Commitment to CSR

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As part of efforts to drive sustainable social impact, Union Bank and its employees have established communal water boreholes in six underserved communities across Nigeria, directly impacting over 15,000 people.

The bank said this in a statement titled ‘Driving social impact: Union Bank and employees provide six communities with potable water’.

It stated that the donations, which provided the gift of water to one community from each of the six geopolitical regions of the country, formed part of activities to mark Union Bank’s 2020 Employee Volunteer Day.

The statement said EVDay, which was introduced in 2019, reinforced Union Bank’s commitment to building a workforce conscious about giving back to the communities where they live and work.

 

It said that this year, the gift of water project was selected to provide more Nigerians in underserved communities with access to potable water supply, improving their quality of life and enabling them to maintain the proper handwashing routine advised by the World Health Organisation.

The statement said the communal boreholes were established in Ubulu Uku in Delta State; Gidan Dagachi Kureken Sani in Kano State; Kpebi-Sarki in Abuja; Ohubo Village, Ama Nkanu Community in Enugu State; Sari Iganmu, Orile in Lagos State and Abujan Amare, Gashua in Yobe State.

Commenting on the donations, the Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank, Emeka Emuwa, said, “Union Bank is proud to lead the charge for social impact

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