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March: FirstBank Celebrates, Reinforces Commitment to Empower Women

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In furtherance of its leading role in promoting the socio-economic inclusion of women in society, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced its dedication of the month of March to the celebration of women across the world, as it commemorates the globally celebrated International Women’s Day, scheduled for 8 March 2023.

Kicking off the series of internal and activities designed to celebrate women is The First Women Network (FWN), Mentoring, Coaching and Sponsorship Pillar Webinar scheduled to hold on Friday, 3 March 2023. The event is organized by the Bank’s First Women Network, an initiative that seeks to address the gender gap and increase the participation of women at all levels within the organisation.

On Wednesday, 8 March 2023, the Bank will join the rest of the world to celebrate the 2023 International Women’s Day themed: “Embrace Equity” as it convenes its International Women’s Day 2023 event.

As a member of UN Women, FirstBank employs the relevant women empowerment tools including the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Gender Gap Analysis Tool in the process of assessing its performance and provides progress reports that feeds into the WEPs performance indicators. FirstBank has a ratio of about 39%:61% female to men employees while 32% women in management driving a deliberate policy consistent with the WEPs – Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Nondiscrimination.

In line with this commitment, FirstBank is partnering with UN Women on 15 March 2023 and is set to play a key role in a scheduled event driven by UN Women that will showcase young women and men between the ages of 18-35 in Nigeria who are using technological innovations and tools to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment and inclusion. This is in line with the UN International Women’s Day theme for 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’’.

The conversation on ‘’Embrace Equity’’ as well as ‘’DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’’ will be reinforced on Twitter Spaces with notable speakers including Foluso Gbadamosi, the Executive Director of Junior Achievement Nigeria.

Amongst the activities scheduled to round off the Women’s Month commemoration is the Bank’s support of the Heroism of Erelu Ota – a play which aligns with the Bank’s First@arts goal of supporting the arts and women. Heroism of Erelu Ota is an untold story of a legendary goddess in Ikorodu Kingdom who travels on the sea with a mat, and her ability to see what the enemies of Ikorodu are planning in their town, played a huge role in assisting the people of Ikorodu during the Agbala war.

Speaking ahead of the events, Folake Ani-Mumuney, Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, FirstBank said that “we remain committed to diversity and inclusion as well as women empowerment through digital education and the provision of opportunities for women to access digital tools to bridge the gender digital divide and achieve gender equality. Therefore, as in previous years, FirstBank has dedicated March 2023 as a month set aside to celebrate women and all their remarkable achievements over the years which include their leadership roles and pace-setting standards in Science Technology Entrepreneurship, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).  We are deliberate about partnering to ensure more impact – ensuring that we touch as many women as possible in Women’s Month and beyond.’’

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Business

Abbey Mortgage Bank Cleared of Insider Trading Allegations

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Abbey Mortgage Bank Plc has been cleared of allegations regarding insider trading during a closed period, as initially stated in the Nigerian Exchange’s X-Compliance Report. After a review of the circumstances surrounding the case, the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) has decided not to enforce any penalties against the bank.
The initial report, dated May 10, had implied a breach of Rule 17:18, which governs the period of closure for trading activities by insiders who possess material, non-public information. Such periods are critical in maintaining market integrity and investor trust. However, upon closer examination and considering the explanations provided by Abbey Mortgage Bank, the NGX concluded that there was no substantial violation warranting a penalty.
Instead of a penalty, the NGX has mandated that Abbey Mortgage Bank attend a compliance training session, which is intended to reinforce adherence to regulatory standards and further ensure the bank’s commitment to best practices in corporate governance. This training, costing One million, two hundred and thirty thousand, one hundred and eighty (1,230,180) naira, highlights the NGX’s dedication to education and compliance over punitive measures.
Abbey Mortgage Bank, a leader in the Nigerian mortgage sector since its incorporation in August 1992, has continually demonstrated resilience and stability. With strategic growth initiatives, such as the addition of a significant investor in 2020, the bank has shown remarkable progress, including a 250% increase in customer deposits from N6 billion to N21 billion in 2021 and shareholders’ funds exceeding N8.5 billion.
This positive resolution highlights the importance of due process and the NGX’s role in maintaining transparency while supporting the growth and integrity of listed companies. Abbey Mortgage Bank’s proactive response and subsequent exoneration reinforces its reputation as a trusted and compliant financial institution, poised for continued success in the mortgage banking sector.
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FirstBank, Rotary Empower 102 Beneficiaries with N20m Start-Up Kits

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The First Bank of Nigeria Limited, with Rotary Club International, District 9110, has distributed N20 million worth start-up kits to 102 beneficiaries in Lagos to empower them across various trades.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that start-up kits distributed included: grinding machines, plumbing kits, deep freezers, sewing machines, generators, gas burners and cylinders, barbers and hairdressers kits, among others.

NAN further reports that the community intervention project had beneficiaries from the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria drawn from Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states.

Mrs Helen Ihonre, Unit Head, Other SME Products e-Business and Retail, FirstBank, during the presentation, offered insights on financial management and economic discipline. She emphasised the importance of maintaining records and accessing low-interest loans to support business growth and expansion.

She urged beneficiaries to prioritise saving from the inception of their businesses, while discouraging them from keeping funds at home, which might lead to misuse. “Start saving from the beginning of your business. Don’t wait till you sell then keep the money in your house”, she said.

Rotary District 9110 Governor, Ifeyinwa Ejezie, spoke on the significance of economic empowerment in Rotary’s initiatives and called for government collaboration to reach grassroots communities effectively. She emphasised the role of Rotary in complementing government efforts and stressed the need for recognition and partnership to enhance community development. She added that the N20 million items distributed were the largest the district had done in one empowerment initiative in recent times.

Bukola Bakare, Rotary International District Governor Nominee Designate, explained the process and challenges of raising funds for the project and how they incorporated Rotary from Singapore to absorb shocks from inflation. She said, “everything that has been given here today is free for the beneficiaries”.

She mentioned that FirstBank was a major sponsor for the project, adding that the 102 beneficiaries were chosen based on a needs analysis from Igbos, Hausa and Yorubas resident in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states.

“FirstBank is our major supporter for this programme” she said.

Mr Babatunde Adewale, Permanent Board Member, Lagos State Universal Basic Education, lauded the empowerment programme, while reeling out contributions and projects of Rotary International to schools in the state. “We really appreciate Rotary and SUBEB will always continue to collaborate with them,” he said.

Mrs Kemi Kalesanwo, Director, Lagos State Agency for Mass Education, said that 22 out of the 102 beneficiaries were from the agency’s vocational training centres. Kalesanwo said that the state government believed in public, private partnership and was happy with the collaboration with Rotary and FirstBank.

She listed projects donated by Rotary to include construction of one of the eight vocational training centres, owned by the agency in Igbogbo area of Lagos. Kalesanwo, therefore, urged other Nigerians to support government programmes.

Otumba Wemmy Osunde, Chairman, Illisan Development Association, Ogun State, pledged personal commitment to ensuring beneficiaries utilise the items for economic gain. Adekunmi Adeniyi, an industrial gas burner and cylinder beneficiary alongside other beneficiaries expressed gratitude to Rotary International and FirstBank for the initiative. He acknowledged the impact on their respective trades and crafts.

Culled from NAN

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Embrace Artificial Intelligence, AI Expert Tells SMEs

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Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country have been advised to embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to grow their businesses. Founder AI Nigeria, Ehia Erhabor, made this submission in his presentation titled “Using AI for business innovation” delivered at the Ecobank MySME Growth Series webinar. He emphasied that AI is a gamechanger particularly for small businesses.

According to him, AI is rapidly transforming industries by automating processes, enhancing analytics, and enabling personalized customer experience, stressing that the future of AI is its democratization where companies of all sizes including SMEs can harness its power to drive innovation and gain competitive edge.

Specifically, Erhabor pointed out that “AI technology holds the key to the future. It is quite pervasive. It is part of our existence and will impact businesses the way we can ever imagine. It can help SMEs develop new products and services by analysing data and identifying customers’ needs. AI can also be used to automate repetitive tasks, streamline workflows, and improve efficiency by reducing operational costs.”

He listed the challenges and risks of AI as bias, explainability, privacy, transparency and misuse, debunking claims in some quarters that AI will lead to the end of the world but rather a tool for development.

Also speaking, former Chief Operating Officer, Flutterwave, Bode Abifari said AI technology holds the key to the future, explaining that it simulates human intelligence to perform complex tasks like research, decision making, pattern recognition and problem solving.

She submitted that AI was capable of improving customers’ experience and engagements for the SMEs, adding that the technology can personalize interactions, provide personalized recommendations and enhance customer service leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty for small businesses.

Ecobank MySME Growth Series which started in February this year is designed to empower SME operators across the country. It is part of the bank’s commitment to train over 1 million SME operators in various sectors of the economy in 2024.  The training will provide resources for starting a business, registration processes, industry statistics, and essential considerations for running a business. The series cover key areas such as accounting, credit, sales & marketing, taxation, and inventory management.

Additionally, articles on important topics like increasing sales, advertising ideas, business management practices, case studies, and leveraging technology will be provided.  Ecobank also plans to launch an SME Mentorship program to collaborate with successful entrepreneurs. Taken together, the MySME Growth Series reflects Ecobank’s dedication to fostering growth and success within the SME community.

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