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*894#: HOW CUSTOMERS’ INCREASED TRUST IN FIRSTBANK’S  USSD BANKING 

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Dr. Adesola Adeduntan - FirstBank CEO

 

 

The path to financial inclusion holds different marketplace barriers and opportunities in different countries, but the push continues because of proof that an increase in economic activities among the financially vulnerable can reawaken a comatose economy. For Nigeria, the last three years have seen significant growth of the financial inclusion rate from 56.8% in 2016 to 63.2% in 2018. FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking service is playing a key role in it. 

 

FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking initiative is already averaging about 99 million transactions monthly, with a naira worth of (N’m) 370,543 on these transactions. This figure includes the undergraduate doing a mobile airtime recharge; the trader receiving a mobile payment from a customer; the IT person hurriedly buying a data bundle to keep business afloat; the anxious father paying his daughter’s hospital bills for treatment to commence, and the busy worker in Lagos transferring money to his parents in the village since he cannot get to a banking hall.

 

This is just a rough sampling of the financial transactions that amounted to over N3.6 trillion in transaction value on the *894# USSD banking service in 2020. There is practically no financial emergency that the USSD service does not come in. 

 

The problems that the *894# USSD service from First Bank of Nigeria Limited is solving is the only justification for the rapid traction it has gained since it was introduced in 2015. It is easy to see Nigerians trust and confidence in the USSD system, with the Bank rapidly growing from 9.5 million customers on the USSD feature to 12.26 million customers within the last year. Over 1.02 million of the figure, are customers who registered in the first 6 months of 2021. 

 

The first and perhaps the most attractive feature of USSD banking has got to be that it can be done from any kind of phone and without any form of internet connectivity. Although smartphones are getting more common, there is still a high poverty rate and many financially vulnerable people who cannot access internet banking. The internet penetration in Nigeria is still below the ideal, so users have to deal with poor internet connections in some areas. 

 

That is why this kind of banking service that can be accessed without internet connectivity is ideal for the financial inclusion drive. The *894# USSD feature can be used across the four major GSM network operators in the country, meaning there is no added demand on the users. 

 

Getting started on the service is as easy as dialling *894*0#, and creating a pin. With that done, you can do airtime and data purchase for yourself and other parties, transfer funds to other accounts, make a BVN enquiry, check your account balance and get a mini statement. 

 

For non-customers, this feature allows you to open a bank account in a couple of minutes without having to visit the banking hall. You can open a bank account, receive your account number immediately and start transactions on it right away. The claims of “instant banking, anytime, anywhere” can’t get more real than this. 

 

There is even an added security step, requesting a second-factor authentication (2FA) for transfers above N20,000 as a way to secure customers from being ripped off their funds. There is a cumulative maximum daily transfer limit of N100,000 to both FirstBank and other banks accounts. 

 

How does FirstBank USSD improve the lives of Nigerians?

For one, the data being generated through this service is sufficient to help the bank understand its current and prospective customers and develop products that suit them. 

 

Traders and small businesses can also get a Merchant ID which customers can use to make payments for products and services. This of course is better than having to send one’s account details to countless customers, even without knowing whether or not they are ready to make their purchase. 

 

To ensure customers can meet emergency needs before month-end, the Bank’s FirstAdvance service is at their fingertips. FirstAdvance is a digital lending solution designed to offer convenient and easy access to cash for payroll customers awaiting payment of their salaries.

 

Offered through the Bank’s USSD Banking service and leading banking app product, FirstMobile, customers are exposed to a range of loan offerings which put them at an edge in meeting immediate financial needs. To initiate the service through the USSD banking service, the customer is to dial – USSD CODE-*894*11# or *894#. The service is open to customers with a salary account domiciled with the Bank and have received salaries for the last 6 months at the least. 

 

There are much more about FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking that puts customers at a distinct advantage in carrying out their daily personal, financial and business activities; meeting unforeseen emergencies, and carrying out a wide range of transactions – with so much fun and convenience – irrespective of where they are in the country.

 

Business

Half-Year Performance: Transcorp Plc Shows Powerful Growth as Profit Leaps by 713%

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Transcorp Hotels

Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) has released its unaudited results for the half-year ended June 2021, recording significant improvement across its major income lines.

The Conglomerate with strategic investments in the Power, Hospitality, and Energy sectors, recorded a profit after tax of N6.5bn, rising by 713% up from N0.8bn recorded in June of the previous year. Other key highlights of the result include the following:

  • Revenue rose by 53%, from N35.0bn in June 2020 to N53.3bn in the period under consideration.
  • Gross profit grew by 60%, from N14.7bn in June 2020 to N23.5bn in June 2021.
  • Profit before tax rose by 689% from N0.9bn in June 2020 to N7.1b in June 2021.

Commenting on the performance, Transcorp’s President/Group CEO, Mrs. Owen Omogiafo, reiterated the Conglomerate’s commitment towards producing long-term value and sustainable impact. “We are pleased to see the sustained growth in our group performance, which was achieved as a result of the improved performance across all the sectors we operate in. The revenue achieved in our power business grew by 48%, as a result of improved gas supply and increased generation capacity”, she stated.

Commenting on the hospitality sector, Omogiafo stated that the company’s strategic actions have resulted in a growth in revenue of up to 84%, despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the Nigerian and global hospitality industries. She expressed confidence in the company’s recovery strategies, citing the recent official launch of Aura, the company’s digital hospitality platform, as a testament to that confidence.

On the Group’s capacity to sustain its performance, Omogiafo said, “We do not plan to rest on our oars. We will continue to sweat our existing assets and explore new frontiers, as we continue to deliver on our purpose of Improving Lives and Transforming Nigeria.”

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Opinion

Rethinking safe-haven assets and building resilient portfolios with Xend Finance

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As with most things in life, feeling overwhelmed as a newbie is simple, and this is especially true in such a volatile market as the world of cryptocurrencies. Regardless of the uncertainty and worries, the world of cryptocurrency has the potential to have a unique and substantial impact on anyone’s financial stability.

Government Bonds, treasury bills, and other forms of fixed income investments are undeniably considered as safe haven investments due to their low risk, but with inflation on the increase, the question arises how safe is money locked up for a specific period of time?

It is therefore important to build a resilient portfolio able to minimize risks and mitigate volatility, diversity into multiple unrelated investments, deliver steady returns and also able to recognize changing market conditions, new opportunities and respond accordingly.
Enter the world of Stablecoins. A less volatile cryptocurrency asset pegged to a cryptocurrency, fiat money, or to exchange-traded commodities (such as precious metals or industrial metals).

Compare to other forms of cryptocurrency assets like bitcoin, or altcoins the advantages of stablecoins are stabilized by assets that fluctuate outside of the cryptocurrency space that is prices are pinned to real-world assets.
Most stablecoins are pegged to the US Dollar as they are an easy way to get exposure to the crypto space without having to worry about volatility.

You can build a resilient portfolio with stable coins by having a good foundation on which you can build and protect your investment portfolio. This is necessary to provide a buffer when the markets are volatile or things go south.

These stablecoins also provide diversification as Investor Phillips Hodges mentioned in an interview emphasized the importance of balancing factors affecting the returns you can get across the different than the classes themselves. Stable coins also provide the extra diversification a portfolio needs to stay afloat in a stormy market, minimize losses due to their low volatility.

Be rest assured as an investor that your portfolio can only said to be strong when you have investments that can stand the test of time. Inflations and rickety market conditions.
If you’re a fund manager looking to get exposure to the crypto space through stable coins, send an email to [email protected] and someone would be in touch with you.

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Market formation framework, driver to optimally develop solid mineral sector- Ifie Sekibo 

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Ifie Sekibo

MD/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo has said that the market formation framework is the key to optimally exploit Nigeria’s precious metal and solid minerals endowments. He disclosed this during a webinar organized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development with the theme, “Financing the Solid Minerals Sector through the Capital Market and the Critical Role of Commodity Exchanges.”  

Sekibo explained that a fully established market formation process that would lead to having a Corporation as an integrated solid mineral institution like NNPC which allows the collateralization of assets those banks can rely on for alternative funding options.

According to him, this will guarantee other creative ways of raising funds for financing commercial activities relating to solid minerals and viable projects along its value chain.

Sekibo who was represented by the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, of the Bank, Olusegun Akanji, said for the sector to be viable, it requires lots of converged government interventions because for any development focused sector to kick-off around the world, it needs government intervention to lay the foundation for the private sector and funders to step-in and pool their resources.

“Once, we can collateralize these assets, whether they are under the ground or being determined, you use different instruments to bring liquidity into them. Then investors will follow up once we have established there is enough they can explore.” the MD stated.

He further suggested that finance sector regulators need to expand their Prudential Guidelines to accommodate the instruments such that precious metal-backed or solid minerals-backed assets could qualify as part of the computation of liquidity ratios.

“Once banks start injecting their resources, customers would certainly follow that trend. You can start arranging for sophisticated solutions like bonds, bullion-backed assets and pension notes. Again, banks will have to be poised to hold the funding that comes from this sector; that way, they can open new transactional frontiers either locally or internationally.

“At the base of this, are the issues of pricing and integrity of the market. Once banks play in that sector and we have a government institution like the NNPC type to hold all this documentation, it would be very easy to establish price discovery on an ongoing basis. This will in turn attract international funders, hedge funds and retail investors. Today, we have retail bonds in the same way; we can have gold-backed or any of the solid mineral assets where retail investors can put in the funds,” Sekibo explained.

Meanwhile, it would be recalled that Heritage Bank Plc has said its involvement in the private sector collaboration with Dukia Gold & Precious Metals Refining Co. Limited is set to unlock the over N344 trillion market worth of gold investible instruments in the solid minerals sector.

However, he reiterated that a consistent packaged framework, which could only be held by an established government institution, as part of the layers of the framework, would help to tackle major challenges in trying to support Dukia Gold’s clients.

“With a consistent packaged framework, it will be easier for Dukia Gold and help in less spending. If Dukia Gold should speak of their challenges, they will speak about tonnes of documents they have to produce. But with a unified source of documentation, it makes the process easier and improves cost management. These are some of the challenges we have experienced in trying to support a few clients we worked with,” Sekibo stated.

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