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FIRSTBANK: LEVERAGING DIGITAL BANKING SOLUTIONS FOR EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE

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In First Bank of Nigeria Limited, virtually all the indices are looking bright. From a stellar performance in its last year and first quarter of 2022 operations to the unleashing of its robust digital banking solutions in its operations, analysts say its current management deserves accolades for preparing the bank for the challenges and changing needs in the emerging dispensation in the Nigerian banking industry.

As competition mounts in the ever-changing Nigerian banking landscape, analysts said the future of the industry will be determined by the speed and readiness of the operators to navigate their institutions to meet the changing dynamics in the taste and needs of consumers of banking products and services.

This is because as the Nigerian economy undergoes different levels of transformation and challenges evident in the shrinkage of the citizens’ purchasing power, and the narrowing of their choices, bank customers, as well as investors in the banking stocks, will naturally gravitate to any of the banks which has what it takes to meet their needs.

In the consideration of the above-painted scenario, analysts believe the cap fits First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the banking arm of the FBNHoldings, perfectly.

In the last few weeks, FirstBank has remained in the news as a result of its impressive performance in its 2001 full-year operation, a feat which it effortlessly repeated in the first-quarter results.

And like an institution that is committed to staying put at the top of the ladder, the bank is sticking to its commitment to be the darling of Nigerian bank customers through its resolve to leverage its digital banking solutions by moving from a dependence on branches for doing business to digital banking for excellent performance.

The result of this bold move is the unprecedented surge in the number of customer accounts from 10 million to 36 million in a few years.

Shift to Digital Architecture:

 

FirstBank had over the years taken advantage of its geographical footprints. A report by the Lagos-based research firm, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, noted that at one point in time, FirstBank had over 25% of total bank branches in Nigeria. Leveraging on the economies of scale, today, First Bank has made a mental shift from relying on its branches for doing business to a greater emphasis on its digital architecture. In the digital space, First Bank is not only a fierce competitor but a winning institution.

There is no doubt that the Nigerian oldest bank is well-positioned to deepen its penetration in the information technology space through its wide branch network (deposit and loan portfolio of N6.13trillion and N4.03 trillion respectively).

With its e-banking products and services, customers can pay bills, send/receive money, monitor every transaction on their account, make cashless purchases online or in person, and much more. All these can be done on an internet-enabled mobile phone, PC, or tablet, from wherever you are in the world.

The FDC report explained that despite the intense competition faced by Nigerian banks from fintech and telecommunication operators, First Bank of Nigeria Limited remains competitive in the digital banking space with increased customer acquisition from 10 million to 36 million in a few years. Also, the group has a robust retail banking franchise; comprising over 3,000 configured terminals and over 15,000 points of sale (POS) terminals, an agency banking network, as well an internet and mobile banking platform.

Banking on Well-structured Management:

 

Analysts are also of the opinion that the story about the impressive performance of First Bank, especially in the recent time cannot be complete without a chapter on the unique style of the current management which has been able to navigate the bank towards the path of sustained profitability and acceptance by the banking community.

For instance, analysts from FDC maintained that “The era of an experienced and well-structured management team signifies a continued restructuring of the bank’s operations and the gigantic return to profitability of a previously crippling giant.”

The research firm noted that the bank’s international presence gives it an edge and serves as a buffer against currency weakness, political challenges, and macroeconomic vulnerabilities.

Today, the reality is that the bank which was formerly plagued with bad credit decisions, significant non-performing loans, and poor corporate governance practices has taken drastic steps to tackle these worrisome issues and re-establish itself as a formidable force in the Nigerian banking space.

This new identity can be tied to a restructuring exercise that improved corporate governance, asset quality, and shareholders’ value.

Season of Stellar Performance

 

Impressively, the bank sustained this positive performance by recording a 32% increase in gross earnings to N180bn in Q1’22 from N136.6bn in Q1’21. Profit after tax was up 108% to N32.4billion (Q1’22) relative to N15.6 billion (Q1’21).

This stellar performance is attributable to a robust loan portfolio, effective cost structure, and increased digital services.

As a result of First Bank’s restructuring exercise, the bank reported a huge sum of N141 billion as loan recovery from previously written off Atlantic Energy Ltd loan in 2021. This exercise bolstered a 100% bottom-line growth in the period under review.

In the period, FirstBank Limited recorded gross earnings of N170.4 billion, up by 33 per cent as against N128.1billion in the previous year. The bank’s net interest income was put at N72.9 billion, a 42.1 per cent from N51.3 billion generated in the same period of 2021, while non-interest income was N58.8 billion, up by 21.7 per cent from the 2021 figure.

To show the bank was in a serious business of lending, its customers’ loans and advances (net) totaled N2.999 trillion, up by 5.8 per cent, year-to-date as of December 2021, which was put at N2.835 trillion, while customers’ deposits were N5.9 trillion, as against N5.6 trillion in the first quarter of 2021, a 5.4 per cent increase.

In a ranking conducted by Nairametrics for instance, FirstBank ranked number one among banks reviewed as far as cost to income ratio was concerned. The bank recorded the highest decline in its cost-to-income ratio in Q1 2022, dropping from 79.5% recorded in Q1 2021 to 67.03% in the review period.

The cost-to-income ratio is a key financial metric, which shows a company’s costs as a proportion of its income. It helps to give investors a clear view of how efficiently a bank is being run. Specifically, it shows how much input the bank requires to generate N1 of output.

Notably, the lower this ratio, the more profitable, productive, and competitive the bank will be. Here are the banks with the lowest cost-to-income ratio.

Commitment to Greater Profitability:

The Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, expressed the resolve of the management of the bank to use the current good performance to make its drive for profitability a permanent thing. He said, “At FirstBank, we have historically been interwoven with the fabric of this nation with a full-service commercial banking offering catering to every segment of the economy. We believe we are now in a good position to translate this unique revenue-generating potential into improved bottom-line performance.

“Our first-quarter results demonstrate that we have commenced our journey of Quantum Profitability Leap in earnest with profit before tax doubling to N34.1 billion as the Bank begins to reap the dividends of the successful restructuring of its balance sheet, revamped risk management, robust technology, and innovative service offerings.”

Adeduntan stressed the determination of the management of the bank to explore the potential of FirstBank’s large network in consolidating the current impressive runs.
“Looking ahead, we will continue to maximise all opportunities presented by our large network, and support our customers with innovative value-adding solutions through these uncertain times while investing in strengthening our digital banking offerings to deliver a better customer experience.”
Recognised Brand.

Interestingly, these huge investments in digital technology are not going unnoticed by the industry’s observers. And in 2022 alone, FirstBank has won two awards: Best Bank in Nigeria 2022 and Best Banking Digital Transformation Nigeria at the International Investor Awards 2022, a print and online publication.

The organiser explained that the bank was recognised with the Best Bank in Nigeria 2022 award for its leadership role in promoting financial inclusion in Nigeria which has been integral to improving lives and stimulating businesses of individuals across the country.

Also, the Best Bank in Digital Transformation was awarded to FirstBank in recognition of its continued efforts at reinventing its digital banking channels which have been central to reinforcing the Bank’s leading role in promoting a cashless society in the country whilst putting customers at an advantage in enjoying a secured and seamless digital banking experiences. The Bank’s digital banking channels include; its recently unveiled fully automated branch (FirstBank Digital Experience Centre), *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile, First online, and WhatsApp banking amongst others.

With over 750 business locations and over 170,000 Banking Agents spread across 99% of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria, FirstBank provides a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services to serve its over 30 million customers. The Bank has an international presence through its subsidiaries, FBNBank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBNBank in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing.

Culled from Leadership

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NNPC Gas Marketing Limited Commissions New Office complex constructed by TILT Energy in Lagos

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NGML one of the core strategic subsidiaries of NNPC commissioned a new office complex at the Ikeja on Monday the 23rd of January.
This is in line with their commitment to providing an enabling environment for workforce which the MD Mr Justin Ezeala described as their greatest asset. It’s also inline with vision of the company of propagating the use of gas a cleaner source of energy across the country.

 

The impressive edifice was designed and built by
Leading integrated energy solutions company, TILT Energy Company Limited
The project, which was completed in the space of one year With no safety incidents in compliance with the extremely high standards of the oil and gas industry ,a testament to the pedigree of TILT Energy as a company.

NNPC and TILT Energy

Speaking at the commissioning Ayodeji Awodiji said that TILT Energy offers a vast array of services beyond just civil construction projects of this standard ,he highlighted the, O&M, pipeline installation and process automation capabilities of the company as an example .
He noted that TILT Energy also has a very strong fabrication base with its fabrication yard situated in Lagos, adding that he was proud to have been part of many flagship projects, including this.
Ayodeji explained that TILT has displayed its ability to work in a live site, where you have gas distribution without any safety incidents.
“We are glad for NNPC gas marketing limited for giving us this opportunity to showcase our core competence.

 

TILT Energy Management

“Like I said we are an EPCI company so civil construction is literally just a small part of what we do,” he said.”
He added that the new office was designed and constructed by TILT Energy on schedule within the stipulated 12 months timeframe.
According to him, “we actually started in December 2021, and we more or less concluded in December 2022, and commissioned in January 2023.”
Also speaking at the event was Mr Justin Ezeala, Managing Director, NNPC Gas Marketing Limited (NGML), who revealed that in spite of the challenges TILT Energy had at the beginning, he was particularly proud of their capacity to deliver on schedule.
The Executive Director Asset Management of NGML Mr Lawrence Chukwu also in his remarks commended the contractor for the outstanding quality of work , their professionalism and safety standards
He said he was happy that the project was situated close to one of their biggest partners Gaslink,
The well attended event had dignaties such as the MD of gaslink, the MD of NIPCO, Falcon Energy and Mtech in attendance (names)
Additionally, speaking on TILT energy’s ongoing projecrs coming projects, Ayodeji revealed that rehabilitation of the steam turbine at the Olorunsogo power plant owned by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company is expected to be completed by the end of the 1st quarter of this year and would bring on stream an additional 125 megawatts to the national grid when completed

According to him, the Olorunsogo Power Plant project is a very significant milestone for a local company to execute.

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ADEDUNTAN URGES BANKS TO IMPROVE LOAN MONITORING TO PREVENT NPLS’ BUILD-UP

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Dr. Adesola Adeduntan - FirstBank CEO

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, has advised financial institutions in the country to be vigilant and improve the monitoring of their customers’ loans in order to prevent the build-up of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the industry as a result of the macroeconomic challenges.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Adeduntan also urged businesses and their bankers to approach the new year in a collaborative relationship in order to overcome anticipated headwinds in the economy.

Adeduntan explained, “To prevent rising NPLs, businesses and their bankers will have to collaborate more and ensure timely flow of information to prevent surprises.

“Banks on their part will have to improve monitoring of their loan portfolio to quickly identify early warning signals for attention before a full-scale loan deterioration.

“Overall, businesses and their bankers must approach 2023 with a partnership mindset to ensure that a win-win outcome is achieved despite the anticipated macroeconomic challenges.”

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, recently warned that 2023 would be tougher than 2022 for much of the global economy, as the United States, European Union and China see slowing growth.

Georgieva had said 2023 would be a “tough year”, with one-third of the world’s economies expected to be in recession.

The IMF had in October cut its global growth forecast to 2.7 per cent, down from 2.9 per cent forecast in July, amid headwinds, including the war in Ukraine and sharply rising interest rates.

Owing to the anticipated weakening of the global economy, Adeduntan said with slowing growth and elevated inflation rates, the sustainability of foreign debts, especially for developing nations, was likely to call for a re-evaluation by lenders given the increased likelihood of default.

He stated, “When this is juxtaposed with the higher interest rate environment at which these debts are likely to be refinanced, you will observe a scenario where further strain is exerted on the debt repayment capacity of these economies.

“However, this situation does not necessarily translate to an automatic economic doom for developing nations. The actual impact on each developing economy will depend on the economy’s level of fiscal discipline and revenue generating capacity.

“Developing nations, who are able, in the short term, to increase revenues either from taxes or sale/refinancing of idle/sub-optimal assets will be able to negotiate reasonable refinancing terms from lenders and prevent further economic turmoil.

“Nonetheless, all concerned nations need to take the issue of debt sustainability more seriously by limiting fiscal wastages, reducing inefficiencies, growing revenues, and aggressively working down unsustainable debt-to-GDP levels that may worsen the impacts of external shocks.”

Adeduntan also pointed out that expectedly, rising cost of debt and contracting demand would exacerbate the challenges that businesses would face this year, particularly for players operating in small-margins sectors of the economy.

Locally, the surging inflation rate was also expected to reduce disposable income of most consumers and demand for non-essential goods and services may dip, he said.

He, however, pointed out that despite the expected macroeconomic challenges in 2023, there were also emerging business and revenue opportunities that could be exploited by discerning players in the financial services industry.

Specifically, he identified the areas that would provide significant opportunity to players in the financial services industry to include payments, digital security, mergers and acquisition (M&A) opportunities, partnership across segments and consumer lending.

Adeduntan explained, “The Central Bank of Nigeria’s renewed drive on cashless policy has provided an opportunity for players in the financial services industry to enhance existing digital product offerings and create more attractive product offerings that will further reduce frictions in the payment process.

“This will help to reduce the financial exclusion gap, increase fees and commissions revenues, and improve overall viability and stability of the financial system.”

In the area of digital security, the chief executive said, “Increasing adoption of digital payments platforms will necessitate increased requirement for the security of payment channels. Thus, opportunities exist for players in the financial services industry to leverage robotics and artificial intelligence to improve security protocols on digital payment channels.”

He added, “With the anticipated pressures on earnings, opportunities exist for big and liquid players to gain additional scale and market share through outright acquisition of fringe players with the right strategic fit.

“There is also an opportunity for two or more small and/or medium size players to merge their operations/businesses to obtain scale advantage.

“The growing number of Fintechs and licensed Payment Service Banks also presents an opportunity for improved partnerships across various categories of players in the financial services industry for both mutual and industry-wide benefits.

“Tightening financial conditions of the average household will create opportunities for consumer loans in several variants such as buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), salary advance, consumer asset finance, etc. The industry is already witnessing a rising trend in the creation of digital consumer loan product offerings. This is likely to intensify in 2023.”

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Another set of winners to emerge in ongoing Polaris Save & Win Promo

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Polaris-Bank

…As Christmas Special Draw holds on December 29

 

Polaris Bank has announced that the third draw of its ongoing Save & Win promo is scheduled to hold on Thursday December 29, 2022.

 

The draw which will be conducted electronically, will hold at the Bank’s Victoria Island, Lagos headquarters, and will be broadcast live on the Bank’s social media channels where winners that emerged will be contacted and rewarded instantly.

 

The Bank has rewarded a total of 162 winners in the first and second draws that held on November 4 and December 8, respectively in a transparent selection witnessed by the relevant regulatory authorities.

 

The Bank in a statement on Wednesday, disclosed that another set of 100 Nigerians will be winners and will take-home cash prize of N100,000 each in the Christmas Special Draw.

 

According to Polaris Bank, customers can still participate in, or increase their chances of winning by depositing a minimum of N5,000 in their Savings account. Also, non-customers of the Bank can participate for a chance to win in the draw by opening a Polaris Savings account with N2,000 and growing same to N5,000 before the draw date.

 

Representatives of the relevant Lottery Commissions, Advertising Regulatory and Consumer Protection Agencies would be present at the draw to monitor and ensure transparency in the process.

 

The general public is invited to participate and follow the draw live on the Bank’s social media handles: @Polarisbankltd on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

 

Polaris Bank announced that this year’s Save & Win promo will reward over 4,000 Nigerians with cash gifts ranging from N100,000 to N1,000,000 in its monthly, quarterly and special draws.

 

Below are four (4) ways to participate in the promo:

 

 

  1. Download VULTe on iOS and the App store to open a Polaris Savings Account or dial USSD *833*0# on your phone or log into Polaris Bank savings portal at https://accounts.polarisbanklimited.com/opening/

 

  1. Grow your account by N5,000 or more for 30 days or 3 months to qualify for monthly & quarterly draws respectively; by N50,000 in 3 months to qualify for Xmas Special draw.
  1. If your account is dormant, you can reactivate your account without visiting the Bank by simply logging into the portal:https://accounts.polarisbanklimited.com/reactivate/, accept the terms and conditions, and update the required details the Bank may need.
  1. Follow the Bank’s handles @polarisbankltd across all social media platforms or visit the website at www.polarisbanklimited.com to stay updated.

 

Polaris Bank, adjudged Digital Bank of the Year 2021 and 2022, is a future-determining Bank committed to delivering industry-defining products for individuals and businesses.

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