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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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PRUDENTIAL ZENITH LIFE INSURANCE RECORDS 75% GROWTH IN PROFIT AFTER TAX IN FULL YEAR 2021 RESULTS

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Prudential Zenith Life Insurance Limited (“PZL”) has announced its audited financial results for the year ended 31st December 2021, recording a 75% growth in profit after tax (PAT) of 1.13b compared to the 646m recorded in the corresponding period in 2020.

The results, which was approved by the Board of Directors of Prudential Zenith and the insurance industry regulator, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), shows that Gross Written Premium (GWP) and Annualized Premium Equivalent (APE) grew year on year by 16.3% and 9.3% respectively. This was primarily driven by 27% growth in new business acquisition for Group Life written during the period.

Investment income grew by 30% year-on-year due to a significant increase in the interest-generating assets of the company, and commission income also increased by 43% during the period. 

The financial performance is a testament to the continued focus on investments, as the company remains committed to building a strong market-leading position in Nigeria by enhancing its capabilities, strengthening its digitally enabled multi-channel distribution network, and broadening the range of products and services that are available to customers in order to meet their needs. 

Despite the challenges experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Prudential Zenith was able to achieve this strong growth in 2021 and is poised to continue improving its performance in the upcoming financial years. Prudential Zenith will continue to develop and launch unique products to meet customers’ needs, leveraging technology and its core corporate governance structure to deliver faster claims settlement. The company will also continue to prioritize the health, safety, and welfare of customers, who subscribe to its unique insurance product offerings.

Prudential Zenith Life Insurance Ltd (PZL) is a subsidiary of Prudential Plc., established in 2017 when Prudential Plc acquired a 51% holding in Zenith Life Insurance. PZL is one of the most capitalized companies in the Nigerian insurance industry with a wide range of individual products including savings & investments-linkedproducts, endowment, and protection products designed to meet the needs of individuals and their families.  For corporate clients, the company’s product offerings includeGroup Life, Key-Man Assurance, Credit Life, School Fees Protection, and Mortgage Protection, ensuring that the welfare of clients’ staff and families are met.  

Prudential Plc provides life and health insurance, and asset management in Africa and Asia, helping people get the most out of life by making healthcare affordable and accessible and by promoting financial inclusion. Prudential protects people’s wealth, helps them grow their assets, and empowers them to save for their goals. It has more than 19 million life customers and is listed on stock exchanges in London (PRU), Hong Kong (2378), Singapore (K6S), and New York (PUK).

Prudential Plc has insurance operations in eight countries in Africa: Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Togo Uganda, and Zambia.  With over 1 million customers, Prudential Africa works with over 11,000 agents and six exclusive bank partnerships, with access to over 600 branches to bring value-added insurance solutions to its customers.

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OONI COMMISSIONS OJAJAMORE, TARGETS MORE JOB CREATION WITH 100 STALLS ACROSS NIGERIA IN 2 YEARS

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The Ooni of Ife, Arole Oduduwa Olofin Adimula Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, today Friday, September 16 2022 at Ile-Ife, Osun state, unveiled an iconic retail outlet branded OjajaMore, a viable food-chain retail store dealing in groceries and other consumables.

Explaining the initiative at the commissioning ceremony held at the premises of the retail store located at the KM 10, Ife/Ibadan express way in Ile-Ife today, the Ooni stated that the establishment of OjajaMore is in fulfillment of his agelong aspiration to redesign retail activities that will be gainfully driven by the Nigerian youths with a view to creating an enduring legacy for Africa in the global space.

“Today, I am exceptionally fulfilled to unveil the OJAJAMORE, one of the profound and timeless initiatives that I envisioned for the modernization of Ile-Ife, Osun State, and other Nigerian cities. It is a triumph and regeneration of retail economies, a reservoir of seamless opportunities for new agro-commodities markets significantly improving access to B2B value chains, a social sanctuary for groceries and other products, and an iconic global brand name that will leave indelible marks on young people through job creation, resolving commoditization issues, and harnessing the integration of locally built flawless novelty digital transactions.

A rethinking of our approach and values for shopping malls in Nigeria and for Nigerians need to be pioneered and readapted. The vision of OJAJAMORE as an indigenous entity with a modern continental outlook is to play a prominent role in people’s lives as a conduit that provides relatable experiences beyond traditional shopping while driving a robust economic culture. It will broaden the boundaries of business growth, increase efficiency, and incorporate value-added elements that will span a remarkable experience and instill a deeper bond in customers.

The OJAJAMORE is part of my multichannel investment strategies, which will naturally serve the Ife Grand Resort and Industrial Park, the OJAJA Arena (a 3,000-seat multi-purpose event center), the OJAJA Hostel (a 2,000-bed hostel facility at Obafemi Awolowo University), and other iconic facilities that I have built in Ile-Ife and the surrounding communities over the last six years. This was a promise that I made at my historic coronation six years ago, and I will stop at nothing to fulfil the truest vision of Ile-Ife as both a symbol of ancient and modern economic powerhouse”. Ooni said.

The Natural Head of the Oduduwa race worldwide stated that he intends to use the new retail store initiative as his deliberate way of getting youths gainfully engaged.

“This is a job creation for the Nigerian youths. OjajaMore simply means where people (consumers) can pay less and get more. It is a combination of royalty and retail to create a different shopping perspective starting from Ile-Ife The Source. The business is structured to allow personalized shopping to grow the retail business which is grossly underdeveloped in Nigeria due to reasons which include proliferation of neighborhood stores and unorganized markets among others.

“While in Johannesburg about 15 years ago on a business visit, I saw so many retail stores, I thereafter realized that as big as Nigeria was and still is, there are only five (5) major malls with no single one in my hometown Ile-Ife that is refined, classy and affordable.

“Like we have names of people branded into companies like this in developed countries, I initiated this project to build the confidence of our younger ones in productive business and investment activities. Youths are the real drivers of economic growth.

“We have started from Ile-Ife because charity begins at home, from here we will cover the entire South West and Nigeria with a chain of over 100 stalls within the next 24 months. It will be first of its kind in Nigeria and the continent of Africa.

“Beyond grooming young minds and serious minded youths in retail business, this initiative will offer over 100,000 direct and indirect employment to our youths across the country, thereby contributing in no small means to human development and capacity building. That’s my target” The Ooni said.

On what Nigerians stand to benefit from patronizing the new outfit, the MD/CEO. of OjajaMore, Mr. Benedict Orioye explained that high-powered technology will be deployed to ensure that customers are treated with respect and royalty as part of value for their money, beyond what is obtainable in similar outfits nationwide.

Orioye said, “Our focus is to have local content as items making up of at least 70 percent of items to be sold here, this is why we are dueling mostly on the farm market. Everything you can think of in the farm will be sold in OjajaMore with decent packaging in line with global standard operating procedure for food handling.

“Aside from fresh and healthy farm produce, the mall will be filled with other retail items as obtainable in other malls around the world but blended with royalty. Our goods are going to be affordably cheap and environment friendly as we have concluded plans to partner the university communities around us to ease the stress of students and other low income earners in shopping.” Orioye said.

In keeping with his unorthodox shift, the Ooni has said OJAJAMORE will be guided by the young people, as they are heroically dedicated to one Nigeria whose greatness and prosperity they are inextricably connected to. As a result, he has intentionally entrusted some of his initiatives and projects to some of Nigeria’s brightest young people. It will be recalled that monarch had on the day of his official coronation in December 2015 dedicated his reign and the throne to the youth. This has consistently seen him engage the youths meaningfully in all his projects and programs both businesses and NGOs.

Apart from Orioye Benedict Gbayisemore, a one time local fisherman from Ilaje Ese Odo area of Ondo state who was appointed MD/CEO of the OjajaMore by the Ooni having discovered him as a well educated and super versatile young man with a Bsc Physics from Obafemi Awolowo University and currently studying for his MSc Business Admin at the University of Ibadan, the super dynamic monarch has also given an array of other brilliant and multi-talented Nigerian youths gainful job opportunities with a lot of them performing creditably well in their various engagements.

Makinde Covenant(DJ Smith) from Ile-Ife, a 3 hundred level student of Dramatic Arts at Obafemi Awolowo University is the one in charge of YAKOYO AFRIKANA an African restaurant which occupies the Gallery section of the OjajaMore established to promote the African heritage using the aspect of our diverse local food and cuisines. There are several other Nigerian youths who have benefited from the Ooni’s G2G platform which he created 4 years ago to drive his Grass-To-Grace aganda for the youths.

A graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Oluwaseun Victor Badejo from Ile-Ife is handling OJAJA PARK, a 25 billion naira model city project in Akure while a 30 year old Kamarudeen Adefajo an indigene of Modakeke-Ife with an HND architecture is the one in charge of OjajaMews, another multibillion housing estate project located at Osogbo in Osun state.

A graduate of Osun State Polytechnic who is fondly called Engineer Fisayo has been made to carry out several successful constructions of the Ooni’s projects like the Ife Grand Resort and Industrial Park, the 3000 seaters multi-purpose event center called OJAJA ARENA, a 2000 bedded hostel facility OJAJA HOSTEL at the Obafemi Awolowo University, the OjajaMore all in Ile-Ife.

Former president of National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) Comrade Bello Shagari from Sokoto state is the MD/CEO of Royal African Young Leadership Forum (RAYLF) a platform set up by the Ooni in 2018 for showcasing and celebrating the talented young leaders who are already great but untapped assets for Nigeria. he studied Business Information Systems & Information Technology Middlesex University, London.

Barrister Habeeb Whyte from Abeokuta, a Law graduate of the University of Ilorin is the
MD/CEO Olofin Products Ltd.
an Ooni’s company Packaging everyday agricultural products for sale locally and exports.

One of the Ooni’s Personal Assistants, Tomisin Olawale a graduate of Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada was also recently appointed as Director of Olofin Microfinance Bank, a one-time Ife Community owned bank which has just been succoured by the Ooni for resuscitation. An award winning Inya Sarah Lawal, who coordinates his “Women Owned Micro Businesses” (WOMB).

Others include Olusola Owonikoko, who runs the Royal African Foundation (RAF), Ibidapo Fashina, who runs the Royal African Medical Outreach (RAMO), According to the dynamic king, these young men and women, like millions of others, are a microcosm of his royalty, woven into the fabric of our modernization and industrialization even as history weighs heavily on their shoulders.

While inviting individuals, groups, government and other corporate organizations in Ile-Ife and its environs to join him in the daily patronage of the iconic OjajaMore, the African foremost who doubles as Co-chairman, National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria(NCTRN) monarch admonished government and well meaning Nigerians to always consider the Nigerian youth as the best partners in progress for the economic liberation of the country.

 

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FIRSTBANK HOSTS THE FINANCIAL MARKET DEALERS ASSOCIATION (FMDA) QUARTERLY MEETING

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited has announced that it will host the Financial Markets Dealers Association’s (FMDA) quarterly meeting scheduled for 5pm on Friday, 16 September 2022, at Federal Palace Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos. The event themed “Nigeria Macroeconomic Developments and Outlook: IMF View” will have its keynote address delivered by Ari Aisen, IMF Resident Representative for Nigeria. 

In a statement issued by the Acting Executive Secretary, Mrs. Mary Gbegbaje, “The FMDA quarterly meeting serves as a platform for in-depth knowledge sharing, dissemination of information and fostering of business relationships of members in treasury market practice which consists of Treasurers, Analysts and other market players from insurance, pension funds, government and regulatory bodies in Nigeria. Participants at the event include delegates from all banks and invited guest and customers.”

According to Ini Ebong, Executive Director, Treasury, Financial Institutions & International Banking, First Bank of Nigeria Limited “at FirstBank, we are delighted to host the 2022 quarterly meeting of the Financial Markets Dealers Association of Nigeria (FMDA), a platform we consider pivotal to the continued growth of the financial market in the country. We are excited with the successes so far achieved by our noble Association – FMDA – as with the right regulatory and risk management framework, we have been able to impact and promote fairness in the activities of members, whilst providing the enabling environment to promote business performance and positively impact the national economy’’.

With the knowledge and insights shared in the course of the quarterly meeting, we would further deepen our resolve towards the unrelenting role we play in the economy”, he concluded.

FMDA is the principal interface with the monetary authorities through policy advocacy and engagement aimed at promoting sound markets and ethical conducts comparable to international standards that facilitate liquidity, transparency and price discovery and engendering market deepening.

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