Despite the lull in the economic space, the First Bank brand still maintains its lead by achieving a transaction volume of 100 million in a month, Raheem Akingbolu reports
In positioning and management, First Bank of Nigeria has always made a brand statement that espouses its essence. Being a proactive brand with rich heritage, the bank and its promoters have continued to ride on innovation and excellent banking service to give patrons unique customer experience. In a way, this has in return reflected on its balance sheet. Like every good brand that understands the core message of positioning, the bank truly understands its competition and then works daily on its competitive advantage.
All these were confirmed recently when the leading retail bank brand, was officially recognised as the first financial institution in the country to achieve a transaction volume of 100 million transactions in a month by Interswitch Transnational -Africa’s leading integrated payment and transaction processing company.
According to the Interswitch, this milestone feat was achieved in the month of December 2015 and represents the total transactions processed by FirstBank’s Front End Processor running on the Interswitch transaction switching platform which seamlessly links all financial institutions in Nigeria to facilitate better and quicker transactions across all platforms.
As Nigeria’s leading financial institution with over 10 million customers, this achievement by FirstBank is said to be clearly aligns with its strategic intent to promote financial inclusion, support the cashless policy drive of the Central Bank of Nigeria and boost economic growth via e-payments across Nigeria and the African continent.
According to the bank’s Group Head, e-business, Chuma Ezirim, FirstBank remains committed to lead the drive to move the Nigerian economy away from traditional cash and other generic payment means to modern technological varieties in e-Payment.
Reacting to the development, Divisional CEO, Switching and Processing, Interswitch, Akeem Lawal said the fact that a single banking partner can record 100 million transactions in a single month, has clearly demonstrated something about the strength and development of electronic transactions in Nigeria. “When you add this figure to that of our other partners, then you can begin to have an idea of the sheer size and demand for electronic financial services in Nigeria,” Lawal said.
Also speaking, the GMD/CEO of FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan noted that the bank will continue to employ novel approaches in providing secure and convenient banking services for its, promising that the bank will continue to innovate and extend its leadership of the financial sector services with specialised and technology-driven products and services.
In a similar way, the bank had in 2012 received a Milestone Achievement Award as the first bank to hit a five million mark of Verve card issuance to its customers.
Perhaps what works for the First Bank of Nigeria brand in asserting its feet firmly in the market is the fact that the promoters of the brand don’t limit themselves to the local market. Knowing well that building a global brand requires more than just launching a web site, that is accessible from almost anywhere in the world, they have gone a long way in understanding customer behavior across the major markets in Africa. To this end, First Bank has all along been positioned properly.
This explains why FirstBank, has today become a well-diversified financial services group and the largest private sector financial services provider in sub-Saharan Africa, except probably South Africa. In all the markets where it operates, the bank maintains the leading position and well recognized brand equity with a large customer base.
With almost 800 business locations in Nigeria, all on-line and real time, the bank has one of the largest domestic sales networks in the country. As a market leader in the financial services sector, First Bank pioneered initiatives in international money transfer and electronic banking in the country, serving more than 9 million customer accounts.
First Bank’s strategy has been focused on restructuring the business to take advantage of growth opportunities within the industry, pursuing business line expansion across strategic business units, continuously implementing a systematic international expansion plan, sequencing its growth initiatives across defined metrics, as well as building synergies and cross-selling across the First Bank group. This strategy supports the brand’s vision of being the leading sub-Sahara African financial services group. It is believed by analysts that continued implementation of this strategy will produce long-term profitable growth as well as build great franchises and deliver value to all stakeholders.
Another thing that has distinguished the brand is the long drawn transformation in the Nigerian financial services sector, which has also made it Nigeria’s strongest financial services group. This is arguably as a result of its proactive and far-reaching transformation programme initiated ahead of the turn of the present century. FirstBank was the first quoted company in Nigeria to achieve the feat of hitting the trillion naira mark in market capitalisation, the clearest evidence of the market’s estimation of its worth. In 2012, the FirstBank Group adopted a holding company structure – FBN Holdings Plc – in recognition of the need to retain the diversity of the Bank’s businesses, to enable the provision of a full range of financial services needs to customers beyond commercial banking, to investment banking, insurance and other financial services.
The Commercial Banking group is led by FirstBank, which has operations in 12 countries, with nine subsidiary companies which provide a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services, including commercial banking operations, pension fund management, and mortgages, offering banking services to a rich network of both individual customers and businesses.
In its over 120 years of uninterrupted operations, FirstBank’s outstanding services have attracted many recognitions and awards. The bank was the first to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in March 1971 and won the NSE’s Annual President’s Merit Award for the best financial report in the banking industry a record 13 times. This subsisting feat received additional impetus when the bank in 2011 was bestowed with the “Best Financial Reporting Company” award by Africa Investor, one of Africa’s most respected multimedia investment news and information publishers
In the same period, FirstBank was named the “Most Innovative Bank in Africa” by African Banker Awards. This coveted award goes to the African bank that has demonstrated original and practical uses of technology to provide customer convenience, better and cheaper services, and greater access to the financial services industry in Africa. The award, therefore, represents a global recognition of the giant strides the bank has made over the years in deploying technology to power its operations and services, and ultimately making banking services more convenient, accessible and faster.
Beyond any reason that may be given by brand owners, who breathe fresh air into their brands, one thing that is sacrosanct is the need to keep abreast of changing needs in the market place. This happened two years ago, when the First Bank Holdings rolled out the drum to usher in a new identity. In less than 24 hours after the official unveiling, customers who visited a few branches of some branches and other subsidiaries of the group had started noticing the change.The conceptualisation and implementation of the new identity took the creative egg heads within and outside the bank some 18 months before they arrived at the final output. What this translated to was that it was not done in hurry.
Above all, as a best-fit corporate governance promoter, FirstBank’s corporate governance practice remains at the industry’s leading-edge. This is especially evident in its laudable leadership transition processes, ensuring that there is seamless business continuity and stability in all aspects of the bank’s businesses. This corporate governance posture has won the bank much respect and recognition both locally and internationally.
A member of University of Ibadan, one Femi Babatunde aptly captured the nimble and youthful status of First Bank when he described the look and activities within a branch of the bank beside the university. According to him, the situation is strategic in an accessible location in the bustling city of Ibadan but despite his fear that it would be a herculean task carrying out his banking services, he was proved wrong during his visit to the branch as everything went on smoothly and he left the bank in a jiffy.