FirstBank Pledges More Support for SMEs

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By Nume Ekeghe

FirstBank Bank of Nigeria has reiterated its commitment to the growth of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) through various trainings, seminars and advisory services.

Speaking during a courtesy visit to THISDAY Corporate Headquarters, in Lagos, the Head, Media and External Communications at FirstBank of Nigeria, Mr. Babatunde Lasaki said in the last five years, the bank had extended a lot of financial support to small businesses across the country.

“I can say that we are the first bank to start the SME conferences and seminars. The first was in Lagos and since its inception, we have actually gone to all the six geopolitical zones to organise these seminars.

“In addition to that, we actually established commercial banking department and they are solely responsible for small and medium scale enterprises and apart from that, in the last three years we have organised in partnership with Lagos Business School as part of our sustainability program. We have done for women lead SMEs, media SMEs and different sectors of the economy and in every branches that you go to, you have an SME desk you can actually get advice services for free. And then we do train SMEs from time to time,” Lasaki said.

He also said the bank was focused on capacity development, which was why it went into partnership with various SME training schools, organise seminars, educate operators and aspiring business owners through its regular radio programme.
In addition, he said the bank sponsors an SME startup show on CNN.

Also, he said on the 17th of this month, the bank would organise an SME summit.

He added: “We have supported various sectors from independent till date. This reflects in most of our activities in terms of our loan decomposition as well as our strength in our core banking area. We pride ourselves as the retail mass market banking institutions and we support all the four main sub sectors of the economy.
From manufacturing to oil and gas services and public sector.

“Our support and concentration on those sectors is simply to drive home our point that we are a national icon, we support development and we want to create employment and then help government boost infrastructure and public utilities.”

Also, commenting on the expansion to other African countries, the Head , International Market Coordination & Head, Brand Quality Assurance at First Bank, Mrs. Chinwe Bode- Akinwande said: “We are actually in other African countries, we have expanded our footprint. For now, we are in Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Seria Leone, Senegal and in DRC. After the acquisition and as at February this year the last market which is Senegal they are now called FBN bank. You may not read is as Firstbank but the corporate identity is the same in of our identity and the FBN there is Firstbank of Nigeria.

“The acquisition was completed the last week in February and so after the acquisition and ingratiating being completed, it is now we would start doing the campaign.”