BUSINESS/BRANDS & MARKETING
Raheem Akingbolu looks at the last 126 years of First Bank of Nigeria’s services to Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, focusing on five touch points
Perhaps because of the COVID-19 Pandemics, patrons and promoters of First Bank of Nigeria didn’t do much in March this year to commemorate the 126th anniversary of the brand franchise in Nigeria. Unquestionably, the bank is one of the earliest institutions established in West Africa, and obviously, one of the few ones still in existence today.
First Bank long years of existence notwithstanding, its handlers haven’t allowed complacency to dampen their drive to position the nation’s number one financial institution as the best and one of the brands that are making Africa proud. For 126 years, First Bank has navigated Nigeria’s banking landscape, supporting businesses and building other brands.
But the First Bank story is that of not giving up despite all odds. However, the greater story hasn’t been told by those who daily promote it, but it has consistently given the hope of financial security to the ultimate owners of the brand- the banking public. This explains why in a country where mortality rate is high in the market, the brand still remains a reference point, when it comes to building an enduring African brand in the last 125 years.
Last, year, First Bank commemorated its 125th anniversary which created a unique opportunity for it to clearly differentiate itself from other banks and organisations in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
Through the anniversary celebration, the team was able to reiterate that First Bank has been part of Nigerians, enabling them to achieve their goals for over 125 years, making the bank a pivotal part of Nigerians and Nigeria’s history. According to them, this sets the brand in a space of its own as a bank that is beyond comparison – one which has woven into the fabric of the society for many years and has continued to be relevant.
Beyond the usual banking services, First Bank, has over the years, made effort to promote talents in sports, thereby throwing up initiatives and supporting institutions to excel in the various sporting activities. The climax of such intervention was the sponsorship of the Georgian Cup of the Kaduna Polo Tournament, which has been supported for over 100 years. In furtherance of the bank’s commitment to the growth and development of sports, nation-building and the economy at large, it marked the centenary sponsorship of the tournament last year. It was possibly the longest-running sports sponsorship in the world and a Guinness Book of Records potential. The 2019 edition of the epoch-making sports championship took place from October 12 – 20, 2019 at the Kaduna Polo Club, Murtala Mohammed Square, Kaduna.
The Kaduna Georgian Cup Centenary Polo Tournament commenced in 1919, with First Bank sponsoring the sports tournament for 100 years. The Cup, which was donated by the bank to the Kaduna Polo Club is the oldest and most respected Polo trophy in West Africa.
Another landmark achievement of the organisation in this regard is the First Bank Lagos Amateur Open Golf Championship, which made its debut 58 years ago and has sailed a smooth ride so far. Last year’s tournament attracted the best amateur golfers, not only from Nigeria, but across the continent and indeed the world. By extension, the gesture also includes Dala Tennis Hard Court of Dala Tennis Club, Kano, which has existed for 33 years and OBJ Pro-Am Open Golf Championship of the Abeokuta Golf Club, that was inaugurated four years ago.
Since the inaugural of the bank’s Agric Expo in 2017, it has given First Bank the opportunity to aggregate top players in the Agric sector under one roof for easy relationship establishment. In a way, this has also portrayed the bank as a thought-leader in the agricultural financing space.
During the 2019 edition, held in Lagos, with the theme; “Agricultural Value Chain – Spotlighting Opportunities and Managing Risks”, Prof. Benedict Oramah, president of AFREXIM Bank was the keynote speaker. Launched in 2017, the expo provides the lead in national discourse on sustainable agriculture value-chain as a substantial source of Nigeria’s economic development, improved contribution to her balance of trade as well as foreign exchange.
The 2019 edition hosted over 600 delegates and over 60 exhibitors to display the latest technology in farm equipment, tools and machineries as well as packaged finished agricultural produce, logistics and supply, thereby keeping the participants and sundry agribusiness practitioners abreast with new opportunities in the Agricultural industry.
Four years after establishment, the initiative has given the bank the needed publicity to show it as aligning with the federal government’s revenue diversification and food security strategies and it has increased the synergy between the Bank and Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMARD) for partnership as both institutions have mutually introduced prospects to each other for consideration in the past. So far, records have shown that a total of 3000 guests and 150 exhibitors have attended Expo from inception to date.
In a bid to provide non-financial solutions that will aid the development and digital transformation of Nigerian small and medium entreprises (SMEs), First Bank’s recently announced its partnership with Microsoft4Afrika, a market development engine in Africa started by Microsoft.
According to the bank, the partnership was launched early last year during a free-to-attend event for SMEs in Nigeria, designed to promote technology adoption and skills development. It added that it would build the capacity of local SMEs and accelerate their digital transformation, by providing them with exclusive and tailored non-financial solutions.
Looking back, this was a sequel to the 2015 unveiling of a new SME campaign, which First Bank said was specially designed to help SMEs grow their businesses with diverse products and service offerings.
The bank, in a statement, explained that with a heritage of over 120 years of banking experience, it understood the business journey for SMEs, even as it said it was passionate about supporting them to ensure continuous business growth.
“Over the years, First Bank has displayed an unwavering commitment to the business success of SMEs in Nigeria with its cocktail of products and bespoke solutions, specifically designed to help grow and sustain SMEs. Given that SMEs are pivotal to national development, First Bank is committed to ensure sustained business growth as well as provide the necessary services to grow businesses and Nigeria’s economy at large. The SME sector is replete with various industries and business models; First Bank’s package provides the right mix of products and services with professional staff designated to work with the business owner to provide flexible and dependable services, helping SMEs achieve consistent growth and success in every area of business,” it explained.
With Nigeria and other oil dependent countries in Africa clamouring for diversification, First Bank was among the few financial organisations that first saw the need to open up and support other sectors like the entertainment, fashions and food and drinks sector. In 2015, in a genuine approach to race the stake in the entertainment industry, it came up with a unique platform for consolidating all its efforts in the arts by supporting the entire value chain of the creative arts. Through the platform, the bank started to provide the much-needed financing and advisory services, showcasing and facilitating the successes of the industry, and enabling customers explore the wealth of opportunities the creative industry has to offer. Between then and now, the bank has since partnered many organisations, including; African Fashion Week, Duke of Shomolu, Terra Kulture, Freedom Park, and such related enterprises fall within the First@arts space.
With the British Council, the bank had the opportunity to grow brand equity, loyalty, international visibility, brand recognition and affiliation with a leading international brand in the arts space. The bank’s partnership with British Council was strategic in bringing to life the FirstBank First@arts initiative starting with the Lagos Theatre Festival (LTF). The partnership has also helped to boost the brand through association.
Talking of one Nigerian brand with tentacles across the world, the name First Bank will readily come to mind. From anywhere one chooses to look at it, the brand has consistently been positioned as a global brand from this part of the world. Among other qualification for this status, First Bank has an account specially designed to cater for the needs of Nigerians in the diaspora. FirstDiaspora is an offering from the bank which is specially designed for Nigerians living abroad by providing them a platform to have a safe, easy and convenient access to our wide range of products and services that will take care of their banking needs.
Beyond the FirstDiapora account, the Bank has international presence through its subsidiaries, FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBN Bank in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing. If there is any area the bank will leverage in the future to emerge the best brand from Africa, it’s indeed the global business footprint.