Rising from a lower profit margin of N10.2billion and a debilitating Non-Performing Loan portfolio of 45 per cent in 2015, to an impressive profit of N147billion and a significantly lowered NPL rate of 5.6 per cent in 2022, FirstBank has proven that its back-to-back profit-making is far beyond recoveries made, but rather it’s a reinforcement of a well-articulated growth trajectory driven by a committed, competent and experienced Board and management team, writes Festus Akanbi
There seems to be a consensus among watchers of the Nigerian banking sector that these days, the changing dynamics foisted on the nation’s economy by both the current local and international economic realities are already taking their toll on Nigerian banks.
As the nation’s population rises, so also the need for banking services by the people. However, the rise in population and the corresponding rise in the number of unbanked and underbanked Nigerians are creating a new dimension of competition among banks in the country.
Therefore, as competition for the sphere of influence becomes fierce, analysts said only banks with a track record of consistent preparation for emerging challenges will stand the test of time, especially in a period of regime change with its attendant restructuring in the Nigerian economic policies.
FirstBank Returns with Solid Fundamentals
Top on the list of banks in this category is FirstBank Limited, a subsidiary of FBN Holdings Plc. This is because, from whatever angle one looks at its performance trajectory, especially in the last seven years, what is constant is the sustained growth in its deliveries coupled with its stabilisation and return to the top of the ladder of the Nigerian banking industry.
The bank has over the years taken some far-reaching decisions, which observers said have created a new benchmark in the Nigerian banking industry, especially with its triumphant return to solid profitability within a period of seven years.
For example, in its full-year results for 2022, the bank was been able to record tremendous improvements in all performance metrics surveyed by our correspondent. It grew the number of total customer accounts from 10 million in 2015 to 41 million customer accounts as of December 2022. Its total number of issued cards rose from seven million in 2015 to 12 million last year.
Also within a spate of seven years, the number of its FirstMobile users rose to 6.1 million, while the number of FirstOnline users was put at 1.1 million in 2022. Its USSD users were said to have hit 14.7 million while the number of its total digital banking customers rose from 600,000 in 2015 to 22 million in 2022.
In the same category is the bank’s agent banking business where FirstMonie agent banking is reaching out to customers in unbanked or underbanked regions to process financial requests through registered agents. This was non-existent in 2015, but by 2022, the bank could boast of 200,000 direct agents in all the crannies of the country. Analysts are quick to remind us that if we factor in the fact that most of the agent bankers usually employ about two additional staff, what it means is that FirstBank has empowered about 600,000 people.
To show for its policy consistency, innovation and its recovery measures since 2015, a comparative analysis of the performance indicators in the bank’s statement of account between the 2015 and 2022 figures confirmed analysts’ vote of confidence in the board and management of FirstBank.
For instance, the bank has significantly grown its customer deposit from N2.905 billion in 2015 to N7.351 billion in 2022. Its total assets rose from N3.973 billion in 2015 to N10.605 billion in 2022.
It improved on its profit before tax of N10.2 billion in 2015 which grew to N147.3 billion last year. Other metrics include a major improvement in the bank’s pretax return on equity from 0.6 per cent in 2015 to 17.3 per cent in 2022, while its pretax return on asset moved from 0.1 per cent to 1.6per cent. The bank also recorded an appreciable reduction in the cost of funds from 3.6 per cent in 2015 to 2.1 per cent in 2022.
Lower Rate of Non-Performing Loans
However, one major development is the ability of the bank’s leadership to free the institution from the burden of non-performing loans which trended down from 45 per cent in 2015 to 5.6 per cent in 2022.
In response to the ongoing turnaround of the bank initiated in 2015, the latest performance figures showed that the African subsidiaries of the bank have shed their negative position of 2015 to profitability and they indeed contributed 21.3 per cent of its PBT for the year under review.
Perhaps, the most visible indication that FirstBank has returned to profitability is the quantum jump in its share price which moved from N4.88 to N14.17.
First Bank’s Laudable Firsts
Industry watchers said the bank’s return to solid profitability can also be assessed in terms of its areas of concentration as a growing concern.
It’s on record that FirstBank has many records of being the first. It was the first financial institution to be established in West Africa; the first Nigerian company to emerge Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria for six consecutive years in the globally renowned brand Finance Surveys and the first Nigerian bank to surpass 200,000 agent banking locations as an exceptional financial inclusion pioneer.
Other pioneering records include its emergence as the first bank to reach N1trillion ((US$8 billion) market capitalisation on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE); the first financial institution to engage in a N100 billion (US$800 million) hybrid offer that marked the largest public offer on the Nigerian capital market and the first Nigerian bank to establish an off-shore subsidiary – FirstBank UK Ltd.
Unique Products’ Offerings
The bank is also reputed as the first financial institution to support a centre on Sustainability in partnership with the Lagos Business School.
Then referred to as the FirstBank Sustainability Centre, it was used as a case study for global best practice in terms of “Partnerships with Business Schools to Advance Sustainability (Ideas that Inspire Action)” championed by the Principles for Management Education (PRME) and the United Nations Global Compact LEAD. It’s the commitment to advancing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) that earned the Bank several awards including the Market Leader Nigeria (ESG) by Euromoney Market Leaders 2022.
Q1, 2023 Results
Expectedly, the bank has continued to receive impressive ratings ever since its first quarter 2023 result was made public, with analysts saying the transformation has further confirmed the claim of its management that it has rebuilt FirstBank with solid fundamentals.
For instance, gross earnings recorded a substantial increase of 44.2 per cent year-on-year, while its net interest income saw a remarkable surge of 50.9 per cent year-on-year on the back of optimal asset pricing and effective management of interest-earning assets.
Speaking on the results, the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan disclosed that increasing penetration of digital and transaction banking offerings supported the bank’s Q1 performance in non-interest income by 15.3 per cent growth, adding that “The increase of 21 per cent year-on-year in operating expense reflects the high inflationary environment but within revenue growth. Overall, the Commercial Banking Group delivered substantial growth of 57 per cent and 54.8 per cent in profit before tax and profit after tax, respectively, for the quarter.”
The Making of a Transaction-led Institution
Another game-changer in the story of the transformation of FirstBank was the conscious attempt of the board and management to make the bank a transaction-led institution.
Analysts said the feat was achievable because of the commitment of the bank’s management to invest and deploy technology to the fullest.
For instance, FirstBank is the first to begin the Technology Academy in Nigeria and this has helped the bank to build a transaction-led “machine” -a digital infrastructure that can accommodate huge transactions. Today, the bank has been able to grow its customer accounts to 42 million-as against the 10 million it recorded in 2015, while it has over 22 million active customers on its digital channels.
Adeduntan explained further that “In cleaning up the bank, there was no additional fund injection, which is the most dramatic thing. That means we have been able to achieve all these without shareholders losing their business. What happened was that we did our own AMCON by cleaning our books ourselves without any external capital injection.
Realising the pivotal role of its employees, the bank decided to invest in its staff while it sought external assistance on areas it couldn’t address locally. Thisday gathered that the bank liaised with international institutions like Standard Chartered; Citibank and JP Morgan.
The bank also has a structured succession plan having initiated a development plan in 2015 that allows most if not all the vacancies in the bank to be filled internally.
The bank also put in place a Senior Management Development Programme (SMDP), which is an intensive modular programme for a select group of senior managers to principal managers who are proven leaders in their respective functions and have been identified as central to the Bank’s succession plan.
Other initiatives include the Leadership Acceleration Programme (LAP), which was specifically designed to develop and infuse critical leadership and change agents within the middle management staff cadre of the Bank. The list also includes First Bank Management Associate Programme, a 24-month fast-track comprehensive programme targeted at young, dynamic and highly driven individuals that are passionate about making a difference in the financial services industry. The programme is designed to build the next generation of leaders to drive the Bank’s vision of being Africa’s biggest Bank
Trade minister, Uzoka-Anite launches NATEP, targets 50 Million jobs for youths
The minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite has launched the National Talent Export Programme (NATEP) in a bid to position Nigeria as a talent export hub designed to create not less than one million jobs in the next five years.
The Minister performed the launching on behalf of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the sidelines of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York, United States of America.
In her opening remarks at the launch of the initiative at the Microsoft office in NewYork, the minister highlighted the need to ensure Nigeria takes the lead in exporting global talents that are doing well across the world which will also drive a huge investment in training and also attracting more investment in talent exportation.
According to her, the initiative is in line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope agenda to diversify the Nigerian economy, create sustainability opportunities and generate about 50 million jobs for the youths over time.
“NATEP is an initiative that will serve as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to position Nigeria as a leading global hub for service export, talent sourcing and talent export.
“As part of our strategy towards achieving this, President Bola Tinubu whose agenda is job creation, we have initiated a National Talent Export Programme (NATEP) for Nigeria, which targets the creation of one million jobs across Nigeria with a target of five years in line with the theme of this year’s UNGA, which is rebuilding trust and igniting global solidarity, accelerating action on the 2030 agenda and the sustainable development goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”, the minister said.
Uzoka-Anite further informed the large gathering comprising of world leaders and other giant tech companies across the globe like; Amazon, World Economic Forum, Microsoft group, Flour Mills Nigeria, Meta, Google and a host of others, that the global talent sourcing industry is valued at $620 billion as at 2020 and industry pundit have forecasted it will be valued at about $904 billion by 2027.
“Nigeria can supply top talents for the global service export and outsourcing business. With over 1.7 million graduates from higher education institutions entering the workforce annually, this will reduce the burden of unemployment and over-dependence on the government for jobs”, she explained.
The Minister further noted that NATEP was specially created to arrest the bottleneck facing the talent and service sector export industry, which will enhance competitiveness, and innovation, and drive sustainable development growth, empowerment and training through trade and value chain exchange.
She added: “Nigeria is ready to become a global hub for talent export, as the government is ready to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACfTA) to penetrate the huge continental market and target job opportunities.
“As a country, we have a significant value proposition for regional and global markets for the export of services. We will actively target Greenfield and brownfield job opportunities in the United Kingdom, Europe, China, Canada, the United States of America and a host of other countries”.
The Minister For Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, while addressing participants at the launch disclosed that launching NATEP was timely, adding that to drive the mandate for Nigeria to be positioned as one of the global talent export hubs in Africa and the world will see Nigeria benefit more in terms of generating huge revenue, digitalization of the economy, more robust data protection opportunities and also avert the massive brain drain within the youth demography.
According to him, Nigerians in the diaspora are doing great things in the tech world, adding that it’s time for Nigeria to benefit by making more money and develop other youths to maximize their potentials.
“With a youthful population and over 1.7 million graduates from higher educational institutions joining the workforce each year, Nigeria has the potential to provide high-quality talent for the Global Service export and outsourcing industry. We must first identify them, train them and make the world see the stuff they are made of. We will not only create jobs but also empower them with the basic skills of survival and pass them on to the next generation” Dr Tijani said.
The Disappointing State of Customer Relations Among Instagram Merchants
By Otunba Deoye Otukoya
In today’s digital age Instagram has become an indispensable platform for businesses to connect with customers and promote their products or services. With the increasing popularity of Instagram stores it is essential for merchants to prioritize good customer relations. However a prevalent issue that deserves attention is the lack of professionalism and poor communication exhibited by some Instagram merchants. Many customers have reported incidents where the merchants provide their phone numbers on their timelines but fail to respond adequately or display unpleasant attitudes when contacted. This article aims to shed light on this concerning trend and the implications it has on customers and businesses alike.
1. Accessibility Matters:
One of the fundamental aspects of ensuring good customer relations is the accessibility of the merchant. By voluntarily providing their phone numbers merchants convey the impression of being available and open to customer inquiries. However the reality often falls short of this expectation. Too frequently customers are left frustrated and inconvenienced when their attempts to contact merchants go unanswered for days or are met with dismissive responses. This lack of availability undermines trust and damages the overall customer experience.
2. Unprofessional Attitudes:
Another significant concern is the unprofessional conduct and negative attitudes displayed by certain Instagram merchants when interacting with customers. The success of any business hinges on creating a positive relationship with consumers. However some merchants who put their phone numbers out for public use have been observed to have a lackadaisical approach towards customer engagements. Instances of rude behavior impatience and unhelpfulness have been reported leaving customers feeling disrespected and discouraged from engaging with that particular merchant or even shopping on Instagram altogether.
3. The Ripple Effect:
The ramifications of poor customer relations go beyond individual experiences. When customers have negative encounters with Instagram merchants they are likely to share their frustrations with friends family and online communities. Word-of-mouth plays a crucial role in shaping a merchant’s reputation and negative reviews can quickly spread damaging the business’s credibility. Consequently merchants who fail to prioritize customer relations may find themselves losing potential customers and hindering their long-term growth prospects.
4. A Call for Improvement:
To address this issue it is imperative for Instagram merchants to recognize the significance of good customer relations and take proactive steps to improve their interactions with customers. Some crucial measures include:
a. Prompt Responses: Merchants should aim to respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner ideally within 24 hours. This showcases attentiveness and professionalism fostering positive customer relationships.
b. Polite and Respectful Communication: Merchants need to maintain a respectful tone even when faced with challenging or repetitive customer inquiries. Good customer relations require patience and understanding.
c. Training and Empathy: Merchants should invest time in training their customer support staff emphasizing the importance of empathy and effective problem-solving. Understanding the customer’s perspective can go a long way in providing satisfactory resolutions.
d. Feedback and Improvements: Merchants should actively seek feedback from customers to identify areas for improvement. This feedback loop can assist in refining their customer relations strategies and forging stronger connections with their target audience.
The alarming lack of good customer relations displayed by some Instagram merchants is a disheartening trend that affects both customers and businesses. By prioritizing accessibility professionalism and respect in their interactions merchants can foster an environment of trust and loyalty. Overlooking the importance of good customer relations may lead to a decline in sales and reputation. Ultimately developing strong customer relations on Instagram will not only boost customer satisfaction but also drive growth and success for merchants in the long run.
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