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FCMB Gives Zero-Free Loans to 15,000 Women-Owned SMEs

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By Dipo Olowookere

First City Monument Bank (FCMB) has continued to endear itself to players in the Small and Medium Enterprises sector in the country as a result of its support to the ecosystem.

To stakeholders in the industry, it was not a surprise to them when in November 2020 the lender was voted as the Best SME Bank in Africa at the Asian Banker Middle East and Africa Regional Awards.

This was because the financial institution has been a great support to the SMEs sector of the economy and to them, the award was in the true recognition of its great contributions to the growth of the space.

FCMB has always expressed its unequalled commitment to SMEs by offering exceptional services, including funding, capacity building and other value-added supports to the industry.

The foremost financial services provider in Nigeria has specifically taken a special interest in female entrepreneurs by making more funds available to them through its SheVentures initiative.

The SheVentures initiative offers enhanced support to women-owned SMEs and starts-ups through access to finance, training and mentoring with the unique benefit of zero-interest-rate for an initial period of three months.

More than 15,000 entrepreneurs have so far benefitted from this, in terms of funding and training, in the last 18 months.

This may have been one of the things that spurred the Asian Banker to confer the November award on FCMB.

According to the Asian Banker, FCMB emerged as the Best SME Bank in Africa following, “series of online surveys across the region to gather feedback from thousands of customers per market.

“In the survey, we also asked customers to rate how well their main Banks have helped them during the crisis. The results and rankings are a true reflection of the voice of the customers.”

The organisers further stated: “FCMB has introduced various digital initiatives into the SMEs segment, such as digital loan products (Quickloans) and its New Mobile banking platform.

“In addition, the Bank launched a platform, which was a first of its kind, to help women-owned businesses scale up, by leveraging access to financing schemes, mentorship programmes, as well as training and networking opportunities.

“FCMB has equally helped SMEs to enhance capacity, thereby improving their business operations, connect with peers and access to trusted service professionals.

“The Bank has a 25 per cent market share in the SME business, and in 2019 had more than 300,000 new accounts in this segment.

“We commend FCMB for its incredible contributions towards ensuring the growth and sustainable development of SMEs within the region.”

Speaking while receiving the award, the Executive Director, Business Development, FCMB, Bukola Smith, said the emergence of the Bank as the number one in the highly competitive SME category speaks volumes about its journey so far and its contribution to the success of businesses, despite the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith said: “As a resilient, inclusive and responsive institution, we have continued to deploy solutions to transform the challenges posed by COVID-19 to opportunities for our customers by leveraging on our robust technology, digital transformation drive and highly professional team.

“Our SME Banking offerings have significantly changed lives through job and wealth creation, among other benefits.

“This is because we believe that the only way we can succeed is when our customers succeed.

“We are very proud to be the Best SME Bank in Africa, particularly coming after KPMG rated us as the Best SME Bank in Nigeria in the 2019 Nigeria Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey report.

“This latest award will undoubtedly inspire us to perform better.”

FCMB, as a leading financial powerhouse in Nigeria, has built a strong base and dominated the SMEs segment by consistently offering various cutting-edge solutions through its key pillars of support.

These are, access to capital, capacity building, advisory services, networking opportunity and technology.

The FCMB SME Advisory Service provides market intelligence and technical assistance support to businesses, access to intervention funds in partnership with Development Financial Institutions as well as provision of credit risk-sharing facilities to mitigate the credit risk and collateral gaps experienced in lending to SMEs.

The bank has also taken the lead by automating and digitalising its lending process for SMEs through the FCMB Quick-loans platform.

Through this platform, the Bank disburses over 5,000 digital loans monthly to SMEs.

FCMB equally realises the potential of Agriculture to transform the Nigerian economy, generate employment, revenue and diversification.

To this end, the bank has consistently increased its support to SMEs across the Agricultural value chains from input manufacturers, service providers, primary producers, traders, processors, manufacturers and exporters as well as distributors and traders of agricultural products.

FCMB is one of the few banks with the highest agribusiness portfolio in contribution terms at 9 per cent.

FCMB also recently launched its Business Zone, which is an online community where SMEs can interact amongst themselves and utilise the services of various business enablers and professionals for their benefits from various e-learning programmes.

The bank has also been active in the renewable energy space lending to SMEs under a scheme developed by the World Bank, with the hope of reducing the electricity inadequacies, especially in rural and economically viable communities.

First City Monument Bank Limited, with over 200 branches spread across Nigeria, is a member of FCMB Group Plc.

The group is one of the leading financial services institutions in Nigeria with subsidiaries that are market leaders in their respective segments.

Having successfully transformed to a retail banking and wealth management-led group, FCMB expects to continue to distinguish itself through innovation and the delivery of exceptional services in line with its values of Execution, Professionalism, Innovation and Customer-focus (EPIC).

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Union Bank Unveils Multi-Asset Trading Platform M36

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By Adedapo Adesanya

A new digital platform designed to deliver a wide range of investment products directly to individuals and other investors, M36, has launched in Nigeria.

Through an innovative, user-friendly app, M36 offers investment options not typically available on self-service digital platforms including foreign currency transactions, commercial papers, local and foreign-denominated bonds, treasury bills and other fixed-income products.

M36 also offers bespoke solutions for both new and experienced investors as well as a 24-hour lifestyle concierge service to meet the needs of discerning customers.

In a rapidly evolving environment with changing consumer behaviour fueled by technology and growing access to information, M36 is looking to expand opportunities for investors at all levels, while also simplifying the process of investing.

M36 was developed by Union Bank as part of its strategic focus on delivering superior customer solutions leveraging technology and innovation. The bank partnered with several asset management companies to deliver a broad range of investment products on the M36 platform.

Speaking about this, Mr Chuka Emerole, Head, Treasury at Union Bank said, “M36 eliminates the traditional barriers to investing and offers investors direct access to financial instruments that would usually require the service of an investment or relationship manager.

“We’ve designed M36 to ensure simplicity in the onboarding and investing process while also empowering the customer to make sound investment choices based on their financial objectives.

“We worked with key partners to deliver both the experience and products on M36 and are confident that we have launched a superior product in today’s marketplace.”

With the 24-hour concierge service, M36 users can access round the clock support from investment advisors as they actively manage their portfolios.

M36 also offers loans, personal travel allowance, will and trust services and many more essential products under its Life Essentials menu.

M36 is available for download on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

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Excitement as Keystone Bank Reopens Ikotun Lagos Branch

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By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A leading financial services provider, Keystone Bank Limited, has announced the re-opening of its revamped Ikotun, Lagos branch for commercial operations.

The branch was declared open on March 1, 2021, by the Managing Director/CEO of Keystone Bank, Mr Olaniran Olayinka, represented by the divisional head, Bank Wide Operations, Mr Oluwasegun Olatona, and supported by other heads of divisions in the bank.

A statement issued by the financial institution disclosed that the strategic decision to reopen the branch located at 113 Ikotun Idimu Road, Ikotun, Lagos, was in line with its drive to reach a wider audience and meet the needs of customers in the area, specifically the retail/MSME who are in need of a service-oriented bank that will work with them to grow their businesses.

The CEO of Keystone Bank expressed optimism that the resumption of banking services at the Ikotun branch would go a long way in ensuring that customers within/around the Ikotun axis can experience the bank’s wide array of services.

“At Keystone Bank, we are working round the clock to ensure that our customers enjoy seamless and convenience banking.

“While we are focused on enhancing financial inclusion by encouraging the unbanked through innovative digital platforms and incentives, it is also important that we show optimal physical presence in key retail centres aimed at strengthening financial inclusion and supporting MSMEs.

“Hence, as a retail-driven bank, small and medium enterprises in the Ikotun vicinity would enjoy loan offerings and empowerment to grow their businesses.

“Keystone Bank has been active in supporting the growing MSME sector in its locations of operation over the last nine years through a variety of products, services and capacity building programmes which are sometimes, executed in partnership with reputable brands such as Facebook, Google, Enterprise Development Centre, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry etc. We also offer loan facilities that would assist in financing generating working capital and asset acquisition.

“These services are rendered through our over 155 business outlets located in every state of Nigeria, including the FCT, Abuja,” he stated.

In a chat with newsmen, some business owners along Ikotun-Idimu road revealed that small businesses (artisans, traders, etc) in the neighbourhood are in dire need of a bank that understands the special need of micro, small and medium enterprises such as access to finance, low-cost transactions, flexible savings solution, networking, capacity building etc and they were happy that Keystone Bank has come to fill these gaps.

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Fidelity Bank to Discuss Impact of CBN Policy on Diaspora Investments

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By Ahmed Rahma

A leading financial institution, Fidelity Bank Plc, has concluded plans to host its diaspora webinar series with the inaugural edition on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

The virtual session themed The New CBN FX Policy and Positive Impact to Diaspora Investments in Nigeria seeks to enlighten Nigerian citizens’ resident abroad on recent policy measures by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and their attendant implications for diaspora investments.

According to the lender in a statement, the session will also aim specifically at providing the people with valuable insights, intelligence, and expertise on how to stay on top of their investments back home.

The event, to be streamed live on YouTube and Zoom, will have in attendance dignitaries and several other persons in the financial industry.

It was disclosed that the programme was borne out of the need to deepen engagement with Nigerian diaspora community particularly as developmental partners considering the critical role remittances play in driving sustainable economic growth.

Speaking on the webinar, the CEO of Fidelity Bank, Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, stated that the session was most appropriate and timely, adding that “the session will offer the Nigerian diaspora greater clarity on all of the recent policies enacted by government with a view to enabling them make sound investment decisions.”

According to Mrs Onyeali-Ikpe, the bank, in the last 12 years, has become a dependable partner for diaspora remittances and investment.

Armed with a deep understanding of these customers’ needs, she explained that the bank has continued to offer bespoke products and services that are unrivalled in the financial services industry which includes, diaspora mortgage and dollar denominated fixed deposit investment account that attracts up to 5 per cent annual interest depending on the amount and tenure.

Recall that the CBN, as part of efforts to liberalise, simplify and improve the receipt and administration of diaspora remittances into the country had issued guidelines to ensure that beneficiaries of diaspora remittances through International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) receive such inflows in foreign currency (US dollars) through the designated bank of their choice.

The policy became necessary in view of the urgent need to deepen the foreign exchange (FX) market, provide more liquidity and create transparency in the administration of diaspora remittances into Nigeria.

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Access Bank Moulds Next Drivers of Nigerian Economy

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By Dipo Olowookere

One of the top financial institutions in Nigeria, Access Bank Plc, has commenced the process of developing those that will improve the economy of the country.

The lender, through an initiative called the Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), is assembling some emerging start-ups it believes would become a unicorn worth over $100 million in the next 10 years.

The accelerator programme will provide N10 million in cash to the top three finalists, while the others would be exposed to investors who might be interested in them.

Business Post recalls that last month, entries were opened and 306 registrations were received. After rigorous assessments, the list was pruned to 30.

Theses finalists were further screened by the Head of AFF, Mr Daniel Awe; Group Head, Emerging Businesses, Access Bank, Mrs Ayodele Olojede; and Vice President, Investments MBO Capital and Fintech Consultant, Mr Oshone Ikazobor, in a bid to narrow it down to 10 -15 finalist.

“If a start-up has an idea and you throw it into a market of 42 million customers, the acceleration is going to be faster. So, it is using the entire ecosystem of our group to build the future of the country,” Mr Awe said at the screening.

He added that, “In the next 10 years, these guys coming here we see them becoming a unicorn worth over $100 million and a season is coming where would see these startups becoming the next drivers of our economy.”

On funding available for the start-ups, he disclosed that, “Funding is based on ideas and what would be required to move the idea forward. We have a commitment of about N10 million. After they come into the accelerator program, there are a top-three but the other ones are going to be exposed to investors.

“This initiative would have a direct impact on the economy because it is targeted at the medium scale businesses and these are the businesses that can change economies in terms of reducing employment rate and socioeconomic levels.”

Also speaking at the event, the Head, Retail Product Insight and Capabilities, Access Bank Plc, Mr Rob Giles said: “We are looking for companies with ideas that can solve real-world problems and where we are different from venture capital firms is we offer an environment where startups can be supported, nurtured, advised and get access to people who are further ahead on their journey like mentors.

“We have seen three companies that can go all the way and our job is to make sure they stay the course and structure their foundations from the very beginning that would allow them to scale.”

Furthermore, speaking to one of the participating startups, the founder, Farm Delight, Ms Love Uduma, a start-up focused on agriculture value chain from production to distribution and consumption said this platform is an impactful stream for startups to get support from.

On her expectation, she said: “I am expecting tech support and a good relationship with the tech community. We have the agricultural aspect covered but we need the technical assistance and also funding.”

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Access Bank Gives Car to NYSC Member

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By Ahmed Rahma

A member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in Niger State, Mr Tolulope Agabaje, has won a brand new Hyundai Accent car during a promo organised by Access Bank.

The financial institution, which recently introduced a transaction campaign titled Transact and Win as part of its efforts to enhance financial inclusion through its digital platform, presented the winner with the grand prize after conducting a draw in Lagos.

At the official presentation of the car in Lagos, the Executive Director of the bank, Mr Victor Etuokwu, said the lender was targeting the unbanked and the underbanked to increase the rate of transactions through its mobile and digital platforms.

He noted that the promo was designed to play a significant role in the lives of bank customers.

“We want to continue to play a big role in the lives of our customers and as for Tolulope, we have asked him what he graduated with, he said he is a first class holder and with this, we are looking at a possibility of him working with Access Bank,” Mr Etuokwu said.

In his remarks, the car winner said he was shocked when informed of his win and felt the calls from the bank were from fraudsters but when it became incessant, he reached out to the bank via its twitter handle and was told he had actually won a car.

“I am still in shock as I was not expecting it. I cannot even remember the amount of transactions I did but I know it was too much.

“The car was not something I was looking at owning in a year or even three years but Access Bank has fast-tracked my dream of owning a car and so I would keep spreading the word to friends and family that this is indeed real,” Mr Agabaje said.

He encouraged customers and friends to open accounts with Access Bank.

Also speaking, the Lead Manager, Mobile and Internet Banking at Access Bank, Mr Osakwe Edwards, stated that the campaign will boost the bank’s digital products.

“Digital is the future and this mobile banking is what we want to get a lot of people into and you know that as a bank, we make revenue from our digital channels and we use it to boost our customer acquisition.

“These days, people do not need to get to the bank to open an account with us or perform transactio0ns, they can do that through our mobile banking platforms or USSD,” Mr Edwards said.

Commenting on the winner, he said, “Tolulope performed 10 transactions which is the criteria to win the car via the USSD or the mobile app.

“We did a draw and out of the million people that met the criteria, Tolulope emerged tops.

“For now, this is the third car that has been given. One person won in Abuja, the other won in January and so we are hoping to commence another prize presentation by the second quarter (Q2) of 2021.

“When we start by Q2, it will be on quarterly campaigns/draws and by the end of Q2, We will have another winner by the end of Q3 and Q4.”

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London Stock Exchange Lists Ecobank Nigeria’s $300m Bond

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By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The five-year fixed rate senior unsecured $300 million bond issued by Ecobank Nigeria Limited has begun trading on the floor of the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

This followed the listing of the corporate debt instrument on the respected trading platform on Thursday via a virtual ceremony witnessed by officials of the exchange and the financial institution.

The paper has an issuer rating of B- from Fitch Rating agency and S&P, while Citi, Mashreq, Renaissance Capital and Standard Chartered Bank acted as joint lead managers and book runners.

Business Post reports that the note carries a coupon rate of 7.125 per cent, significantly below its Initial Price Thoughts of 7.75 per cent.

The successful launch was three times oversubscribed and is the lowest coupon/yield by a Nigerian financial institution for a benchmark bond transaction since 2013.

“The strong demand for our bond shows the international appetite for the Ecobank franchise in Nigeria, its unique positioning for facilitating pan-Africa trade and the attractive opportunity for the many investors seeking to back world-class Nigerian corporates,” the Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Patrick Akinwuntan, said.

It was gathered that proceeds will provide medium-term funding and help to enhance the capacity of the bank to support international trade and service across Africa.

Ecobank Nigeria, a subsidiary of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), the parent company of the Ecobank Group, provides the full suite of banking products, services and solutions through multiple channels to retail, commercial, corporate and public sector customers.

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