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).
CBN’s Digital Currency Will Deepen Financial Inclusion—FDC
By Adedapo Adesanya
Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited has lauded the proposed plan by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce a digital currency, saying it will deepen financial inclusion in the country.
In a new report, FDC explained that most central banks had indicated keen interests in developing their digital currencies in response to the threats and limitations of cryptocurrency, including poor regulation, price volatility and facilitating illicit financial transactions.
The report said, “Nigeria is set to follow the global trend as it plans to launch its digital currency by year-end. Unlike crypto, digital currencies are regulated by central banks, thus giving them some level of control over the financial system.
“On a positive note, virtual currencies would facilitate smooth financial transactions and eliminate bottlenecks associated with the use of cash (mutilated notes, forgery, cash handling charges, shortages). It will also deepen financial inclusion and increase the velocity of circulation.”
The analysis highlighted the rising concerns of distrust in the government and its policies, cybersecurity and inadequate digital infrastructure.
“All these could limit the launch and widespread use of the digital currency in the country,” it said.
According to the report, the drop in inflation rate in May for the second straight month contradicts market reality following the report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which disclosed that the country’s inflation rate fell to 17.93 per cent in May from 18.12 per cent in April.
FDC said contrary to analyst expectations, the decline in consumer price inflation seemed to be more of a trend than a blip.
It said the headline inflation fell again in May primarily due to a fall in the food sub-index to 22.28 per cent from 22.72 per cent in April.
This is coming as the CBN last year issued a circular asking commercial banks and other financial institutions to close accounts transacting in, or operating on, cryptocurrency exchanges.
All deals involving cryptocurrency are now prohibited with severe regulatory sanctions awaiting erring outfits.
The apex bank also asked commercial banks to identify persons and or entities transacting in or operating cryptocurrency exchanges within their systems and ensure that such accounts are closed immediately.
But since the apex bank announced its intention to introduce a digital currency for the country, it has been applauded.
Apart from the FDC, other analysts have submitted that the proposed CBN’s digital currency would benefit the nation, especially as the digital asset is becoming widely accepted across the globe.
CIBN to Revamp Banking Practice in Nigeria With A-TEAM Initiative
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A strategic initiative aimed to revamp banking practice in Nigeria has been introduced by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).
The new plan with the acronym A-TEAM means Accelerated Development; Technology and Digital Enhancement; Engagement for Growth; Accountability and Transparent Leadership and Membership Drive for Value.
As part of efforts for its successful implementation, the CIBN is seeking collaborations with financial institutions in the country.
Recently, the President/Chairman of Council, CIBN, Mr Bayo Olugbemi, visited Ecobank Nigeria and he said the A-TEAM initiative will benefit stakeholders in the banking sector.
He applauded Ecobank’s consistent support for the institute over the years to ensure the realisation of its mandate of determining the standards of knowledge and skills development for those seeking to become members of the banking profession.
“We applaud Ecobank Academy as the first corporate member to become a member of the Global Business School Network and for the consistent support for the realisation of the institute’s mandate of determining the standards of knowledge and skills to be attained by persons seeking to become members of the banking profession.
“We, therefore, seek Ecobank’s collaboration and enlistment in our Endowment/Prize Awards in any subject of interest; support towards the renovation of Abuja Bankers’ House; support for the establishment of banking museum by donating artefacts and other relevant materials; and to participate actively in training programmes of the institute,” Mr Olugbemi said.
Further, he congratulated Ecobank Nigeria and the Ecobank Group on winning several International awards, which includes the Best Retail Bank in Nigeria by Asian Banker; Africa’s Best Bank for Corporate Responsibility by Euromoney (Ecobank Group); African Bank of the Year (African Banker); Innovation in Financial Services Award from African Banker (Ecobank Group); EMEA Finance African Banking Awards 2020.
Responding, the Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Patrick Akinwuntan, pledged more support and collaboration with the institute, restating that Ecobank will continue to contribute to the efforts of the organisation to become top class and remain relevant globally.
“For us at Ecobank, we are extremely proud CIBNs efforts at ensuring public discourse on the future of the Nigeria economy and the banking and finance industry.
“This is not in isolation of the ethics, professionalism, accountability, transparency, good corporate governance without losing focus of harnessing the opportunities technology has provided in the new world order. Be assured of our maximum support and collaboration at all times,” he said.
Mr Akinwuntan also identified with the efforts of the institute to raise the bar of competency and capacity building in the industry, stressing that with sound professional conduct, every banker will be held in high esteem.
He said Ecobank was working assiduously to ensure a majority of its staff become members of the institute, adding that the bank will also provide more mentees and mentors in its mentorship programme.
“We have a medium to long term programme to ensure all Ecobank Nigeria staff become chartered members of the institute.
“At Ecobank, we take human capacity development very seriously. Some of our staff that wrote the last examinations are now chartered members of the Institute.
“We will also ensure bulk subscription of our staff. We will be nominating 30 mentors and 100 mentees to participate in the second mentorship programme,” he assured.
VBank Brightens Spirits at Lagos NYSC Orientation Camp
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp in Lagos was recently brightened by VFD Microfinance Bank, owners of the 2020 banking app of the year, VBank.
The financial institution, for 10 days, entertained corps members and officials alike at their Games Veelage, an arcade set up with interesting games including snooker, Jenga, fuss ball, chess, scrabble, snakes & ladders and video games.
At the climax last Sunday, 15 NYSC members won N150,000 in cash prizes, while others received loads of consolation gifts.
Dayo Osborne, Gbenga Benedict, Olamide Ojedele, and Joseph Eweje were some of the winners of the N20,000 cash prize category and were rewarded instantly via transfer from the digital banking app, VBank.
While onboarding the graduates on the banking platform, the brand created an avenue for the Batch A Stream 2A corps members to relax after their usual daily camp routine.
The bank had equally sponsored the inter-platoon games night which took place days before, gifting participants cash transfers using the app’s Proximity Payment feature.
According to Ebere Ahaotu, Product Manager, VBank, “It is our little way of encouraging young people to keep hope alive.
“Camp life can be hectic and VBank is all about ease and convenience so why not brighten up their camp experience, introduce them to a better way to bank and assist them with some funds to transport them to their places of primary assignment. It’s about paying it forward.”
The corps members have since been posted to different places of assignment within the state while another stream gets ready for camp in July.
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