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FirstBank assures effective support to customers 

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….. Pledges update on financial landscape
COMFORT EKELEME, Business Editor
Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank Group, Dr Adesola Adeduntan has reaffirms the bank’s commitment to provide vital updates on developments in the financial landscape.
He said this is a mark of the bank’s commitment to putting customers at the heart of its business.
Adeduntan who was represented by the Group Executive, Technology, Digital Innovation and Services Division of First Bank Group, Calistus Obetta at the Bank’s Corporate Customer Engagement Forum in Lagos said, it is always a delight holding this kind of high-level engagement with customers.
According to him, the bank’s first half financial demonstrates it’s choice of being first choice, adding that the second year in a row, FirstBank has been awarded the Best Corporate Bank in Western Africa 2023 by Global Banking and Finance Awards amongst other high-profile global recognitions.
He said, “Our recently released Half Year (H1) 2023 financials also attest to the consistent upward leap that has become a second nature to us in FirstBank, accentuating our commitment to becoming Africa’s Bank of first choice.
For the records, the Bank made an impressive, record-breaking Profit Before Tax (PBT) of ₦188.8 billion, up 214.6per cent  Year on Year (y-o-y)  (June 2022: ₦60.0 billion) with total assets climaxing to ₦13.6 trillion, y-t-d and customers’ deposit growing to ₦8.8 trillion, up 26.9 per cent y-t-d, amongst several other remarkable indices.
Adeduntan however , maintained that “This is a laudable feat that has been made possible by all our customers, partners and stakeholders and I thank you for your unflinching confidence reposed in our brand.
“Let me also reemphasize our desire to get your feedback on the services received at our various touchpoints and I reassure you of our single-mindedness towards understanding your peculiar needs for an improved customer experience and journey,” he said.

In his presentation, Chief Consultant of B. Adedipe Associates Ltd (BAA Consult), Dr ‘Biodun Adedipe urged Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) to be agile , responsive at a time like this, adding that they should build innovative goals into the company’s plan for growth.

He stated that balancing the basic business risk and financial risk is ever more important with the massive disruptions since 2020.

Dr. Adedipe further noted that CFOs need to track and manage cash flows the same way bankers do.

“The accounting and reporting functions should be more efficient.Maintaining a line-of-sight on cash has become more critical to organizational resilience and sustainability.

“One of the specialties of First Bank and the FBN family is the technical capacity to interrogate your company’s balance sheet (SoFP).Find either the weaknesses or opportunities therein.

“Develop a funding model / strategy to make funding of your organization and its operations more efficient, cost effective and sustainable.That, for me, is the whole essence of partnering with First Bank,” Dr. Adedipe said.

He however commended the management of Firstbank for effectively growing its business in spite of economic challenges, like  Naira depreciation, occasioned by the exchange rate unification.

He said, I was excited when the group executive mentioned the growth rate of Firstbank in the first half of this year compared to last year’s.

“That means Firstbank has been effectively managed, which is credit to management. It simply means that the bank’s results grew faster than the depreciation of the Naira, by that unified exchange rate,” he said.

Also speaking, Head of Treasury Department, Adeola Abioye urged businesses in Nigeria to be a bit more delibrate and intentional about focusing on non oil export as a way of diversifying their businesses.

She maintained that FirstBank has a very robust export desk that can provide information on the opportunities available.

NCC harps on collaboration  to strengthen payment system
The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC)  has stressed the importance of a multidimensional collaboration in enhancing the country’s payment system.
Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, said this at the 2023 annual conference of the Finance Correspondent Association of Nigeria (FICAN) with the theme “Strengthening Digital Infrastructure for Efficient Innovative Payment System in Nigeria held weekend in Lagos.
The NCC boss, who was represented by a Deputy Director at the commission, Engr Anthony Ikemefuna, noted that “Strengthening Digital Infrastructure for Efficient and Innovative Payment Systems in Nigeria is a long-term endeavor that requires collaboration, investment, and adaptability.
“By addressing these strategies comprehensively and proactively, Nigeria can build a robust and inclusive digital payment ecosystem that benefits its citizens and drives economic growth,” he said.
He stressed the need to improve collaborative efforts between the NCC and financial regulators such as the CBN, to enable proper coordination of policies and regulations related to digital payments and telecommunications.
According to Danbatta, this will ensure that the regulatory environment is conducive for innovation and growth.
He further stressed the need to encourage partnerships between financial institutions, telecom operators, and fintech companies to develop and deliver innovative digital payment solutions.
He added that the country needed to leverage the expertise and resources of the private sector to expand and improve digital infrastructure.
“The government should take a leading role in promoting digital payments by setting a clear vision and providing support.
“Implement e-government initiatives to promote digital payments for public services and benefits distribution,” Danbatta asserted.
He called on telecom operators to support financial inclusion initiatives by partnering with banks and fintech companies to offer mobile banking and payment services to unbanked and under-banked populations.
Meanwhile, the Head, Digital Banking, United Bank for Africa, Mr Olukayode Olubiyi, argued that inadequate infrastructure posed one of the greatest challenges to Nigeria’s electronic payment.
He added that dearth of operational and telecommunications facilities, as well as unstable power supply had slowed down the growth of electronic payment in the country.
In the same vein, the Head of Digital Banking at the United Bank for Africa, Mr Olukayode Olubiyi, harped on the need for collaboration among stakeholders, including financial institutions, fintech companies, government entities, and regulatory bodies, plays a pivotal role in ensuring the success of innovative solutions.
“Ultimately, it comes down to policy, regulation, and collaboration. If parties are willing to collaborate, many of the frictions currently experienced in the Nigeria financial service sector can be mitigated,” Olubiyi opined.
He mentioned that many e-payment systems depend on stable power sources and robust IT infrastructure, such as laptops, mobile phones, POS terminals, and dependable internet connectivity.
“During the period of cash scarcity earlier this year, banks faced unprecedented e-payment failures, prompting the urgent need for technological infrastructure upgrades,” he noted.
According to Olubiyi,  the failure of e-payment channels on such a scale compelled customers to wait for banks’ networks to stabilise before completing their transactions.
According to him, the challenge of failed transactions in Nigeria’s payment systems necessitates a collaborative effort among industry stakeholders and the implementation of appropriate policies and regulations.
“An increased collaboration among the Central Bank, Telcos, the commercial banks and FinTech to expand internet connectivity and seamless electronic transfers across the country.
“A uniformity in banking applications across the industry could significantly reduce the occurrence of failed or delayed payments,” he added.
Olubiyi also stated that that would require robust technology, stringent security measures, and seamless integration with various payment platforms and financial institutions.
“To combat fraud, it is imperative for the government, private sector organisations, and international partners to engage in strong and cohesive collaboration. Sharing intelligence and pooling resources will significantly contribute to the fight against cybercrime.
“Furthermore, this collaboration can extend to investments in cybersecurity infrastructure, including cybersecurity training facilities, incident response centers, and cybersecurity research and development centres,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, speaking earlier, the Chairman of FICAN, Chima Nwokoji noted that the challenges witnessed in the country’s payment system during the cash scarcity provided a window of opportunity for the banking system to be proactive and inventive.
This, he said, would enable them to reap the benefits provided by electronic payments.
“As banks and fintechs are expanding their financial services portfolios to capture the unbanked and semi-banked, they should not only be expanding their digital infrastructure, but also making it more sophisticated to ensure seamless transaction and safety of funds.
“In its ‘Nigeria Development Update (June 2023) the World Bank pointed out that Nigeria’s digital and financial infrastructure is inadequate to support a swift transition to a cashless economy.
He quoted the multilateral as saying, “The lack of adequate digital and financial infrastructure and processes to support a swift transition to a cashless economy— coupled with the fact that only 40 per cent of adults have a bank account—further exacerbated the situation.
“The cash shortage resulted in a black market for new notes, inflating overall transaction costs,” he said.

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