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In December 2015, the share price of First Bank of Nigeria Limited was trading around N4.8 band. About seven years later, precisely last December, the value held tightly to N15, growing by over threefold amid general asset and economic doldrums.

The steep rise in the valuation of the financial institution deviates remarkably from the average performance of FUGAZ, an acronym describing the top five Nigerian banks by market capitalisation. In the past seven years, the share prices of the leading banks appreciated by an average of 90 per cent as against over 200 per cent growth seen in FirstBank.

Deflated by the bank’s exceptional performance, Access Holdings, GTCO, UBA and Zenith stocks posted about 60 per cent growth. The performance of the entire banking sector also flattens out when compared with FirstBank, which raises questions about the fundamentals of the bank and its growth trajectory.

In terms of inflation-adjusted return on investment, FirstBank shareholders are among the investors that emerged from the turbulent years with a positive real rate of return. Was it a stroke of luck? Does the market reward poor performance?

Of course, stocks sometimes thrive on mere greater fool theory, thus triggering an asset bubble. But the positive share movement of the premier bank is but only one of the many high growth indicators.

In first quarter of 2023, the bank’s non-performing loan (NPL) ratio came down far below the five per cent regulatory threshold, which means so much difference when placed in a historical context. As at December 2015, its NPL ratio was over 45 per cent, a telling reflection of the level of effort that went into cleaning its books in the intervening years. For analysts, the cleanup, which was done without raising fresh capital, explains what disciplined, focused and forthright leadership could achieve.

On cleanup process, the Bank CEO, Dr. Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan, said the institution was “its self-created AMCON”, referring to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria set up in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to buy up the threatening toxic assets of Nigerian banks.

Indeed, what the management of the bank has done in the past seven years is not remarkably different from the role of AMCON, since its creation in 2011, except that the former raised fresh capital for its humongous responsibility whereas the bank did not. Also, the FirstBank experience was internal; and it did face a tougher task in terms of the proportion of its assets that had gone bad.

At the height of the financial crisis in 2008/2009, the NPL ratio rose to 37.3 per cent, from 9.9 per cent on record in 2007. On the other hand, the premier bank was carrying over 45 per cent NPL on its book as at January when Adeduntan took the reins of its leadership as the managing director.

All through the process, the bank did not raise fresh capital for the housecleaning programme, meaning the shareholders’ value was not diluted in the process.

Investors may have also kept in view other impressive qualitative metrics such as pre-tax return on equity (RoE), a measure of net income in proportion to shareholders’ equity, which moved from 0.6 to 17.3 per cent at the end of last year’s financial cycle. Also, pre-tax Return on Asset (RoA) climbed from 0.1 to 1.6 per cent while the cost of risk was also down to 1.7 per cent last year, from 10 per cent recorded in its 2015 financial.

At the end of this month, Adeduntan would have spent 7.5 years in office and he would be 30 months short of the tenure limit requirement. Already, he is the longest-serving chief executive of the institution, which is known for its short-term leadership tradition. Casual observers consider him as fortunate, but deep analysts think differently – the bank has been fortunate to have had him.

The lender, which predated ‘Nigeria’, and played the most active financial role in the structuring of the country’s pre- and post-Independence economy, may have just got its groove back under the current management. The books are clean and the NPL is trending downward, faster than the industry average. But beyond, its top and bottom lines are all out of the woods and climbing.

Its total assets, for instance, have increased by 167 per cent in the past seven years, meaning that its asset size has almost tripled, which also outperformed the industry growth. In terms of liquid asset to total asset ratio, it is also ahead of most of its peers. This suggests that while the quality of its assets has increased remarkably, with the NPL ratio falling by 88 per cent in less than a decade, the bank’s asset growth has not stalled, which speaks volumes about the quality of its risk management approach.

Currently, FirstBank had in its portfolio of about 41 million customer accounts, an extraordinary 276 per cent lift from its 2015 record. The figure is about 30 per cent of total bank accounts held by Nigerian banks. Customer depositors also jumped by as much as 153 per cent to 10.6 trillion.

The growth seen is also robbing off on the bottom line with the profit before tax (PAT) increasing by N137 billion in the period. That translates to over 1300 per cent, probably contributing majorly to the sudden spike in the share of the bank.

Perhaps, owing to its long history dating back to when banks were mostly associated with corporate and public sector financial infrastructure, FirstBank was mostly seen as a go-to for savers and borrowers. But that seems to have changed with its many smart digital channels. For its management, that is deliberate.

“Our goal is to transform the bank from lending-based to a transaction-based financial institution,” the chief executive pointed out.

Yes, its transformation is no longer a dream. From zero share of corporate e-bill payments, it has shoved its competitors behind to take hold of 42 per cent of the market. The bank, in the words of its managing director, has pivoted from brick and mortar to “brick and click”, making payment seamless and a click away for individuals, corporate as well as public entities.

“We have built a very formidable trade and cash management platform that we call FirstDirect, which allows corporate banking customers, from the comfort of their home, to initiate a trade transaction and complete it. You have a single view, giving you an interface where you can add your different accounts and transact,” Adeduntan explained.

FirstMobile, a standalone digital bank, has also emerged as a household name in the financial technology ecosystem. In 2015, when the platform was still at its teething age, its users were about 60,000 a number that soared to over six million (a growth of over 10,000 per cent). That has contributed immensely to the changing tradition of banking with FirstBank, as about 85 per cent of its transactions are now initiated via digital windows.

FirstMobile appears to have hit the bull’s eye in the bank’s reinvention drive and effort to appeal to younger demographics. But the platform itself is merely one of the potpourris of telecommunication-driven initiatives it has taken on to get the young depositors on board. FirstOnline users have also grown from about 90,000 to over one million within the timeframe just as its USSD, which targets feature phone users, is even more successful with users increasing by close to 3,000 per cent in seven years to 14.7 million.

Overall, its digital banking has evolved in both volume and public impression. Ease, convenience and reliability have moved the customer base from its tiny 0.6 million to 22 million.

Indeed, FirstBank is transmuting into a transaction-led institution. Last year, the volume of transactions hit 17 million, 8.5 times what it was in 2015 when it experienced some corporate turbulence. But the growth is not only in volume terms, as its non-interest income ratio hit 40.6 per cent for the first time last year, which aligns with the strategic direction of the current management in weaning the group from excessive credit risk exposure.

Over the years, most Nigerian banks have consolidated their global outlook. FirstBank has led the pack with its 40-year United Kingdom subsidiary, which is bigger than some of its competitor wholesale operations back home. But some of the pro-offshore Nigerian banks had been accused of extroversion and ego-seeking as most of the outposts were nothing but cost centres.

In the past few years, the assumption has been deflated; and the performance of the African subsidiaries of FirstBank is among what could be changing the tide. Before the 2015 change of the guard, the subsidiaries’ operations left had created a gaping hole in the PBT of the consolidated account. Last year, they contributed a combined 21.3 per cent to the group’s pre-tax profit.

But that was not because there was no risk out there. In the heat of the Ghanaian government debt crisis, Adeduntan revealed, FirstBank took the least impairment among Nigerian banks that were exposed to the crisis “not because we saw it coming but because we have consistently done the right thing and adopted best risk management practice”.

There is also a humane side to his management approach. Today, FirstBank is among the highest-paying Nigerian banks and offers the most attractive conditions of service, including training, accelerated career growth and many more. In 2021, its efforts were compensated with the Great Place to Work Award. Today, the once-touted conservative bank is attracting young and upwardly mobile professionals with the average age of its employees estimated at 39 years.

Being the longest-serving managing director of the pre-colonial financial behemoth, Adeduntan has the leverage of time and experience to enforce its transformational agenda. But he had also prepared for the job. At KPMG where he co-pioneered the firms’ financial risk management advisory services, he trained in almost all areas of human endeavors – presentation, people management, business writing and all sorts. On assumption of office, he was bold and firm in his decision to headhunt, institute new work culture, clear career growth blockages and challenged the status quo.

His courageous outing in the past seven and half years has transformed an institution once considered one of least prepared for the age of “brick and click” banking into the Usain Bolt of the emerging financial technology space.

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Access Bank Establishes Dedicated Desk to Enhance Agric Lending




Access Bank Establishes Dedicated Desk to Enhance Agric Lending

Access Bank Establishes Dedicated Desk to Enhance Agric Lending

•Says it has invested over N200bn in agro businesses

Access Bank Plc has launched a dedicated Agriculture Desk that would support agribusiness and boost food security in Nigeria as part of its commitment to the realisation of “From Farm to Table” policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN).

The Agriculture Desk, which was designed to serve as a specialised unit within the bank, would offer financial and advisory services and provide support to prospective and existing operators in the Nigerian agribusiness value chain.

The bank said the desk would also provide services in the areas of input and supply, primary production, storage, processing, marketing and mechanised agriculture among others in a way that would facilitate the actualisation of the “From Farm to Table” policy thrust of the CBN, which it stressed aligns with its vision of contributing to the country’s achievement of sustainable food security.

Speaking on Tuesday, during a press conference that marked the unveiling of the Agriculture Desk at the Access Towers, the Executive Director, Commercial Banking, Ms. Hadiza Ambursa, said, “the Agriculture Desk is not only about financing. It is about driving transformational change within the agricultural landscape.”

“Our commitment extends beyond monetary support to encompass capacity building, technology adoption, and market access for our clients,” she added.

Ambursa, added that “the Agriculture Desk’s impressive track record has been built on partnerships with key stakeholders, including government agencies, international organisations, and industry associations. This collaborative approach has reinforced our reputation as a reliable driver of growth in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.”

She said Access Bank has positively contributed to the nation’s quest to achieve self-sustained food security.

“So far, the bank’s investment in agribusiness is over N200 billion, which has benefitted over 10,000 agribusinesses, across Small Holder Farms (SHFs), Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), organised farmer associations/cooperatives and corporates who are financed under bank’s various product and government schemes.

“The support for these projects has had impacts such as increase in food security, job creation, growth in customers’ businesses and increased revenue,” she added.

Access Bank said with its steadfast commitment to sustainable agricultural business and strategic stakeholders’ partnerships, it has steered Nigeria and the African continent toward greater self-sufficiency in food production and global prominence.

It further noted that by strategically aligning its services with the evolving needs in the agricultural industry, Access Bank has enhanced its capacity to provide tailored financial solutions that address the unique challenges faced by farmers, agribusinesses and other stakeholders in the value chain with the value addition services, including provision of financial and advisory services, market linkages to support sales, capacity building with special focus on women and youth), stakeholders’ engagement, project monitoring and reporting, just to name a few.

Access Bank also assured its clients that its Agriculture desk would offer seamless and simplified process for accessibility of its services within two weeks.

Assessing these services, it said, would begin with, “being our customer, submit loan application and documentations such as feasibility report, acceptable credit checks and other others, then the loan request is reviewed, farm / factory / site inspection is done. If a customer meets all loan requirements, upon receipt of complete documentation and depending on the amount, the process takes between one to two weeks.

“Also, the loan tenor is aligned with project gestation period and customer cash flow and repayment plan allows monthly or quarterly repayment in line with the customer’s cashflow while our interest rate is highly competitive and in line with market realities.

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Wema Bank, Nigeria’s most innovative bank and pioneer of Africa’s first fully digital bank, ALAT, has partnered with Selar, Africa’s largest creator platform, to empower African creatives and bridge the prevalent gaps in the African creative space.

This revolutionary partnership has birthed a power-packed webinar titled “The Digital Economy and the Future of Work”, a learning and problem-solving webinar aimed at helping Africans—especially Nigerian—creators to maximise their potential and leverage available resources to transform their creativity into sustainable streams of income.

In a world where work is evolving, the concept of employment is undergoing a profound transformation. The creator economy is reshaping the digital landscape, granting young individuals unprecedented opportunities to create and monetize knowledge as never before.

Generation Z and Millennials are harnessing the creative space to attain financial independence by selling digital content and forging careers as creators. Scheduled for September 29, 2023, this webinar promises to illuminate the challenges and prospects that creators encounter as they navigate this exhilarating terrain. It offers invaluable insights into effectively tapping into its potential.

According to a survey conducted by Selar, one in every four creators is an employer, a testament to the potential for creators not only to earn but to create job opportunities, thus bolstering the African Creator Economy as a stable and lucrative source of income. This, in turn, promises to reduce unemployment rates in Africa, contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Solomon Ayodele, Head of Innovation & Corporate Transformation at Wema Bank and one of the speakers at the event, commended the bank’s commitment to innovation, recounting the bank’s storied history of resilience and technological advancement. He affirmed Wema Bank’s dedication to equipping its customers with practical knowledge to help them monetize the digital sphere effectively.

According to Douglas Kendyson, the C.E.O. of Selar and another speaker at the event, the dream is for the partnership to mark the beginning of a strong network of groundbreaking initiatives from both powerhouses—Wema Bank and Selar—to revolutionise the creative space in Africa and build more jobs for Africans all over the world.

“I’ve been in the tech space for years now and Wema Bank has been at the forefront of innovation—from digital banking alternatives like ALAT to youth-empowering technology programmes like Hackaholics and much more—all of which have shaped the entire FinTech industry, which is why this partnership is so important to us at Selar.

This highly anticipated event would demystify the complexities of the creative space, with a distinct focus on the African context. Key speakers for the webinar include Douglas Kendyson, Solomon Ayodele, Benjamin Dada (Founder/Publisher, Benjamin Dada Blog), and Senior Manoa, one of Nigeria’s premier creators.

Attendees can expect to gain valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by creators across the African continent, the pivotal role of financial institutions in fostering the growth of the creator economy, and practical guidance for establishing and enhancing successful online businesses with digital products.

This event welcomes attendees from all walks of life, from budding creators to established entrepreneurs eager to harness the dynamic potential of the creator economy.

Wema Bank, once again, redefines the global standard for banking and reaffirms its position as the bank that works tirelessly to support every stakeholder. Mark your calendar for “The Digital Economy and the Future of Work” on September 29, 2023. To secure your spot, register for free at [].

About Wema Bank:

Wema Bank is the pioneer of Africa’s first fully digital bank, ALAT, and one of Nigeria’s most resilient banks. With decades of experience in the business of banking, the bank has remained innovative in delivering value to its stakeholders. The publicly quoted Nigerian company has successfully built a legacy of trust and resilience that has won the loyalty of its customers.

The bank is constantly introducing products and services tailored to the needs of its customers at every stage of their lives. It is a proud partner to more than one million individuals, families, and businesses across Nigeria, helping them achieve their personal and financial goals.

About Selar: Selar is an innovative e-commerce store builder designed to empower creators to showcase and sell their digital products. With a user-friendly interface and comprehensive features, Selar has become a leading platform for monetizing knowledge and skills in the digital space.

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United Bank for Africa, Banking Beyond Borders



  • UBA to Incentivise Businesses that register to Attend.


Africa’s Global Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) has announced that it is once again the headline sponsor of the 2023 edition of the annual Lagos International Trade Fair.

In partnership with the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), organisers of the annual event, UBA seeks to bolster small and medium scales businesses, while catalysing entrepreneurial growth across the continent.

For the past five years, UBA has been the headline sponsor for this all-important event, and this year’s edition which is the 37th, is scheduled to hold at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, between November 3rd and 12th, 2023.

Speaking at a press briefing in the Commerce House, Lagos on Thursday to announce the partnership, the Chairman Trade Promotion Board, LCCI, Engr. Leye Kupoluyi, commended UBA for once again sponsoring the Trade fair.

He told participants that this edition promises to provide networking opportunities, showcasing innovation, promoting international trade, industry and sector diversity while boosting local businesses.

He said the local organising committee is bringing world class facilities and ambience with the best exhibition standard, health, safety and deployment of digital banking platforms provided by the bank for the ease of money transactions and intra-Africa fund transfers.

UBA’s Head, SME Banking, Babatunde Ajayi, who spoke on the partnership said, “UBA’s partnership with the LCCI emphasizes its support for local businesses and the community.

We at UBA, consider this as exemplary which is why our partnership with LCCI continues to stand the test of time. There is no gain saying that in virtually all economies all over the world – developed and developing alike, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are critical to the generation of economic activity and to long-term sustainability.”

He explained that the bank’s commitment to offer special incentives to businesses that register to attend the fair is In line with UBA’s unflinching support to the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), maintaining that “UBA will be giving special incentives to businesses who register to attend the fair,” Ajayi noted.

Overall, the collaboration between UBA and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry to host the Lagos International Trade Fair in 2023 appears to be a significant opportunity for businesses, both small and large, to grow, network, and explore new horizons in the business world. It has the potential to boost economic activity and contribute to the development of the Nigerian business landscape.

UBA is a leading pan-African financial institution, offering banking services to more than thirty-seven million customers across 1,000 business offices and customer touch points in 20 African countries.

With presence in New York, London, Cayman Island and Paris and now the UAE, UBA is connecting people and businesses across Africa through retail, commercial and corporate banking, innovative cross-border payments and remittances, trade finance and ancillary banking services.

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