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BAFI Awards: FirstBank’s COVID-19 response sets the pace in CSR for other financial institutions

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From the publisher of BusinessDay, Frank Aigbogun’s welcome address at the recently held BusinessDay’s Banks and other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards came the following words: ‘The year 2020 has been a most interesting year. The economy and communities have been managed by disruptions imposed by COVID-19. Yet financial services have shown uncommon responsiveness and compassion towards customers and communities.’ Indeed, this has been an unusual year, no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but it has been a year defined as much by COVID-19 and its associated disruptions and difficulties as by the unprecedented response in kindness by corporate Nigeria.

BusinessDay’s BAFI Awards recognised achievements in a number of separate categories, each of which was worth its weight in gold. However, it could be argued that in this year of COVID-19, any recognition that took into account and was informed by the awardee’s COVID-related activities was probably the most significant of the awards/categories. It is against this backdrop that the recipient of the CSR Bank of the Year award at the BAFI Awards should be celebrated and projected as a model other corporate should emulate. And it came as no surprise that the bank that considers its destiny to be intertwined with Nigeria’s and whose commitment to nation building largely informs its approach to corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S), was so crowned as CSR Bank of the Year at the BAFI Awards.

The award was a well-deserved recognition for the exemplary role played by First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, Nigeria’s leading financial services provider, in support of the government and individuals’ as well as its own efforts to deal with the impact of COVID-19. Before the BAFI Awards, and, undoubtedly, proof that the award was not a fluke, CSR Reporters had named FirstBank as the 2020 Philanthropic Financial Institution of the Year in recognition of the bank’s social responsibility in the areas of e-learning and empowerment of SMEs in Nigeria. These CSR awards took cognisance of FirstBank’s unparalleled contributions to CSR, particularly through its e-learning initiative delivered in collaboration with partners from within and outside the continent, such as IBM, UNESCO and Robert & John, and the Lagos State Government.

Whilst different organisations rose to the various challenges resulting from COVID-19 crisis and were supporting in areas such as health and welfare, FirstBank chose and developed the e-learning initiative. FirstBank felt strongly that the peculiar needs of children and the youth risked being neglected at a time of unprecedented crises – with schools being closed, parents losing jobs, businesses shutting down, government revenues shrinking, health care resources being over-stretched, economic conditions worsening, etc. The bank therefore kicked off an initiative to move one million students to e-learning, alongside its partners, to minimise the disruption to the their education resulting from the prolonged closure of schools across Nigeria and ensure that they remain fully engaged during the difficult period, so they can continue to learn and compete favourably with their peers across the world. Over 140,000 students have benefitted from the e-learning initiative.

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Focusing on key elements that resonated with its brand, such as dynamism, innovation and nation building, FirstBank’s e-learning initiative is an innovative and dynamic approach to learning which is not only a suitable and resourceful solution at this time, but also one that is intertwined with perhaps the next century’s likely digital approach to learning, especially with the addition of courses such as coding and robotics, which can usher students into the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and prepare them for jobs of the future. The e-learning initiative also aligns with the bank’s key focus area in its CSR framework – education. Education remains the single largest beneficiary of FirstBank’s enormous investments in CSR. Currently, 10 universities and three secondary schools enjoy FirstBank’s infrastructure projects; 10 universities are endowed with professorial chairs by the bank; and over 80,000 students in over 80 secondary schools in Nigeria have benefitted from financial literacy, and entrepreneurial and career counselling provided through FirstBank-sponsored programmes. Education consistently attracts the bank’s keenest attention from year to year. This is because FirstBank believes that education – quality and relevant education – remains the bedrock of any society and that when children are properly educated, the nation is enabled and global citizens who provide groundbreaking solutions for the continent and the world at large, are produced.

FirstBank’s partnership with IBM on the e-learning initiative, is making available to students the Digital-Nation Africa program, an online youth-focused learning programme that enables innovation and skills development on emerging technologies The IBM Digital- Nation Africa aims to provide African youth with effective digital literacy. The Platform seeks to enable African citizens, entrepreneurs and communities with the knowledge, tools and skills to innovate, design, develop and launch their own digital skills. It also helps African citizens enhance their digital skills to best meet the needs of the job market.

DNA provides a broad range of courses for various levels of digital literacy, from providing an introduction to the key emerging technologies beneficial for all, through an integrated innovator section to a focused skills enablement section where users can understand the skills and demands of the market and gain proven skills to enhance their job prospects. In addition, it provides free access to practical exercises and to allow for new ideas to be brought to life through focus areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Coding, Cloud, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Data Science and Analytics, and Cyber Security. There are currently nearly 14,000 registrants on the program, which is promoting opportunities to learn skills of the future.

The partnership with Curious Learning is designed to reach smartphone users using available curated and tested literacy and numeracy apps – with free access provided to these apps. Curious learning is delivering academic-based content for students aged three to eight through a number of mobile applications designed to empower these young children in a fun, self-guided learning process through exploration and curiosity to help them with their cognitive skills at a fundamental level. Examples of these apps are Feed the Monster and Read with Akili. Efforts are in place through Curious Learning to ensure the e-learning initiative swiftly moves across the country to school children and individuals with the need to promote the pursuit of knowledge, irrespective of age. This is critical in identifying with the roles of children at securing the future of any country.

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Another partnership in FirstBank’s e-learning initiative is the one with Lagos State Government and Robert & John, an Edu-tech company that owns Roducate. The Roducate e-learning platform, structured in line with the government’s accredited curriculum for primary, secondary and tertiary schools across various fields of academic endeavours, such as science, commercial and arts, includes tutorial videos to reinforce the learning engagement, as well as assignments and mock exams to test students’ knowledge and progress in the course of studying. Learning on the platform also enables note taking for quick reference, and to foster extra-curricular activities, provides exciting features to make learning exciting and fun, such as podcasts and various games like brain pulse, monster munch etc. which allows students to play with one another online, thereby building relationships and promoting interactive learning.

So far FirstBank has provided 20,000 low-end devices preloaded with Roducate offline (presented to Lagos State Government for distribution to students) and enabled over 120,000 free sign-ups, on the Roducate e-learning platform, with the ultimate goal being to empower at least one million students. ‘This [e-learning] solution,’ according to Dr Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, ‘will see Lagos State offer children in the lower bracket, who may not have access to devices or data from home, affordable smart phones preloaded with the curriculum. The phones have SIMs and limited data tied, only, to the Roducate learning product, which means the recipients cannot browse, encouraging safe learning, but they can still submit tests, mock exams, etc.’ Dr Adeduntan, who encouraged parents and guardians to have their children and wards registered so their educational development is not held back, noted that the initiative is ‘in keeping with who we are at FirstBank, [where] our commitment to self-development and continuous improvement is never far from our thinking.’ In addition, FirstBank is a member of the Global Education Coalition led by UNESCO which is a platform for collaboration and exchange to protect the right of education during this unprecedented disruption and beyond.

Furthermore, in a bid to support SMEs operating in the education sector, FirstBank created a matching fund scheme of ₦5 billion LSETF-FirstEdu Loan, in partnership with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF). The scheme is designed to cushion the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on low-cost private schools by providing loans to them at an attractive interest rate. At the launch of the scheme, the Managing Director/CEO of FirstBank, Dr Adesola Adeduntan said: ‘At FirstBank we recognise the indelible role played by the education sector in the growth of any economy and this underscores our partnership with Lagos State Government for continuous development of the education services in Lagos State and the nation as a whole. The commitment by the Lagos State Government – including this partnership – to enable schools is quite commendable as this will mitigate the challenges caused by the lockdown on the education sector following the COVID-19 pandemic.’

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Woven into the fabric of society for over 126 years, overcoming challenges and remaining a dominant player in Nigeria’s financial services landscape, FirstBank has been partnering and supporting various sustainable activities towards the continued growth of its host communities and the nation at large. As a responsible corporate organisation committed to supporting all its stakeholders in the most sustainable manner possible, the bank has partnered various state governments through the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) intervention with a view to promoting the readiness and efficiency of health care professionals and other compatriots at the forefront of fighting the pandemic. Beyond Nigeria, FirstBank’s sub-Saharan African subsidiaries have also been involved. So far they have made donations amounting to US$173,000 in cash and kind towards alleviating the impact of COVID-19 on the continent.

According to BusinessDay, the BAFI Awards, convened annually to recognise and celebrate organisations that have achieved excellence in the delivery of their financial services across the entire client and customer spectrum, is adjudged the most rigorous, prestigious and transparent awards programme in the industry. Since its inception in 2014, when the first edition held, its organisers, BusinessDay has implemented an audit-based approach in the evaluation process, meticulously reviewing each shortlisted company’s financial reports, commissioned customer perception surveys and analyst opinion, then comparing these with its competition in a longitudinal study. The BAFI Awards have become established as the benchmark of distinction for institutions in the financial services sector. Its rising popularity among leaders in the banking, investing, insurance, and asset management subsectors have earned the BAFI Awards a reputation as ‘the only recognition you deserve’.

The BAFI Awards is backed by the BusinessDay Research and Intelligence Unit (BRIU). Nominations for the BAFI Awards are the culmination of a rigorous review process. The BRIU and an independent panel of judges evaluate more than two hundred and fifty institutions and benchmark them against their global peers using several indices in a thorough evaluation process. Nominees are assessed for their vision, execution and market leading propositions. The BAFI award categories cut across banking, insurance, capital markets, investment, pension funds, trustees, registrars, stockbroking and private equity. This year’s event where FirstBank won Best CSR Bank of the Year (and a second award – Best Mobile Banking App), was themed: Interpreting an Irrational Year: Coping, Adjusting and Thriving in a Wicked Learning Environment.

By Aniekan Ezekiel

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The advertising industry in Nigeria: Maximising the post-COVID reality – Seyi Tinubu

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Seyi Tinubu

Since the launch of the first news outlet in Nigeria in 1859, Nigeria’s advertising industry has grown to become a flourishing self-sustaining ecosystem valued at a whopping 425 million U.S. dollars as of 2017 and a projected foreseeable exponential growth in the coming years as a result of the dominance of internet revenue. While many other industries are gradually recovering and working to bounce back from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this economic powerhouse is set to remain on an upward trajectory Post-covid.

Amidst several months of grounded airplanes, closed churches and empty streets, several countries and global economies have experienced the shock waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. From real estate to finance and healthcare – especially healthcare – almost every sector of the economy has been touched in one way or another. One industry, however, has remained unshaken, resilient, withstanding all the knocks and shocks and continuing to thrive despite oppositions – advertising.

This is not to say that commercial advertising did not experience its fair share of economic downturn, even taking a significant plunge during the pandemic year. In fact, many brands reordered their priorities entirely, choosing to engage in COVID-19 awareness campaigns across social media. Some others took to leveraging collaborations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as the government to consolidate efforts and flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread, and provide relief packages to vulnerable target groups within the society – although, in hindsight, this may have been a strategic move to ensure that brands are projected positively continuously.

In any case, the advertising industry globally is fast rising back to pre-pandemic levels and even experiencing exponential growth— a vast contrast from the diminishing returns that it had begun to experience a few years back — and the reason is not far-fetched. Several factors are responsible for this drastic turn of events. Firstly, it goes without saying that advertising thrives on consumer behavior. And if there’s one thing we can be certain about post-pandemic, it’s that consumer behavior has changed significantly. What thriving and innovative advertising companies did during the pandemic was to change with the times and seasons that consumers were in. This meant changing from regular TV and radio advertising to digital advertising. This switch was to align with the fact that consumers spent more time at home in front of screens. Commuting time was allocated to binge-watching videos online, and as a result, digital reigned supreme.

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Today, COVID-19 has definitely expedited the process of transforming legacy marketing structures and practices for the digital economy. In Nigeria especially, the pandemic served as an exponential accelerator for connected TV and E-commerce marketing- which though were already in place, were struggling to gain widespread popularity. By dwelling more on social media and direct response selling, retailers were able to sell their goods to a wider audience due to shifting consumer behavior to online trade channels, thereby promoting the growth of Nigeria’s e-commerce industry.

This wasn’t the case in the last decade. Just a few years back, advertisers in Nigeria spent a large chunk of their time, effort and resources trying to encourage consumers to buy something they haven’t seen or tried on. Brands across all industries struggled to use the power of their online presence to engage potential customers and drive them down the marketing funnel through video adverts, blogs, email newsletters, or other types of digital lead generation activities. Even before the pandemic, converting that online presence to actual sales was a difficult feat.

However, COVID-19 has drastically altered the rules of the game.

With the pandemic keeping everyone at home, time spent on convincing was less, and many more consumers became more inclined to buy things and use services they needed online. As a result, several mega-companies across Nigeria took advantage of this, leaving advertisers no choice but to keep up with the times, spending about $350 million on advertising and marketing. Whilst there was no dominant sector, the likes of telecommunications giant MTN and beverage colossus, Nigerian Breweries led the table as the highest spenders in the year.

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The influencer niche is one area that has been cemented fully into the world of advertising. If there’s one thing that took the internet by storm in 2020, it was influencers. With the rise of social media, apps like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook (Now Meta) became entertainment hotspots for millennials and Gen Zs, more and more people rose to the influencer status, making the position crucial to Nigeria’s advertising industry. In fact, a survey carried out by the Nigeria Influencer Marketing Report (NIMReport) revealed that over 30% of advertisers now value influencer marketing as part of their marketing strategy.

Although we are no longer in the heat of the pandemic, it is incontrovertible that the pandemic brought a lasting shift to Nigeria’s advertising ecosphere. We may have coined the term “post-covid era”, but in actual fact, the pandemic has ushered us into a new age, a new season that we may never return from. This means that the bar has permanently risen for advertising agencies and businesses across Nigeria as consumers are now holding them to higher standards. What they demand nowadays are tactful and mindful marketing strategies. They’re no longer asking if you have what they want but rather expect you to have what they want.

To navigate this new terrain, advertising in Nigeria will need to be more data and technology focused, with advertisers working to integrate some form of artificial intelligence or machine learning into the mix. With the right data, advertising companies will be fully equipped to create the right consumer experiences across one or more dimensions of the four Cs of marketing: Commerce, Community, Content, and Convenience. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to these four areas, consumers require a more personalized experience.

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Experts such as PWC have predicted that Nigeria’s entertainment market is poised to reach $10.8 billion (N4.4 trillion) in 2023, having reached $4.5 billion in 2018. With the interconnectedness of advertising and entertainment and the recent tactic of presenting advertising as entertainment, it is imperative that relevant stakeholders properly harness the immense benefits available for the advertising sector. This can be done in several ways, with collaboration being paramount. Partnerships between sectoral groups in marketing and communications will expand the advertising landscape of the Nigerian market and will bring world-class advertising opportunities

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HAVING A FIRSTBANK SALARY ACCOUNT CAN EASE YOUR MONEY PROBLEMS, FIND OUT HOW…

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First Bank

“There is always a lot to spend money on, and sometimes the bills can’t wait for the salary to be paid” Tope complained when his wife informed him that they had run out of cooking gas and had to refill.

 

He had just moved to a new location with his family and the bills seemed to be coming at such speed that he could hardly keep up.

 

Barely three weeks in the new apartment, the electricity bill had arrived. The new apartment was bigger than the last and their two double-seater cushions left too much space vacant in the seating room. They needed to get a couple more furniture to fill the space. His wife had not stopped reminding him of the car he promised to get, in order to ease mobility for the family.

 

Everyone has been a Tope at some point in time, and that is why everyone needs a financial partner like FirstBank, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services brand. FirstBank offers a variety of loan products that can help you ease off pressure as you work towards meeting pressing and urgent needs, as well as medium term goals.

FirstAdvance is a digital product tailored for Salary Account holders, who have an urgent cash need and would want to access salary advance from the bank. If you have held a salary account with FirstBank for up to two months, you can access 50% of your monthly net salary and as much as half a million naira (N500,000).

 

A physical visit to the bank branch is not required as you can access it via the FirstMobile (FirstBank’s Mobile banking app) and USSD channels. To access the service via USSD, dial *894*11# from the phone number linked with your FirstBank account. This has proved to be the solution for many people while emergencies arise before pay day. There is no point in waiting for month end before you can take on those pressing financial obligations.

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FirstCredit is another digital product designed to cater for the non-salaried individuals. All that is required is for your account to have been active and transacting in FirstBank for six months or more to access FirstCredit. It provides customers with quick and easy access to loans to fund urgent transactions. You do not need a smart phone or a physical visit to the bank to get this done as well. This credit facility can be accessed using a mobile phone and the USSD banking code, *894*11#. You can access as much as N300,000 to be repaid within 30 days.

 

No physical documentation or collateral is required, neither do you need a physical visit to the bank to access both loans. Imagine the confidence that comes with sorting out your bills within minutes and without having to wait till month end.

 

Salary accounts should do more than receiving your monthly pay from your employer. It should be instrumental in making your day-to-day living easier, and this is what having your salary account with FirstBank can achieve for you. You can get a Personal Loan Against Salary (PLAS) if you have a a longer-term project at hand or investments to make. It may be paying school fees for your kids, acquiring assets or renovating your properties, paying rent, taking professional examinations.

 

Customer who qualify can access Up to N50 million based on their net monthly income and rates are competitive, while offering long term and flexible repayments up to 48 months tenor.

 

Despite all these benefits and ease in access to loans, it literarily costs nothing to open a FirstBank Salary Account. Zero opening balance, Zero minimum daily operating balance, Zero account maintenance charge, plus you even get your first debit card issued for free.
Truly, it is always “YOU FIRST” from FirstBank.

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UBA Group Dominates the 2021 Banker Awards, Wins ‘African Bank of the Year’

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UBA

Breaks the Banker Magazine Record as it wins Best Bank in Nigeria and 12 of Its Subsidiaries Africa’s global bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc yet again, reaffirms its leadership position across Africa, as the bank has been globally recognised as the African Bank of the year 2021 by the Banker Magazine, a leading global finance news publication published by the Financial Times of London.

 

UBA’s solid financial performance, its excellent service delivery to customers and its continuous role of facilitating rapid economic growth across the African continent were some of the reasons that led to the bank being named best bank in 12 of its African subsidiaries and in Nigeria. UBA Nigeria Plc, UBA Benin, UBA Burkina Faso, UBA Cameroon, UBA Chad, UBA Congo Brazzaville, UBA Cote D’Ivoire, UBA Gabon, UBA Guinea, UBA Liberia, UBA Senegal, UBA Sierra Leone and UBA Zambia all came out top as the best banks in their respective countries.

 

This will not be a first for UBA. In 2020, six of its subsidiaries in Benin, Cote D’Ivoire, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Zambia were winners of the Best Bank award. This year, the UBA Group is breaking a record with its exceptional wins as African Bank of the Year and Bank of the year in 13 countries. The total 14 awards makes it the first time ever in the history of the almost 100 years of The banker, that any banking group will be clinching as many as 14 wins in a single year.

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At the Virtual award ceremony which was held on December 1st 2021, the Middle East and Africa Editor for The Banker, John Everington, explained at the event that a rigorous and highly analytical process is made annually to reach the decision for each Bank of the Year award and the institution’s reputation for independence, authority and integrity is thoroughly applied to each submission.

 

“While several African banks impressed the judges this year, there was no doubt as to the worthiest recipient of the Bank of the Year for Africa – UBA Group – a clear winner across a wide range of criteria. UBA has performed impressively across its footprint with a strong financial performance across most of its markets,” Everington said.

 

UBA’s Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Kennedy Uzoka, who expressed delight over the recognition from The Banker stated “Like I always say, at UBA, we must be doing something right. Winning 14 total awards in13 subsidiaries and the Bank of the Year on the African continent is a big achievement.’

 

Continuing, Uzoka said, “The recognitions come as a reassurance that we are on track in consolidating our leadership position in Africa, as we continue to create superior value for all our stakeholders. We have our millions of customers across the globe and our many thousands of staff to thank for this. They are the very reason why we keep winning’

 

Since1926, the Bank of the Year awards has been celebrating the best of global banking and is regarded as the industry standard for banking excellence. The 2021 edition highlights those institutions that have outshone their peers in terms of performance, strategic initiatives and response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Banker Magazine is a publication of the Financial Times – a leading global finance news publication which has been in existence since 1888. The Banker magazine is the definitive reference in international banking for high level decision makers.

 

United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading Pan-African financial institution, offering banking services to more than twenty-five million customers, across over 1,000 business offices and customer touch points, in 20 African countries.

 

With presence in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France, 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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