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FirstBank: A triumphant Return to the Nigerian Banking Frontline

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Corporate Nigeria in 2022, cannot be complete without a chapter on the incredible performance of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, which saw the hitherto encumbered bank now returning to the top of the ladder of the Nigerian banking industry, amid a harvest of international laurels, writes Festus Akanbi

 

By December this year, Nigerian quoted companies will begin to upload their full year 2022 results in compliance with the dictates of the principle of disclosures to regulators, investors and customers as enshrined in the act of Corporate Governance.

 

While the waiting game for the release of the more detailed full-year results continues, analysts said that bookmakers can only assess the current level of profitability, efficiency and recovery of these companies based on their half-year reports which began to hit the various media platforms from July this year.

 

For FirstBank, a subsidiary of the behemoth FBN Holdings Plc, the 2022 operation year has been characterised by a superlative performance which analysts believed signposts the confirmation of the bank’s return to the frontline of the Nigerian banking industry following its 2021 equally stellar performance.

 

From its half-year 2022 reports, which show a remarkable turnaround, and the ability of the management of the bank not only to resolve old corporate governance issues but to also return the bank to the path of profitability, it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that FirstBank has freed itself from old encumbrances and it is back to its old trajectory of breaking boundaries and being a pacesetter in the Nigerian banking industry.

 

For instance, analysts who believed that FirstBank’s current excellent performance is a reaffirmation of the new era of a return to greater and better times ahead are quick to point to the bank’s half-year 2022 results which proved the solidity of the financial institution and confirmed that it is back in form as a formidable industry leader.

Reinforcing Quantum Profitability Leap Agenda

For instance, in its half-year 2022 scorecard, FirstBank recorded a 22.6 per cent year-on-year growth in gross earnings to N338.5 billion while net interest income was up 49.3 per cent year-on-year to N152.9 billion respectively.”

The bank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive, Adesola Adeduntan who gave this figure disclosed that “Amidst a challenging operating and dynamic regulatory environment in the half year 2022, the commercial banking group remained focused on executing key initiatives to position the group for improved profitability in the full year 2022. Our half-year results further reinforced our drive towards our ‘Quantum Profitability Leap’ agenda.”

Adeduntan said, “On the back of the impressive growth recorded in our top line, our profit before tax recorded a strong growth of 40.0 per cent year on year to N60.0 billion, whilst profit after tax also grew by 42.3 per cent year on year to N53.3 billion as the bank continues to reap the dividends of the successful restructuring of our balance sheet and revamping of our risk management architecture.”

“We continue to record progress in driving down our non-performing loan ratio which now stands at 5.4 per cent at the end of H1 and we are on target to bring it within the regulatory limit of 5 percent by end of full-year 2022.”

Awards and Recognitions: FirstBank’s Leading the Pack

In terms of recognition, there is no doubt that the ongoing transformation in FirstBank is globally recognised when one considers the harvests of awards and recognitions that are already pouring in for the bank.

 

Analysts said the awards and recognitions, which include those from the Fitch Ratings and The Banker awards and Euromoney rankings are testimonials of FirstBank’s consistent performance.

 

Fitch Rerating

Analysts maintained that the current Fitch rerating of FirstBank aligns with ratings of other global agencies (such as S&P: B- with a stable outlook; Moodys: B2 with stable outlook) – a confirmation of what industry peers already acknowledge – back to leading the pack.

 

On September 16, 2022, Fitch Ratings announced the upgrade of FBN Holdings Plc’s (FBNH) and First Bank of Nigeria Ltd’s (FBN) Long-Term Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to ‘B’ from ‘B-‘, and according to the rating agency, the Outlooks are Stable. Fitch has also upgraded their Viability Ratings (VR) to ‘b’ from ‘b-‘.

It explained that the upgrade of the Long-Term IDRs follows that of the VRs, reflecting that corporate governance irregularities publicly raised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in April 2021, including two longstanding related-party exposures, have largely been addressed and therefore risks to capitalisation have receded, helped by strong internal capital generation since the irregularities were raised.

 

Governance Issues Laid to Rest

Following its monitoring of the Bank’s corporate Banking endeavours within the last year, the rating agency gave FirstBank a clean bill of health saying the bank’s governance irregularities have been addressed and according to the management of the bank, “the two related-party exposures highlighted by the CBN, which included equity and credit exposures to two companies of whom FBNH’s previous chairman was also chairman, have largely been disposed of and repaid. Fitch understands from management that FBNH and FBN have not been subject to penalties about irregularities raised by the CBN in April 2021 and no further irregularities have been raised.”

It also attests to the solidity of the bank, affirming that FBN is the third-largest bank in Nigeria, representing 11% of domestic banking-system assets at the end of 2021.

Another reason for the high rating is the fact that the bank’s improved asset quality since FirstBank’s impaired loans (Stage 3 loans under IFRS 9) ratio has declined significantly.

FirstBank also boasts of a Stable Funding Profile. For instance, FBN’s customer deposit base (76% of total funding at end-1H22) comprises a high share of retail deposits (64% at end-2021) and current and savings accounts (81% at end-1H22), supporting funding stability and a low-cost of funding. Depositor concentration is fairly low. Liquidity coverage is comfortable in local and foreign currencies.

 

Bankers Magazine: FirstBank Best Performing in Nigeria

It is also not a coincidence that FirstBank was rated first among its peers in Nigeria by Bankers Magazine, a publication of the Financial Times.

The Top 100 African Bank Rankings 2022 recently released by The Banker shows FirstBank leading the Nigerian table in four areas, the highest achieved by any Nigerian bank; only FirstBank leads in four areas. The rankings, based on the end of year 31 December 2021 audited financials of all banks in the Top 100, reveal FirstBank’s ranking as number one in Nigeria in terms of Overall Performance, Profitability, Efficiency and Return on Risk.

The magazine, which explained that its Top 100 African Banks ranking for 2022 demonstrates a broad return to stability by African banks after a torrid year for the continent’s largest lenders placed FirstBank among other banks in Nigeria because it happened to be the only bank that led in four areas.

First Bank of Nigeria Limited leads its peers in fifth place overall, displacing Guaranty Trust Bank, now in seventh place. Access Bank ranks in the eighth position, with Zenith Bank in 10th place.

 

Euromoney Rankings: FirstBank, Market Leader

In addition, in 2022, Euromoney Market Leaders, an independent global assessment of the leading financial service providers conducted by Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc crowned FirstBank as a market leader. The bank was rated as a tier one bank in the areas of corporate and social responsibility (CSR).

 

Not only that, but FirstBank also emerged as a market leader among the tier-one banks in the area of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

In the area of corporate banking and digital solution, FirstBank was highly regarded while it was crowned as a notable player in SME Banking for the period under review.

 

FirstBank was named “Best Bank Brand in Nigeria” for six years in a row – 2011 to 2016 – by The Banker magazine of the Financial Times Group; it was awarded “Most Innovative Bank in Africa” in the EMEA Finance African Banking Awards 2014; it has clinched the “Best Bank in Nigeria” award by Global Finance Magazine 15 times and the “Best Private Bank in Nigeria” by World Finance Magazine seven times. Some other recent awards received by the Bank are “Best Banking Brand Nigeria, 2019” by Global Brands Magazine; “Best Mobile Banking App – Nigeria, 2019” by Global Business Outlook and “Best Financial Inclusion Program – Nigeria, 2019 by International Investor.

 

In the words of FirstBank’s CEO, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, ‘what all these current ratings and recognitions demonstrate is that FirstBank is strongly back on course!  Knowing this is only the beginning of a new era of return to the trailblazing position and that better times lie ahead we encourage our customers and other stakeholders to keep believing and keep standing by us.’

 

Banking on Robust Customer Service Network

Through the last 128 years of its operations, FirstBank has played a leading role in utilising its robust customer service network and digital banking architecture to support its customers – cutting across diverse cultures, tribes and races beyond the shores of Nigeria – in meeting their individual and business needs.

 

First Bank of Nigeria Limited operates as a parent company, with the subsidiaries FBNBank in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal; FBN Bank UK Limited in the United Kingdom with a branch in Paris; First Bank Representative Office in Beijing to capture trade-related business between geographies. FirstBank also operates First Pension Custodian Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s foremost pension custodian. The teeming customers of the First Bank Group are serviced from a network of over 700 business locations across Africa.

 

Culled from ThisDay Newaspaper

 

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Business

Wema Bank increases benefits on its Royal Kiddies Account for Children

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Wema Bank, Nigeria’s Leading innovative financial institution, has rolled out a new benefit for parents and children on its bespoke children’s savings account, Royal Kiddies Account (RKA), in a new campaign to encourage savings and financial prudence.
From November 1, 2022, through January 30, 2023, parents who set up a standing instruction via ALAT or in-branch for the automated funding of their children’s Royal Kiddies Account with a minimum of N10,000 per month, will be eligible for the annual educational award for 20 account holders.
Also, by consistently increasing their Royal Kiddies Account savings, account beneficiaries are automatically positioned to earn more interest, as the RKA offers an attractive interest rate that is 1% higher than the standard savings interest rate
Administrators of the Royal Kiddies Account (parents) are also allowed to deposit dividend warrants and cheques in their child’s or children’s name, and can view and fund the account from anywhere, 24/7 using the ALAT app
Wema Bank’s Divisional Head, Retail Business, Dotun Ifebogun, commented on the campaign, stating that the latest initiative demonstrates the bank’s dynamism in providing innovative solutions that empower customers across all segments and strata and deepens digital adoption and financial inclusion.
This campaign will further boost digital adoption and financial inclusion and emphasizes parents using ALAT to create standing orders. It enables account administrators to perform a variety of advantageous tasks from anywhere at their convenience. “The addition of ALAT to the list of account holder benefits enhances the Royal Kiddies Account’s uniqueness,” he stated.
Dotun added that the campaign was also launched to encourage parents and their children to adopt the habit of regular savings and to provide for their children’s future while rewarding them for their continued loyalty

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Wema Bank To Support SMEs In Port Harcourt With SME Business School 4.0

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Wema Bank Plc, the pioneer of Africa’s first fully digital bank, ALAT, has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment towards developing the capacity of SMEs in Nigeria to scale by launching the fourth edition of its SME Business School in Port Harcourt.
Designed to help build capacity for SMEs in the country, Wema Bank’s SME Business School was launched in Lagos in 2021. The second edition took place virtually, while the third edition happened in Abuja. Now making its journey to the South-South geopolitical zone of the country, the initiative has helped to equip SMEs in various parts of the country with the business management knowledge and skills required to effectively run their enterprises and respond to the ever-evolving challenges of today’s business world.
According to the Divisional Head, Retail Business at Wema Bank, Dotun Ifebogun, the Wema SME Business School was birthed in a bid to close the critical knowledge gap in the SME space in Nigeria, and each edition of the programme takes place in a different part of the country to ensure that SMEs all around the country participate and benefit.
He mentioned that the 4th edition of the Wema SME Business School, which holds in Port Harcourt and starts on Monday, November 14, 2022, would impart contemporary business management skills and knowledge to growing businesses operating within the South-South region of the country. “We intend to make them champions and successful enterprises, thus supporting the economic growth of the country,” he said.
He disclosed that the bank has collaborated with top-notch consultants from renowned organizations within and outside Nigeria, including Deloitte, Facebook (Meta), and Nexford University, to serve as facilitators on the programme and ensure that the participants get an immersive and invaluable learning experience.
Dotun further noted that the initiative would be a meaningful addition to SMEs seeking to scale and strengthen their market positions.
“As an SME-friendly bank, we understand that starting and running a business in Nigeria is no small feat, and there are lots of challenges that SMEs face.
“We started the Wema SME Business School to equip them with relevant and practical knowledge that will guide them in the effective running of their businesses and to surmount any challenges that they encounter.
“Through this, we can tackle problems such as poor access to finance, poor market access, technological disruptions, and macroeconomic uncertainty. All in all, we will equip them with fresh ideas and insights that will help them to take their businesses to a higher level,” he said.
Businesses interested in leveraging this opportunity and participating in the Wema SME Business School 4.0 can register with the link https://forms.gle/TRj7ACzTQJkWrb3D8.
The Wema SME Business School is one of the various beyond-banking initiatives offered by Wema Bank PLC to complement its bespoke financial offerings for SMEs.

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FBNBANK UK STANDS TALL AT 40, APPRECIATES ITS CUSTOMERS AND REGULATORS

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FBNBank UK, a member of First Bank of Nigeria Limited and Subsidiaries had London, the United Kingdom painted blue as it celebrated its 40th anniversary, themed Partnership Beyond Borders, on Friday, 11 November 2022.

The event which had customers, members of government functionaries and the diplomatic community, regulators, captains of industries in attendance, was convened to appreciate the patronage and support the Bank had received since it opened its doors in the United Kingdom 40 years ago. As key stakeholders, they were instrumental to establishing the Bank as an important gateway to connect international markets in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world to the finest financial services solutions that the UK has to offer.

Guests at the event include Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola GCON, Chief Justice of Nigeria; Oba Sen. Dr. Moshood Olalekan Ishola Balogun, Alliiwo II, Olubadan of Ibadan land; Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola, High Commissioner, Nigerian High Commission, UK; His Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria.

Other dignitaries that graced the occasion include Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab, Nigerian businessman and former Chairman of FirstBank; Mohammed Indimi OFR, Chairman, Oriental Energy Resources.

Delivering his welcome address to the dignitaries and guests present, Sam Aiyere, Chief Executive Officer, FBN Bank UK Ltd said “since its establishment, our Bank has demonstrated an unmatched dexterity, serving as a gateway connecting international markets in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world to the finest financial services solution that the UK has to offer. Through its office in the UK and the Paris Branch, our Bank has continued to facilitate international trade between Africa and Europe while offering top-notch, world-class corporate, institutional, and private banking solutions to our esteemed customers.

We have recorded laudable achievement only because you stand solidly with us. Therefore, I dedicate the success of the past 40 years to all our stakeholders. Thank you for being the lever beneath our thrust”, he also added.

Appreciating the patronage and support extended to FBNBank UK, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, FirstBank said “today we celebrate 40 years of unbroken business operations in the United Kingdom; 40 years of supporting and enabling dreams; 40 years of resilience and relevance; 40 years of trust, safety and security; 40 years of long-term value to all stakeholders; and 40 years of partnerships beyond borders. I believe the future is bright for FBN Bank UK. With our beautiful outing tonight, our Group stands out, once again, as one big and happy family of many parts.

In his speech, Godwin Emefiele, Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria highlighted that “FBNBank UK’s established presence in a leading global financial centre such as London ensures that FirstBank Group is well positioned to play an active role in the promotion of Africa as an investment destination, attract much needed capital to the continent and facilitate trade with other parts of the world. The presence of FirstBank in other countries outside Nigeria shows that the span of its impact is continent-wide. As you are headquartered in the largest economy on the continent, you have a unique role in also facilitating capital flows into other African countries and assisting their economic growth and development.

In addition, in his goodwill message, President Muhammedu Buhari, GCFR, President and Commander-in-chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria said “FirstBank has profoundly demonstrated a high level of nationalism by keeping the Nigerian dream at the heart of its business through constant evolution to birth agile financial services solution to suit the demands of its customers both home and abroad. Also, perhaps more than any other institution in its class, FirstBank has supported the Government by providing human resources at various times to booster much required professional expertise in various sectors of our economy.”

Established in the United Kingdom in 1982 as the London Branch of the First Bank of Nigeria Limited., FBNBank UK was initially established to service the UK banking requirements of Nigerian companies and FirstBank.

Later in November 2002, the Bank was incorporated in the UK as a registered and a wholly-owned subsidiary of First Bank of Nigeria Limited with offices in the City of London and has then developed into a much broader business in the gateway to Europe and beyond for African banks, companies and high net worth individuals.

 

 

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