Connecting Communities to Financial Sector With Agent Banking

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) plan to get 80 per cent of Nigerians included in the financial system needs the collaboration of banks and deployment of technology. First Bank of Nigeria Limited is, through the Firstmonie Agent Banking Network, connecting more people to the financial system, COLLINS NWEZE reports

Nigeria’s journey to including more people into the financial system is yielding positive results. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) policies on mobile money, agency banking, know your customer (KYC), insurance and recently, payment service banks (PSBs) have helped to bring 2.6 million new customers to the financial system.

The CBN has set a target of 80 per cent financial inclusion by 2020. Already, the Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), result of its last year survey figures showed that 63.6 per cent of the adult population now has access to financial services and only 36.6 per cent are financially excluded.

Achieving the 80 per cent financial inclusion target will require the support of commercial banks and use of technology. First Bank of Nigeria Limited is one of the financial institutions that have taken steps to make the target a reality by deploying technology to its operations by way of Agent Banking Network.

First Bank has expressed its commitment to continue to drive financial inclusion through its over 37,000 Firstmonie Agent Network present in 99 per cent of the 774 local government areas and has processed over N2 trillion through the initiative.

FirstBank’s Firstmonie service provides financial/banking solutions to rural and semi-urban locations across the country. Such solutions include account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals, airtime purchase, bill payments and much more. Through this channel, the bank is committed to providing convenient services that engender and provides ease of access to banking products, thereby saving time and travel costs for users of the network.

While speaking at the Firstmonie Agent Banking National Award ceremony, held in Lagos, Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank, Adesola Adeduntan said the firstmonie agent network is a channel through which the bank expresses its unalloyed commitment and passion to promote opportunities of financial services for every Nigerian , especially within the low-income segment.

He said: “The initiative has witnessed several changes in the operating structure and value proposition of FirstBank. In December 2017, the bank ran a pilot test with over 400,000 transactions processed and following the success of the first run, it re-launched in 2018.”

According to Adeduntan, through Firstmonie, the bank has remained at the forefront of driving nation-wide inclusion, given our belief that access to financial services is part of lifting people out of poverty and fostering collective national economic development.

Adeduntan said: “The key strengthen of the bank’s services is to look at the gaps in the society and develop products and services that address the gap. As an integral part of our strategy, we believe in working with the CBN to improve financial inclusion index of the country. We would, at FirstBank, assist Nigeria to address poverty and hunger, thereby promoting security of life and property. Because when people are gainfully employed, the implication is that they will think less of crime,” he said.

Deputy Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Francis Shobo, noted that the agents are the most critical part of the banking ecosystem because they take deposits, make payments and open accounts, provide transfers and sell airtime at locations with little or no access to financial services.

He said there are switches and Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) has also supported the Firstmonie network.

Shobo praised Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele for the role the apex bank has played, stating that the CBN has made a lot of changes in regulation around agency banking. “They have allowed the programme to scale as much as it has scaled.”

At the event, 31 agents at the state level won the sum of N250,000 each, five agents won N1 million each at the regional level and a grand prize of N2.5 million at the national level.

Reward for top Firstmonie Agents

The bank rewarded 37 Firstmonie agents with over N15 million cash prize.

After receiving the cash prize at the event, the N2.5 million grand prize winner at the national level from Abuja (North Central), Zayyanu Hassan Ishaq, described his prize as a miracle of God.

“I want to thank First Bank for this gesture. I was surprised to be a winner because I never expected it. This is a miracle.

“First Bank is truly different. This will spur me to work harder for the bank and its customers”, Ishaq said.

Since its inception in 2017, the Firstmonie has recorded giant strides in promoting financial inclusion across the nook and cranny of the country. With almost 40,000 agents in 99 per cent of the 774 local government areas, processing approximately one million transactions daily, First Bank of Nigeria Limited is leading the effort at supporting the Federal Government’s objectives to deepen access to financial services.

Other winners are Hassan Sanusi, Omede James from South-south; Ngene Francis Okoke from Southeast; Aliyu Lawal from from Southwest and Fatihu Futman from Northwest, among others.

Group Executive, e-Business and Retail Products, FirstBank, Chuma Ezirim  said: “FirstBank is focused on building a quality agent network in the country by deploying a robust risk framework and the right product mix to ensure viability and security of the network, aimed at deepening financial services access, especially in the unserved and underserved segments of our market. We, therefore, encourage individuals in these local communities to look out for the Firstmonie agents’ locations closest to them.”

Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said FirstBank has, through the Firstmonie initiative, empowered communities by connecting them to the financial system.  She said the bank will continue to partner and support Firstmonie agents to support financial inclusion and economic growth.

She said customers’ expectations are constantly changing and it’s the bank’s duty as a customer-focused bank to ensure that customers are provided with the means to carry out banking services through any channel they desire.

FirstBank has also recognised the opportunities for inclusive growth and influence of financial technology not just in banking but also business operations across all industries.

One of the Firstmonie agents said: “I have been with Firstmonie since they started and I can say that it has been a life-changing experience. I have been able to build trust of the communities around me as many workers in my area have forgotten the last time they visited any bank branch for basic banking services. I am a proud employer of labour and as a result my members of staff are well paid and comfortable.

“FirstBank’s Firstmonie has created an enabling opportunity for dwellers of my immediate community and neighbouring towns to carry out banking transactions with less time, money, resources and risks as people don’t have to waste time embarking on long journeys to the city, added to the dangers of being robbed on the highway.”

FirstBank has also partnered with National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). The NURTW partnership seeks to leverage the human traffic and commercial activities at various motor parks across the country to ease access to financial services.

First Bank is also in partnership with Azuri Technologies Limited, an off-grid power distribution company to make access to off-grid power easy, especially in rural communities, as well as other institutions, that seek to provide resources to cushion the effects of economic and social shocks on low income individuals.

Under this partnership, FirstBank and Azuri will co-brand and co-market Azuri’s solar home television product. The pay-as-you-go customers will also be able to pay for their solar photovoltaic (PV) system via FirstBank’s Firstmonie agents and mobile payment solution, thereby deepening financial inclusion in the country.

Culled from The Nation


Culled from The Nation

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