Deepening Financial Inclusion Drive

Ugo Aliogo examines the role of First Bank Nigeria Limited in promoting financial inclusion

“Firstmonie has really impacted in me. It has empowered me financially. With first monie I have been able to employ six staff, five of which are female and one male. It is a business to employ and empower ladies.”

The above excerpt chronicles the story of Orode Hesse, a Firstmonie agent, based in Warri, Delta State. She has succeeded in using Firstmonie to impact lives p
ositively, drive financial and gender inclusion. As an agent, she has cashed on the opportunities Firstmonie offers.
Driving financial inclusion is one of the core mandates of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commercial banks in the country. Under the CBN’s revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), the strategy is designed to ensure that 80 percent of adults have access to financial services by 2020.

The CBN stated that the major goal of the revised strategy is to reduce the proportion of adult Nigerians that are financially excluded to 20 percent in year 2020 from it baseline figure of 46.3 percent in 2010.

As part of its desire to drive financial inclusion, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has made significant progress in the agency banking. The focus of the bank with first monie is to make the agents the centre piece of the financial ecosystem, while deepening the financial inclusion drive.

The Firstmonie network is currently processing over 500, 000 customer transactions daily in over 700 local government areas in the 36 States of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Through the network, the bank has been able to facilitate the entry of the unbanked, and the under banked population into the financial system, while utilising an enrolment process that is simple, safe and devoid of any cumbersome documentation requirements.

Undoubtedly, the bank through the agents has continued to push the boundaries of financial inclusions. In recognition of the increasing roles that the agents have played over the years in the financial inclusion space, recently, the bank organised the national award ceremony to reward agents who have played an immense role to increase customer banking transactions in their respective communities.

Speaking at the event in Lagos recently, the Managing Director, First Bank, Dr. Adeshola Adeduntan, said the Firstmonie agent network is a bespoke channel through which the bank expresses its unalloyed commitment and passion to broad opportunities and access to financial services to every Nigerian especially within the low income segment.

He also stated that the initiative has witnessed several changes in the operating structure and value proposition, adding that 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.

Adeduntan, explained that the gap between the technic savvy and the low literacy clients has been breached as first monie agent network represents the convenient and comfortable alternative for customers, “who are uneasy with sophiscated digital channels.”

He added that the bank customers are offered convenient and affordable access to financial services and as a result saves time, money and the risk of travelling long distances to bank branches.

According to him, “Through Firstmonies, First Bank has remained at the forefront of driving nationwide inclusion, given our belief that access to financial services, is part of lifting people out of poverty and fostering collectivity national economic development.

“We have through this network created job opportunities and improved lives, provided convenient access to financial services and driven equality. Firstmonie has become a tool for driving federal government financial inclusion and sustainable development goals in Nigeria, as well as increase our bank’s footprint and reach.

“We have effectively positioned financial inclusion as the core of our business strategy and through first money; we are successfully solving social challenges.

“My special appreciation goes to all Firstmonie agents. As a result of Firstmonie agency network, first bank has become the foremost financial inclusion provider, with over 37,000 agents in all States of the federation. This is a feat we are extremely proud of. But we assure that we are going to push the frontiers. We have deemed it fit to honour the champions who made first monie success story possible, such as agents, partners and service providers, our regulator the CBN, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.”

In his remarks, the Deputy Managing Director, First Bank Limited, Mr. Francis Shobo, stated that Firstmonie started in 2009 and was launched in 2010, adding that the focus is to make the agents, the centre of the financial ecosystem in the country.

He also noted that the agents are the most critical part of the banking ecosystem because, they take deposits, make payments and open accounts, do transfers and sell airtime.

Shobo, lauded the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. 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.”

Also speaking at the event, the Group Executive eBusiness and Retail Products, First Bank Limited, Chuma Ezirim, remarked that in 2014, the bank took a decision to change the scheme from wallet base to account base, “it took us another two years to test that concept. Then we officially started the pilot in 2017.”

Continuing, Shobo added: “The regulator is very important and we must appreciate the Governor of the Central Bank Governor (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele. They have made a lot of changes in regulation around agency banking. They have allowed the programme to scale as much as it has scaled. What we are trying to do is to create that ecosystem that allows for easy financial transaction in wherever you are in Nigeria. We have 37,000 locations across the country. There is nobody close to us and it is powerful and we must use that opportunity to impact community and society.”

In her remarks, the Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Prof. Olayinka David-West, described Firstmonie as a phenomenal concept that presents opportunities for financial inclusion and employment, citizen empowerment and national development, “the story of Firstmonie would not be complete without commending the role the agents have continually played.”

According to her, “You will agree with me every Firstmonie agent is a community hero. Every hero that receives an award tonight has been selected by the strict guidelines that demonstrate ingenuity and loyalty to the Firstmonie brand. These community heroes have demonstrated exemplary qualities in the following ways.”

Culled from ThisDay   

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