FirstBank: Evolution of a Banking Giant

First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank), established in 1894, is the premier bank in West Africa, Nigeria’s number one bank brand and the leading financial services solutions provider in the country. The bank was founded by Sir Alfred Jones, a shipping magnate from Liverpool, England. With its head office originally in Liverpool, the bank commenced business on a modest scale in Lagos, under the name, Bank of British West Africa (BBWA).

In 1912, the bank acquired its first competitor, the Bank of Nigeria (previously called Anglo-African Bank), which was established in 1899 by the Royal Niger Company. In 1957, the bank changed its name from Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) to Bank of West Africa (BWA). In 1966, following its merger with Standard Bank, UK, the bank adopted the name Standard Bank of West Africa Limited and in 1969, it was incorporated locally as the Standard Bank of Nigeria Limited, in line with the Companies Decree of 1968. Changes in the name of the bank also occurred in 1979 and 1991 to First Bank of Nigeria Limited and First Bank of Nigeria Plc, respectively.

In 2012, the bank changed its name again to First Bank of Nigeria Limited as part of a restructuring resulting in FBN Holdings Plc (FBN Holdings), having detached its commercial business from other businesses in the FirstBank Group, in compliance with new regulation by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

FirstBank had 1.3 million shareholders globally, was quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), where it was one of the most capitalised companies and also had an unlisted Global Depository Receipt (GDR) programme, all of which were transferred to its Holding Company, FBN Holdings, in December 2012.

Building on of its solid foundation, the bank has consistently broken new grounds in the domestic financial sector for over a century and two decades. FirstBank is present in the United Kingdom and France through its subsidiary, FBN Bank (UK) Limited with branches in London and Paris; and in Johannesburg, Beijing and Abu Dhabi with its Representative Offices there.

In October 2011, the bank acquired a new subsidiary, Banque International de Credit (BIC), one of the leading banks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In November 2013, FirstBank acquired ICB in The Gambia, Sierra-Leone, Ghana and Guinea, and in 2014, the Bank acquired ICB in Senegal. These were major landmarks in its plan for growing its sub-Saharan African footprint.

As the global operating environment evolves, FirstBank has kept pace, responding to the dynamic needs of its customers, investors, regulators, host communities, employees and other stakeholders. Through a balanced approach to plan execution, FirstBank has consolidated its industry leadership by maintaining trans-generational appeal.

Thus, the bank has continuously boosted its customer-base, which cuts across all segments in terms of size, structure and sectors. Leveraging experience spanning over a century of dependable services, FirstBank has continued to build relationships and alliances with key sectors of the economy that have served as strategic building blocks for the wellbeing, growth and development of the country.

With its huge asset base and expansive branch network, as well as continuous re-invention, FirstBank is Nigeria’s strongest banking franchise, maintaining market leadership on all fronts in the nation’s financial services industry. FirstBank is a well-diversified financial services group and the largest private sector financial services provider in sub-Saharan Africa (ex-South Africa).

The Bank maintains the leading position in many of the markets in which it operates, market leading distribution capability and a well recognised brand with a large customer base. With almost 800 business locations in Nigeria, all on-line and real time, the bank has one of the largest domestic sales networks in the country.

As a market leader in the financial services sector, FirstBank pioneered initiatives in international money transfer and electronic banking in the country, serving more than 9 million customer accounts. FirstBank’s strategy has been focused on restructuring the business to take advantage of growth opportunities within the industry, pursuing business line expansion across strategic business units, continuously implementing a systematic international expansion plan, sequencing its growth initiatives across defined metrics, as well as building synergies and cross-selling across the FirstBank Group.

This strategy supports the bank’s vision of being the leading sub-Sahara African financial services group. Continued implementation of this strategy will produce long-term profitable growth as well as build great franchises and deliver value to all stakeholders. The focus of the bank in terms of international expansion remains the financial services markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

FirstBank was the first quoted company in Nigeria to achieve the feat of hitting the trillion naira mark in market capitalisation, the clearest evidence of the market’s estimation of its worth. In 2012, the FirstBank Group adopted a holding company structure – FBN Holdings Plc – in recognition of the need to retain the diversity of the bank’s businesses, to enable the provision of a full range of financial services needs to customers beyond commercial banking, to investment banking, insurance and other financial services.

The commercial banking group is led by FirstBank, which has operations in 12 countries, with nine subsidiary companies which provide a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services, including commercial banking operations, pension fund management, and mortgages, offering banking services to a rich network of both individual customers and businesses.

Other entities under FirstBank include FBN Bank (UK) Ltd – a fully licensed bank in the UK with offices in London and Paris; Banque Internationale de Crédit (BIC) – a leading tier 2 bank headquartered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), acquired in 2011, the International Commercial Bank (ICB) in The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone acquired in 2013, and ICB Senegal acquired in 2014. These recent acquisitions are major landmarks in FirstBank’s plan for growing its sub-Saharan African footprint.

Other subsidiaries include First Pension Custodian Ltd (First Pension), providing pension fund custody services, and FBN Mortgages, a primary mortgage institution. The bank also has a network of representative offices in Abu Dhabi, Beijing and Johannesburg set up to capture trade-related businesses between respective geographies.

The Nigerian banking business operates nationally and internationally, with active customer account base of over nine million served through a large distribution network consisting of over 790 business locations, and more than 7.5 million cards in issue. These diverse operations in the financial services industry, with widespread service outlets, ensure the foothold of FirstBank as a foremost financial services provider in Nigeria, contributing enormously to the growth and development of the national economy and delighting its stakeholders.

Culled from The Guardian

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