• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

First Bank: The story of dynamism, service and resilience

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That an enterprise is 120 years old, and still standing like an Iroko tree, is by all standards a rare feat.

First Bank from its humble beginnings as Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) incorporated on March 31 1894, following the entrepreneurial initiative of Alfred Lewis Jones a Liverpool based shipping magnate to its giant state today as First Bank, three attributes are quite discernible about its presence in Nigeria. The Bank has been quite dynamic adjusting its operations and relevance to changing economic landscapes; offered remarkable service to diverse banking publics and showed resilience as it navigated with resounding victory the murky banking and financial industry of Nigeria.

From its first long term loan to Nigeria’s colonial government in 1947 through its major stride as a retail banking outlet from 1960 up to its  huge loan portfolio of 1.6 trillion Naira in 2013, First Bank has been a major development partner for Nigeria and an ally for the realization of  dreams in Nigeria.

It can be recalled that many Nigerians learnt the rubrics of banking either as customers or staff from First Bank and today still have fond memories of how this banking colossus through its myriad bank branches scattered across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria provided pioneering banking service to customers.

With its massive lending operations totaling up to 1 billion Naira annually in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, a sector that currently employs up to 60 per cent of Nigerians, there is no doubt that First Bank is one major institution that through its service puts food on the table of Nigerians. Beyond service in agriculture, First Bank’s operations and services are critical to the formation of an entrepreneurial class, as through its partnership with the China Development Bank makes available on-lending facility worth $100 million for small and medium scale enterprises in Nigeria.

The story of the bank’s service and wealth creation capacity is also evident as it was one of the first banking institutions to be listed in Nigeria’s Stock Exchange. With a stock exchange listing in 1971, Nigerians started being part owners of First Bank’s heritage. With a 2 trillion Naira market capitalization in 2008, First Bank made history as the first Nigerian enterprise to hit such huge capitalization figure.

With a sound footing in the Nigerian financial landscape, having a deposit base  of N2.8 trillion as at September 2013, the bank’s foray into  Guinea, Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone through the acquisition of the operations of International Commercial Bank(ICB) is not out of place and confirms the strategic development plan that has guided its growth and resilience.

Beyond banking service and profits for its shareholders, First Bank has truly been sensitive to the well being of Nigerians through its huge commitment to corporate philanthropy. Remarkably, the Bank spends up to N500 million annually on sponsorships in education, health and entrepreneurship programmes. First Bank has to its credit a robust University endowment programme that has given birth to Professorial Chairs in 10 Nigerian Universities.

In acknowledgement of its service excellence in many areas and its commitment to the growth of enterprises and service to the Nigerian people, in 2013 alone First Bank received 25 awards from different stakeholders.

The story of First Bank in Nigeria is one of hope for Nigeria’s private enterprise and a reference point for the bountiful wealth creating opportunities in Nigeria.

We are proud of the First Bank experience and urge all stakeholders of the Bank to keep up the dynamism, service and resilience that created this uncommon longevity.