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Heritage Bank leveraging technology to promote financial inclusion for inclusive growth

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In today’s world, making financial services accessible is fast becoming a key area of concern to policymakers for the well-known reason that it has far reaching economic implications. To this end, financial inclusion has assumed a greater level of importance due to its perceived relevance as catalyst for economic growth since it is critical for attaining inclusive growth in an economy.

In 2012, Nigeria took major steps in its journey by launching the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). The main goal of the NFIS is to ensure that 80per cent of Nigerian adults are financially included by 2020. Before this, the formal use of financial services by the adult population stood at 36.3per cent in 2010. To achieve the 2020 goal, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced strategies to spike innovation in the financial services sector in Nigeria and by 2017, one amongst the achievements was that the CBN had given over 20 licenses to mobile money operators, which has currently grown to 21.

According to 2018 data from Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), 38.1million of Nigeria’s 106million (18years and above) adults or 36 percent of Nigerians remain completely financially excluded.

In a recent survey by Augusto & Co on Consumer Digital Banking, only 34per cent of the respondents said they had experienced the service of digital banks. Only 17per cent of respondents above the age of 55 are aware of their services, while for people aged 41-54, the awareness rate stood at 31per cent. This spells the need to deepen the financial inclusion drive if Nigeria is to attain the NFIS target and accelerated economic growth.

The apex bank may have missed the 2020 target of 80 percent for financial inclusion, but it stands a better chance of meeting the target of 95per cent by 2024, as industry players have argued that to achieve the NFIS target for inclusive economic growth, the financial sector must strongly leverage technology (mobile and digital channels) to promote financial inclusion and enhance access to financial services for the unbanked and underserved segments of the population.

One of the financial institutions that has continued to leverage on technology to revitalize the industry via deploying its huge resources and vast networks to deepen financial inclusion in the country for inclusive economic growth is Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider.

The MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, affirmed that banks cannot push financial inclusion unless they also push secured technology inclusion.

According to him, Heritage Bank has continued to entrench financial inclusion across board via creating access to accounts and other financial products, savings, mobile money systems and payment systems that provide opportunities for financially excluded Nigerians and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

 

Introducing HB API Sandbox & Banking as a service via One Pipe

The Bank launched an API Sandbox to accelerate the ideas of technology entrepreneurs to build innovative and commercially viable products that were birthed through HB LAB. This platform provides a suite of financial and non-financialAPIs targeted to meet the needs of FinTech, Tech SMEs, and Communities. Our APIs grants Tech Companies, third-party developers, and non-Fintech companies access to multiple payments and financial services required by their customers.

Following the launch of HB’s API Sandbox, the Bank partnered with API aggregator Companies to extend the Bank’s API services to a wider audience, layering their value-added services to deliver our BaaS platform. Banking as a Service (BaaS/Open Banking) is an end-to-end business process that allows FinTech and other third-party service providers to offer core financial services to their customers by integrating with the Bank via our readily available APIs. This is a billed service that also provides relevant data insight required to pursue aggressive retail accounts acquisition by leveraging the aggregator robust retail prospect pipeline.

 

Redefining digital banking space with ‘Octiplus’

Sekibo promised that his bank would continue to drive financial inclusion through a robust, innovative, and advanced digital banking solution, ‘Octiplus’ which it recently launched.

Octiplus is a bank-agnostic, all-in-one digital banking application, which grants users access to a bouquet of financial, lifestyle and social networking features with the added convenience of converging card-based payments within one application irrespective of the issuing Nigerian bank. Ifie Sekibo stated that, “with Octiplus, we are redefining the concept of digital banking for the discerning mobile user, as the app is equipped with several exciting features that reiterate the bank’s commitment to expand its digital architecture and modernize its interactions with the banking public, irrespective of your preferred financial institution.”

Octiplus promises an intelligent Omni-channel experience which augments the usual transactional features including bills payment, funds transfer and airtime recharge with its unique ability to facilitate person to person/group interactions which encourages small businesses and a thriving side hustle for young professionals. The App is now available for download on the Google and iOS App Stores.

 

Catching them young with HB BUD Account

HB Bud account is a savings account for children and the younger demographic aimed at introducing financial literacy and inclusion. The account can be opened in trust for a child by the parent/guardian who will be the primary account holder with the responsibility of running this account until their child attains adulthood and can solely operate their own accounts or possibly move to other age-appropriate products. This product was initially launched in 2014 as a unique proposition to cater mostly to the educational needs of children and young adults who are preparing and saving up for further education and, as well, deepen brand visibility and increase the bank’s market share. However, some operational exigencies and regulatory framework have necessitated the modification and adjustment of this product to serve the customers optimally. Children and teens from 0 to 18yrs are the target market.

The features are unique as outlined: Access to cash backed loan by parent/guardian/sponsor for school fees/education loan. You can access up to 70per cent of your balance held with the Bank as cash backed loan. Thecustomer must have run the BUD account for a minimum of 6 months to access the cash backed loan. Ease of saving through standing order instructions. Access to exclusive events. Free participation in the BUD MINI career mentoring and coaching sessions once a year. Opportunity to act as a Heritage Bank Executive Committee member for one day.

 

Catering for the unbanked via HB Starter Product

This is the banks flagship CBN KYC Tier 1 savings account to cater for the unbanked. It is a level 1 entry into savings account category in Nigeria, in which an individual can open without having the mandatory requirements/documents to open a standard or regular account in Nigeria. This is one way of ensuring that all citizens of Nigeria are financially included since the account can be opened with or without a smart phone at the bank or online. In essence, this type of savings account doesn’t require any utility bills, or even an ID to open.

Most people who fall under this category usually do not see the need to open an account because they find it easier to save whatever money they have in their houses. This category of people wants to avoid bulky manual account opening process and have a better time management. This product is very precise and requires minimum account opening documentation, also it can be done at the comfort of one’s home. Customers can in addition be assisted by the Bank’s relationship managers and sales teams. Also, customers can get on the bank’s website to initiate a new account opening process from start and receive the account number at the end of the process.

 

Product targeted at individuals across all market segments

This is known as HB Individual Current Account Product, which is a checking account for all individuals across market segments above the age of 18years. This account has been made seamless with unique features for individuals’ access to loan products, minimum balance of N0.00, No COT on all transaction, account opening balance N5, 000 and access to clearing check book.

 

Customization of payment gateway on HB CheckOut and Virtual Accounts

Heritage CheckOut is a fully integrated payment processing platform with infrastructure for digital payments across Africa. Olusola Longe-Okenimkpe, Divisional Head, E-Business & Collections disclosed that the platform provides an underlying technology platform that allows businesses to receive and issue payments from anywhere in the world, with robust inbuilt fraud management, compliance, and security applications.

She also defined Virtual Accounts as series of off-balance accounts whose total balance mirrors the balance in pool account. According to Olusola, pool account is linked to all the virtual accounts and the balance in the pool account mirrors the total balance in the virtual accounts.

 

Opportunities for financially excluded with HB Business Account

The Heritage Bank Business Account is a cost-effective current account that provides flexible, affordable, and transparent pricing grid based on debit monthly turnover covenant. The product is targeted at all Micro and Small Enterprises of SME and Retail segments.

 

Ensuring seamless transaction using HB transfer code

 

The transfer code *745# of Heritage bank guarantees seamless usages and reduces the stress of going to the branch of Heritage bank to make payment. Just like other banks, you can use Heritage bank mobile banking code which is *745# to check your account balance, transfer money to Heritage bank or other banks, pay for utility bills and cable TV subscription, pay for church’s services everywhere you are using your mobile phone.

 

Capturing educational sector via Alumni Banking service, Acada Portal Solution

To further capture individuals in educational sector into the financial inclusion space, Heritage Bank unveiled the Alumni Banking Service and Acada Portal Solution which are internet-based solutions that seamlessly integrate school’sportal and Alumni platforms that benefit the different stakeholders and complement efforts in attaining the best global practices in school management. Alumni Banking service is an educational provision by Heritage Bank that seeks to utilize and track, engage, endow, and invest a model to help secondary and tertiary educational institutions create modern alumni systems that contribute to their financial stability just like great alumni do in the best global schools.

 

Inclusion of creative industry, e-sport gaming on HB YNSPYRE Account

YNSPYRE Account is a product targeted specifically at the creative economy populated by not only youths in video and film, and music. It goes much more than that as it involves people in technology, the creative industry and gaming as part of the creative industry.

Addressing the press about the initiative in gaming as a creative endeavour, Dike Dimiri, Heritage Bank Regional Executive, Lagos, and South-West explained that the involvement of the bank is to identify income-earning opportunities for some people in the economy.

According to him, “HB has designed a product that identifies and finds a mechanism that guides Nigerians in gaming or e-sports. The bank is set to revolutionize e-sports by bringing it to an acceptable level attained by football, lawn tennis and other crowd pulling games.”

 

Heritage Bank is fast changing the narratives of the banking landscape through the adoption of more secured technology (product and channels) for seamless services that guarantee the larger part of the population is involved in economic activities as well asbeing financially included.

For this to be effective, Sekibo affirmed that the population must access financial services and products which ensure that households and businesses irrespective of income levels have access to and can effectively use the appropriate financial facilities they need to improve their lives and further their savings and investments.

 

 

 

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FIRSTBANK LAUNCHES SINGLE-DIGIT LOAN FOR WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES

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  • REINFORCES ITS ROLE IN STRENGTHENING GENDER INCLUSION IN NIGERI
    • The FirstGem fund (FirstGem loan) is a single-digit loan scheme, exclusively designed to put women at an advantage in contributing to the socio-economic development of the country.
    • The loan scheme covers female-owned or partnered SMEs in various sectors of the economy
    • Launched in 2016, FirstGem has been impactful in driving financial inclusion, influencing women’s empowerment through gender-advancement programmes like savings culture, financial literacy, wealth  management and building an investment portfolio.

In furtherance of its role in promoting female entrepreneurship across the country, Nigeria’s premier banking institution and leading financial inclusion services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has announced the launch of the FirstGem fund (FirstGem loan); a single-digit loan scheme, exclusively designed to put women at an advantage in contributing to the socio-economic development of the country.

The FirstGem loan scheme is designed for female-owned or partnered SMEs  in the following sectors  Food/Beverage processing & Packaging, Beauty and cosmetics, Confectionaries, Catering & Restaurants, Transportation (Logistics) and Agric/Agro-Allied (retail value chain). With an interest rate of 9% per annum, FirstGem loan is a collateral-free loan that is available to the bank’s existing and prospective female customers. Based on eligibility, customers can access loans from N500,000.00 to N3,000,000.00.

 To access the loan, Female owned or partnered SMEs can visit the Bank’s website – https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/personal/loans/more-financing-options/firstgem-funds/ – to download and fill out the Retail Loan Application Form. The completely filled form should be submitted to the nearest FirstBank branch with accompanying documents.

Speaking on the loan Folake Ani-Mumuney, Group Head, First Bank of Nigeria Limited said, “we are delighted with the role our FirstGem product plays in creating an avenue to enlarge the business activities and endeavours of female entrepreneurs across the country. Our FirstGem value proposition offers real solutions to constraints encountered by female entrepreneurs and working professionals, as it exposes women to opportunities for the advancement of their business. We implore every female business-minded individual to take advantage of the FirstGem loan as it puts them at an advantage to contribute their quota to the national economy.”

Launched in 2016, FirstGem has been impactful in driving financial inclusion, influencing women’s empowerment through gender-advancement programmes like savings culture, financial literacy, wealth  management and building an investment portfolio. FirstGem is  designed specifically to meet the needs of the female gender, aged 18 years and above.

FirstGem  is targeted at a broad spectrum of women, working professionals, entrepreneurs or market women through an array of benefits such as free business advisory services, access to finance, specialized training on business development initiatives (virtual  and physicalevents),  regular insights on business / investment  opportunities. and mouth-watering discounts at partner merchant outlets (spas, salons, grocery stores) offering  lifestyle products and services.

Recently, FirstBank announced its partnership with CDC Group, the UK Government’s development finance organisation to economically empower women-owned and led businesses as well as local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria. The facility, which is in the sum of US$100 million will have a minimum of 30% allocated in the form of credit lines to women entrepreneurs.

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Alleged Money Laundering: Permit Me To Travel Abroad For Medical Treatment – Ex-Governor Okorocha Begs Court

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Senator Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo State, has appealed to a Federal High Court, Abuja, to permit him to travel to the United States for medical treatment.

This was made known by his lawyer, Daniel Alumun, on Thursday during the trial before Justice Inyang Ekwo.

The lawyer informed the court shortly after his case was mentioned, that he was unable to serve the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the complainant, respondent motion.

Justice Ekwo consequently adjourned the matter until July 6 for a hearing of the motion due to the absence of the EFCC counsel who was not in court on Thursday.

In a motion on notice marked: FHC /ABJ/CS/28/2022 dated June 22 and filed June 27 by Okey Amaechi, SAN, Okorocha sought an order granting him leave to travel outside Nigeria for medical treatment; and return before November 7, being the next adjourned date for his trial.

He also sought a consequential order for the release of his Nigerian international travel passport booklet, which was deposited with the court registrar in partial fulfilment of the conditions for the bail granted to him and “a consequential order that reliefs (1} and (2) above be communicated by the registrar of this honourable court to the Nigerian Immigration Service, to facilitate the passage of the applicant.

“An order directing the 1st defendant/applicant to return his international passport to the registrar of the honourable court upon his return to Nigeria.”

The lawmaker, who gave three grounds why the reliefs sought should be granted, said he was admitted to bail pending trial in charge number, FHC/ABJ/28/2022.

He said he has duly complied with all the terms of the bail including depositing his travel documents with the registrar of the court.

He said before the arraignment, he had “undergone medical surgery at the Ambulatory Surgery Centre, Texas, in the US for distal femur fracture, which he sustained in an accident.”

He added that he had been on regular/scheduled care and treatment at the same Ambulatory Surgery Center, where he had been scheduled for further medical tests, observation and treatment on July 19, 2022, or immediately thereafter.

SaharaReporters earlier reported that the former Imo governor was under trial for alleged money laundering during his time in office.

Others defendants in the suit are; Anyim Chinenye, Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited as 2nd to 7th defendants respectively.

 

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ADEDUNTAN SUSTAINS HIS WINNING STREAK, PIONEERS LEADERSHIP EXCELLENCE IN BANKING

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Since his appointment as MD/CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Limited in 2016, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan has completely transformed the financial institution and has made it attractive to every strata of the society. From an institution that used to be perceived as an old-generation bank, FirstBank is now a darling to all as it leverages latest digital tools to meet its customers’ needs. Also, under Adeduntan’s leadership, the 128-year old bank has made huge contributions to national development, thereby stimulating development, setting standards and motivating excellent output across sectors. Clearly, these contributions to national development were what endeared Adeduntan to President Muhammadu Buhari who recently saluted him on his recognition by Cranfield University, UK, one of the most prestigious citadels of learning in Europe. Adeduntan will on Wednesday, June 22, be conferred with Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa and he would be delivering an address to the graduating class of the university. This feat, the president in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Femi Adesina, described as, “another testament to the fact that Nigeria is blessed with the brightest and the best in all areas of human endeavor.” Buhari lauded Adeduntan for being a role model to the younger generation, showing that hard work pays, and with resourcefulness and doggedness, great heights are achievable.

Adeduntan holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Ibadan, Master’s in Business Administration from Cranfield University, and is Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), as well as Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

The president sent best wishes to Adeduntan and family as he hoisted Nigeria’s flag proudly to receive an honor Cranfield University said was in recognition of his outstanding contribution to business. Incidentally, Buhari’s commendation came on the day the bank successfully held its AGM which showed a stellar performance in its financials, a transformational result that put the bank on course to reclaiming its leadership position of the financial sector.

Adeduntan has a distinguished career in finance having held senior positions at Citibank Nigeria, KPMG and Arthur Andersen Nigeria. He studied at Cranfield University as a British Chevening Scholar, achieving an MBA in 2005.

Commenting on the honour by Cranfield University, the FirstBank boss said: “I am extremely humbled and most grateful to the university for this recognition. My time at Cranfield served as a catalyst for my professional and personal development propelling me to the leadership position I occupy today.

“I am a firm believer in talent management, being vital to further accelerate Africa’s growth to enable it to benefit from its demographic dividend and the opportunities therein. I look forward to sharing my experiences with the students on the universal applicability of the skills the Cranfield MBA provides to positively impact the world.”

On his part, the Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng also congratulated Adeduntan, saying: “It is an honour to welcome Dr Adeduntan back to Cranfield to recognise all his professional achievements in this way. His own experience at Cranfield University has propelled his career forward and this serves as a true inspiration for our graduates both this year and in the future.”

Indeed, Adeduntan is an accomplished professional with distinctive international and domestic experience in commercial and investment banking, development finance, audit, and consulting; a philanthropist and leader with keen interest in providing platforms for the development of other young leaders.

The FirstBank Group, the commercial banking arm of FBN Holdings Plc, which he heads is made up of First Bank of Nigeria and subsidiaries including FBNBank UK, FBNBank DRC, FBNBank Ghana, FBNBank Senegal, FBNBank Guinea, FBNBank Gambia, FBNBank Sierra Leone and First Pension Custodian as well as Representative Offices in France and China.

Adeduntan is overseeing one of the most extensive transformation programmes in sub-Saharan African financial services industry, with the goal to reposition FirstBank Group to market pre-eminence.

He is leading FirstBank Group on the journey to win the most significant emerging business opportunities in the financial services industry through the development and execution of a digital-led strategy that has established FirstBank as the dominant player in digital banking.

FirstBank Group’s transformation programme, under the leadership of Adeduntan has enabled the bank to grow customer accounts from about 10 million in 2015 to over 36 million (including digital wallets), become the second largest issuer of cards in Africa with over 11.8 million issued cards, onboard over 18.6 million active customers on FirstBank’s digital banking platforms, and initiate and grow the most expansive bank-led Agent Banking Network in Africa with over 170,000 agents.

His career in banking and finance, spanning almost three decades, has earned him various recognitions and awards including Forbes Best of Africa – Outstanding Leader in Africa, Distinguished Alumnus Award by both the Cranfield University’s  School of Management and the University of Ibadan, African Banking Personality of the Year,  African Banker of the Year Award; Banking Icon of the Decade by the Sun Newspapers and induction into the African Leadership Magazine (ALM) Hall of Fame, Honorary Citizenship of the State of Georgia and Congressional Commendation Award from the Georgia Senate – USA, Bank CEO of the Year by the AES Excellence Club and several other awards.

He has attended various executive and leadership programmes at Harvard Business School (USA), Wharton School (USA), London Business School (UK), IESE (Spain), University of Oxford (UK), University of Cambridge (UK), CEIBS (China) and INSEAD (France). He is a fellow of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

Adeduntan’s leadership drive also reflected in First Bank Nigeria Limited’s recently released full year 2021 financial statement. The results clearly showed the strength and resilience of the iconic African elephant as well as the financial institution’s leadership in the industry. The impressive results were a reflection of the robust strength and growth of the iconic African elephant, showing that the bank has taken its rightful position among the industry leaders.

In addition, it showed the level of work the current board, management and staff of the bank have put in to turn the tide in the 128 years old institution with entrenched corporate governance.

The full year 2021 performance by the bank represented a shift in the financial institution’s performance trajectory and was made possible through its undeterred commitment in pursuing its transformational agenda; cutting across customer-led innovation, building a digitalised bank, culture change, reinventing the bank’s workplace and safeguarding its assets for the digital age.

For the first time, FirstBank Group posted the best result in more than a decade history of the bank by crossing the N100 billion profit line. Specifically, in the full year 2021 financial statement, the FirstBank Group reported a 73.9 per cent growth in its profit after tax to N117.8 billion, as against the N67.8 billion recorded as of December 2020, just as its profit before tax stood at N130.9 billion, which was a significant rise by 77.9 per cent year-on-year, as against the N73.6 billion it was as of December 2020.

FirstBank’s gross earnings also increased by 30.3 per cent to N716.8 billion in 2021, up from N550.3 billion it was as of December 2020. Also, it recorded non-interest income of N342.2 billion in the year under review, which was 106.4 per cent higher than the N165.8 billion recorded as of December 2020. As a result of years of strategic restructuring of its balance sheet and operations, its gross earnings also moved northwards by 30.3 per cent, its total assets was up 15.9 per cent to N8.5 trillion as of the end of 2021, as against the N7.4 trillion recorded the previous year, just as its customer deposits also climbed by 19.5 per cent to N5.6 trillion, up from the N4.7 trillion recorded the previous year. The bank’s customer loans and advances also improved by 28 per cent to N2.8 trillion in the year under review, up from N2.2 trillion the previous year.

FirstBank has shown innovation, resilience and commitment to growth by significantly reducing its non-performing loans (NPL) from 25% in 2016 to an acceptable level of 6.1% in 2021.

To demonstrate that the bank’s performance in 2021 was not a fluke, the Bank equally performed excellently well in Q1 2022. FirstBank recorded 32% increase in gross earnings to N180bn in Q1’22 from N136.6bn in Q1’21. Profit after tax was up 108% to N32.4 billion (Q1’22) relative to N15.6 billion (Q1’21). This impressive performance is hinged on robust loan portfolio, effective cost structure and increased digital services.FirstBank recorded the highest decline in its cost-to-income ratio in Q1 2022, dropping from 79.5% recorded in Q1 2021 to 67.03% amongst tier-1 Banks in the review period.

With FirstBank under Adeduntan, the safety of customers and the security of their transactions come first. This has ensured the bank keeps the trust of Nigerians gained over the many years of its enduring legacy of safety and security.

The bank also delivers unique and bespoke financial services solutions across all customer segments underpinned by its commitment to innovation and the customer experience. It also leverages its strong investment banking capabilities to support clients in defining and executing innovative debt solutions as well as offer strategic advice at the highest level, arrange tailor-made financing structures, manage risk and ultimately help clients to realise their aspirations

Since its establishment in 1894, FirstBank has consistently built relationships with customers focusing on the fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, optimised risk management and leadership.

Over the years, the bank has led the financing of private investment in infrastructure development in the Nigerian economy by playing key roles in the federal government’s privatisation and commercialisation schemes. With its global reach, FirstBank provides prospective investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities that are available in Nigeria, an internationally competitive world-class brand and a credible financial partner. It is expected that the leadership excellence and recognitions accorded to Adeduntan would continue to reflect positively on the FirstBank brand and fundamentals of the bank so that the elephant will continue to stand ‘gidigba.’

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