The financial inclusion drive of First Bank of Nigeria Limited has recorded a major boost, with the lender strengthening over 120,000 Firstmonie Agents, spread across 772 local government areas in the country with huge loan facilities.
Barely a year after the launch of the Firstmonie Agents Credit scheme, First Bank, announced last week that it has economically empowered its Firstmonie Agents with the sum of N100 billion.
For a bank which prides itself as the nation’s financial inclusion services provider and has pursued the financial inclusion drive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the federal government with vigour, this may be another exciting way of matching words with action.
According to World Bank, financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. World Bank also notes that access to a transaction account is a first step toward broader financial inclusion since it allows people to store, send and receive money.
A few years ago, the CBN set a target of 80 percent financial inclusion by 2020. The objective was to get Nigerians who do not bank or do online transactions to get onboard as a way of reducing poverty in Nigeria.
The apex bank was concerned that while Nigeria has about 96.4 million adult population, it is sad that 40.1 million (almost half of the population) are financially excluded in a digital age where e-payment, e-commerce among other financial services products and banking innovations are trending.
CBN also found it shocking that women, youths under 35 years, rural dwellers and those in Northern Nigerian, particularly North West and North East, are the most financially excluded. First Bank is clearly leaving no one in doubt that it is not any less concerned in this regard.
The Agent Credit scheme was created by the banking giant to promote and expand the business activities of its foremost agent banking platform – Firstmonie Agents – whilst putting them at an advantage to positively impact their immediate environment.
Reiterating the bank’s role in deepening financial inclusion in the country, Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, said ,“We are truly excited about the tremendous impact of the Agent Credit on the performance of our Firstmonie Agents nationwide.
“Since the introduction of the Agent Credit to support our ‘Human ATMs’ as we fondly call our Firstmonie Agents, they have recorded immense growth in their businesses at levels they never envisaged in such a short period.
“Our key goal is to continue to deliver financial services to the underserved and unbanked populations, employing modern technology for processing real-time transactions and in doing so, contribute to building capacities and learning new skills in information technology, cash management and relationship management for our agents.
“We encourage our Agents to keep being exemplary in setting the pace to promote financial inclusion as we collectively work towards the continuous growth and development of the national economy.”
Firstmonie Agents have been integral to bridging the financial inclusion gap, providing convenient banking services that are easily accessible, thereby saving time and travel costs for individuals in the suburbs and remote environments that have no access to financial services.
The bank’s financial inclusion activities are in line with the mandate of the CBN to ensure the availability of affordable financial products and services to all individuals and groups of people in the country, irrespective of location, literacy levels, familiarity with technology and accessibility to modern infrastructural facilities.
The Firstmonie Agent channel is amongst the bank’s many initiatives to expand financial access in the country. Not long ago, the lender announced that it had disbursed over N17bn loans to individuals across the country through FirstAdvance, its digital lending solution.
In a statement titled, ‘First Bank reinforces its financial inclusion drive; disburses over 17bn naira loans through FirstAdvance.,’ the lender explained, “FirstAdvance is designed to offer a convenient and easy access to cash for salary earners whose accounts are domiciled with FirstBank and have received regular salaries for two months, prior to the loan request.
“In barely a year since the launch of FirstAdvance, over 128,000 unique customers in over 782,996 successful transactions have so far benefitted from loans.”
In 2017, FirstBank launched its agent banking network; ‘Firstmonie Agent’, described as its ‘Human ATM’. The Firstmonie Agents are empowered to extend access to finance to all Nigerians, regardless of where they may be across the country.
The agent banking network complements the bank’s effort at reducing the size of the unbanked in the country, while providing a handful of the bank’s bespoke financial services, including account opening; cash deposit; airtime purchase; bills payment; withdrawals and money transfer.