By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

Three years ago, Nigeria’s leading financial institution, First Bank Plc, introduced FirstGem to the  public. The product, a potpourri of accounts, was designed specifically to meet the financial needs of both corporate and entrepreneurial women.

Three years on, owing to the achievements recorded by the innovation, more women are currently queuing up to partner with the bank – which appears to have won an almost cultish following among them.

is a businesswomen empowerment scheme by FirstBank to help business women grow their business. This program also allows Nigeria women to get business loans for investment purposes. A woman with business ideas and in need of financial support does not need to look further. The initiative is meant to help women with ideas turn their ideas into a reality.

According to FirstBank, they recognize the importance of women in driving socio-economic growth. The product comes in two variants, savings, and current account and is driven at the very top level by the chairman of the bank, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika. All interested Nigerians who want to open a First Gem account must be women aged 18 years and above, whether working professionals or entrepreneurs.

FirstGem Savings Account

To open this account, a customer goes through a flexible means of identification and needs only two passport photographs. The account comes with a zero account opening and operating balance of N100, customised debit card, access to internet banking, maximum single deposit of N100, 000 at a time and maximum cumulative balance at any time is N500, 000.

In the event the cumulative balance exceeds N500, 000, account holders will require to migrate to the generic savings account variant with full KYC requirements

FirstGem Generic Savings Account

Like the savings account, requirements for the Zero account are also flexible. Opening minimum operating balance is N100, opportunity to do over the counter inter-sol transactions, customized debit card, default savings interest rate and internet banking

FirstGem Current Account

Unlike in saving account, minimum opening balance of N5, 000 for individuals and N10, 000 for female-owned companies is required. The account comes with benefits such as customized debit card, internet banking access, and account maintenance charge capped at N0.90/mille per month.

To open the account, intending holder must provide two satisfactory references, utility bill and a verifiable means of identification.

Apart from the normal benefits, there is an icing on the cake for FirstGem account holders.

They are provided among other benefits, access to select leadership programs/workshops/training on women empowerment; access to business development advisory services for accessing CBN/BOI intervention funds at single digit interest rates as well as being exposed to business skills on wealth management and investment plans.

 

Others are the provision of advisory services to access the CBN N220 billionn MSME intervention fund at 9%, which provides for 60% of the fund to be availed to women entrepreneurs and access to annual medical and health programmes/events sponsored by the bank for women.

Since the launch of FirstGem in October 2016, a series of female empowerment initiatives, trainings and seminars have been organized across the country and in the United Kingdom to harness and financially mobilize the growing percentage of women in the country whilst empowering them through the nuggets of financial independence.

Women entrepreneurs also have the opportunity of joining the FirstGem Community, a platform where brilliant, amazing and like-minded women gather to learn and discuss day to-day life issues. There are 6 different groups the community for a member to join.

An exciting feature of the platform is that a member gets to interact with celebrity champions who share informative and enlightening content in their various groups. The groups are: food and recipes, career and motivation, wealth and finance, health, fashion and beauty.

Several women, who have benefited from First Gem, while sharing their success stories, praised the management of First Bank for the initiative.

A school proprieties and businesswoman, Mrs. Olaniyi, attributed her success in life to the assistance she received from FirstGem.

“I have been banking with First Bank for over ten years. I have six different accounts with First Bank. FirstGem has supported the expansion of my school and also provided working capital for my cleaning and fumigation business. I recommend FirstGem to every women”, said the businesswoman.

Another customer, the Iyaloja of Irede Modern Market, Lagos Island, Alhaja Gbadamosi, said the bank has been good to her.

“First Bank has been good to us. Flashback to four years ago when I started banking with them and I needed loan, I hadn’t qualified for the amount I was asking for, but instead of making me wait while I complete the process of eligibility, First Bank offered me favourable soft loans. I will be forever grateful for this favour, Alhaja Gbadamosi said.

In her own submission, the Head of School, Care and Cuddles School, Itako and Jahi, Abuja, Mrs. Nguavese Abiodun Idiabana, said First Bank came to the rescue during her trying period.

“My banking relationship with First Bank commenced seven years ago and they were quick to offer us an educational fund to help us wrap up the final stage of our new project in Jabi. Immediately after the funds were repaid, we were availed more funds to help bridge financial gaps. First Bank has proven to be supportive and impacting women” declared Idiabana.

Also speaking, the co-founder of Temple Schools, Mrs. Shirley Okharedia, lauded the bank fro standing by them during their trying moments.

“First Bank has been very supportive. They have been a part of our journey since the beginning. They urged us on and supported us immensely when we had very few kids in our school. It didn’t discourage them that we were not many; rather they saw a brighter future in us. It is therefore not a surprise that they have come up with this great platform”, she said.

Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, while speaking at the third anniversary of FirstGem recently, reiterated the bank’s commitment to empowering women across the country. He said the bank understands the needs of women and their invaluable contributions to the growth of the economy and hence its resolve to provide support to them.

“Having identified the gaps in their lives, both in corporate Nigeria and in the entrepreneurial space, we are committed to bridging those gaps effectively by providing the tools required for women’s empowerment.

“With FirstGem, our long-term focus is on national economic development. I believe that with the indices we have so far, FirstGem is on the right performance track.

“FirstGem promotes the savings culture, financial literacy, loan management, wealth creation and healthy lifestyle for women. It has a wide array of advisory, health and current awareness services for the discerning woman.”

He said the bank has organised and participated in several women empowerment programmes and international conferences through FirstGem where women were availed various opportunities in trade and commerce, savings and investments, food and agriculture, fashion, tourism, education and lots of other economic empowerment initiatives.