Adesola Adeduntan, MD, First Bank.

BY EMEKA EJERE

Leading financial inclusion services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, is not leaving anyone in doubt that it is not only participating actively in the fight against Coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic but also creating a favourable post-crisis atmosphere for its customers in particular and Nigerians in general.

The sit-at-home order in most states of the federation in a bid to contain the spread of the disease has brought hardship to many Nigerians, especially the daily income earners who have had to stay without income. Reports have it that even the palliatives provided by both the federal and state governments have not been fairly extended to the real poor segments of the society, a situation, analysts see as the highest threat to compliance.

Mindful of the danger the development portends, shortly after President Mohammadu Buhari, announced the extension of the two-week lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, First Bank unveiled enhanced palliative measures to further cushion the negative impact of the toll on employment and livelihoods. Among the measures is the introduction of special waivers on repayment fees on the bank’s credit cards as well as up to 90-days moratorium on small and medium scale enterprises (SME) loans.

The bank had earlier donated the sum of N1 billion towards the joint effort by the Nigerian private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) to rapidly expand the health facilities; especially testing, isolation, treatment and the provision of intensive care unit (ICU) facilities pivotal to controlling the spread and treating COVID- 19. Even before the lockdown, the tier 1 lender in its characteristic proactive approach to issues had taken steps to control the spread of the pandemic.

“We have employed necessary measures to keep our employees, customers and the general public safe-guarded and sensitised on preventive steps to flatten the curve at the fastest possible rate, Mrs Folake Ani-Mumuney, Group head, marketing and corporate communications at First Bank, said.

“These include the deployment of temperature measuring tools, hand sanitizer, face masks and adopting social distancing including utilizing virtual meeting.”

She further disclosed that bank had also cancelled its own and partnered planned events in the interim; suspended staff travels and have put measures in place to identify and communicate to staff who are arriving from affected countries to self-quarantine following the established protocols by the World Health Organisation and the government.

“Besides, we have been amplifying all necessary official information from relevant health bodies and partners such as encouraging everyone to adhere to good hygiene practices which comprise regular cleaning of all surface areas – for example, tables, door handles – with disinfectants, consistent washing of hands as well as avoiding close contact with people and staying away from the crowded environment.”

Resisting the crisis

Before the lockdown extension, the bank reassured its customers that it would remain steadfast and ready to show up for them at “these unprecedented times.” In a statement signed by its chief executive officer, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the bank hailed its Nigerian customers for their resilience especially in the last two weeks despite the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country.

“As I reflect on the last two weeks, I am comforted by the resilience of our people,” the bank’s chief said.

Commenting on First Bank’s strides in one week, Adeduntan disclosed that the lender has over 53,000 agents across the country who have processed over 5 million transactions with differing values in one week alone.

“We’ve recorded approximately 2.5 million withdrawals which amount to N35 billion across our ATMs over the last week.

“Our larger corporate customers have done over 1,700 successful transactions worth N6.8 billion on our e-bills platform during this challenging period. Nigerians with First Bank cards have used them 21 million times to make payments or withdrawals worth N268 million as they rely on us to settle their banking needs.

“Our customers have made transfers over 10 million times with a total value of about N615 billion across our digital channels.”

The CEO further assured the customers that the bank is working tirelessly to ensure that banking transactions continue seamlessly, assuring that COVID-19 will neither slow it down nor defeat its workforce.

“Expertise and resilience are in First Bank’s DNA. We are holding up our side, and COVID-19 will not slow us down.

“More than ever before, the bank will uphold its promise to its customers to be there for them “and put them first.

“We recognize our role in keeping the engine going, keeping society going and recognize further that it is our responsibility to remain at the forefront of this. Our unparalleled network and total coverage of the nation serve us all well at this time; ensuring that safe alternative channels are available for our customers 24/7.

“Rest assured that we are in this together and together, we will emerge stronger at the end of this period because this too shall pass,” he further assured.

Promoting e-learning

Following the COVID-19 lockdown in March, First Bank announced its resolve to move one million children to e-learning which is implemented with several renowned organisations that have come on board from within and outside the continent.

The partners include IBM, which is providing opportunities for the acquisition of digital skills, including Coding, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science & Analytics, which would promote opportunities to learn skills of the future. These measures are taken in identifying with the roles of children at securing the future of any country.

The Lagos State Government and Roducate e-learning initiative – sponsored by First Bank – had kicked off. The initiative includes the government accredited curriculum for primary, secondary and tertiary schools designed to ensure children are adequately guided and engaged through their learning experience.

Dr Adeduntan in a statement said, “In keeping with who we are at First Bank, our commitment to self-development and continuous improvement is never far from our thinking.

”With these measures, we are delighted to support our customers because you all have empowered us to do so by choosing to bank with us. This is indeed a time to double efforts and explore opportunities to ease the impact of the extension on you”.

”Once again, we appreciate our customers for the giant strides achieved on our alternative channels, as we assure you of our commitment to continue to work tirelessly to provide essential banking services across these channels.

“Our experience over 126 years tells us the solutions lie within us, more than ever as we uphold our promise to you to be here for you and put you first always.

 

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