Dr Adesola Adeduntan, Managing Director, First Bank

By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma

When the management of First Bank of Nigeria Limited hoisted its flag on March 1, across Nigeria and other countries where it operates, symbolising the commemoration of the bank’s 125th anniversary, the gesture sparked a groundswell of encomiums.

For many stakeholders and associates of the bank, it has many reasons to celebrate.

The general belief is that, as a long standing financial institution, FirstBank has contributed immensely to the nation’s growth and development.

It is also believed that the bank, which was established on March 31, 1894, has developed into a legacy institution that can only be compared with JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Colgate, among others.

The bank presently operates in more than half a dozen nations across Africa, Europe and Asia, notably in Ghana, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, China, the UK and France.

Mr Oscar Onyema, the Chief Executive Officer, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), said FirstBank had impacted positively on the growth of the nation’s bourse.

“FirstBank is one of the very first companies to be listed on the exchange and they have become a bellwether for us when you look at the banking industry,” said Onyema.

He explained that the bank had also produced a number of presidents of the council of the exchange; from Dr Oba Otudeko to Mr Samuel Asabia and other captains of industry that FirstBank has offered to the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Similarly, Mr Adebisi Shonubi, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, represented by the Director of banking operations, Dipo Fatokun, lauded FirstBank for its achievement in the development of the financial sector and Nigeria as a whole.

Speaking on the bank’s achievement, Otudeko, Group Chairman, FBN Holdings Plc, said the Group had impacted the society in a lot of ways through the many activities of FirstBank.

Otudeko recalled that Mr Alfred Jones upon arriving Nigeria in 1894 had envisioned that in order for both public and private sector businesses to go on successfully around Marina, financial services had to be woven into the fabrics of the society.

“This was where FirstBank started. Since then, we have been impacting society in a lot of ways through the activities of our bank.

“We have founded an institution that has given birth to so many other institutions because being at the pioneering position of the industry we have found ourselves, our workers and staff spring out of us to become the founders of several other banks in Nigeria today.

“This includes Dr Joseph Sanusi and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the current emir of Kano, who were at various times drivers of the nation’s apex banking regulatory body, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“We also owe a major responsibility as a leading member of the capital market to strengthen governance and we are deeply committed to good governance to the over a million shareholders who are owners of the bank,” Otudeko enthused.

To Mr Urum Kalu Eke, the Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings Plc, “We are very proud of the achievements of our flagship FirstBank.

“We at FBN Holdings are proud of the achievements of our flagship First Bank of Nigeria Limited over the last 125 years, and that makes us at the holding company level the premier and of course the largest financial services group in Nigeria today.”

An elated Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, described the flag hoisting ceremony as the “uncommon milestone in the annals of Nigeria’s financial history.”

Adeduntan said the ceremony symbolised the identity, impact, permanence and reverence of an institution.

“As a long-standing institution, which even predates Nigeria as a unified entity, FirstBank is entrenched in the nation’s development; woven into the very fabric of society, with our involvement in every stage of our national growth and development.

“We have been resilient and supportive through periods of rapid and radical changes; we have pioneered and charted the course in our industry, nay, in the nation at large.

“From that very modest beginning in 1894, FirstBank has traversed an incredible journey of delivering impeccable financial services to its customers and supporting the building of the modern-day Nigeria and indeed, West Africa.

“This includes our early pivotal role as the monetary and fiscal policy regulator for the entire West African sub-region,” Adeduntan said.

He said the entrance of the bank had supported its host communities to promote sustainable development and put the customers first in all its business activities.

“We are now building for the next 125 years and beyond; purposefully blazing the trail in our industry and ensuring that we maintain our leadership position,” continued Adeduntan.

He said the bank had emerged as one of the biggest in Africa with more than 17 million customer accounts, processing more than 20 per cent of the entire transaction that happen daily in the Nigeria’s financial sector.

“Today in Nigeria, we are a dominant player in the financial services sector with over 13,000 agent banking across Nigeria; we are also the only bank that has locations across the length and breadth of this country.

“We have representatives of FirstBank in the 774 local government areas in Nigeria and with the largest customer base,” Adeduntan said.

He attributed the bank’s success story over the years to focus on providing excellent financial services to meet the needs of its customers.

“We continue to improve on our products and also create new ones that suit their specific financial needs.

“The reason why we have been successful is our ability to invent, reinvent and reinvent ourselves.

“You can only be successful like that when you put your customer at the centre piece of all your actions. That is the secret of our success,” Adeduntan added.

The management of the bank plans to roll out the drums to celebrate Te 125th anniversary through a series of activities, which will continue all through March and the rest of the year.

The activities include the Bell Ringing at the NSE; thanksgiving in churches and mosques acrosscontinents and locations of its business activities, among others.

The staff of the bank will also participate in the celebration with donations and volunteer efforts as part of the bank’s Spreading Acts of Random Kindness (SPARK), a Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability initiative. -NAN