With the growing competition in the banking industry, banks have continued to devise strategies to improve their market share.
That is why a lot of banks have continued to invest heavily in branding. Banks invest heavily in branding to also allow them attract new customers in the face of stiff competition.
One bank that has benefitted from tremendous investment in branding is First Bank of Nigeria.
First Bank recently retained the number one banking brand in Nigeria in the Top 500 World Banking Brands Ranking just released by The Banker and Brand Finance in the United Kingdom.
As published in the current edition of The Banker Magazine of the Financial Times Group London, First Bank emerged top in Nigeria and was closely followed by Guaranty Trust Bank, and Zenith Bank.
First Bank also emerged number one banking brand in Nigeria last year among the four banks that made the 2012 ranking.
According to The Banker, First Bank came top amongst the Nigerian banks as number 414 in the world followed by Guaranty Trust Bank in number 415 whereas Zenith Bank ranked 454.
First Bank led the pack in Nigeria with a brand value of $201 million while the total value of the three Nigerian banks that made the Top 500 World Banking Brands was $574 million and they collectively did the country proud as the country is now among the World's Top 50 by Total Brand Value.
In order to serve its customers better and extend its branch network to the unbanked, the bank had increased its branch footprint from 611 branches in 2010 to 652 branches in 2011. Also in line with its strategy to serve retail customers effectively, it had deployed over 1600 ATMs across the nation.
In 2011, First Bank expanded its continental footprint through the conclusion of the strategic acquisition of 75 per cent equity stake in Banque Internationale de Credit (BIC), one of the most profitable banks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was in line with its commitment to establish presence in selected African countries with clear growth opportunities and potential returns to its shareholders.
First Bank had also opened a representative office in Abu Dhabi in a bid to increase its global reach and optimally harness the growing flux of trade between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.
Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, First Bank, Mr. Bisi Onasanya, stated that in the bank's continuous drive to offer innovative technology-enabled financial services to our customers, it recently introduced a unique card product to support senior citizens and the uneducated - Bio-only card.
This innovation, according to him, supported the bank's biometric Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and works with the biometric authentication mechanism to truly protect the target customers from fraudulent use of their cards.
Onasanya added: "First Bank's Instant PIN Issuance solution is another major feat for the bank. We are the only bank in Africa where a functional card with PIN is issued within 15 minutes. The bank has also created the avaya social media solution, with multi-lingual IVR which enhances the ability to engage the youth demographic via social media channels in a structured manner.
"The bank also developed a new savings product - FirstInstant to serve low savers through alternative channels, which are the primary service platform for the product whilst promoting a cashless society.
"The bank's Bio-only card product is redefining the financial markets boundaries in Nigeria and rapidly including Nigerians who hitherto had lost interest in financial services into the mainstream. The Instant PIN Issuance solution is making it extremely convenient and affordable for our customers to obtain a payment Card."
The bank has also developed other products to support the central bank's cashless policy and financial inclusion strategy. Leveraging these solutions, the bank controls about 33 per cent of the domestic card market.
"The FirstInstant Account addresses the critical challenges of bringing financial services to the low income earners in Nigeria which include the tedious account opening documentation requirements, cost and accessibility of banking operations and minimum opening/operating balance requirements. These challenges have resulted in low access to banking services by poor urban, semi-urban and rural dwellers.
"The FirstInstant Account addresses the above challenges and has simplified documentation requirements, enabling increased financial access. There is a mandatory issuance of debit card at a discounted rate to encourage operation of the account primarily via alternative channels such as ATMs, Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, mobile phone, internet banking to prevent crowding of the banking halls. E-channel withdrawals are free of charge on all FirstBank-driven terminals and they do not count against monthly interest earning," it added.
Cost of Transactions
In line with the Bankers' Committee's drive for reduction in bank charges, First Bank has also reduced costs of transacting in its banking halls.
The bank explained: "The Instant PIN Issuance solution, complemented by our Instant Card Issuance solution is delivering exceptional cost benefits to both us and our customers. We have saved over N200 million in the past 7 months that otherwise was spent in the printing and distribution of customers' PINs, which would enable us to offer customers affordable financial services.
"Transacting through alternative channels enables the customer cut cost and time spent in accessing the banking hall. This account also entrenches the central bank's cashlite policy to promote a cashless society through sanctioning of huge account cash lodgements and withdrawals.
"The Bio-only card in Nigeria truly protects the target customers from fraudulent use of their cards, fortifying their trust in the banking system as well as providing them with the convenience of bespoke ATMs for which they do not have to memorise PIN."
Furthermore, the financial institution said it has taken effective measures to mitigate risks associated with financial transactions in all ramifications.
"We are the first institution in Nigeria to achieve globally acclaimed certifications in ISO27001 Information Security Management Systems, ISO38500 IT Governance and BS25999 Business Continuity Management Systems. These are additional proofs that our customers can absolutely trust transactions on all our platforms," it added.
First Bank is Nigeria's largest financial services institution by total assets and gross earnings. With more than 5 million customers, First Bank has over 650 branches and five subsidiary companies, providing a comprehensive range of financial services.
The bank has international presence through its subsidiaries, FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, and Banque International de Credit (B.I.C) in the Republic of Congo, as well as its Representative Offices in Johannesburg, Beijing and Abu Dhabi. Since its establishment in 1894, the Bank has consistently built relationships with customers focusing on fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, risk management and strong capitalisation.
First Bank has about 1.3 million shareholders globally and is quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). It is currently one of the most capitalised companies on the NSE. Over the years, by playing key roles in the Federal Government's privatisation and commercialisation schemes, the bank has led the financing of private investment in infrastructure development in the Nigerian economy.