14 September 2017

Nigeria: FCMB Partners Govt to Grow Economy

As First City Monument Bank pushes its Agency Banking and Agribusiness agenda, Nosa Alekhuogie peeps into the bank's retail template to expound some of the directions currently being implemented through its partnership with government

The main task of governance all over the world is to provide social and economic infrastructure, protect life and property, and also create employment for the unemployed. The government is still expected to manage the economy by strategically formulating and implementing specific policies that can create opportunities for sustainable economic activities for the citizenry.

The need for economic development, particularly in areas such as poverty reduction, employment generation and wealth creation focused on improving welfare and raising the general standard of living, has become a challenge that must be squarely guaranteed by government. But to what extent can this responsibility be left to government alone?

The 34-year old financial institution, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) says no, the responsibility, should not be left to government alone to shoulder. For the fact that Nigeria is a country blessed with favorable climatic conditions, ample arable land and fertile soils, some expert solution has been proffered. FCMB has taken a bold step towards empowering small holder farmers as well as micro, small and medium scale enterprises which industry watchers now define as the nucleus of developed economies' action points. The same aspiration has been found in the heart of the present administration's economic agenda. The federal government is said to have concluded plans to align its fiscal, monetary and trade policies to stimulate economic growth.

Meanwhile, the Managing Director, FCMB, Mr. Adam Nuru has said that it is a conscious business objective of the Bank to partner the government in various clearly defined economic activities that directly impact positively on the people, particularly the micro, small and medium enterprise segment whose daily activities supply cohesion in the basic energy chain of the nation's economy.

In one of the economic outreaches championed by FCMB, he said: "The Bank has designed a group lending programme, which aims at creating financial awareness and empowerment for financially active women through microcredits, procurement and deployment of POS and free mobile phones among these women. These women have been identified in self-organised and homogenous groups that provide support and peer pressure to reimburse loans. It is quite innovative in Nigeria. Our focus on this aspect with the accruing benefits, are the unbanked, under-banked and low income customer segments who are also being acquainted with financial inclusion."

The key objectives of FCMB, it reiterated, include to bring financial services closer to both urban and rural small income earners. This is to enable them access loans in groups to be able to drive inclusion. The scheme also offers more flexible financial services to small income earners in the market especially women to increase their work capital. It is another opportunity that enables small income earners expand their asset base to finance their household needs.

FCMB's commitment in the partnership was responsible for the choice to make its operation simple when it comes to reaching out and giving access to the fund-deserving population. For the upcoming, small and medium sized businesses to benefit, prospective participants must be 18 - 60 years of age and also belong to a group. The group's size must be 5-25 members who enjoy mutual trust, confidence and respect, and live or work in close proximity to one another. The customer must have an income generating activity or business which has been in existence for at least 6 months. The borrower must exhibit the potential to save. And Group members are expected to be residing within a radius of 1km. FCMB is also offering free four weeks of training organised for borrowers before loans' disbursement.

Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, gave some hints. According to him, "Government's effort to restore growth depends very much on improved macroeconomic conditions. Accordingly, fiscal, monetary and trade policies are being aligned to stimulate the economy and support growth while preventing overheating". He confirmed that sectoral policies were being implemented by the Federal Government of Nigeria to diversify the economy by boosting investments in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, construction and the digital economy. The Deposit Money Banks, Osinbajo noted, were vital to the implementation of the government's Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

At the donation of a robust Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme web portal developed by FCMB for deployment nationwide to the federal government, its Managing Director, Nuru informed the Vice President that the Bank, as one of the top lenders in Nigeria, is already providing financial and technical advisory support to several operators in various sectors. He listed these to include power sector projects, export trade, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs), among others. "We will continue to intervene and offer support as well as solutions in developmental areas that would fast-track the growth of the aspirations of individuals, businesses and the country in general", he added.

FCMB's Microfinance project from inception, set the pace for rural and semi-urban economic prosperity and the resultant effect, has been profound. The Microfinance Bank also developed a robust software application for online real time transaction and reporting. Establishing a centralised system of operations and loan review process, it has also commenced BVN registration for MFB clients with credit check on customers for improved loan assessment process. The Microfinance's operation is already berthed in 53 branches covering 11 states in 5 geopolitical regions. The FCMB Group Lending and Agency Banking projects are a digitised credit and savings solution which facilitates instant account opening with debit card issuance for online real time transactions driven by point of sale (POS) and mobile devices.

The Group Chief Executive of FCMB Group Plc, Mr. Ladi Balogun is quoted to have said: "The bank's project is driving financial inclusion in Nigeria through the deployment of agents in communities without financial service providers. The project is highly driven by technology to create a distinct offering from other existing micro lending businesses. The automation of loan processing, disbursement, and repayment via POS and/ or mobile solutions ensures an efficient and swift loan disbursement and collection process."

In the area of agriculture, it is a concern however that as desirable as agriculture is to economic well-being, Nigeria is yet to maximise its potential. This is as a result of a combination of various factors, some of which include the relegation of agriculture to subsistence farming; non-prioritisation of agribusiness at different levels of governance; the state of infrastructure such as research and storage facilities, extension and disjointed value chains and of course, the distraction occasioned by oil.

Fully conscious of the important role of key stakeholders in the agribusiness chain and as a strong believer in the potential of agribusiness in Nigeria, FCMB's intervention in the sector has left a far-reaching impact on this crucial part of the economy. This has been attested to by the Chairman of Tractor Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria (TOHFAN), Alhaji Danladi Garba, when he commended FCMB for its support to the agric sector and farmers in Lagos. FCMB had provided funding worth N300 million to TOHFAN for the acquisition of tractors that were distributed to operators and benefiting farmers throughout Nigeria.

The Bank also collaborated with Doreo Partners, an impact investing firm with a proven track record of exclusively investing in profitable, high growth, early stage businesses that improve the livelihoods of Nigerian smallholder farmers,to launch a support programme for farmers, known as BabbanGona (or "great farm"). This is an agricultural franchise model, where farmers are trained, provided end-to-end support, and offered specially packaged loans to carry out their farming activities. In line with its commitment to financial inclusion which entails bringing the underbanked and unbanked population into the financial system, a drive which the CBN has been pursuing actively, FCMB selected a region with a high degree of financial exclusion, bringing on board farmers in the Gimba, Soba and Maigana communities. The franchise has about 18000 farmers, developed by Doreo Partners and has a vision of reaching in excess of a million farmers in the near future

Another testimony associated with FCMB is the success of Psaltry International Farm in Ado-Awaye, Iseyin in Oyo State, whose achievements in cassava business and agric value chain management have assumed international dimension. Managed by Mrs. Yemisi Iranloye, a biochemist and agric entrepreneur, the business has a farming base of over 10,000 hectares of land with about 2,000 out-growers. It also has a factory that processes cassava to food grade starch for supplies to large corporates in the food and beverage industries.

FCMB's facilitation of nearly N1billion for Psaltry Farm under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)'s funding schemes for the sector has given the Iseyinagriccommunity the much-needed economic boost. Apart from FCMB's relationship with Psaltry, the Bank partnered with the farm to provide basic agricultural training for its farmers to understand the technical details of growing their produce for higher yield and improved income.

FCMB distinguishes itself by its extraordinary people and culture, a customer-focused and performance-driven environment. Its unique retail lending capabilities enables it to offer valued services to millions of underserved Nigerians directly and indirectly, whilst supporting its portfolio diversification objectives to deliver sustainable growth. Its investment and transaction banking services further distinguish it as a bank for companies, doing business within and outside Nigeria, with customers in need of value-added solutions.

The Bank's distinctive capabilities and culture provide it with the critical elements for sustained growth and the competitiveness to fulfil its mission. With these, among other economic activities, the Federal Government of Nigeria, has called other financial institutions as well as other patriotic individuals to join FCMB to add value for national empowerment and economic development.

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