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How Customers Increased Trust In Firstbank’s *894# USSD Banking Can Boost The Financial Inclusion Drive

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The path to financial inclusion holds different marketplace barriers and opportunities in different countries, but the push continues because of proof that an increase in economic activities among the financially vulnerable can reawaken a comatose economy. For Nigeria, the last three years have seen significant growth of the financial inclusion rate from 56.8% in 2016 to 63.2% in 2018. FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking service is playing a key role in it.

FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking initiative is already averaging about 99 million transactions monthly, with a naira worth of (N’m) 370,543 on these transactions. This figure includes the undergraduate doing a mobile airtime recharge; the trader receiving a mobile payment from a customer; the IT person hurriedly buying a data bundle to keep business afloat; the anxious father paying his daughter’s hospital bills for treatment to commence, and the busy worker in Lagos transferring money to his parents in the village since he cannot get to a banking hall.

This is just a rough sampling of the financial transactions that amounted to over N3.6 trillion in transaction value on the *894# USSD banking service in 2020. There is practically no financial emergency that the USSD service does not come in.

The problems that the *894# USSD service from First Bank of Nigeria Limited is solving is the only justification for the rapid traction it has gained since it was introduced in 2015. It is easy to see Nigerians trust and confidence in the USSD system, with the Bank rapidly growing from 9.5 million customers on the USSD feature to 12.26 million customers within the last year. Over 1.02 million of the figure, are customers who registered in the first 6 months of 2021.

The first and perhaps the most attractive feature of USSD banking has got to be that it can be done from any kind of phone and without any form of internet connectivity. Although smartphones are getting more common, there is still a high poverty rate and many financially vulnerable people who cannot access internet banking. The internet penetration in Nigeria is still below the ideal, so users have to deal with poor internet connections in some areas.

That is why this kind of banking service that can be accessed without internet connectivity is ideal for the financial inclusion drive. The *894# USSD feature can be used across the four major GSM network operators in the country, meaning there is no added demand on the users.

Getting started on the service is as easy as dialing *894*0#, and creating a pin. With that done, you can do airtime and data purchase for yourself and other parties, transfer funds to other accounts, make a BVN inquiry, check your account balance, and get a mini statement.

For non-customers, this feature allows you to open a bank account in a couple of minutes without having to visit the banking hall. You can open a bank account, receive your account number immediately and start transactions on it right away. The claims of “instant banking, anytime, anywhere” can’t get more real than this.

There is even an added security step, requesting a second-factor authentication (2FA) for transfers above N20,000 as a way to secure customers from being ripped off their funds. There is a cumulative maximum daily transfer limit of N100,000 to both FirstBank and other banks accounts.

How does FirstBank USSD improve the lives of Nigerians?

For one, the data being generated through this service is sufficient to help the bank understand its current and prospective customers and develop products that suit them.

Traders and small businesses can also get a Merchant ID which customers can use to make payments for products and services. This of course is better than having to send one’s account details to countless customers, even without knowing whether or not they are ready to make their purchase.

To ensure customers can meet emergency needs before month-end, the Bank’s FirstAdvance service is at their fingertips. FirstAdvance is a digital lending solution designed to offer convenient and easy access to cash for payroll customers awaiting payment of their salaries.

Offered through the Bank’s USSD Banking service and leading banking app product, FirstMobile, customers are exposed to a range of loan offerings which put them at an edge in meeting immediate financial needs. To initiate the service through the USSD banking service, the customer is to dial – USSD CODE-*894*11# or *894#. The service is open to customers with a salary account domiciled with the Bank and has received salaries for the last 6 months at the least.

There are much more about FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking that puts customers at a distinct advantage in carrying out their daily personal, financial, and business activities; meeting unforeseen emergencies, and carrying out a wide range of transactions – with so much fun and convenience – irrespective of where they are in the country.

 

Culled from NairaMetrics

BUSINESS

Heritage Bank Hailed For Supporting Ibadan Golf Club

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Heritage Bank Plc has been commended for its continued supports of Nigeria’s sports sector, especially backing the Ibadan Golf Club’s 30th-anniversary event. 

The event that attracted dignitaries and stakeholders from various parastatals also had the presence of the Governor of Oyo State, Engr. Oluseyi Makinde and over 150 golfers participated in the tournament during the weeklong celebration. 

In a speech during the grand finale of the 30th anniversary of the club, the Captain of the Ibadan Golf Club, Oladiran Ibironke commended one of Nigeria’s most vibrant financial institutions, Heritage Bank, and others for providing financial support to ensure the success of the event. 

“Special thanks to Heritage Bank Plc., the anniversary’s major sponsor for enlarging our coast financially in order to make the anniversary elaborate and eventful. You will forever be remembered in the history of Ibadan Golf Club,” he stated. 

Ibironke also praised the efforts of the founding fathers of the club while tracing the history of how the sporting club has continued to blossom. 

He stated that tremendous transformations had occurred within the club since its inception 30 years ago. 

“We are celebrating 30 years today because some great minds came together and established what we are celebrating today. 

“From the history that we heard,   they started from Ibadan Recreation Club before moving over to where we are today in 1990,” Ibironke said. 

Speaking on the 30th anniversary, the Ag. Group Head, Corporate Communications, Heritage Bank, Ozena Utulu noted that the Bank is delighted to be the lead sponsor and to be associated with Ibadan Golf Club, stating that the sponsorship is hinged on its brand’s passion to support sports, especially golf in promoting health, wellbeing, and nation-building. 

She stated that Heritage Bank, as the sponsor of Ibadan Golf Club’s 30th anniversary, is working assiduously towards achieving its vision of becoming a bank known for promoting healthy lifestyles and the general wellbeing of the society at large. 

“Heritage Bank believes in development. We have the tenacity to develop and sport is a way of developing Nigerians both young and old. We want to encourage the golfers; I believe that this type of game is capable of helping them to keep healthy and fit,” Utulu stated.

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Market Formation Framework, Driver To Optimally Develop Solid Mineral Sector —- Sekibo

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MD/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo has said that the market formation framework is the key to optimally exploit Nigeria’s precious metal and solid minerals endowments.

He disclosed this during a webinar organized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development with the theme, “Financing the Solid Minerals Sector through the Capital Market and the Critical Role of Commodity Exchanges.”

Sekibo explained that a fully established market formation process that would lead to having a Corporation as an integrated solid mineral institution like NNPC which allows the collateralization of assets those banks can rely on for alternative funding options.

According to him, this will guarantee other creative ways of raising funds for financing commercial activities relating to solid minerals and viable projects along its value chain.

Sekibo who was represented by the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, of the Bank, Olusegun Akanji, said for the sector to be viable, it requires lots of converged government interventions because for any development focused sector to kick-off around the world, it needs government intervention to lay the foundation for the private sector and funders to step-in and pool their resources.

“Once, we can collateralize these assets, whether they are under the ground or being determined, you use different instruments to bring liquidity into them. Then investors will follow up once we have established there is enough they can explore.” the MD stated.

He further suggested that finance sector regulators need to expand its Prudential Guidelines to accommodate the instruments such that precious metal-backed or solid minerals-backed assets could qualify as part of the computation of liquidity ratios.

“Once banks start injecting their resources, customers would certainly follow that trend. You can start arranging for sophisticated solutions like bonds, bullion-backed assets, and pension notes. Again, banks will have to be poised to hold the funding that comes from this sector; that way, they can open new transactional frontiers either locally or internationally.

“At the base of this, are the issues of pricing and integrity of the market. Once banks play in that sector and we have a government institution like the NNPC type to hold all this documentation, it would be very easy to establish price discovery on an ongoing basis. This will in turn attract international funders, hedge funds, and retail investors. Today, we have retail bonds in the same way; we can have gold-backed or any of the solid mineral assets where retail investors can put in the funds,” Sekibo explained.

Meanwhile, it would be recalled that Heritage Bank Plc has said its involvement in the private sector collaboration with Dukia Gold & Precious Metals Refining Co. Limited is set to unlock the over N344 trillion market worth of gold investible instruments in the solid minerals sector.

However, he reiterated that a consistent packaged framework, which could only be held by an established government institution, as part of the layers of framework, would help to tackle major challenges in trying to support Dukia Gold’s clients.

“With the consistent packaged framework, it will be easier for Dukia Gold and help in less spending. If Dukia Gold should speak of their challenges, they will speak about tonnes of documents they have to produce. But with a unified source of documentation, it makes the process easier and improves cost management. These are some of the challenges we have experienced in trying to support a few clients we worked with,” Sekibo stated.

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BUSINESS

Shareholders Commend Nova’s Growth Trajectory, Approve N800m Dividend

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NOVA Merchant Bank held its 4th Annual General Meeting in Lagos where shareholders commended the board and management for its impressive performance over the years.

At the meeting held on the 30th of June 2021 at the Head Office, No. 23 Kofo Abayomi Street Victoria Island, shareholders approved the payment of N800m as dividend for the 2020 financial year and urged the Bank to continue the growth trajectory notwithstanding the current challenging macro-economic environment.

While presenting the Bank’s financial performance for the year ended December 31, 2020, the Chairman, NOVA Merchant Bank, Mr. Phillips Oduoza, noted that the Bank reported significant improvement in all its key financial parameters in the year under consideration.

Specifically, the Bank declared a profit after tax of N3.49bn in 2020, an increase of 112% compared to N1.65bn recorded in December 2019; Gross Earnings also rose significantly by 130% while profit before tax increased by 135% from N1.5bn in 2019 to N3.52bn in the year under consideration.

Commenting on the performance, Oduoza, stated in the face of the challenges in the macro-economic landscape, the Bank was able to turn in very impressive results in the period under consideration.

He said, “On behalf of the Board and the shareholders, I will like to express my gratitude to the management and staff for sustaining the Bank’s growth trajectory and delivering sterling results in such difficult times.”

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr Nath Ude, said the Bank took advantage of the opportunities presented by the challenging environment. “The Bank was able to provide seamless services to our customers during the lockdown period while maintaining the necessary COVID-19 protocols. The accelerated adoption of digital channels by customers further demonstrates the appropriateness of our business model and digital banking focus. To this end, we will ensure we remain ahead of changing trends to deliver value to all our stakeholders. We will continue to explore opportunities to partner with fintech to further deepen our capabilities in this area,” he stated.

Ude explained that going forward, NOVA will focus on entrenching the right structures and creating an agile and solution-minded team capable of driving the vision and mission of the group.

NOVA Merchant Bank is an investment grade rated institution that offers an integrated suite of financial solutions covering Wholesale Banking, Investment Banking, Asset Management, Wealth Management, Trade Services, Transaction Banking, Cash Management, and Digital Banking.

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