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By Emefulenwanne Ibeayoka

On June 25, 2018 I woke up to yet another social media trend – a news story with the bold and quite salacious headline “How Safe Are Customer Deposits At FCMB?” had taken over the digital airwaves. Between the shares and likes and comments, a storm in a cup had brewed to great proportions in a matter of hours. Yet again, a demonstration that the basic ethics of responsible journalism and ethical reporting have been thrown away in business and, indeed, everyday life.

In writing the article, the author had made detailed reference to alleged cases of fraud involving staff of FCMB and went ahead to imply that perhaps the bank’s depositors funds are unsafe.

It is quite of great concern to see so-called professionals go to town with such alarming headlines, with the full knowledge that most Nigerians will not bother to read the actual details. It is indeed of greater concern that this sort of material was released in the way it was, when by his own admission, the author had received specific information from the bank about its financial performance and ability to remain a growth driven and existentially sustainable institution.

I do not have an account with FCMB, neither am I in any way connected to the bank or its principals. I, however, do have the simple capacity to read between the lines and remove chaff from substance.

In the first place, for FCMB to have increased its shares in Legacy Pension to make it a full-fledged subsidiary as reported in this article, it means the bank is forward-thinking and focused on both diversifying and improving its service offerings and earnings. That’s a bold move, when you consider that the Pensions industry in Nigeria has the potential to be bigger than the banking industry in another decade or so.

But even more interesting is the fact that by his very own article, the author admitted that FCMB’s deposits grew to N689.9billion as at the end of December 2017, an increase of 5%, from N657.6billion in the corresponding year. Do customers increase their deposit in a bank they have fears over or which is on the brink? Is it not only logical that customers are only likely to increase deposits in a bank where they enjoy good service and feel at home? For a fact, I know that the KPMG Banking Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey 2017 placed FCMB in 5th position in the entire Nigerian banking industry in Retail Banking, SME Banking and Wholesale Banking. That’s no mean feat when you take into account the number of operators in the industry.

I think what stumped me the most is the fact that by his own article, the author let us in on key financial metrics of FCMB, including the fact that FCMB reported a gross revenue of N169.9 billion and a profit before tax (PBT) of N11.5billion, while profit after tax (PAT) was N9.4billion.

At face value, it seems to me that the author for reasons best known to him or her was determined to demarket FCMB and portray it in the most negative light possible. I do not dispute the possibility that there were some fraudulent activities – afterall, there is no smoke without fire and that tends to ring through more in Nigeria than elsewhere. However, this is an industry challenge – the Managing Director of the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) Adebisi Shonubi (who a few weeks ago was nominated a Deputy Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank) recently shared some startling statistics on fraud in Nigeria’s banking industry, revealing the number of reported fraud cases in Nigerian Banks had steadily risen from 1,461 in 2014 to 10,743 in 2015, 19,531 in 2016 and 25,043 in 2017. It has been argued that frauds in the Banks are not alien. In the United States of America it has been said, with compromised credit cards and data breaches often in the news in the past couple of years, fraud is top of mind with many people.

This deliberate attempt to demarket FCMB for reasons best known to the author also brings to mind the most recent attack on GTBank over the Innoson case.

It is not to be forgotten how earlier this month, social media went agog with news that a court had directed GTBank to pay 12 billion naira to Innoson Group, one of its clients with whom it has had a long-standing court battle. The misleading reports on social media had extremely sensational headlines such as “Court Orders GTBank To Pay 14bn To Innoson”; “GTBank Must Pay Innoson 14Bn Within 14 Days”; “GTBank In Trouble As Court Orders Payment of 14bn to Innoson”.

It was such a terrible jamboree on social media that there were certain broadcasts sent across Whatsapp and other social media asking people to withdraw their funds from GTBank immediately, on the premise that the bank would go bankrupt after payment of N14bn to Innoson. Of course, Nigerians will not pause to ask whether paying N14bn in settlement can actually cripple a bank that is widely considered Nigeria’s biggest bank brand and clearly, one of the most solid financial behemoths within the African continent. Nobody stops to ponder. The fact that this latest melee was a result of seemingly deliberate attempts to smear the GTBank brand raises more suspicion about the recent publication on the same online platforms questioning the safety of depositors funds with FCMB.

The GTBank vs Innoson saga has so terribly deteriorated on the account of sensational journalism and reportage, that it has taken an ugly ethnic dimension amongst the unlearned. Thus, on various online communities and platforms in Nigeria, you see Nigerians taking sides on the basis of GTBank being a “Yoruba company” and Innoson being an “Igbo company”. What a sad reality for a nation!

First Bank of Nigeria also witnessed the harsh and merciless bite of sensational reporting when recently there was commotion over the contempt judgement against the Bank and some of its key officials in the case Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara & 9 Ors. v. Shell Petroleum Development Ltd, Shell International Petroleum Ltd and Shell International Exploration and Production BV. Before fact could be removed from fiction, so many broadcasts and “breaking news” articles had surfaced online, all leading with headlines that were designed to damage and not just state the facts.

To make progress as a country and support businesses to thrive, this approach must be arrested. Must we sensationalize everything just so we can earn readership and our 5 minutes of fame, to the detriment of businesses and companies that provide livelihood for thousands of families across Nigeria? I think not.

Even where we need to address real matters arising, surely, the reporting can be more facts-based and less about blackmail and demarketing. As my Yoruba friends have a saying in their language “Even if they sent you on the errand as a slave, deliver the message as a free born”. Crying wolf falsely too many times has serious downsides. Social media credibility is extremely important for the dissemination of relevant, topical, up to date and authentic information. Using it constantly as a vehicle to settle scores, blackmail and seek for attention will ultimately harm the reputation of not only the charlatans in that field but also the real professionals. The fake news toga will be cast on all. That will be a big shame. Freedom presupposes responsibility. Freedom devoid of responsibility is excessive liberty.

These institutions need protection and we really need to stop portraying ourselves to the rest of the world as people always thinking of fraud and sleight of hand strategies to make ill-gotten wealth. There are many honest and hardworking people all over Nigeria. We deserve better than these constant sensational but fake so called ‘investigative’ write ups.

Emefulenwanne Ibeayoka is a public analyst writing from Abuja

First City Monument Bank (FCMB) recently took another bold step to deepen its history of excellence and consolidate its position as one of the foremost financial institutions in Nigeria. The latest milestone came in the form of a new thematic campaign titled, ‘’Feel Confident, Pursue your Aspirations’’.

The campaign, which showcases the warm, friendly, approachable, inspiring and energetic brand identity of FCMB and its values as a simple, reliable and helpful Bank, is being communicated in print, television and radio outlets and also on social media, just as it continues to make raves as one of the most outstanding in recent times in the country.

The ‘’Feel Confident, Pursue your Aspirations’’ message tells compelling stories of the lives and business aspirations of diverse Nigerians and how FCMB supports them to bring such dreams and aspirations to reality. It also tells the story of the very diverse base of the customers that FCMB serves, its commitment to creating opportunities, adding more value and enhancing the overall customer experience of its clientele. This is aimed at further connecting with them to sustain their loyalty and patronage.

Indeed, the commercials of the new thematic campaign across media platforms clearly demonstrate the commitment of FCMB and its readiness to help existing and potential customers confidently translate their dreams, aspirations, ideas and business plans into real practical, measurable and successful ones.

In addition, the thematic campaign sends a clear message of conviction to all segments of people in the society who have any form of credible personal or corporate business idea, intention or plan, but have not been able to turn them into reality, that FCMB is ready to make them live their dreams. Credence is added by the fact the Bank parades a team of experts in financial management, macro and micro financing, business design, development, growth and sustainability, among others.

Part of the proposition of the campaign goes thus: “You have got plans, let’s make them happen. At FCMB, we share your aspirations. Let us help you fulfil them with our specialised range of banking products and services. You have got an idea, let’s grow a business. Managing a business does not have to be a burden you bear alone. Get SME advisory support today. We power over 300,000 registered businesses with our array of business banking solutions. Take advantage of these solutions designed to support your business”.

The over 35 years old financial institution, which was recently awarded the prestigious International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 9001:2015 certificate for Quality Management System by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, is making this possible through its all-inclusive bucket of flexible products and services, structured to satisfy all banking needs of all segments of the society.

Commenting on the FCMB ‘’Feel Confident, Pursue your Aspirations’’ thematic campaign, the Managing Director of the Bank, Mr. Adam Nuru, said, “it tells the story of the diverse base of the customers that we serve at FCMB. It does not matter where you are, we support you to fulfill your life and business aspirations at FCMB. Our convenient electronic banking platforms and best-in-class relationship management model deliver great experience to our customers as we support them to achieve their great dreams for themselves, their families and their businesses”.

He reiterated that, ‘’Nigerians are aspirational and hard-working people. FCMB is the bank for all Nigerians, walking with them as partners to fulfil their life and business aspirations in the true spirit of its brand pay-off line; “FCMB- My Bank and I”.

In the same vein, the Group Head, Corporate Affairs of FCMB, Mr. Diran Olojo, explained that, “it is a tactical reaction to our Bank’s periodic brand health checks. This is aimed at regularly feeling the pulse of our stakeholders in our continuous drive to satisfy them and sustainably achieve excellent customer experience, qualities FCMB has come to be associated with, over the years”.

In the same vein, the Managing Director of the Bank said that as one of the few Banks that consistently feature in the top 5 categories, across all segments, in the KPMG annual customer satisfaction survey, analysts are of the opinion the lender is on a stronger pedestal to deliver the very best in products and services.

FCMB provides one of the best alternate channels banking services cutting across ATMs, mobile banking, Point-of-Sale (PoS) and internet banking. The Bank is among the first to deliver on-the-spot ATM cards, including Visa card and Mastercard, issuance in Nigeria. Last year, the Bank deployed an additional 5,000 PoS machines nationwide to bring the number to 14,000. It also launched a new Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) mobile app to enhance alternate channels adoption among customers in the business segment.

FCMB’s self-service, stress-free and secured solution, (*329# USSD code), has equally continued to delight the public. Through this platform, customers carry-out various financial transactions, using their mobile phones. These include funds transfer, account opening, micro loans and top-up, account balance enquiry, airtime and data purchase, bills payment, among other value-added services, on the go and without any hurdles.

The Bank explained that the *329# mobile banking solution forms part of its core strategy to expand its service channels by promoting and deepening the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cashless and financial inclusion policies. The development eliminates delays periodically experienced by physically visiting a branch of the Bank or outlet to carry-out transactions. In addition, the initiative will reinforce the lender’s commitment to environmental sustainability, geared towards reducing the quantity of paper and other materials usage in the society of which printing of various banking documents forms a substantial part of the process.

A major component of FCMB’s sustainability principle is on agriculture and empowering farmers with a view to increasing their productivity potential as part of its financial intermediation role for national development. This is reflected in the bank’s intervention that has resulted in better access to financial resources by deserving individuals, organisations and companies. It has also led to improved processes, better output and profitability.

In the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises space, FCMB has continued to prove its mettle. It has developed number of cutting-edge products and services that have endeared it to Businesses. Some of these offerings include, the e-invoicing platform – a unique solution, designed to help businesses monitor and control their cash management, especially as it affects payments, receivables, reconciliation and other financial transactions, through the internet and other mobile channels among others.

In addition, the Bank offers free banking transactions for a period of three months for new-to-FCMB SME customers. In line with the Bank’s drive to partner with value content from the Fintech space, it has collaborated with Paystack to provide an innovative online collection platform for merchants and other businesses focused on enabling them to provide their customers with a seamless payment experience.

Beyond this, FCMB regularly organizes training and other capacity building programmes for SMEs to keep them up to speed with skills that would further grow their businesses, while also providing funding. Without doubt, the new thematic campaign of FCMB and other giant strides being recorded by the Bank, show that it is on a journey to greater heights.

FCMB Group Plc is on a stronger pedestal and will continue to provide superior performance that would add significant value to stakeholders in a sustainable manner in spite of the challenging macroeconomic and regulatory environments. The financial institution added that its subsidiaries are well positioned to deliver more cutting-edge solutions that would provide the best customer experience in their respective target markets.

The assurance was given at the 5th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of FCMB Group Plc, a holding company comprising eight entities, namely First City Monument Bank Limited, FCMB Capital Markets, CSL Stockbrokers Limited, CSL Trustees Limited, Legacy Pension Managers Limited, FCMB (UK) Limited, First City Asset Management Limited and Credit Direct Limited, held on Friday, April 27, 2018 in Lagos.

Going by its audited accounts for the year ended December 31, 2017, FCMB Group Plc recordeda gross revenue of N169.9 billion and a profit before tax (PBT) of N11.5billion, while profit after tax (PAT) was N9.4billion. In addition, deposits grew to N689.9billion as at the end of December 2017, an increase of 5%, from N657.6billion in the previous year.

The Group’s capital adequacy ratio also improved to 16.9% from 16.7%, just as asset base increased to N1.19trillion, compared to N1.17trillion at the end of 2016. Non-interest income as at the end of 2017 was N32billion, while loans and advances stood at N649.8billion.

Presenting the Chairman’s report, Mr. Oladipupo Jadesimi said:

‘’We will continue to shore up the capital of the bank through profit retention in preparation for the growth opportunities that we expect as the economy recovers’’.

The new Chairman of the Board of FCMB Group Plc expressed gratitude to shareholders for their continuous support, adding that:

‘’Although we met with a number of challenges as a Group in 2017, I am pleased to say that we were able to surmount them, thanks to the commitment of all the personnel of our Group companies’’.

Also speaking at the AGM, the Group Chief Executive of FCMB Group Plc, Mr. Ladi Balogun, said:

‘’In spite of the reduction in headline numbers, Group performance is an improvement over the previous year after adjusting for the significant FX (foreign exchange) revaluation income enjoyed in 2016. The key drivers of the Group’s performance include increase in income from our non-banking activities, lower impairment charges from the bank and its subsidiaries, and improved operating efficiencies through more pervasive use of technology’’.

Mr. Balogun assured that FCMB Group Plc’s successful acquisition of majority (88.2%) stake in Legacy Pension Managers Limited will go a long way to help achieve further diversification of service offerings and consequent earnings within the FCMB Group.

He said: “ We see significant growth opportunities in the Pension management industry in Nigeria as it is yet to achieve maturity and will support and facilitate strategic organic and inorganic growth initiatives that will position Legacy in the top-tier of its industry over the next few years’’.

More pictures below: