By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
For First Bank of Nigeria Limited, it is not enough to be one of the biggest financial institutions in Nigeria.
The eggheads at West Africa’s premier financial institution have built a robust culture of giving back to the society.
For the past 125 years, the bank has been driving sustainable social, economic and environmental growth, and is still determined to do much more.
Since it was established in 1894, FirstBank has led the financing of private investment in infrastructure development in the Nigerian economy by playing key roles in the Federal Government’s privatisation and commercialisation schemes.
Recently, the bank held the third edition of its Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability (CR&S) Week in the six geopolitical zones of the country and is some business locations in Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, DR Congo and the United Kingdom.
The 2019 edition themed, “Ripples of Kindness, Putting You First,’’ was driven to amplify the bank’s culture of “Employees Giving & Volunteering Programme’’.
The initiative focuses on reinforcing the values of the bank’s Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness (SPARK).
Introduced in 2017, SPARK is a value-based initiative designed to raise consciousness and promote kindness to one another.
The SPARK initiative, according to the bank, is designed to be extended and integrated into other institutions, hence the plan to launch the programme in secondary schools across the country.
According to the bank, the activity is aimed at ensuring that youths imbibe the right values from inception, so that they can grow to be responsible adults who are financially independent through fulfilling careers.
Commenting on the impact of the initiative, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, said over 10,000 victims of mudslide got 100,000 dollars from the SPARK crowd-funding effort.
Adeduntan said the bank, among others, offered disaster relief support to over 600,000 internally displaced persons in the North-East and the Benue flood victims.
Speaking with the pupils of Methodist Girls’ Hugh School, Yaba, as part of activities marking the third edition of the bank’s CR&S, Adeduntan encouraged the schoolchildren to cultivate the habit of showing kindness to people around them irrespective of class, race or circumstance.
He noted that the bank conceived SPARK to help the pupils and Nigerians, in general, to develop and practise compassion, empathy and giving.
Adeduntan, therefore, urged the pupils to imbibe the value of kindness and ensure that they were civil at all times.
Responding, Mrs Abimbola Ali, the Vice Principal (Administration), Methodist Girls’ High School, expressed delight on the impact of the SPARK initiative.
Ali said the general theme of kindness aligned with the motto of the school.
Aside the Methodist Girls’ High School, Yaba, FirstBank’s SPARK initiative was also activated at Gbaja Boys’ High School, Surulere and Opebi Senior Grammar School, Ikeja, Lagos.
Other schools visited were Sunshine International School, Bauchi; Government Science School, Maitama, Abuja; Racecourse Secondary School, Kano; Girls Model School, Ikot Ekan, Abak, Akwa bom State and Pine Crest College, Independent Layout, Enugu, among others.
In the same vein, the bank also empowered 125 widows identified by the International Women Society (IWS) through its initiative for widows – Widows Trust Fund.
The bank provided the 125 widows with funding to grow their micro-medium scale businesses, with plans to scale up the empowerment to 500 widows before the end of year.
Mrs Bashirat Odunewu, the Group Executive, International Banking Group (ITBG), said the bank’s partnership with the IWS was designed to further the empowerment of women, especially widows.
Odunewu said the theme of the CR&S week reflected the brand promise to always put the bank’s stakeholders first and was designed to offer employees and other stakeholders opportunities to give their time and resources to defined causes.
Odunewu, represented at the event by the Business Development Manager (ITBG), FirstBank, said a world without active collaboration amongst people, organisations, nations and regions was inconceivable.
“We are here because of our collective desire to pursue synergies that would generate progress for us and future generations.
“That is the focal piece of sustainability. I am, therefore, optimistic that this partnership will help drive sustainable development.
“At FirstBank, the partnership amongst people and stakeholders has sustained us for over 125 years.
“As you might be aware, our impact traverses virtually every sector of the economy. This indeed resonates with our 125th anniversary theme, ‘Woven into the Fabric of Society’,’’Odunewu said.
For Mrs Folake Ani-Mumuney, the Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications of FirstBank, the 2019 CR&S was aimed at reinforcing the bank’s corporate culture of encouraging giving and volunteering among its employees and the larger soceity.
Ani-Mumuney said the bank believed that every act of kindness was critical to promoting a peaceful co-existence amongst everyone in the soceity and building a prosperous nation at large.
She said the bank, since its establishment, had consistently built relationships with customers focusing on the fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, optimised risk management and leadership.
According to her, FirstBank provides prospective for investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities that are available in Nigeria, an internationally competitive world-class brand and a credible financial partner.
She noted that the brand’s purpose was to always put customers, partners and stakeholders at the heart of “our business, even as we standardise customer experience and excellence in financial solutions across sub-Saharan Africa.’’
In all, FirstBank has indeed proved to be a financial institution to reckon with, going by its resounding achievements in the banking industry in the past 125 years.
It has been named “Most Valuable Bank Brand in Nigeria’’ six times in a row (2011-2016) by the globally renowned “The Banker Magazine’’ of the Financial Times Group.
It was also rated the Best Retail Bank in Nigeria for seven consecutive years (2011-2017) by the Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards and Best Bank in Nigeria for 15 years by Global Finance.
Equally, with some 15 million customer accounts, FirstBank provides a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services with over 750 business locations.
The bank has international presence through its subsidiaries, FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBN Bank in DR Congo, Ghana, the Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing. (NANFeatures)