In the 1890s when some British trade men landed on the shores of the Lagos Marina, among them was Alfred Lewis Jones.
A man who later acquired considerable territorial interests in West Africa, and financial interests in many of the companies, engaged in opening up and developing that part of the world.
In 1894, in what was then the British colony of Nigeria, Jones started a bank called the Bank of British West Africa. The bank originally served British shipping and trading agencies in Nigeria. Jones who was a shipping magnate originally had a monopoly on importing silver currency into West Africa through his Elder Dempster shipping company.
According to Jones, without a bank, economies were reduced to using barter and a wide variety of mediums of exchange, leading to unsound practices. A bank could provide a secure home for deposits and also a uniform medium of exchange. The bank primarily financed foreign trade, but did little lending to indigenous Nigerians, who had little to offer as collateral for loans.
Bank of British West Africa later metamorphosed into First Bank of Nigeria, the very first banking institution to be established on the African continent.
This year, FirstBank is 125 years old. In the past 125 years, FirstBank has a rich history marked by key milestones as it continues to demonstrate its enduring commitment to value creation for all of its stakeholders.
With over 10 million active customer accounts and more than 750 business locations, FirstBank provides a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services to customers and investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities available in Nigeria and its business locations across Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia.
Over the years, the bank designed products and services to support personal, family and business needs. Its array of products includes: cards, channels, transfer services, loans & advances, deposit products, guarantees, distributorship financing, cash management and foreign trade service. Through the different products, FirstBank creates convenience for its customers’ transactions, empower their businesses and offer flexibility of choice.
In a technology driven age, FirstBank leverages technology to drive optimised and cost-effective service delivery, enhance transaction efficiency, risk management as well as entrench collaboration, innovation and creativity.
Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank CEO says critical to the success of the bank in the last 125 years is innovation.
Adeduntan explains FirstBank has provided top-notch banking services and value to its stakeholders.
“The ability to reinvent ourselves; to bring disruption and be a part of that disruption. Today, we have the largest customer base and ATM network. We process more than 20% of the entire financial transactions that happen in the banking industry.”
In the last 125 years of its operations, FirstBank has more than 1.2 billion shareholders and it has financed several landmark projects in different sectors of the economy.
“In the area of finance, we have provided structural financing that has helped Nigeria. We have also helped in the development of manpower. Many of our past managing directors have become governors of Central Bank of Nigeria. We are the only bank that has issued more than 10 million cards to our customers. We are second in Africa.”
Also Oba Otudeko, group chairman, FirstBank Holdings, adds the 125thcelebration of FirstBank is a celebration of four generations of impact on the Nigerian economy.
“125this the beginning of business for FirstBank. We have founded an institution that has found other institutions. Even though we are an old institution, we are not old in our ways.”
In addition, part of the bank’s 125 years journey is the consistent support to small businesses. Ibukun Awosika, chairman, FirstBank, explains the bank has also empowered female entreprenuers through the many products and programmes it initiated, one of them is FirstGem.
“We are passionate about building small businesses as an entrepreneur myself. We have created a special product, FirstGem for women to encourage them save and not spend all that they have and also build strong businesses as entrepreneurs.”
For Adeduntan and the entire team at FirstBank, the next 125 years is a commitment to continue to provide quality services to its over 15 million customers, create value and exhibit wholesome teamwork and coordination among its staff.