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Heritage Bank to empower more Micro Small and Medium Enterprises




Ifie Sekibo

Ifie Sekibo


Heritage Bank has re-affirmed its business principle to empower more Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria. This statement by the bank is in addition to many of the similar small businesses it has helped financially since it began operation.

This was made known recently  by the Group Managing Director, Heritage Bank, Mr. Ifie Sekibo at the Round Table Discussion and MSME Success Stories, themed: ‘The Economic Outlook-What Future for MSMEs in Nigeria?, where other experts brain-stormed along with him to fashion ways forward for the Nigerian SMEs.
As part of the bank’s commitment to empower the SMEs, Sekibo said led to launching of SMEs Clinic that will help small businesses address challenges associated with setting up businesses while mitigating the effect of certain decisions that may be taken.
Represented by Mary Akpobome who spoke extempore during a panel discussion noted that the clinic was established as a result of the gap left by financial service providers in failing to provide fresh ideas, solution based strategies and specialized service packages to small businesses.
He said although small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) have proved to be the crucial engines of industrial growth in developing economies like Nigeria, it is necessary to create strategies that can withstand the dynamics of the changing business environment rather than focusing on funds generation.
He said since the SMEs Clinic was established, many small businesses have sprung up and successfully on operation due to, not only the funding, but business advisory it freely offered, adding that financing is not the only problem SMEs face, but other necessary inputs.
He enumerated business built on enduring business platform, and business model among others stand the chance to get loan from the bank. “Heritage Bank was established as part of the effort to fill the gap left by financial service providers in failing to provide fresh ideas, solution based strategies and specialized service packages to small businesses. We pay a lot of attention to SMEs.
“Financing is not the problem, but the other business inputs. Heritage bank has raised a lot of small businesses with SME Clinic. With it, we have built a lot of enduring organisations; we have done more that advisory than money. For us to extend loan to you to finance your business, you must have good business model”, he said.
The industrial experts in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Nigeria’s real sector at occasion unanimously agreed that for the nation to have economic breakthrough as envisaged in the present dispensation of availability of investible funds from the government, the vision of sustainability in business should be taken as paramount by the operators.

The other experts from the financial institutions, business organisations and academia spoke in at the event in Lagos emphasised the relevance of booming SMEs to take the centre stage as a major driver of the economy as well as contributes immensely and filling the dollar drought gap being experienced in the country brought about by the fallen prices of crude in the international oil market.

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A senior lecturer, Lagos Business School, Dr. Doyin Salami, who opened the floodgate of speeches in his tagged presentation: ‘2015 Economic Outlook’ said the SME operational strategies in 2015 would be three-pronged on Election, Transition and Normalcy.

Salami, said who wins the present presidential election is not the main issue but the outcome of the election. He maintained that the positive outcome would lead to the smooth transition and expected normalcy in the socio-economic of the country.

He said presently, the dream of running the economy on a private-driven platform is being threatened by insecurity, uncertainty in an election year and the widening threats in communal clashes across the country.
He caution against continued emphases placed on oil as major source of foreign exchange to Nigeria, but urged the government to embrace industrialization by creating policies that would help leapfrog the Nigeria’s SME sub-sector, identified as backbone of any nation, both the industrialized and unindustrialized.
Presently, there over 17 million SMEs in Nigeria

He expressed fear that Nigeria is under fiscal break-even threat with international crude price below $60, insisting that for “Nigeria to balance the economy and be able to pay salaries both at the federal and states levels, the price of crude should hover between $65 and $75 per barrel.”
According to him, “there is a fundamental problem in 2015 and beyond if the down south movement in crude oil persists caused by oil glut. The development has led to the 2015 budget proposal of which the recurrent expenditure must be maintained at the expense of capital expenditure. Even some states government currently cannot be able to pay their workers’ salaries.
“Nigerians should no more live life as they wish but as they see it.”

Lead Consult ThistlePraxix, Dr. (Mrs.) Ini Onuk who spoke on ‘MSMEs and Sustainability’ said any entrepreneur who wants to succeed must identify opportunity, be creative, daring, and risk taking.

She stated that, entrepreneurs are men and women of action who are courageous, alert and sensitive to environment and possess ability to create visions concerning the business environment. She asserted that, the present high mortality rate of small business is awful to contemplate and constitute danger to the entire economic system. She said such development represents serious financial pressure on the nation’s economy as well as a waste of valuable resources.

With the current lull in the business activities as a result of the 2015 election year the business owners should always consider challenging situations and be prepared to meet them pre-planned strategies.
She said the trend where ownership stems mainly from the fact that most SMEs are family businesses structured along sole-proprietorship or partnership is no more in vogue, but needed expansion in terms ownership and decision making.
As a consequence, she argued that managerial decisions here are usually at the mercy of the key owner who in most cases lacks basic managerial skills, qualities and culture to manage a business successfully.
This Onuk regretted also has effects on the management structure and employees-employer relationship.

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SMEs should learn creative ways to manage difficult times, example the current condition occasioned by the forth coming 2015 general elections, adding that SMEs owners should always be prepared for unpredictable business situation.
She said also, SMEs should be surrounded by strong support network of trusted professional contact and close relations, especially the consultants for proper advise.
Lastly, she said the entrepreneur should always have a back up business plan for new products and services.

She concluded that there is no doubt that SMEs can be a source of development and an engine of growth as the case with Asian countries and America. She maintained that SMEs should therefore take their place in the economic policy priority of government in Nigeria.

Mr. Waheed Olagunju, Executive Director, (SME) Bank of Industry who spoke impromptu as a panelist member on ‘Opportunity and Growth Strategies Available for MSME 2015’highlighted some of the hindrances to easy access to available government’s intervention funds.

For him, it has become clear that the lack of trained manpower and management skills constitute major challenges to survival of MSMEs the banks observed before granting loans to borrowers.

He also added that inefficiency in overall business management and poor record keeping is also a major feature of most SMEs the bank put into consideration before granting loans.
According to him, the general requirements for accessing loans in the development bank include having a well-articulated business model, which should have about four sections. The first and second requirements require that the BoI know the business plan the applicant offers and his / her target market.
Third, the applicant must convince the bank of his/her value composition, that is, why people should buy his /her product(s). The applicant should be able to say how he/she intends to create the value proposition, Olagunju said.
Furthermore, the applicant must be able to articulate personnel requirements and identify markets for the products he/she wants to sell. He said “a lot of applications that come to BoI do not meet the standards,” while explaining why applicants need to take full advantage of the N220 billion Intervention Fund for SMEs scheme in Nigeria to improve their lives and the economy.

In order to cut down on the rate at which applications are rejected and ensure that applicants’ business plans meet the standards, the development bank is also coming up with the Business Support Fund (BSF), involving individuals who themselves are experienced in finance and articulation of business plans.
“The BSFs will receive applications from SMEs, look at them and then help repackage them so that by the time they get to BoI, they would have met the criteria of a bankable application.,” Olagunju said.

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Dangote Promo: 64-year-old Bricklayer, 20-year-old Artisan Win Star prize saloon cars in Ijebu-ode, Ikorodu



L-R: Head, Route to Market, Dangote Cement Plc, Olukayode Akin-Bamidele; Star prize (Saloon Car) Winner of the Dangote Cement Bag of Goodies Promo, Mr Iyowun Ezekiel; National Sales Director, Dangote Cement, Adeyemi Fajobi; and Regional Director, Lagos/Ogun, Dangote Cement, Tunde Mabogunje during the star prize presentation in the " BAG of GOODIES" Dangote Cement Promotion in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, on Thursday, August 15, 2019

…As 10 others collect tricycle, motorcycle, fridge, TV prizes

Two lucky Nigerians, including a 64-year-old bricklayer, Mr. Iyowun Ezekiel and 20-year-old artisan, Godwin Godday, have emerged the latest winners of Star prize GAC Saloon cars in the ongoing Dangote Cement ‘Bag of Goodies’ national consumer promo.

Elated Ezekiel, who is based in Ijebu-ode, Ogun state and has been a bricklayer for over 40 years, found his prize-winning scratch card in one of the Dangote cement promo bags he bought from a distributor in Ijebu-Mushin. On the other hand, Godday, who is the youngest winner of the Star prize so far, found his winning scratch card in Ikorodu, Lagos.

: Winner of Motorcycle, Kamilu Audu; Deputy Regional Director, Lagos/Ogun, Dangote Cement Plc, Desmond Aregbesola; Head, Route to Market, Dangote Cement Plc, Olukayode Akin-Bamidele; Star prize winner, Godwin Godday; Regional Director, Lagos/Ogun, Dangote Cement Plc, Tunde Mabogunje; and winner of Tricycle, Akintoye Oluwagbemiga, during the star prize and other prizes’ presentation in Ikorodu, Lagos State on Friday, August 16, 2019


Both star prize winners were given the keys to their brand new cars by top Dangote Cement officials at different handing-over ceremonies in Ijebu-ode and Ikorodu, alongside 10 other lucky promo winners, who carted home various prizes including a tricycle, a motorcycle, 8 refrigerators and two television sets; to the admiration of other Dangote Cement consumers, distributors and the general public.

While Mr. Akintaye Oluwagbemiga won a tricycle, Mr. Kamilu Audu won a motorcycle. Interestingly, Mr. Solomon Dayo won three out of the seven refrigerators presented at the Ikorodu event, while Messrs. Ohemu Friday, Innocent Agbo-James, Ransome Watels and Kehinde Adeagbo went home with one refrigerator each. There was also presentation of television sets to Mr. Dare Olajide and Mr. Oluwadare Gbenga. Likewise, Mr. Imam Adebisi Abdulhakeem, who won a refrigerator, collected his prize at the Ijebu-ode venue.

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Handing over the car keys to Ezekiel in Ijebu-ode, National Sales Director, Dangote Cement Plc, Mr. Adeyemi Fajobi told those gathered at the Local Government office venue that the cement promo is real and that there are many more choice prizes to be won.

According to him, all a consumer has to do is to buy the Dangote Cement products and open the bag, adding that whatever is stated on the scratch card is automatically won by the buyer, when taken to any approved depot for redemption of the prizes.

The National Sales Director added, “Only Dangote can do this. This is a promise fulfilled. Some people were skeptical when this promo began but today, this is proof of our sincerity”.

Also, Regional Director, Lagos/Ogun, Dangote Cement Plc, Mr. Tunde Mabogunje, while handing over the various prizes in Ikorodu, said excited consumers have been coming forward to collect their prizes in the ongoing promo.

According to him, scores of people have come to redeem their winning scratch cards for recharge cards worth Thousands of Naira, pointing out that the promo is a deliberate effort at rewarding the consumers. He also said the company is happy that the consumers are winning.

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Head, Route to Market, Dangote Cement Plc, Olukayode Akin-Bamidele said the promo was put up by the President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote to reward consumers’ patronage.

Ezekiel, who in a display of euphoria danced to the podium to claim his Star Prize of a GAC saloon car in Ijebu-ode, Ogun State, added dash to his win by sending a typed letter of appreciation to the Chairman of Dangote Cement Plc, Aliko Dangote.

The lucky star prize winner, who said he has been a bricklayer for over 40 years, expressed profound gratitude to Aliko Dangote and the Dangote Cement company for the ongoing promo, which has so far empowered thousands of Nigerians as winners of various prizes.

While celebrating his win with his son, Tayo Ezekiel (also a bricklayer) and members of his outfit, who donned “Thank you Dangote” t-shirts, Ezekiel disclosed that he had not won anything before until now, and enthused that the Dangote Cement ‘Bag of Goodies’ promo is a reality which has greatly helped Nigeria.

Speaking on how he emerged the star prize winner, Godday, who couldn’t take his education beyond Primary School due to lack of funds, said he was always watching out for winning cards in any cement bag he opened as a concrete mixer at a building site. He commended Dangote Cement for putting up the promo to alleviate poverty in the country.

The Dangote Cement ‘Bag of Goodies’ promo, which began nationwide in July and is to run till September ending, has so far yielded numerous winners of prizes in various categories.

Among other unique gifts, a total of 43 brand new cars, cash prizes of N200 million, 24 tricycles, 500 refrigerators, 24 motorcycles, 400 television sets, generators, Goodies packs, are available for winners in a promo, which has generated so much excitement among Nigeria, with over 21 million lucky winners targeted

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L-R: Matthew Daniel, student of Wesley School; Olusegun Alebiosu, Chief Risk Officer, FirstBank; Seyi Olusanya, student of Wesley School; Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank; Olayiwola Adeola, student of Wesley School and Mr. Kehinde Alimi, Principal, Wesley School 1, during FirstBank's visit to Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired at Surulere, Lagos as part of activities marking FirstBank's 2019 CR&S week.

Their excitement was exceptional that Saturday morning on 6 July 2019. It was an overflowing river of joy and gratitude they could not contain, pumping from their hearts. The students and staff of Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired, Surulere, Lagos had a good reason to be ecstatic.

The Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan – First Bank of Nigeria Limited – and a team of volunteers from the nation’s premier financial institution visited the school to demonstrate acts of random kindness. Provisions (Food supplies, drinks, toiletries) and educational materials were given to the school to cater for the hundreds of children under the care of Mr. Kehinde Alimi, Principal of Wesley School 1.

The visit to Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired was part of the 2019 CR&S Week activities by FirstBank. The Bank had its maiden CR&S week in 2017.
Expressing his gratitude, Alimi began his speech by asking the students of the school to shout, ‘three hallelujahs’, thereon stating “I sincerely thank every member of your team (FirstBank) for their kindness and generosity. For all you have given us, God will replenish you back a million times. To have reached this stage as an institution has not been easy, but we have been able to pull through with the support of God and organisations like yours. The sheer quantum of materials you have brought also shows that you recognise that we are two schools and not just one – Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired 1 for senior students and Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired 2 for the junior students. You have proved that FirstBank is indeed the first while others follow.”
Like Oliver Twist, Alimi couldn’t resist asking for more: “We thank you most sincerely for today’s visit and we kindly enjoin you to continue to find time to interact with us. For us to have been in your thoughts means that you are concerned about our welfare, but we will still be approaching you with requests. We want you to find time out of no time to come and be part of our programmes. We are grateful for your efforts and pray that God will continue to sustain the Bank and all its staff. Thank you very much for all your cumulative efforts.”
Dr. Adeduntan had explained that the FirstBank team came to the school to demonstrate the kindness that it preaches and to assure students and staff of its support.

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He said, “we believe that if all of us can show acts of kindness to people around us, we will make the world we live in a much better place for everyone. Our decision to come here today is to show appreciation to the management for shouldering the enormous responsibility of taking care of these children with special needs. This visit is also to assure the children who are schooling here that, as the popular saying goes, you will not walk alone.”

Commendably, Twenty-three other charity homes/institutes including camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were visited by FirstBank staff volunteers, led by senior members of staff. The Executive Director, Public Sector, FirstBank, Abdullahi Ibrahim with other volunteer employees visited the School for the Blind, Jabi, Abuja while the Group Head, Corporate Banking, Remi Ajose-Adeogun visited the Down Syndrome Foundation of Nigeria, Fagba, Lagos. Other visited locations were Madinatu and Almiskin IDP Camps, Maiduguri amongst others. Food supplies (provisions, drink, toiletries) and educational materials were delivered to all the visited homes.

The wide range of activities of the FirstBank CR&S week underscores SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness), a values-based initiative by the Bank which focuses on creating and reinforcing a conscious mindset of showing compassion, empathy as well as giving to others. It is aimed at inspiring people to make a difference as it is designed to promote kindness to one another. It is executed through a range of strategically designed activities including visits to homes for the less privileged members of society and talks about SPARK.

FirstBank’s visit to the various homes was particularly thoughtful in the light of the predicament of the less privileged and persons with disabilities in the country, estimated to be around 19 million by the National Population Commission in 2018. Many of these persons face several challenges including hunger, starvation, stigmatisation, discrimination and lack of access to healthcare, housing and education.

Though the government moved to intervene in their plight when President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 in January, there has yet been the expected respite for them hence, most of them rely on the benevolence of public-spirited institutions like FirstBank and individuals.

Considering the number of challenges that Nigerians living with disabilities face, especially lack of access to healthcare, housing and education, there’s no gainsaying the fact that they need all the care and support they can get. And by continuously including them in its plans since it commenced the enlarged CS&R Week in 2017, FirstBank has been at the forefront of providing support for the less privileged Nigerians by reiterating that no assistance is too much to help them live a fulfilled life.

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With the impacts made across over half a dozen countries that play host to the Bank’s business operations, the FirstBank 2019 CR&S week reinforced that philanthropy is no doubt embedded in its DNA.

About FirstBank

First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is the premier Bank in West Africa and the leading banking services solutions provider in Nigeria for 125 years. 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, FBNBank in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Senegal, as well as a Representative Office in Beijing.

Since its establishment in 1894, FirstBank has consistently built relationships with customers focusing on the fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, optimised risk management and leadership. Over the years, the Bank 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. With its global reach, FirstBank provides prospective investors wishing to explore the vast business opportunities that are available in Nigeria, an internationally competitive world-class brand and a credible financial partner.
FirstBank 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; “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” by Global Finance for 15 years. Our brand purpose is 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 consonance with our brand vision “To be the partner of first choice in building your future”. Our brand promise is to always deliver the ultimate “gold standard” of value and excellence. This commitment is anchored on our inherent values of passion, partnership and people, to position You First in every respect.

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Fidelity Bank Reinforces Commitment to Digital Technology, Adopts Open Banking




Consistent with its commitment to the adoption of innovative digital technology to drive its retail strategy, reduce cost and improve revenue and returns, Fidelity Bank has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Open Technology Foundation (OTF) for the adoption of a standard Application Programming Interface (API) for its operations as a financial institution.

Open Banking is a system that provides a user with a network of financial institutions’ data through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs). The Open Banking Nigeria Standard defines how financial data and services should be created, shared and accessed. By relying on networks instead of centralisation, open banking helps customers to securely share their financial data with other financial institutions.

The bank recently took a bold step to further provide its consumers with improved services and solutions that meet their needs by leveraging the collaborative model of Open Banking. Through this partnership, Fidelity Bank would deepen its financial services delivery through appropriate and time sensitive channels whilst collaborating with other stakeholders within the ecosystem.

Open Banking has been seen as the most transformational financial technology over the next decade which has seen about 47 countries at various stage of implementation. Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria signaled its intention to lead Africa in digital payments innovation with the request for information about the National Payments System Vision 2030 for which Open Banking is a strategic priority.

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Additionally, Fidelity Bank has by this development, joined other leading banking and financial services industry players, who have not only adopted but are also promoting this mode of operation, which among other benefits would drastically consolidate customer satisfaction, grow revenue across diverse streams, promote financial inclusion, as well as assure a smooth but controlled data flow.

“As a digitally innovative and forward-thinking bank, we believe in the importance of investing in digital technologies and its significant contributions to shaping the future of banking globally” said Fidelity Bank CEO, Nnamdi Okonkwo.

“Therefore, this partnership with the Open Technology Foundation for the adoption of a standard, industry-wide API is a step in the right direction and is in alignment with our commitment to digital innovation, for the satisfaction of our customers” he explained further.

The Open Technology Foundation was established to analyse the need of the industry for a common API standard among banks and other financial institutions, develop the common API standards, provide a sandbox and other testing tools for certification, promote the adoption of an Open Banking standard with stakeholders across Nigeria, and to enable further innovation in the financial services industry.

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“At Open Technology Foundation, it is our utmost delight to collaborate with players across the banking and services ecosystems for the introduction, adoption and promotion of Open Technology practices. We are convinced that this is one great move that would transform the financial space in Nigeria, with ripple effects across other industries in the country and by extension Africa,” said Ope Adeoye, a trustee of Open Technology Foundation.

Focused on select niche corporate banking sectors as well as Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Fidelity Bank is rapidly implementing a digital based retail banking strategy which has resulted in exponential growth with savings deposits tripling over the last five years and over 40 percent of customers enrolled on the Bank’s flagship mobile/internet banking products.

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