Since he became the Managing Director of First Bank Nigeria Group FBNBank Sierra Leone, Nelson Akande has consistently maintained an opened- door policy to all his clients. He is easily accessible, with a friendly demeanor. Simple and approachable, he has enlarged his clientele and profitability levels upward since assumption of duties. He spoke on a number of topical issues like the current restructuring on-going at the Group Head Office in Nigeria, the new Trade Policies as they affect the Bank’s West African Branches and other current issues
The Group is embarking on Trade financing. What impact will it have on the subsidiaries in Africa?
Trade financing simply means financing imports and exports. The local goods and services that are produced locally constitute the exports, while the imports are the ones that insufficiently produced here or are wholly imported. FBNBank has provided letters of Credit line to support subsidiaries in their drive to support trade businesses. For instance, FBNBank Sierra Leone has a trade line of $5 million.
However, the major challenge in the Sierra Leone Market is that most of the businesses desire to execute funds transfer as a condition set by their suppliers. So it has been difficult pushing this product in the market. However, with the help of the Bank of Sierra Leone, we’ve been trying to get a couple of businesses willing to key into this product.
The advantages of letters of credit are numerous. The right duties and taxes are paid, with no under invoicing. Proceeds come back into the country. So if we don’t utilize the $5 million allocated to us, the group would not want to increase it in future. The country benefits from letters of credit than advance payments for their trade transactions.
You are now a year or more as Managing Director. How has the journey been so far?
Consistent with our business strategy, we looked at the market and segmented it to allow for a clear view of opportunities that exists in various sector of the market and the Sierra Leonean economy at large. We also carried out risk assessment on our retail and corporate customers and the insights from the assessment has helped us reconstitute our marketing teams to service this segment of the market. The net effect of this approach is evident in our improved customer base and deposits.
We have grown our deposits as a bank from Le58 Billion when we took over the organization to Le84 Billion, at the close of business last year. Our profits grew by about 49 percent last year from Le4.1 Billion after tax in 2013, to Le6.1 Billion profit after taxin 2014.
In putting our employees at the heart of our business, we have improved our recruitment strategy to attract and retain the best talents in the industry as we deliver the ultimate ‘gold standard’ of value and excellence to our stakeholders.
How do you see the future of FBNBank in the banking sector in Sierra Leone?
Our oulook for the future of FBNBank is positive in view of the opportunites available in this market, we intend to increase our branch network as an approach to drive banking convenience and financial inclusion. We are upgrading our core banking application to meet the business needs of our existing and prospective customers. We expect these strides to positively impact our earnings and grow our deposits while driving our customer acquisition and retention objectives.
First Bank of Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of FBN Holdings Plc, is Nigeria’s leading financial services institution by total assets and gross earnings and one of the largest corporate and retail banking financial institutions in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa). Since its establishment in 1894, the Bank has consistently built relationships with customers focusing on fundamentals of good corporate governance, strong liquidity, risk management and strong capitalization.
FirstBank operates an extensive distribution network with over 750 business locations (623 branches, 61 quick service points and 69 cash centers/agencies), over 2,500 ATM’s and over 9 million customer accounts. The Bank provides a comprehensive range of financial services and has international presence through its subsidiaries, FBN Bank (UK) Limited in London and Paris, FBNBank DR Congo, FBNBank Ghana, FBNBank The Gambia, FBNBank Guinea, FBNBank Sierra-Leone and FBNBank Senegal as well as its Representative Offices in Johannesburg, Beijing and Abu Dhabi.
FirstBank is the recipient of many awards. The Bank has been named “The Best Bank Brand in Nigeria” five times in a row – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – by the globally renowned “The Banker Magazine” of the Financial Times Group. FirstBank’s brand purpose is to always put its stakeholders, customers and partners at the heart of its business, even as it is poised to standardize customer experience and excellence in financial solutions across Sub Saharan Africa, in consonance with its brand vision “To be the partner of first choice in building your future”. The brand promise is to always deliver the ultimate “gold standard” of value and excellence. This commitment is anchored on the FirstBank’s inherent values of passion, partnership and people, to position its customers first in every respect.
For four consecutive years, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 FirstBank was named the “Best Retail Bank in Nigeria” by the Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards. Other recent awards include the “Best Bank in Nigeria” in the Euromoney Awards for Excellence, “Best Bank in West Africa” and “Most Innovative Bank in Africa” in the African Banker Awards, “Best Bank in Nigeria” in the EMEA Finance African Banking Awards for the fourth time, “Best Foreign Exchange Services in Africa” in the EMEA Finance Treasury Services Awards, “Best Banking Group in Nigeria” by World Finance Banking Awards, and “Best Financial Reporting Company” by Africa Investor.