Friday, June 30, 2017 10:02 am
Since he resumed as the Managing Director of FBN Bank in Sierra Leone, Adekunle Amujo has been assiduously undertaking transformation programs. He recently launched two new banking products in the Sierra Leonian market-ATM and online banking. He is optimistic that FBN Bank will, in the immediate future, be the leading bank in Sierra Leone. He spoke to Abubakar Hashim on his mission and vision for the bank
Q: You resumed duties as Managing Director of FBN Bank almost a year ago. How has the journey been so far?
It has been a journey of transformation. When First Bank of Nigeria Plc took over the operations of International Commercial Bank (ICB) in the West African Region, Sierra Leone happens to be one of the five regions that were taken over. The initial plan of the group was to integrate the five banks into the FirstBank Group structure, align the processes, the structures, and the operating systems. The activities around the integration started at the different subsidiaries.
However, Sierra Leone was caught up in the Ebola crisis. So for almost two years, all the integration plans could not take off because of the crisis. So I started the integration process upon my resumption almost a year ago. The first thing we did was the changeover of our banking application to Finnacle10 which is about the most robust banking application in banking industry in Africa. It is internet-based and can support all forms of e-business banking transactions. The previously used banking application could not support ATM, on-line banking and all other modern forms of banking. The change over to Finnacle 10 was a huge investment to our bank and this happened mid last year. Consequently, we invested in the training of staff; about 6 staff were sent to India for two weeks to study the use of the Finnacle 10 application.
We also reviewed our pay structure to make it competitive and motivate staff. So the journey so far has been one of putting the structures in place, motivating and equipping our staff for efficient performance to serve our valued customers.
Two new banking products, the ATM and the internet banking have commenced. What impact will these have on the banking operations?
These products launch marked the beginning of the customer –focused products that the bank is undertaking. The two products are to make banking experience easier for our customers. With your ATM card, you don’t need to come to the banking hall. At any of our two locations, you can do your transactions. You do your banking any hour of the day. You can also transfer to other accounts through the ATM. Even to other banks.
These are in addition to the SMS banking we introduced last year. You can get alert on all your transactions. We also have the on –line banking which is very beneficial to our corporate customers. The advantages are numerous and these include: payments to vendors, payments of salaries to staff and other services at ease. You carry your bank with you with on-line banking. Even outside Sierra Leone, your bank is in your hand.
Surveys independently conducted show the need for FBN Bank Sierra Leone to increase its branch network. Customers are eagerly waiting. Do you have the intention to do so and when?
We inherited two branches from ICB. This year, the plan is to have another two branches. These two branches will not be in Freetown. This is to take our services to customers outside Freetown, in other locations in the country. This is to facilitate customers accessing our services nationwide.
FirstBank is one of the banks that support businesses. No big business operates without having an account with FirstBank and we have supported the growth of several businesses over the years. It is the same kind of approach that we are applying in FBN Bank Sierra Leone, supporting SMES, large-scale companies, giving them the platform to grow their businesses.
Today’s banking is not in the brick and mortar structure. Beyond expanding our branch network, there are other alternative banking channels that the bank will launch in the course of the year. These channels include the USSD, the mobile banking and Agency banking.
How do you see the immediate future of FBN Bank in Sierra Leone?
FBN Bank Sierra Leone is going to be the leading bank in this market. We have a rich heritage from our parent bank, First Bank of Nigeria Plc which has been named the most valuable banking brand in Nigeria for the sixth consecutive time by the globally renowned “The Banker Magazine” of the Financial Times Group. We are the bank of first choice. This is the position we are going to take in the Sierra Leone market. How do we get to this position? By constantly putting our customers first. Our brand promise in First Bank is ‘You First’. This is a bank that is customer-focused. We are customer –centric as we focus on meeting the banking needs of our customers, delight them with excellent services and prompt response to their transaction requests. We have in place technological infrastructure and channels that will enable us provide excellent service to our customers. Our staff are trained in customer service, in understanding and responding to customers’ needs. We are confident that we will be, in the shortest time, a reference point for customer service and satisfaction.
What we have done in Sierra Leone so far is numerous. We have financed quite a number of projects in the country. We have provided facilities for local and international contractors. We have also provided facilities for infrastructural developments, in terms of road construction. We have also provided large-scale equipments, asphalt plants, quarry plants, and the likes to contactors to deliver their services. These are the supports we have already provided to our customers, we do it to capacitate them to deliver services in the country. We are also supporting the infrastructural development in the country. This is the focus of this government and we align our banking services to meet up the aspirations of the government’s goals and objectives. The FirstBank Group is known to partner with the government, local and international companies, to meet their desired goals and objectives. We support contracts that government awards to contractors to acquire assets, equipment and the likes. We also provide our customers with working capital to execute these projects, even without advance payments from government.