By Marozoka Oruame

By 2024, First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) will be 130 years and one of the oldest banks not just in Nigeria but on the African continent.  Established  in 1894, FirstBank is the premier bank in West Africa, Nigeria’s number one bank brand and dominant financial services solutions provider in the country.

Founded by Sir Alfred Jones, a shipping magnate from Liverpool, England, in 1894, what has now now become the premier bank in West Africa and Nigeria’s number one bank brand, commenced   business on a modest scale in Lagos, under the name, Bank of British West Africa (BBWA).

It is now more than a century of evolutions for FirstBank  now deemed as Nigeria’s foremost financial services group.

RELATED FirstBank: Redefining The ‘Heritage Of First’ With Smart Digital Banking

Despite being in the league of the ‘old generation’ banks, FirstBank has constantly re-invented itself, its people and processes leveraging massive use of digital technology to provide  top of the edge financial solution fast, robust, secured and bring pleasant experiences to millions of customers.

As Executive Director at Wellness Africa Foundation and Agricultural Economist, Akintunde Akinmolayan notes: “The metamorphosis of the institution through the years to one with technology-driven platforms where innovative products and services are creatively delivered to end users makes the resilient and proactive bank one of the most dynamic organisations to work in corporate Nigeria and a worthy model to study and emulate.”

FirstBank unveiled its “Century II” business transformation project in 1996; a positive denotation of “disintegration of the old to facilitate the emergence of the new.” With  Century II, the bank achieved profound success that transformation has become a template oh how organisations in a dynamic market could “successfully execute a corporate renewal programme in a hypercompetitive business environment”


Riding on the 1996 launch of Century II, and following its profound success, FirstBank in 2001, re-launched the initiative as “The Century II Project: The New Frontiers”  which helped the bank to drive an “unambiguous objective of realigning her learning and development strategy for the 21 century with her corporate strategy.”

In fact, the bank’s successful renewal is the subject of research work, Accelerating Corporate Transformation in Emerging Markets: The Case of First Bank by Ifedapo Adeleye (2015), Georgetown University.

The FirstBank study offers insights on “how market incumbents can transform themselves and outcompete younger, seemingly more entrepreneurial players.”


The study further shows how FirstBank. in a transitional market, is able to “leverage technical, information technology (IT) issues, and [not] leave out the so-called ‘soft issues’ [proving that] transformation best works when process and structural transformation is complemented by radical changes in organization design and talent management systems.”

Today, the results have been outstanding. FirstBank maintains her lead in Nigeria’s financial sector and still stays strong at the top as the country’s ‘Most Trusted Financial Organization.’

FirstBank has over 750 business locations and more than 130,620 Banking Agents spread across 99% of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria. The bank provides an array of retail and corporate financial services to serve its over 30 million customers. It 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 Johannesburg, Beijing and Abu Dhabi.

In his research work on “The Impacts of ICTs on Banks A Case study of the Nigerian Banking Industry,” Matthew K Luka Modibbo (2012) Adama University of Technology, Adama notes FirstBank’s leadership in leveraging technology to better “improve the efficiency and effectiveness of services offered to customers, and enhances business processes, managerial decision making, and workgroup collaborations, which strengthens their competitive positions in rapidly changing and emerging economies,”
Further more, the study considers the impacts and trends of ICTs on the banking industry of the 21st century in terms of “productivity, market structure, Innovation and value chain”  – all of which FirstBank takes a robust lead.

FirstBank’s tech-interface with customers is considered the most innovative and friendly by millions of users. The bank has brought innovations into the banking system through web and mobile application allowing customers flexible, secured access  to banking access from anywhere.

The bank offers a suite of  ebanking products and services that makes customers’ online banking experience both exciting and rewarding. First Econnect allows users to pay bills, send/receive money, monitor every transaction on their account, make cashless purchases online. First Online offers just a simple online click  to perform transactions that include funds transfers, and bill payments amongst others.

As a market leader, FirstBank has constantly pioneered landmarks products and services. The bank is at the forefront of promoting digital payment in the country and has issued over 10 million cards, the first bank to achieve such a milestone in the country. Its cashless transaction drive extends to having more than 10 million people on its USSD Quick Banking service through the nationally renowned *894# Banking code and over 4.5 million people on FirstMobile platform.

Making banking services to come with ease, FirstBank is already offering ‘MyBankStatement service, allowing users with FirstBank accounts to send their bank accounts e-statement directly to third-party users like embassies, commercial banks, and other financial institutions.

Similarly, electronic statements otherwise known as eStatements has over the years proven to be an easy tech solution that customers use to review their transactions. The estatements is designed in a way that only the owner of a particular account can access securely through FirstBank Online Banking—whether it’s for your checking, savings, or money market accounts.

FirstBank recently hosted the SMEConnect webinar to update business owners on current technologies as they concern e-payments system.  It is part of her efforts to maintain her roles of promoting sustainability and viability of the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), and get them enlightened on other Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs) existing in the country.

Last year, the bank also launched its newly redesigned website (https://www.firstbanknigeria.com/.)  The website is upgraded with features that are streamlined to reinforce its role in delivering seamless banking and technology solutions to its customers across the world. Designed with improved functionality that eases customer experience whilst carrying out various activities on the site, including electronic banking. Non-customers are also able to open an account, giving them an edge in the industry as they establish a relationship with the bank that prides itself in putting its customers First.

The bank recently ended her Verve Debit Card promo implementing a 50-million-naira worth of prizes to foster electronic card-based transactions over cash.

“We are happy with the … verve debit card promo designed to appreciate customers for their continued usage and adoption of the card for various digitally-driven transactions,” said FirstBank’s Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, Chuma Ezirim.

The Verve debit card is a Naira-denominated debit card that offers a convenient, fast, and secured payment for goods and services. It is accepted on all channels connected to the Verve International network where the Interswitch/ Verve logo is displayed; ATMs, POS and Web in Nigeria. The Bank’s Verve debit Cards make up a notable percentage of the industry’s base.

Noteworthy, FirstBank pioneered initiatives in international money transfer and electronic banking in the country, serving more than nine million customer accounts.

Not surprisingly in recognition of its achievements, 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.

But the bank is not slowing down on innovations and gratitude to the more than 30 million customers in Nigeria and overseas that have accounted for its success. Three years ago, Group Managing Director of FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan expressed the bank’s mood thus:  “125 years of supporting and enabling dreams, 125 years of resilience and relevance, 125 years of trust, safety and security, 125 years of long term value to all stakeholders, 125 years woven into the fabric of our society and therefore we dare say, 125 years beyond comparison,”

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