With the growing macroeconomic headwinds, companies operating in the country are faced with an unattractive return for shareholders and the public at large. Undeniably, companies’ operations suffered setbacks but some companies’ effective business strategies have enhanced corporate responsibility and sustainability. KAYODE TOKEDE captures the impact of FBN Holdings sustainable interventions on stakeholders and its outlook for the future.
Since its creation 123 years ago, 1894 to be precise, FirstBank has retained its number one position as the strongest financial institution in the country and this has transited into a strong Holdings Company.
The FBNHoldings emerged from the erstwhile FirstBank Group in 2012 to effectively diversify and leverage the synergy of the group’s financial services businesses, and actively provide a full range financial services to customers, FBN Holdings’ success story can be attributed to the corporate responsibility and sustainability which are deeply rooted across the communities where it does business.
The financial institution’s corporate responsibility and sustainability goes beyond financing economic activity in a responsible way to ensuring an inclusive, positive impact on communities and individuals including its staff.
It is about creating long-term stakeholder value by adopting the opportunities and managing the associated environmental, social and governance risks.
The premier financial institution’s corporate responsibility and sustainability approach is three-pronged: citizenship, stakeholder management and impact management.
Citizenship and stakeholder management involve putting into consideration the needs of stakeholders in making decisions, while impact management is basically about minimizing negative impacts and increasing positive impacts on society.
Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings Plc, UK Eke, said a sustainable business means a commitment to meeting the needs of present and future stakeholders.
According to him, “It’s about responsibly financing economic activity to enhance financial inclusiveness and positively impact our communities.
“We have demonstrated our dedication to ensuring our stakeholders continue to thrive despite the very challenging economic environment. We have made significant progress in the use of environmental, social and governance management system (ESGMS) following the formal approval of the Board.
“I am delighted to report that sequel to the deployment of the ESGMS, we have effectively driven responsible lending and mitigated the associated environmental, social and governance risks by ensuring all transactions are screened for ESG risks. This framework for screening ESG risks has been deployed across all lending institutions within the Group.
“In addition, to enable the full integration of sustainability within the Group, 50 percent of employees were trained on sustainability by First Academy in partnership with FirstBank Sustainability Centre at the Lagos Business School and University of Edinburgh. This tailor-made training has ensured that Boards, management and employees have been trained on sustainability.
“Consistent with our corporate values, we recognized the need for continuing our leading role in 2016 in financial literacy and sustainability thought leadership,” he added.
The financial institution sustainability approach is designed to deliver value in a structured way along four key areas. These are: driving sustainable finance & investments; empowering people; supporting communities and contributing to environmental sustainability.
Driving sustainable Finance & Investments
The largest financial institution in total assets remain consistent with responsible approach of providing opportunities for stakeholders – improving their livelihoods, their families and communities; as well as ensuring that business and investment decisions are based on considerations of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.
At FBNHoldings, the management has continued to reinforce its responsibility at enhancing the quality of life and financial security of customers with designed sustainable products and services tailored to meet their needs and expectations.
The Group through its flagship subsidiary, Through First Bank of Nigeria Limited has consistently maintain its industry leadership position through the deployment of mobile money platform, Firstmonie, the mobile app, FirstMobile as well as the planned deployment of the agency banking model which the Bank intend to use to drive its customer acquisition drive by moving the customer base to 30 million from the present 14 million in the next three years.
To further enhance the value of offerings to its diversified customers, the financial institution has improved on its ATM services performance with the service optimization well over 95% uptime level and ramped up on the number of ATM platforms with active terminals standing at about 2,779 the largest of any Bank in the country with about 15 per cent of the total ATM platform share.
The total value of cash dispensed by First Bank of Nigeria ATMs in 2016 to both customers and other banks’ customers was N2.6 trillion (23 per cent growth from N2 trillion dispensed in 2015).
In line with the Group’s financial inclusion strategy, First Bank of Nigeria has continued to provide business management resources and tools for download and use by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on the FirstBank dedicated SME website and an e-commerce portal, where SMEs and individual entrepreneurs can advertise and sell their goods and services.
The Group has prioritized the empowerment of women led SMEs as it acknowledges that women are not only a major driver for the development of the economy, but also given that one third of all SMEs in developing countries are led by women and they are been largely deprived of the necessary funds and working capital to expand or even start-up.
Therefore, providing more investment opportunities and building capacity for women-led SMEs are vital for developing economies.
Over 3300 SMEs have benefitted from the capacity building programme of the Bank and the recently launched women-led financial service, FirstGEM is another testament of the Bank’s commitment to women-led SME.
The Group, through its subsidiaries, has identified the achievement of service excellence as an important non-financial priority. At FirstBank, to ensure customers’ complaints are properly handled, every customer on the Bank’s book has a relationship manager (RM).
The RM is the main point of contact for the customer and ensures each account is functioning in accordance with the customer’s expectations.
As part of Know Your Customer (KYC) requirement of verifying the identity of our customers, the RM reviews the account with the customer, currently on an annual basis and identified as part of stakeholder engagement designed to embed sustainability in the Group.
The Group recognized the importance of people to the success and survival of the business and one of the Group’s goals is to nurture and develop employees who are truly brand ambassadors not only while they are with the organization, but also ambassadors who will remember their time with the company long after they have left.
This approach underpins the sustainability approach as fulfilled employees contribute to the success of the company now and in the future.
The Group responsible approach to empowering employees includes Talent Management and capacity building.
Talent Management is a framework designed to have the right people with the right skills doing the right job at the right time and for the right cost.
The full implementation of Talent Management with a focus on the Retail Business employees began in 2016. The initiative was piloted in 2015 and was reinforced in 2016 as part of efforts to building capacity of employees
In addition to face-to-face training approach, FBN Holdings leveraged mobile technology in building capacity for employees. Across all learning platforms, it has achieved 222,628 total training credit hours – exceeding 107 per cent of targeted 208,230.
The Group efforts at engendering diversity in the workplace include having in place a diversity policy that encourages inclusion.
The diversity and inclusion objective is to be a recognized industry leader in workforce diversity and leverage diversity for the growth of the Group and the success of the customers and communities we serve.
For the staff strength, its male- female ratio stands at 61:39 across the workforce. Through the Employee Volunteering & Giving programme, the Group’s employees are provided with a platform that allows them to participate in socially responsible initiatives that impacts their community, giving them a sense of ownership in building the brand and at the same time fulfilling their yearnings to show care and support for the needy.
The Group is also committed to fostering a safe work environment where the safety, security and wellbeing of workers are protected.
Part of this includes the operation of a clinic where ailing staff can have access to first aid and preliminary medical treatments before visiting the hospital.
The Group is committed to the community in which it operates. Its involvement with various stakeholders, host communities inclusive is not just about profit generation, but rather the realization that often most effective currency is the skills and opportunities we can share with them.
Also, its commitment to host communities forms a greater core of corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts that have structured along four key priorities to deliver long lasting impact.
These are Education, Health and Welfare, Economic Empowerment and the Environment. These are further subdivided into the following programmes: FutureFirst Programme, Educational Endowment Scheme, Youth Leadership Programme, Infrastructure Development Programme, Hope Rising Initiative and Employee engagement and volunteering programme.
Contributing to Environmental Sustainability
Environmental protection is about adopting effective ways in operating the Group’s business ensuring that natural resources and the climate are conserved and well protected.
The fundamentals of the Group remains very strong and upside and this is a testament of the stakeholders trust in the brand and that spurs the belief that the sustenance and survival of the Group is greatly dependent on the sustainability of the environment and communities where it operates.
FBN Holdings approach to environmental sustainability is two-fold based on direct and indirect impacts.
The approaches to reducing the direct impacts of operations include minimize carbon footprints; work towards carbon neutrality as well as promote wildlife and biodiversity conservation and preservation.