Feature: FirstBank leads Other Banks in its COVID-19 Response

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By Dorcas Omotayo

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The global pandemic which is currently ravaging the world, has brought in its wake economic disruption, deaths, anxiety, mental health concerns and uncertainties. As several organisations have cut down on staff strength and implemented other business continuity plans, FirstBank of Nigeria has shown thought leadership in its maverick approach of dealing with the pandemic.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), financial institutions reported a GDP growth rate of 24% for the first quarter of 2020, which is a better growth compared to other sectors. Irrespective of the recorded growth, the banking industry just like other hard-hit industries is faced with several challenges like; cybersecurity breaches, operational cost, fee reduction, economic contraction, credit losses among others.

Despite the current challenges, FirstBank has continued in its efforts to not only ensure safety of both employees and customers but also assist the government as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with palliatives. It would be recalled that in April 2020, the bank gave a 90-days moratorium to SMEs and a special waiver on repayment of fees to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

As a brand that puts its staff and customers safety first, in June 2020, the bank swung into swift action of disinfecting a branch where one of its staff tested positive to the COVID-19. Rather than go to sleep and be complacent about its response, the bank asked all staff in the said branch to get tested and isolate for the required period of time. However, to ensure business continuity in the branch, the bank deployed a fresh team of staff well equipped with personal protection kits.

However, in a time like this, when the rate of unemployment is currently pegged at 23.1% and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) forecasts that the country may see a spike in that figure by next year, to 33.5% if the government do not take some radical steps. Amid all these, some banks are mulling staff layoffs, taking pay cut to reduce cost and introducing technology to perform certain task.

The contrary is the case for FirstBank, as the bank has realised that staff motivation is essential in increasing productivity and weathering the storm during these dire times. The bank was reported to have promoted some of its staff across all levels both locally and across borders. This has further authenticated the banks’ ranking as one of the best places to work in Nigeria and globally.

Also, with the obvious gap in the health and education sector in Nigeria, FirstBank has placed these two sectors on the front burner of its corporate social responsibility. According to UNICEF, one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria and about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we may have an increased number due to the fact that several rural children lack access to e-learning platforms.

In a bid to salvaging the situation which the education sector has been plunged into, FirstBank partnered IBM, Roducate e-learning and the Lagos State Government to move One Million children to e-learning. Through this initiative, children will be mentored and become involved in the acquisition of technological and futuristic skills to enable them assume leadership positions in the future while being able to compete with their peers in developed countries.

There is no gainsaying that the premier financial institution with over 750 business locations and 44,000 Banking Agents spread across 99% of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria has against all odds championed a substantial response to the coronavirus pandemic. From donating the sum of One Billion naira towards the joint effort by the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) to implementing a social media campaign in salutation of the country’s frontline warriors, FirstBank will always retain its spot in customers and stakeholders heart as the first always.

Dorcas Omotayo is an Assistant Editor at www.newswings.com.ng

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