In recognition of the importance of small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to the growth of the Nigerian economy, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has reiterated its support to the sector.
The leading Nigerian bank and financial service provider noted that the sector is critical in sustaining the growth of any economy, hence the need to give it the necessary support to grow, create job opportunities, add values and boost the economy.
Speaking on Tuesday at a panel discussion at the ongoing 2021 Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit tagged ‘Destination Lagos: Becoming the World’s Best Investment Destination’, Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, noted that SME is a very important aspect of what the bank does and also key to the overall growth of the economy.
“If there is anything that is generally agreed, it is that the path to growth of the Nigerian economy is by developing and growing the SMEs sector,” the First Bank CEO said.
For him, supporting SMEs will boost economic activities, and accelerate the growth of the economy to exceed population growth so that on a net basis, Nigeria will have a positive economic growth.
According to Adeduntan, First Bank is the largest lender to the Nigerian SMEs sector, amid providing them with a supportive portal and committed to sustaining the gesture in order to accelerate the growth of the economy.
Answering questions on what First Bank is doing to create local access to finance and how it is building capacity of SMEs, the First Bank CEO noted that apart from the huge lending, the bank offers more support to the sector through its SMEs Connect, a dedicated portal, which the bank uses to provide advisory services to SMEs, up their skills and capabilities in the areas such as preparing basic account statement, assisting them with choice of technology, among others.
“We have been very active in providing whether it is overdraft, loans and all types of structured debt instruments to our SME customers. But more importantly, the CBN as part of its economic stimulant plan, has put a scheme in place that supports banks and it has also provided more liquidity to banks to support lending to the SMEs sector and we have been very active in that sector,” he said.
He also disclosed that the bank’s portfolio of SMEs facilities is sizeable and that it is quite understanding, given the history of First Bank and Nigeria.
“By March 2021, we are going to be 127 years old, and by far, the oldest and largest institution in this part of the world. One of the reasons we have endured and will continue to thrive as an institution is our support for businesses that are relevant to the overall growth and development of the economy,” the CEO explained.
Though the SMEs Connect portal is about seven years old, Adeduntan noted that he is always inspired when he meets businesses that are now relatively big or sizeable telling him how about 20, 30, to 40 years ago, First Bank provided the seed capital that led to their emergence.