Alebiosu’s Confirmation As New CEO To Foster Era Of Consolidation, Growth At FirstBank

By Edu Abade

FirstBank of Nigeria Limited has expressed confidence that Mr. Olusegun Alebiosu’s confirmation as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) affirms an era of consolidation of its rich culture of accelerated growth and excellent service to its customers in Nigeria and beyond.

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In a statement, the first generation financial institution said: “FirstBank’s 130 years of gripping history is a corporate handbook in many ways. Its fortunes are as great a lesson as its challenges. Its leadership and choice of leaders are fascinating chapters of the book it has become, validating the notion that each era in human history is shaped by the king of the moment. This is true across the corporate environment but uniquely applicable to Nigeria’s premier bank.

“For its diffused ownership structure, its leadership is particularly dynamic, adding a great deal of variety to the journey. The confirmation of Olusegun Alebiosu as the new Chief Executive officer of the bank is seen as a consolidation of the rich culture of the bank. At a peculiar juncture in its 130 years of incorporation, the market has seen a new FirstBank that is ready to compete with the new entrants to recover the market it was holding in its grip as a monopolist.”

FirstBank explained that it is consolidating on its adoption of the new ‘click’ banking through which it has invested heavily in digital infrastructure, adding that the success Alebiosu helped to create at the corporate performance of the First Quarter (Q1) 2024, which heralded him was impressive across top and bottom-line indicators.

First, the bank’s total assets rose by 28 percent year-on-year to N20.7 trillion, while gross earnings rose by 178 percent to N682.5 billion on strong growth in the credit portfolio (which was 33 percent up from December 2023). Non-interest income, which reflected the robust transactional platforms, doubled year-on-year to N224.6 billion compared with N110 billion it earned in Q1 2023.

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Alebiosu also rode on powerful bottom-line indicators with profit before tax rising by almost 300 percent to N209.8 billion and profit after tax growing to N188.5 billion-a reflection of a decade of robust performance of the FirstBank Group that feeds into the holding company that has become the toast of the investing public in recent years.

For one, FirstMobile, its digital banking application emerged as a household name in the financial technology ecosystem. In 2015, when the platform was still in its infancy stage, its user base reached 60,000, a figure that has increased to over six million as of last year. That has contributed immensely to changing the market’s perception of the institution as a traditional bank to an innovative digital bank.

“Today, over 85 per cent of its transactions are initiated via digital platforms, according to insights provided by the bank. That suggests that while it consolidates on its hedge as a saver’s bank, it has also emerged as a transaction-driven bank. FirstMobile appears to have hit the bull’s eye in the bank’s reinvention drive and efforts to appeal to younger demographics.

“However, the platform is only one of the many telecommunications-driven initiatives the bank has innovated to get young depositors on board. FirstOnline has also grown in leaps in terms of users – from about 90,000 to over one million in less than a decade.

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“Also, USSD banking, under the watch of the immediate past handler, is even more successful with users increasing by about 3,000 percent in the last eight years to 15 million. What USSD banking (which targets feature phone users and rural communities where internet penetration is still very low) has done for the bank is giving a part of it to the original owners – rural dwellers and non-Internet natives who had never known any other bank than FirstBank,” the statement reads.

The success of Firstmonie Agent Banking also validates its age-long popularity in rural areas. Last year alone, its Firstmonie Agent Banking services processed over ₦1.1 trillion in transactions, more than double the amount handled by seven other big banks. Its strategic investments in technology include the development of its interactive transaction banking platform known as FirstDirect2.0 and the introduction of the humanoid robot to the banking ecosystem in the country.

The smart banking initiatives have been complemented by its Digital Xperience Centres (DXC), which are currently located in Lagos, Ibadan and Abuja with plans to open more across the country. Overall, its digital banking has evolved in both volume and public perception even with artificial intelligence-driven commercials complementing its digital imprints.

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Ease, convenience and reliability created in recent years have moved the customer base from 0.6 million in 2015 to well over 42 million customer accounts as of 2023. This number, according to the immediate past Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, would double in the near future as the tier-1 financial institution migrates more aggressively to transaction-led banking.

Last year, its holding company earned N171.8 billion in income from fees and commissions, a 46 percent year-on-year growth, demonstrating its success as a transaction-led bank. Its fee and commission income growth were not an exception but drew from impressive performances across the board. Its operating profit also jumped by 129 percent, much higher than the industry average, to N361.8 percent, leading to an earnings per share of N8.56k.

Total assets also grew by 60 percent to N16.3 trillion and like other metrics had witnessed over 300 percent expansion from 2015 when it was N4.2 trillion. FirstBank also experienced aggressive growth in its customer base in the past nine years, growing from 10.9 million to over 42 million customers, leading to the aggressive growth of the bank’s fee and commission income.

Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600,

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