Around the world, evidence has shown that access to financial services contributes to both economic growth and wealth creation, and therefore can be vital in breaking the “poverty” trap in Nigeria. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that less than 50% of women and roughly 57% of men in Nigeria are financially included. A survey conducted in Nigeria in 2008 by a development finance organization, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, found that an average of 53% of adults were then excluded from financial services. This was one of the reasons for the launch of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy on October 23, 2012 – to reduce the exclusion rate from 53% to 20% by 2020. Agent and Money Banking mobile were listed among the tools to drive the strategy.
As part of measures to provide financial services to the underserved, unbanked and economically disadvantaged, First Bank of Nigeria Limited launched the Firstmonie agent program in July 2017, enabling ordinary citizens across the country to offer financial services wherever possible. These agents, which some have affectionately referred to as human ATMs, actually do a lot more than your regular bank ATMs.
Literally, a good number of services sought in a banking hall are accessible from Firstmonie agents; open an account, make deposits, withdrawals, transfers and pay bills. It might have been more appropriate to call them “Mobile Human Banks”. From a pilot program in 6 populous states, Firstmonie agents have expanded to all states in Nigeria and 772 of the 774 local government areas.
In 2021 alone, over 63,000 agents have been onboarded, with a total of over 150,000 Firstmonie agents across the country. As of December 9, 2021, agents have completed nearly one billion transactions, valued at 17.51 trillion since their inception.
To make it easier to enter the program, FirstBank has lowered the barriers to entry, so all you need is an existing business, a visible and accessible business location, valid identification, a utility bill, and the BVN. In this way, FirstBank has empowered its agents to earn money and grow their businesses, while playing a vital role in the national economy.
In November 2019, approximately 37 top agents received cash rewards from FirstBank for the commitment with which they conducted their business. Thirty-one agents earned 250,000 naira each at the state level; Five agents won N1,000,000.00 each regionally and one agent won the grand prize of N2,500,000.00 nationally.
Firstmonie agents have made banking services easily accessible so that residents of suburbs and remote environments no longer need to travel to access financial services. Even Nigerians in developed areas can attest to how Firstmonie agents handled themselves for them in critical times. A good example would be the coronavirus pandemic lockdown where Nigerians could still access financial services through agents.
The Agent Credit program launched in 2020 has taken several steps to provide credit options to Firstmonie agents so they can access funds any day of the week, even before depositing money in agency.
“With our Firstmonie agents in every neighborhood, several communities have seen an increase in business and financial activity, which contributes to national growth and development. We commend our agents and are delighted to support them with credit facilities they can access around the clock in less than 2 minutes,” said Chuma Ezirim, Group Director, e-Business & Retail Products, First Bank of Nigeria Limited.
Within a year of its agent credit program, FirstBank had economically empowered agents with around N100 billion in credits to facilitate their business. If there was any doubt as to whether FirstBank deserved the ‘Best Retail Bank in Nigeria’ award from the Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards for seven consecutive years, this is when. where all doubts caught fire.
In every way possible, the Firstmonie Agent program continues to contribute to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) goal of reducing financial exclusion, fighting poverty and helping ordinary Nigerians create wealth. .