By Tunji Faleye
In the world where women have remained the largest untapped reservoir of talent, organizations and brands are in better position to ensure that women rise to the top posts and help usher in developments in all spheres of human endeavours. That is why the 2019 International Women’s Day theme, “Better The Balance, Better The World” is regarded as a way to champion support for women and give them enablement to flourish.
Interestingly, First Bank Nigeria, a Nigerian multinational bank and financial services company headquartered in Lagos, the biggest bank in Nigeria by total deposits and gross earnings has being at the vanguard of imparting and empowering women in the work place and various spheres of life.
Frist Bank remains a shining example among other leading and exceptional brands and corporate organizations that have continuously made efforts to empower women with many of its lofty initiatives.
Remarkably, Firstbank, in October 2016 launched FirstGem in line with the Bank’s deliberate strategy to drive financial inclusion and all-round development of women through gender-advancement programmes wrapped around savings culture, financial literacy, loan management and building an investment portfolio.
FirstGem is a bespoke retail product suited for all women aged 18 years and above, from working professionals to entrepreneurs. 44,356 women (corporate and individual, including staff) currently own and operate this account.
The Bank also sponsors a leading Nigerian Basketball female team – FirstBank Elephant Girls, Africa’s foremost female basketball team, among other women focused initiatives in the Bank.
Since the launched of FirstGem two years ago, it is essential to say that the product has recorded tremendous success. Some of the achievements recorded include the following.
Growth in Product Performance
Since the launch of FirstGem, Growth in Product Performance is at a geometric rate with an average of 2,190 new accounts monthly and an annual average savings impact of over N205million. Demographically, FirstGem, being a product suite that cuts across women of all generations irrespective of age, location and social status, is to encourage its customers to save and invest more. In order to encourage more women participation, awards were given during the 2nd-anniversary celebration to the consistent saver and highest saver.
In recognition of the impact of women’s contribution to economic development, the Bank has continued to use the platform of FirstGem to organize and participate in many women empowerment programmes, international conferences, seminars and workshops, and roadshows across different cities and states of Nigeria over the last two years.
Leading among the empowerment programmes was FirstGem 2nd Anniversary Event in November 2018 which played host to over 800 women on the principles of wealth, how to identify and exploit the business opportunities in 2019.
It also organised Mindset of Wealth in Port Harcourt in October 2018. This was a FirstGem empowerment programme organized for 500 women to provide insights into the principles of wealth management, investment and savings.
Through the FirstGem’s Empowering Women, Building Personal Wealth in September 2018 in the United Kingdom, over 350 Nigerian women in the Diaspora were empowered on the key elements and dynamics of wealth creation/accumulation, growth, preservation and transfer.
Noteworthy is the Edo State Empowerment Programme in April 2018 in collaboration with the Edo State government where over 2,000 women were also engaged on the need to acquire skills and empower themselves in order to remain independent.
Obviously, FirstBank did not stop at this, it also organized The Girl Entrepreneur which was a book review held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on women development and empowerment. The train also landed in Enugu, Enugu State where Mentoring Women to Posterity was held.
Benue State First Lady hosted FirstGem Benue State Women Empowerment Program in Makurdi, Benue State, educating women on building personal wealth and financial independence.
Southern States Governors Wives’ Forum was also organised by the First Lady of Abia State to galvanized women from all the 17 Southern States to create awareness and consciousness in women as economy change agents to move in and take their place in the global scheme of things.
There was also Oyo State Women Empowerment Programme where FirstBank in collaboration with the First Lady of Oyo State launched FirstGem in the state by exposing women of the state to various opportunities in trade and commerce, savings and investments, food and agriculture, fashion, tourism, education, and lots of other economic empowerment initiatives.
FirstGem Online Community
Similarly, FirstGem Online Community is another innovative milestone for the bank. It is an online platform that provides information on a wide range of issues affecting women from lifestyle, politics, business ideas, skills acquisition, etc. It also features blogs and posts videos of high-profile women of influence providing mentorship nuggets and providing answers to a variety of life, career and business/social issues as guides for women.
With the engagements held over the last 12 months, the FirstGem Community members now stand at 61,293. Essentially, these women are drawn from all walks of life sharing ideas, insights and experiences from one another on the platform. The community currently has an average page visit of 8,400 and remains a buzzing nest for tips on Lifestyle and Beauty, Wealth and Finance, Health, Events, Food and Recipes, Career and Motivation.
Financial Impact of FirstGem on Women
Obviously, the financial impact of FirstGem on women has been so massive. Remarkably,FirstGem has provided opportunities for women to create a savings plan and culture that guarantees them financial freedom and safety for the future; enabling them to save towards specific targets. It has also enabled them to create wealth for themselves and their families from various investment platforms offered through the product – a variety of trust products, short-term financial derivatives, money market funds, etc.
FirstGem has also created avenue for women to have access to soft loans to support their aspirations and economic development in their different fields of endeavour. Simultaneously, it has offered opportunities for women and girls to have access to financial tools and resources they require to achieve security and prosperity.
FirstGem has also enhanced women’s lifestyle needs by allowing FirstGem account holders to enjoy tremendous discounts from retails stores and lifestyle improvement outfits in strategic partnership with FirstBank.
Without a doubt, FirstBank acknowledges that gender parity is an essential achievement that influences the advancement of economies and societies by fully realising the potential of its workforce, including the female. This is shown in the Bank’s strategy with respect to the promotion of women leadership which is being driven through the FirstBank Women Empowerment Initiative.
Clearly, this initiative provides an environment and creates opportunities for women within the bank to grow and attain leadership positions. It helps address the gender gap at the senior management levels and provide a platform that enables women to be more engaged and have greater influence in decision making. The FirstBank Women Empowerment initiative is built around six (6) pillars which include: Influencing Career Pipeline, Networking Opportunities, Grooming, Etiquette & Poise, Mentoring, Coaching and Sponsorship Opportunities, Counselling, Support and Welfare, Financial Planning & Empowerment.
Also, the health and wellbeing of women are not ignored – Female employees have special opportunities as nursing mothers to enjoy free annual screenings tailored for women and have access to gym facilities.