First Bank of Nigeria Limited recently introduced FirstGem funds scheme and FirstGem product to provide loan and also support women in all walks of life. AMAKA IFEAKANDU looks at the benefits and impacts on women across the country.
Without doubt, Nigerian women who engage in trading and entrepreneurship are always faced with the challenges of inadequate funding and inability to raise additional funds to grow their businesses.
Most of them end up relying on their siblings and other family members for sourcing of fund to start up and expand their businesses.
Although, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) came up with a policy and mandated Deposit Money Banks (DMB) to lend 65 per cent of the depositors funds to support women businesses across the country, access to such loan however remains a major bottleneck to supporting women businesses in Nigeria.
But in a bid to overcome the challenges women face with asset ownership as collateral to back up loan accessibility for business development and expansion, FirstBank saw the need to create a value-enhancing culture that will enable women build their businesses and careers to credible and acceptable standards that would ensure reliability and dependency for the home front, society and economy at large.
To achieve this, the bank launched two different products namely; the FirstGem Fund Scheme and FirstGem product with the aim of meeting the needs and demands of women in business in the country.
FirstGem fund scheme
First Bank Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider launched the FirstGem fund , a single-digit loan scheme, exclusively designed to put women at an advantage in contributing to the socio-economic development of the country.
The FirstGem loan scheme is designed for female-owned or partnered SMEs in the following sectors; Food/Beverage processing & Packaging, Beauty and cosmetics, Confectionaries, Catering & Restaurants, Transportation (Logistics) and Agric/Agro-Allied (retail value chain). FirstGem loan is a collateral-free loan that is available to the bank’s existing and prospective female customers.
The bank said based on eligibility, customers can access loans from minimum amount of N500,000.00 to N3,000,000.00. FirstBank fund scheme attracts single digit interest rate of nine per cent per-annum with 12 to 24-month tenor depending on the type of facility. The applicant is expected to pay one off management fee of 0.5 per cent and one off keyman insurance of 0.5 per cent.
Type of facility
The loan is designed to be used as working capital – to purchase raw materials or stock in trade. It will as well serve as time/term loan, for purchasing of assets, especially specialised assets that may be financed on exceptional basis.
For the record, FirstBank introduced FirstGem in 2016 as a female-centric financial product. It is structured to empower and support women in all walks of life, especially women in business.
The bank said: “With FirstGem, it is our aspiration that more women will achieve their business & financial goals and follow in the footsteps of heroines past and present in Nigeria, Africa and across the world.
“The bank recognised the need to create a value-enhancing culture that will enable women to build their businesses and careers to credible and acceptable standards that would ensure reliability and dependency for the home front, society and economy at large.”
Benefits of FirstGem
Operating FirstGem businesswomen Account will enable customers have target savings for building personal investment portfolio, access to select leadership programmes/workshops/training on Women empowerment.
Account holders will also have access to business skills on wealth management and investment plans, as well as membership of the FirstGem community of women to share, learn, mentor, and be mentored.
They will also have advisory services on real estate opportunities, access to soft loans both business and personal from FirstBank and zero drafting fees-with our business partner – FBNQuest Trustees.
The account holder, according to the bank, “will have discount on Auto Insurance and Education plan for their children with First Bank business partner, FBN Insurance Brokers and there will be special promotions and discounts at select merchant outlets for account holders.”
Product’s core values
One of the core values of the product is that it enables women to create wealth for themselves and their families from various investment platforms offered through the product such as different trust products, short-term financial derivatives, money market funds, etc.
Another value is the creation of avenue for women to have access to soft loans, having access to Bank of Industry Funds at single-digit interest rates to support their aspirations and economic development in their different fields of endeavour.
A notable discovery was that FirstGem offers opportunities for women and girls to have access to financial tools and resources they require to achieve security and prosperity and also enhances women’s lifestyle needs.
More interesting is the fact that FirstGem account holders enjoy tremendous discounts from retails stores and lifestyle improvement outfits in strategic partnership with FirstBank.
Bank’s views on the products
Speaking during the fourth edition of its annual FirstGem conference, themed ‘The Art of Negotiation’ Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank, Mr Francis Shobo, said the event was convened to provide women with insights on the secrets of wealth management, investment and savings.
He said through these activities, “we spearhead the call on the need to promote women inclusiveness in the country as the role they play towards the continued socio-economic growth and development of any given society cannot be overemphasised.”
Stating the impact of the FirstGem account, he said, “our FirstGem account is specifically designed to meet the financial needs of women as it offers unrivalled services that empower women to do more and achieve more. It seeks to drive financial development and the empowerment of women through gender engineered programmes. At FirstBank, we recognize that promoting female entrepreneurship and empowerment is crucial to a better society.”
Since the product launch in October 2016, the Bank has implemented various activities targeted at promoting female empowerment, impact and influence in the economy. Through its online portal – designed to provide a virtual online community with over 61,293 members where like-minded women irrespective of where they are in Nigeria and abroad, gather to connect, grow and share knowledge on everything about lifestyle, motherhood, career development, entrepreneurship, health, work and family, FirstGem has successfully empowered women in states across the geo-political zones in Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
While commenting on the FirstGem loan scheme, Group Head, Corporate Communications, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said, “we are delighted with the role our FirstGem product plays in creating an avenue to enlarge the business activities and endeavours of female entrepreneurs across the country.
“Our FirstGem value proposition offers real solutions to constraints encountered by female entrepreneurs and working professionals, as it exposes women to opportunities for the advancement of their business. We implore every female business-minded individual to take advantage of the FirstGem loan as it puts them at an advantage to contribute their quota to the national economy.”
She further said FirstGem “has been impactful in driving financial inclusion, influencing women’s empowerment through gender-advancement programmes like savings culture, financial literacy, wealth management and building an investment portfolio. FirstGem is designed specifically to meet the needs of the female gender, aged 18 years and above.
“FirstGem is targeted at a broad spectrum of women, working professionals, entrepreneurs or market women through an array of benefits such as free business advisory services, access to finance, specialized training on business development initiatives (virtual and physical events), regular insights on business/ investment opportunities. and mouth-watering discounts at partner merchant outlets (spas, salons, grocery stores) offering lifestyle products and services.”
Recently, FirstBank announced its partnership with CDC Group, the UK Government’s development finance organisation to economically empower women-owned and led businesses as well as local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria.
The facility, which is in the sum of US$100 million will have a minimum of 30 per cent allocated in the form of credit lines to women entrepreneurs.