By Chinyere Joel- Nwokeoma
First Bank of Nigeria Ltd on Thursday tasked Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operating in the country on capacity building for them to remain relevant and competitive in the future.
Mrs Olufunke Smith, the bank’s Group Head, Retail Banking, Lagos Island 1, stated this at the FirstBank SMEConnect Business Clinic in Lagos.
The Clinic had as its theme: ‘Positioning your business to thrive in 2020.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Business Clinic was in partnership with Traction Venture Partners.
Smith said for SMEs to survive, they must position themselves as a learning business by continually expanding their capacity to exist and be competitive in the future.
“Today, the advancement of technology has made it possible for an entrepreneur to start a business with just an idea and a mobile phone.
“A small business may not need a physical structure or many staff to be successful.
“Most job roles have been taken over by applications that can run unaided once the right data is inputted.
“Therefore, for SMEs to survive today, they must position themselves as a learning business by continually expanding their capacity,” she said.
Smith said that FirstBank had recognised the need to offer more than traditional banking services in order to serve SMEs adequately.
“As a leading banking services solutions provider, FirstBank has continued to set the pace in the financial services industry, coming up with new initiatives to provide excellent products and services for its esteemed customers.
“For over 125 years, we have provided financial services for small businesses and have seen some of these businesses transform into corporations.
“FirstBank has recognised that for it to serve SMEs adequately, there is a need to offer more than traditional banking services.
“We know that connecting SMEs to the right information and business tools can save turnaround time, cost and give them a competitive edge in the sector that they operate.
“It is on this knowledge that we have created value propositions for SMEs that cover financial and non-financial services,” Smith said.
According to her, the bank’s SME proposition was based on seven pillars namely capacity building, market, infrastructure, talent for business development, policy & regulation, finance and resources.
She noted that the Business Clinic was in line with the bank’s commitment to building capacity through advisory and demonstration of its interest in the growth and development of small businesses in Nigeria.
Smith said that the bank would be holding several Business Clinics, workshops and seminars across the country in 2020 to strengthen SMEs growth and development.
On the reasons for FirstBank’s commitment to SMEs, she said that SMEs are the bedrock of any nation.
“SMEs is the bedrock of any nation; you have to ensure that SMEs can grow. It’s when you have SMEs that are functional that the nation too can grow.
“Don’t forget that they employ a lot of people, no matter if its two or 20 or 50 ,when you have strong SMEs , it provides employment; they come up with all kinds of services that maybe some traditional corporations don’t come up with.
“So, for us in FirstBank, its our responsibility and its part of giving back to the society to ensure that we continue to develop SMEs in whatever role we can — capacity building, training, even on how to write business plans,” she said.
Mr Dalapo Adejuyigbe, the Managing Partner, Traction Venture Partners, said that the company focused on enabling the SMEs ecosystem in emerging markets to succeed.
Adejuyigbe said that the company’s major focus right now was Nigeria, stressing the need for sound SMEs for desired economic growth and development.
He said that TractionVenture Partners was creating a digitally-enabled adviser for SMEs, for them to make the needed impact in the country.
“We are creating a digitally-enabled adviser for SMEs that can help them grow.
“A lot of SMEs right now require growth and advisory, but a lot of times they cannot afford it,” Adejuyigbe said.
He said that the company had democratized its different services by making them affordable and accessible to SMEs.
The managing partner said that the company engages SMEs in two forms, either through SME partners (banks or telcos ) or work directly with SMEs.
Adejuyigbe said that FirstBank had been its core client in achieving its goal in helping SMEs in Nigeria.
“FirstBank has been our core client in basically achieving our goals to help SMEs; we have worked with FirstBank on our diagnostic tool that’s diagnostic SMEs can take to essentially help them understand their business,” he added. (NAN)