Over 2,000 Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) have so far benefitted from the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) empowerment initiative for women-owned businesses, known as SheVentures, since it was launched in March 2019. The benefits of the initiative cuts across mentoring, capacity building and zero interest loans, ranging from N500,000.00 to N5,000,000.00.
The FCMB SheVentures, with a unique feature of zero-interest rate for a period of three months, is anchored on supporting women with vision. It connotes confidence, independence and the courage required by women to fulfil their aspirations. SheVentures is designed to engage, inspire and equip potential and existing women entrepreneurs to take bold steps that would enable them become much more competitive, productive and profitable thereby contributing significantly to national development.
Speaking at an impressive event on March 5, 2020 in Lagos to celebrate the one-year anniversary of FCMB SheVentures, the Group Chief Executive of FCMB Group Plc, Mr. Ladi Balogun, described the initiative as a game changer in the quest of the lender to upscale the performance of SMEs. The event, which formed part of activities of FCMB to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, was graced by the First Lady of Ogun State, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun; Managing Director, Rose of Sharon Group and Executive Vice Chairman, Famfa Oil, Dr. (Mrs.) Folorunsho Alakija (who was the Guest Speaker), a former Deputy Governor of Lagos, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, other top personalities from various walks of life and several entrepreneurs.
Mr. Balogun, added that, ‘’we are a focused Bank with big ambitions. Many of the big companies we know today that FCMB has had the privilege of supporting in one way or the other started off as small companies with big aspirations and many of them have gone on to become household names in oil and gas, technology, food and beverage as well as other sectors. Our SheVentures initiative was created for the sole purpose of ensuring that women-owned businesses are not left out in the development of the country's economy through their collective and individual contributions as business owners. All around the world, there has been a great paradigm shift geared towards women taking on and excelling in businesses that have previously been assumed to be gender specific’’.
The FCMB Group Chief Executive further stated that, ‘’as shown in our ranking as the number one in SME Banking in Nigeria by KPMG, we are not just focused on the basic banking procedures when it comes to our customers, but also fully committed to delivering services and offerings that ensure that they derive good returns from their relationship with us. We are excited to note that with FCMB SheVentures, we have expanded the frontiers of support to businesses in a manner that is ushering them into prosperity. FCMB is pleased to play a leading role in the quest to bring socio-economic transformation to Nigeria’’.
In her presentation titled, ‘’Women Supporting Women’’, the Guest Speaker, Dr. (Mrs.) Alakija, who is rated as Africa’s richest woman, commended women entrepreneurs for their resilience. According to her, ‘’I have heard so many amazing things about the FCMB SheVentures and how it has been turning around the fortunes of female entrepreneurs. It is gratifying that women have continued to break barriers in the business and corporate world, despite the challenges. Nigeria has the highest number of women business owners in the world, but only 2% have access to capital. Irrespective of this situation, women need to collaborate with one another. We must be ready to share information and assist each other. When women support each other, incredible things happen’’.
In her keynote address, the First Lady of Ogun State, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, urged female entrepreneurs to brace up to the challenges of the socio-economic realities, adding that with continuous enlightenment and empowerment by the private and public sectors, women advancement in all spheres would be rapid. Mrs. Abiodun advised the beneficiaries of the FCMB SheVentures initiative to consider it as an avenue for sustainable economic empowerment through which they would be gainfully employed, improve their productivity, increase their income level, become employers of labour and overall contribute to the growth of the country.
The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of interest free loan cheques, ranging from N3million to N5million, to another set of beneficiaries of the FCMB SheVentures empowerment initiative and award presentation to best mentees. One of the beneficiaries and Managing Director of of S.T Beres Limited, Ms. Ebere Echendu, said, “I am happy to be one of the beneficiaries of the FCMB zero interest loan for women entrepreneurs. Good thing is, that it is done randomly. I was not expecting it, but it came as a very welcome surprise. This support will help to boost my business. Thank you FCMB, My Bank and I’’.
Reports have it that an estimated 7 million businesses will be set-up by Nigerian women between 2021 and 2022 with the potential to create 8.9 million jobs and unlocking billions of revenue and other opportunities for the country.
With a clear understanding of its market and environment, FCMB is well positioned to continue to create value by delivering exceptional services, while enhancing the growth and achievement of the personal and business aspirations of its customers.