First City Monument Bank (FCMB) has explained that its increased and consistent support to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) is aimed at further empowering them to take the lead in the growth and development of Nigeria's economy. According to the Bank, this is because SMEs are one of the key drivers of the country's push for economic prosperity due to their potential to create jobs, reduce poverty, boost production and economic activities.
Towards this end, the lender has urged business owners to keep pace with current and emerging realities in order to make their respective businesses productive and competitive, which will lead to progress for them and the nation.
FCMB made this known in a statement to commemorate this year's International MSME Day, which holds every June 27. The annual event provides an opportunity to raise public awareness of the contributions of such businesses towards ensuring sustainable development, poverty alleviation, empowerment and other benefits.
A recent survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) indicate that SMEs in Nigeria accounts for about 96% of registered businesses, employ about 84% of the entire labour force and contribute 48% to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
FCMB, as a leading financial powerhouse in Nigeria, has built a strong base and dominated the SMEs segment by consistently offering various cutting-edge solutions through its key pillars of support. These are access to capital, capacity building, advisory services, networking opportunity and technology. The FCMB SME Advisory Service provides market intelligence and technical assistance support to businesses, access to intervention funds in partnership with Development Financial Institutions (DFIs), as well as provision of credit enhancement facilities to mitigate the credit risk and collateral gaps experienced in lending to SMEs.
Commenting on the significance of the International SMEs Day and commitment of FCMB to businesses, the Group Head, Business Banking of the Bank, Mr. George Ogbonnaya, said the Day is very important to the financial institution as a major operator in the global business community.
According to him, "we recognise the role of SMEs as catalysts for sustainable development. SMEs in Nigeria have what it takes to compete at the highest level in the international market, but without the requisite exposure and support, it can be very difficult to succeed. We strongly believe that SMEs need genuine support to play a frontal role in the development of individuals, communities and the country in general, especially as the world battles to overcome the negative effects of COVID-19".
He added that, "we are also inspired by the fact that our market leading propositions and support to SMEs have consistently made real impact on businesses and the economy in general. We will continue to provide the right platform and opportunities to empower our customers to take their businesses to greater heights".
Last year, FCMB secured a $50 million loan facility from the International Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to help it expand lending to SMEs to ensure their sustainability following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The IFC facility, which is a demonstration of the strong confidence reposed in FCMB by global organisations and the market, has enabled it to support several businesses with trade financing and working capital loans. So far, the Bank has provided over N23billion loan guarantee support to SMEs with inadequate collateral coverage or those in start-up stage.
The Bank has also taken the lead in digitisation by automating its lending process for SMEs through the FCMB Quickloans platform. Through this channel, the lender has so far disbursed more than N90billion in loans to entrepreneurs. It processes over 25,000 digital loans with disbursements hitting an average of N7.5billion in a month.
For female-owned SMEs, FCMB has in place a robust proposition known as SheVentures, which offers enhanced support through access to finance, training and mentoring with the unique benefit of zero-interest rate for an initial period of three months. Hundreds of female-owned SMEs have benefitted from zero interest loans, which range between N500,000.00 and N5million. Overall, since 2019, almost 15,000 of such businesses have benefitted from various FCMB SheVentures initiatives, in terms of funding and training.
It is also worthy to note that FCMB has been very active in the renewable energy sector through capacity building sessions, access to funding and provision of opportunities for developers and end-users to connect in meaningful, productive ways. The Bank has executed credit enhancement agreements worth N20.9 billion to support renewable and energy efficient projects. This is meant to improve the supply of energy, enhance cost efficiency and access to clean energy.
In addition, the lender has consistently grown its loan portfolio to mini-grid developers, commercial and industrial energy efficiency providers, and solar home system distributors. For instance, it is on track to finance projects that would deliver over 10,000 new solar-powered electricity connections to households and businesses across various communities by the end of 2021. The Bank has also developed a product for Mini-Grid developers, under the World Bank/Rural Electrification Agency (REA) of Nigeria scheme. Through this, businesses in the renewable energy sector can access loans of up to 70% of the project cost without collateral.
The financial institution set up FCMB Business Zone, an on-line community where SMEs can interact amongst themselves and utilize the services of various business enablers and professionals for their benefit, including various e-learning programmes. The Bank assists SMEs to leverage technology by providing them with access to Fintech solutions that can aid the growth of their business.
These giant strides, among several others by FCMB have been recognised and applauded by the market as well as other stakeholders. The Bank won the prestigious award of "Best SME Bank in Africa" at the Asian Banker Middle East and Africa RegionalAwards held in November 2020.
First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited, with over 200 branches spread across Nigeria, is a member of FCMB Group Plc. The Group is one of the leading financial services institutions in Nigeria with subsidiaries that are market leaders in their respective segments. Having successfully transformed to a retail banking and wealth management led group, FCMB expects to continue to distinguish itself through innovation and the delivery of exceptional services.