FirstBank Hosts 12,000 Participants As FinTech Summit Ends with Calls for Activation of Vibrant Ecosystem

By Eric Elezuo

Nigeria’s leading financial institution and financial inclusion services provider, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, has successfully held the 2020 edition of its annual FinTech Summit, which is also the fourth in the series.

The summit, which held via virtual, had about 12, 000 participants in attendance, and featured prominent innovator and Chief Executive Officer, Love and Magic, Chinedu Echeruo as keynote speaker with other professionals including the Director, Payments System Management Department, Musa Itopa Jimoh; the Executive Director, Technology & Operations, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS), forming a high profile panel of discussants.

Also on the panel were the duo of the Group Executive, Technology & Services, Callistus Obetta, and Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products,  Chuma Ezirim, who represented FirstBank.

In his opening speech, the Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, reiterated that FinTech industry is currently the fastest growing sector within Nigeria, and is mostly run by a sizable number of young entrepreneurs, stressing that FirstBank has been positioned as the FinTech partner of choice having established relationships with companies like PiggyVest, Terragon, VoguePay and PayStack.

He noted that the bank’s rating has soared with its digital payment channels and has remained in the forefront of providing financial inclusion solutions across board and round the clock with it’s FirstMobile app, USSD (*894#) and FirstMonie, with the popular Firstmonie Agent Banking Network.

“FirstBank has become the foremost financial inclusion solutions provider with over 9 million USSD users, processing over 200 million transactions to date. Also, with more than 60,000 Firstmonie Agent Banking locations we have to date processed over 320 million customer transactions worth over NGN6 Trillion on the FirstMonie Agent Network as at July 2020, further cementing our leadership in the Agency Banking space,” Adeduntan said.

He recollected that the bank has picked awards after awards with the FirstMobile App, which was “awarded the Best Mobile Banking App in Nigeria in 2019 by the UK-based Global Business Outlook.”

Rather than mourning the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, Adeduntan remarked that the bank has leveraged on the scourge to become more innovative in providing services for the benefit of the customers

“The sudden emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic era has provided a ready canvas for stretching our Fintech readiness and exploits, and I am happy to note that, once again, FirstBank has been demonstrating outstanding preparedness in this all-important space.

“Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a catalyst for the accelerated technology and digital transformation that we are witnessing across so many industries and areas of human endeavour,” he said.

Speaking on the theme “How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt FinTech in Nigeria” the keynote speaker, Echeruo, who is a product of Kings College, Lagos and Harvard Business School, with virtual descriptions, informed that one can solve any problem if he puts his mind to it. He noted that the “use of artificial intelligence to personalise and deepen customer experience, grow new market opportunities with lower cost blockchain model” will greatly improve the culture of innovation.

He pointed out that building and activating vibrant ecosystem are basically the outcome of inculcating blockchain and artificial intelligence in FinTech. He advised corporate bodies to open organisation’s ecosystem and recreate from the outside to the inside.

Responding, FirstBank’s Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, Chuma Ezirim, who represented FirstBank in the panel, and spoke on the sub-theme, “How Current Trends in Artificial Intelligence Are Impacting Business Product Development in FirstBank”, noted that the bank is a technology company offering financial services, but not in any way usurping another’s duties.

Ezirim was also quick to point out that FirstBank processes over 90 customer initiated transactions per second only on digital channels while acknowledging that the bank is poised re-architect its system and attract the right skills from within and outside.

Concluding his presentation, he invited stakeholders to partner with the bank, noting that “we believe big data and AI will bring upward the revenue of this country…”

In his remarks, Aminu Maida, who spoke on Industry Infrastructure to Support New Development in the Financial Industry, acknowledged the need for synergy while advising that the way out is “leveraging on artificial intelligence, leveraging on dynamic machine learning that can go into the environment and adapt in relation to human capacity.”

Other speakers who lent their voices to the viability of artificial intelligence towards creating and activating a vibrant ecosystem included Callistus Obetta, who was of the view that there is the need to build people who will in turn build technologies.

“Our realisation that the effectiveness of Artificial Intelligence is determined by data quality available on the platform and this is beyond the structured data in the bank,” he said.

Representing Okra, Fara Ashiri Jituboh, who spoke on the theme Unlock the Power of AI, and Musa Jimoh, agreed that blockchain and artificial intelligence are souls of FinTech.

In his closing remarks, the Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank, Mr. Francis Shobo, appreciated everyone that turned up for the educative webinar, and reiterated that “FirstBank will continue to embrace emerging FinTech opportunity”.

The 4.0 edition was anchored by Aruoture Oddiri, with assistance from Taiwo Shonekan.

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