By Babajide Komolafe

Ecobank and First City Monument Bank (FCMB) have heightened the competition to attract patronage from  Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs have increasingly become the focus in the banking industry, with  banks introducing products and services targeted at attracting patronage from them.  This is beside the N220 billion established by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) last year. In line with this trend,  Ecobank   unveiled the  SME Club which offers  preferential business support, products and services to its teeming SME customers across the country, while FCMB on its part unveiled an  empowerment programme for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to enhance their financial, marketing and management skills.

Ecobank SME Club

The Club also serves as a platform for adding value to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through information mining, networking and capacity building.

According to Jibril Aku, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, the massive empowerment for the SMEs is in line with the Bank’s vision “to contribute to the economic development and financial integration of Africa. There is no better way to grow Africa and her component countries other than by empowering our SMEs, the engine of growth. Today our bank, the Pan African bank celebrates our SMEs as we recognize your impact and contributions to the growth of our economy.”

Kingsley Aigbokhaevbo, Executive Head, Business Banking, Ecobank Nigeria, in giving an overview of the project, explained that the objectives of developing the SME Club are along the path of developing a cohesive and enduring strategic framework that focuses on growing and tracking the progress of the SMEs, adding that the SME club members will become catalyst to economic growth and transformation of the country.

Sunkanmi Olowo, Head of SME, Ecobank Nigeria, explained that the SME Club offers preferential business support, products and services. “The benefits to customers are numerous. It offers business/capacity development and technical assistance; provides business, accounting, tax, legal and other services and platforms; B2B linkage across Africa; access to market information, economic updates, exchange rate information; international markets and finance; online marketing/sales (24/7); active support from government backed organisations and quarterly working sessions led by experts.

He added that “The Club also offers VIP lounge; priority access to banking services; Ecobank Webmall, the pan-African online shop; Ecobank Omni; the pan-African corporate online banking platform and partner benefits on our loyalty programme; preferred services in over 37 countries with Ecobank footprints across Africa.”

FCMB Empowerment Initiative 

The programme is aimed at equipping SME operators with the necessary skills they can readily deploy to effectively operate, grow their businesses and bottom-lines.

Speaking at a press conference held in Lagos, FCMB’s Executive Director, Lagos and South-west, Mr. Olufemi Bakre, said that the training was conceived by the Bank to build the capacity of SMEs by exposing them to modern and innovative skills that would help them realise their objectives. This, he added is in line with one of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) focal areas of the Bank and its value as a helpful financial institution. According to him, ‘’FCMB realises that SMEs play pivotal roles in the growth of the nation’s economy. We also understand that a number of factors combine to determine the success or failure of SMEs”. Mr. Bakre assured that, ‘’we are focused on being a strategic partner to such businesses, considering the huge opportunities they offer in the areas of job creation, poverty eradication and economic development.

Tagged ‘’FCMB Capacity Building Initiative: Empowering the Nigerian SMEs”, the empowerment programme is in partnership with Shopping Internet Services Limited. It involves series of free training and radio programmes cutting across various topical issues concerning SMEs. The pilot phase of the exercise, which the Bank has aptly christened cluster marketing, kicked-off in Lagos recently and will last for five months after which it will be extended to other parts of the country for another eighteen months. Apart from Shopping Internet Services Limited, the training has been endorsed by stakeholders such as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Jobberman Limited, House of Tara and Metro FM, which will broadcast the training on radio. The course content and the resource persons, who are highly experienced, have been carefully chosen to ensure participants derive maximum benefits from the training. Among the topics are, SME Challenges and Key Skills/Knowledge of a Successful Entrepreneur; Effective marketing of SME Products or Service; Managing Distributors, Resellers, and Agents for Success; Pricing Strategies to Increase Sales; How To Make The Best Use of Your Banking Relationship; Identifying   Biggest Business Opportunities, among others.

Also speaking, the Group Head, Business Banking Group of the Bank, Mr. George Ogbonnaya, stated that FCMB is committed to building a strong SME base in the country. He added that apart from funding SMEs, the bank developed a product, known as FCMB Personal Business Account (PBA) to offer protection to traders and other business owners against unexpected disasters, such as fire and flood incidents.

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