Photo: From left: Group Head, Business Banking/SMEs of First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Mr. George Ogbonnaya; Executive Director, Business Development, Mrs. Bukola Smith; Executive Governor, Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, Deputy Governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu; Regional Director, South-east/South-south of FCMB, Mr. Okey Ezeala; Manager, Umuahia 1 Branch of the Bank, Mrs. Ezenwanyi Ukanwoke and Zonal Head, Owerri, Mr. Cyprian Frederick, during a courtesy visit by the Management of FCMB to Governor Ikpeazu at the State House, Umuahia, Abia State, on March 15, 2018.
Lagos: March 19, 2018 – Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and youths who desire to start businesses in Abia State now have a huge opportunity to actualise their dreams. This is becauseFirst City Monument Bank (FCMB) has partnered the Abia State Government to provide financial and other technical support to existing and potential owners of SMEs in the State under the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP).
Under the partnership, FCMB is offering loans and technical support to eligible existing and aspiring young entrepreneurs who have viable business ideas. An individual can access up to N3million, while group projects jointly owned by 3 to 5 qualified beneficiaries can access up to N10million, payable in three years at an interest rate of 9 percent. Target beneficiaries are members of NYSC (or those who not more than five years post-NYSC), those who possess a verifiable tertiary institution certificate and artisans with First School Leaving Certificate or a technical certificate or accredited proficiency certificate from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
To ensure ease and convenience in accessing the facility as well as overall success of the partnership, FCMB has developed a product under the YEDP and has developed a website,HTTPS://yedp.fcmb.com, where applicants can log in, fill a form and provide all requirements to benefit from the funding and other benefits associated with the programme. Successful applicants will receive training on business success and development, courtesy of FCMB and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Speaking at the Abia Mega Youth Summit held in the State on March 15, 2018, where the partnership between FCMB and the State Government was launched, the Executive Director, Business Development of the Bank, Mrs. Bukola Smith, described the financial institution’s intervention as another demonstration of its commitment to empower SMEs and youths in order to up-scale their contributions to the development of the country.
According to her, ‘’We recognise the role of SMEs as drivers of Nigeria’s development and how youths can key into the opportunities. The YEDP is a major platform to address the challenges of unemployment among youths, as it will go a long way to ensure availability and affordability of capital required by entrepreneurs and start-ups. With our partnership with the Abia State government, as well as the product and website we have developed for the YEDP, we are offering youths in the State multiple opportunities to get empowered and become successful business owners. As a forward-looking and inclusive lender with a desire to create opportunities and help others to succeed, we will continue to support Nigerians to realise their individual and business aspirations. We, therefore, urge young people to take advantage of the unique opportunities in the FCMB developed YEDP product and website as a springboard to take their businesses to the next level’’.
In his address at the ceremony, the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, said the YEDP in the State has been designed to change the old ways of empowering youths by partnering with strong institutions and provision of rights supports that would help them become better equipped, productive and contribute significantly to the well-being of the country in a sustainable manner.
Governor Ikpeazu commended FCMB for its numerous support to the State, including the YEDP partnership. He emphasized that, “with FCMB, we now have an opportunity to give our youths a very credible platform put together and presented to them by the Bank. I say to our youths to come up with beautiful and well-articulated business ideas and FCMB is ready to go with you all the way”.
The YEDP is an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Entrepreneurship Development Centre (EDC) aimed at discovering and deploying the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Nigerian youths for maximum economic development through empowerment in SMEs. This is in recognition of the fact that youths have what it takes to propel the country to economic diversification and prosperity.
FCMB has over the years played pivotal roles in the growth of SMEs in Nigeria. For instance, the Bank is one of those appointed by the CBN for the disbursement of the N220billion Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) fund provided by the federal government to support such businesses. It has so far disbursed over N6billion to SMEs and farmers, including women-managed businesses, across the country, under the scheme.
FCMB also offers several products and services tailored to meet the needs of the various segments in the SME space through its various touch points, including electronic banking platforms. These include the FCMB Business App, a mobile banking solution designed for SME customers to carry out interbank transfers of up N100m daily and up to N250million on intrabank daily. There is also the FCMB e-invoicing, a unique electronic invoice payment service to ensure business owners make and receive payments effectively and monitor their accounts. FCMB equally offers internet banking products for SME operators and has equally introduced free banking transactions for a period of three months for new-to-FCMB customers operating in the SME segment.
Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Professor Charles Soludo, has called for the complete elimination of the “41 restricted items” by the apex bank if it hopes to archive a unified exchange rate regime.
Soludo is reported to have made the call at the Recap Conference in Lagos, Wednesday, while speaking on the theme: “Nigeria’s Current FX and Interest Rate policies; Thought and suggestions”
He said: “Eliminate the so-called 41 items. You cannot unify the forex market with those kinds of things. You have two ways, if you don’t want things to come in. You can use the exchange rage and the commercial policy, raise the tariffs on them. If it is expensive for people to import, they will not import them. That is how to do it on a sustainable basis.
“As day follows night, if not done by this regime, subsequent regime will eliminate those kinds of things. The current way we are doing it is adhoc, costly, distortionary and harmful to the economy.”
It would be recalled that the CBN’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, had recently defended the CBN’s stand, saying despite criticisms, CBN would not drop the policy nor bow to “self-serving” interests.
“We have observed with great concern the continued and unwarranted attack on our policies by a group of Nigerians, whose real interests, findings have shown, are anything near altruistic, but rather self-serving and unpatriotic,” Okoroafor said.
— being the text of a lecture delivered by Oguh Mark, on the occasion of the Feast of St. Joseph organized by the Catholic Men Organization of St. Thomas Catholic Church, Onilekere, Lagos on May 1, 2017.
Most of us agree that corruption is at the core of what has held Nigeria back from economic and advancements. Little wonder then that it was the formula the present administration employed to win the 2015 national elections. The major driver of the level of fraud, corruption and illegality in our society today is the “fear of the future”. People steal, engage in various illegal activities that destroy the very essence of humanity, just because they want to amass wealth to safeguard the future of their families. Real men don’t act in fear of the future, they shape the future. The immediate past President of the US, Barack Obama once said “we did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it”.
The get-rich-quick syndrome that pervades contemporary society follows from the lack of interest in hard work and an absence of a defined path to personal wealth creation. When you read the stories of wealthy people in other parts of the world, you can trace the source of their wealth to hard work and focus. Over here, they are but a few who can confidently tell stories of how they rose from grass to grace. This is because such wealth are not supported by any dint of excellence, planning and vision.
The best way to deal with the fear of the future is to confront it. H. Jackson Brown Jr. said; “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today”. Our best, as Christians (Catholics) is to work towards financial security of our families like the “good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25: 14-30).
God expects us to find and exploit profitable opportunities within our environment making sure that our pursuit of material wealth and wellbeing of our families is impacted and guided by our faith and belief in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is unfortunate to note that many, today, see the virtue of honesty as a recipe for failure and poverty. Nigeria is so richly blessed that it can accommodate all our legitimate needs for comfort and convenience. Today, there is even no boundaries to investments. With the global linkages and integrated financial markets, investment horizon has expanded beyond borders.
Nigeria’s population of over 170 million people is predominantly of young and middle aged people, making it the 7th most populous nation in the world, home to a large number of young and active people, and diverse demography. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, a member of regional and global trade blocks and is endowed with superb natural advantages including abundant supply of natural resources, wide expanse of arable land, and a fast developing stock market. Unfortunately, she is challenged by weak legal and justice system, poor communication and transport infrastructure, corrupt leadership and followership, and weird governance culture built on dishonesty and widespread official and personal misconduct.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s huge consumer and service sector which runs into trillions of naira is mostly met by importation. This situation on its own, presents a huge opportunity for investment in the micro, small and medium enterprises that are focused on manufacturing and services. Growing demand for consumer goods and services should be met by local manufacturing rather than imports. Developing a cautious culture of investment is the only way to exploit the opportunities that litter the space. Investment is the use of money to make more money and it can bein the form of portfolio investment, and or direct investments.
Portfolio investment is a passive way of participating in economic activities by buying and owning interests in economic assets that generate financial rewards in the form of interests, dividends, capital value appreciation etc. By this means, you make your money work for you. Direct investment (entrepreneurship) is about active and direct participation in economic activities such as owning and running business enterprises in any sector like general commerce, manufacturing, the real sector, financial and non-financial services, entertainment, agro-allied business, transportation and logistics, food and restaurant, fashion, garment care and cosmetics, etc.
Rt. Hon. Priti Patel (MP). Secretary of State Department for International Development(DFiD) once said; “Entrepreneurship is the cornerstone of any vibrant economy. It is the motor that drives investment, job creation and economic growth”. I cannot agree more. I dare add that entrepreneurship is the hand that rocks the cradle.
Some of the variants of investment vehicles that can be exploited include (i) financial products such as Banking products, insurance, fixed income securities, Equity-linked investment, and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT); (ii) Physical or real assets such as real estates or its value chain, transportation and haulage, plant and machinery acquisition; and (iii) direct investment which includes entrepreneurship in the manufacturing or agriculture and farming space, venture capital and general commerce.
Like everything good, all these investment apportionments have their respective risks and rewards. Some of the risks are operational, environmental or social risks, market risks, political and economic risks and deficiency in managerial acumen.
Investing right requires the following prerequisites:
- A clear definition of investment goals and strategic objectives. You must answer the question, why am I doing this? The goals may be long term stability or short term liquidity. There must be a balance between these two. Short term liquidity helps to position you to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and make the best of them.
- Discipline, consistency and dynamism are critical success factors. Saving money is not an easy task. Without savings there can be no investment. Only a disciplined character can stick to and stay the course of investment plans and not be lured to everything that springs up in the name of making money. Wealth creation requires a consistent, but dynamic disposition.
- Know Your Environment (KYE). Good investors know and observe the relevant laws, guidelines and rules governing their trade. They are fully aware of the strength of competition, markets, government policies, as well as international and local developments that may impact the value of their investments.
- Basic knowledge of financial management principles, portfolio planning, target-setting and tracking modalities must be in place. Concepts such as portfolio diversification which is essential for managing portfolio risk must be well understood.
The best source of investment funds is dependent on a number of factors including; the nature of the investment product, the business model or financial objective of the investor, stage of the business or the investment in the business life-cycle, risk appetite of the investor, the tax environment and incentives available. For start-ups, equity is the best. Xavier Rolet, CEO, London Stock Exchange Group commented in a publication on (Companies to inspire Africa 2017) as follows; “Equity capital is demonstrably more effective at helping dynamic start-ups and high growth companies become the major companies and employers of tomorrow than traditional sources of debt finance has proved to be”. I cannot agree more.
As Nigeria struggles to come out of recession, agriculture, telecommunication, solid minerals, real estate, education, manufacturing and transport remain attractive sectors where opportunities abound.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, through its development financial institutions like the Bank of Industry (BOI), Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM Bank), the Central Bank of Nigeria, etc, has put in place a number of initiatives to promote investment and entrepreneurship. These include (i) the Agric Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGSF); (ii) Export Expansion Grant (EEG), (iii) Entrepreneurship Vocational Advancement Fund; (iv) Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF); (v) Rediscount and Refinance Facility; and (vi) Small and Medium Enterprises Equity Investment Fund (SMEEIS). These funds are accessible only if the entrepreneur and the business meet the prescribed guidelines and standard operating procedures. SMEs will require technical support and assistance to prepare their businesses to qualify for and attract these facilities.
In order to achieve financial stability in the long term and in the manner consistent with our faith as Christians,
- Families must pull their resources, plan and execute together. There should be no financial secrets between couples.
- Make and use family budgets.
- Build reserves – make money, save, don’t spend all, and create wealth. A strong savings culture is a prerequisite for wealth creation.
- Teach your family, especially your children, financial discipline. You have to catch them young.
- Invest in your children, especially their education and spiritual upbringing. Don’t leave it to your wives only.
- Seek professional and technical advice when making investments. Don’t do business blindly. Don’t just copy others because they seem to have succeeded. Photocopies are never as good as, let alone better than originals. That is the same way ideas, dreams and passion work.
- Make sure you do the financial arithmetic before you commit money to any idea. You must know the risks – what can go wrong – and the extent of damage it can cause you. In addition, the actions to mitigate such risks must be known and confirmed.
- Don’t be afraid to take decisions. All you need is to identify the best and the worst cases and how to mitigate the risks.
- Where necessary, take outinsurance policies to share the risk and the rewards.
- Be careful when applying for bank loans especially if you are a start- If you must take a bank loan, seek advice from your knowledgeable financial advisors. Use more of equity. You can pull resources even as members of CMO. Most times, Nigerians want to own 100% of nothing than owning less than 100% of something.
- Businesses that survive in the long term apply the virtue of justice. Be just and equitable in your business practice. Honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency will benefit you in the long run.
NB: Mark Oguh, a Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Financial Management Expert wrote in from St. Anthony’s Parish, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos. Contact email@example.com
Access Bank Plc, in partnership with office of the Rivers State Governor’s wife recently organized a capacity building workshop for female business owners in the state.
The partnership is powered by ‘W Academy’, a skill training window developed by the bank to drive youth empowerment scheme in Nigeria.
The ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ was the second edition of Access Bank’s empowerment programme in line with the other unique offerings and initiatives that are deployed to the Bank’s female customers under the W initiative.
The Port Harcourt edition was facilitated by the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) of the Pan Atlantic University.
In a statement, the bank said “The objective of the ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ is to provide a discounted and practical capacity building program that will equip female business owners to thrive especially with the current economic realities in Nigeria.
The workshop also provided participants with essential knowledge and information whilst simplifying the processes required to grow their businesses given the present macro-economic headwinds.
In her opening remarks, the Governor’s wife, Justice EberechiSuzzetteNyesom-Wike who sponsored 238 women under the RivEthics project, said, “When women are empowered, more than half of societal problems would be solved.
“We have learnt a lot that will improve the businesses of our women; I commend Access Bank for giving women the opportunity to learn to be self-reliant and how to improve their lives and businesses.
Group Head, Products and Segments of Access Bank Plc, Mrs.OpeWemi-Jones noted that the goal of the program was to further strengthen the economic contribution of women in Nigeria. It was also in line with what the Bank set out to do with the W initiative – the home for everything Access Bank has to offer women.
“Through the initiative, we inspire, connect and empower women. We are deeply committed to supporting female entrepreneurs and this workshop is one of the ways by which we seek to actualize this goal,” she added.
At the end of the workshop, participants did not only gain new insights in managing their businesses but also received Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) tool kit, personalized certificates and training materials.
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PRINCE SOJI OLAGUNJU
In my contribution to the last edition of this magazine, I had noted that 2016 will bea difficult year for Nigeria in particular and the rest of the world at large,as the economic headwinds which characterized 2015 still extend to the New Year. It is no longer news that Nigeria recorded a negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of -0.36% in the first quarter of 2016. Should this be the case by the end of the second quarter, then the Nigerian economywill officially be in recession.
A recession is defined as a period of economic downturn. Technically, if a country records negative GDP growth rates in two or more consecutive quarters, then such economy is classified as being under recession.
Managing your business through a period of economic meltdown will be severely daunting. Ordinarily, small businesses face myriads of obstacles even in normal times ranging from financial and sales challenges, to human resources and management of suppliers. These impediments become even greater during periods of recession.
Often times, recession is characterized by extraordinary market-place pressures, decreased staff morale arising from inevitable pay cuts, downsizing and other rationalization measures, weak market demand, inflation and hike in the cost of basic amenities, and exorbitant taxation as the government struggles to generate enough revenue to stimulate the economy.A research by HBR suggests that only 9% of companies come out of recession stronger than ever.
Of these few, small businesses are better positioned to navigate the turbulent waters of recession. They are small and nimble, courageous and innovative in approach. They are more flexible and better placed to take advantage of obstacles, and see opportunities even in hard times. They are less bureaucratic andhave more elastic operating systems.
Here are six steps that will help you steer your business through the tide of economic meltdown:
- Check your Cash-flow and Income Statement Regularly
There is no better time when “cash is king” than during recession. Entrepreneurs must maintain a clear trade-off between increasing sales and maintaining a healthy cash flow. To succeed in these hard times, you must establish a strong credit policy which seeks to contract credit expansion. This step is important because with the attendant high risk of job losses being one of the major consequences of a recession, retailers and small businesses are likely to suffer credit losses where some of their customers lose their jobs.
Akin to this fact is the need to minimize concentration of credit exposures on certain customers and segments of customers. This, in effect, means that businesses must have a good understanding of their customer segments and must properly dimension the possible impact of a recession on such segments. The most effective strategy to contain this risk is to diversify credit sales across major segments and customers. There should be a defined credit limit per customer segment.
- Manage your Costs Effectively
Experts agree that one of the quickest wins under a recession is to cut costs. However, cost structures differ across industries and businesses. You must examine your cost profile to know what percentage is fixed, semi variable or variable. Fixed costs are those cost items which do not change with change in volume or number of outputs, sales or units. They are said to be fixed over a relevant range. These are called committed costs. They include rent, depreciation, license fees etc. Notwithstanding, all costs are variable in the long run.
Variable costs are those cost elements which change as a result of changes in business parameters such as sales volume, number of customers etc. In order to contain variable costs, managers must be able to identify the key drivers of such costs. To manage such costs, you must control the drivers. For instance, to manage your fuel expenses, you must reduce the distance your car travels daily.
Effective cost management requires that you focus on the major cost lines that are variable within the relevant range of activities. Focusing on the most significant variable cost lines can provide levers for profit improvement and enhancement of your financial performance. Stop every activity that is not a value driver for your business in a period of recession.To do this, and do it well, you must clearly define what “value” means to you. Value analysis, is therefore central to havingan effective cost containment strategy.
Shedding workforce may seem like the lowest hanging fruit, but the truth is that this measure should really be the last option open to you. Staff cut can be counterproductive both in the immediate and at the turn of events. It has the potential of weakening the confidence and commitment of the surviving employees. When the economy rebounds, you will be faced with staff shortages, and high replacement cost in terms of recruitment expenses and learning curves. Therefore, managing staff cost should be a strategic agenda of your business. Businesses must design recruitment policies that adequately protect it against indiscriminate hiring leading to excess workforce. Full time employees may be complemented with a squad of contract staff whose employment terms are renewable yearly.
- Provide Excellent Customer Service
Attracting and retaining customers under a period of downturn requires customer service qualities that not only meetexpectations but wows the customers. The nimbleness of small businesses coupled with the inbuilt flexibilities in their operating systems enables them to provide tailor-made services to their customers all year round. SMEs are able to maintain close contact with their clients and can also effectively track their lifestyle.
Keeping a close contactwith your customers is a prerequisite tool to having an excellent customer service. You can do this by sending constant messages to keep yourself in theminds of customers and making them feel you care about them. This is much easier for small firms than for big conglomerates. Your operating margins may shrink, but you need to hold on to your customers at all cost.
- Incentivize your Employees for Customer Acquisition
As recession bites harder, it is possible for small companies to acquire more customers who may be looking for smaller and cheaper providers of their product/service needs. Remember that what some blue-chip companies may be selling is their brand, and not utility. So higher prices may not necessarily translate to higher quality or better utility. In periods of recession, many customers seek utility rather than prestige and packaging.
Customer acquisition will be further enhanced if you provide incentives in form of bonuses and commissions for employees who win new clients. Acquisition and retention of new customers is the key to surviving the recession.
- Be innovative
Creativity, intellect, vision and experience are levers of success for small businesses under economic meltdown. Emotional intelligence, technical skills, competence and a mastery of the digital world will count as a major point of departure in the business climate of today. Where these features manifest, they enhance the ability of the company to employ the steps discussed above to win in the market. Winning is the only option for you.
- Keep the presence of God
Finally, and most importantly, you must keep the presence of God all the time. God’s promise to bless the works of our hands is not absolute. The scripture tells us in Psalm 1 that those who work in the way of the Lord shall be like trees planted by the rivers of water that bear fruit in and out of season, and whose leaves will never wither. We have a duty to do things in the way that God teaches. Our father in heaven is a just God and He expects us to do our business with fairness and justice. We must neither cheat our customers nor maltreat those who work for us. When we play by the principles of God, then the words of Psalm 1 will be our portion.
NB: Mark Oguh, a Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Financial Management Expert wrote in from St. Anthony’s Parish, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org