FirstBank’s SMECONNECT portal could be the differentiator for SMEs in Nigeria –
More than a hundred years after the arrival of banks in Nigeria, the services provided to small and medium enterprises were limited to basic banking services and transactions. However, those willing to look further have been able to stand the test of time, reinventing itself with cutting-edge financial services that remain essential to maintaining its relevance not only to its host communities, but to the global community as well.
Based on findings from extensive client engagements, internal and external surveys and reports from SMEDAN, Efina and NBS, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has deliberately ensured that SMEs thrive and grow their businesses as SMEs can access and enjoy the convenience of its industry. – leading financial services. FirstBank launched the SMEConnect portal to bring together value-added proposals and services for SMEs on a single platform for easy access.
Value propositions and services on the SMEConnect portal educate and equip SMEs to tackle challenges such as poor business structure, lack of infrastructure, low market penetration, limited access to information and professional services, inconsistent government policies and others that could stifle their growth.
For example, lack of capacity is one of the most cited reasons for business failure or stunting. The SMEconnect portal connects business owners to resources and information to educate them on how to structure and best manage their businesses. The platform hosts webinars on various important topics to help educate SMEs and build required capacity.
The blog section of the portal has interesting and informative content like:
Advice on establishing and maintaining good relations with clients; Staying in business after Covid-19; How to scale; How to successfully separate a financial business account from a personal business account; as well as the creation of a micro-pension scheme for MSMEs, etc.
FirstBank also runs various entrepreneurship programs and activities through trainings, workshops, seminars, business clinics and webinars, and events are posted on the portal for business owners to access. .
It is known that more than 60% of businesses fail in their first year, not only due to capacity constraints, but access to finance is another reason for their failure. The SMEConnect portal connects businesses to resources and finance by providing information on the various financing options available to registered users. There is a section of the portal that breaks down the steps from accessing finance for businesses, to simple actions such as opening savings or home accounts After all, what would be the essence of all education and capacity building if the business owner is still unable to access finance and other resources. SMEs that have an account with FirstBank can access direct and indirect financing throughout the business lifecycle through grants, debt/loans and equity.
In addition to other benefits, the platform connects SMEs to the market, resources, infrastructure, business development talent, policy and advocacy, giving them everything they need to scale up. next step in growing their business. The portal also integrates SMEs into large distribution networks by connecting them to customers, distribution channels, suppliers and large enterprises.
There are also productivity tools such as the business diagnostic tool which helps to check the health of a business as well as a pool of professionals such as accountants, lawyers, digital marketers, consultants and business coaches, which SMEs can draw on. Some of these value-added solutions are free, and for the few that are not, they are offered at significantly reduced rates. As West Africa’s leading bank, First Bank has exceeded expectations of what its services to individuals and businesses should be. The SMEConnect portal is one of First Bank’s initiatives to promote the sustainability of SMEs by exposing them to the knowledge and resources they need to grow their business.
One of the coolest features businesses get on the PMEConnect portal is the previously mentioned business diagnostic tool, this is a 15-minute survey where SMEs are asked questions about their business. and at the end, get a personalized report for their company. It’s usually a service that business owners pay for to get consultants, but First Bank has made it available for free even to businesses that don’t have an account with them.
There are special offers for SMEs that are registered and have an account with First Bank, and the ability to be listed on the portal. You can find companies listed in different sectors such as education/training, manufacturing, trade, agriculture, hospitality, transport/logistics, telecommunications, ICT, health and fitness, Sports, FMCG, Financial Services, Media/Entertainment, Food, Real Estate, Engineering. /construction, oil and gas, fashion/beauty and services.
These registered companies can showcase their products/services for free, interact with customers and other SMEs, have the opportunity to attend free monthly capacity building workshops, seminars and webinars; and get exclusive discounts on business development resources like booking a business coach.
As more businesses register and use the SMEConnect portal, there is a possibility of a future where Nigerian businesses will break even, thrive and grow amid challenges.
Taken from Nairametrics