History and heritage
For more than a century, First Bank of Nigeria Plc has distinguished itself as a leading banking institution and a major contributor to the economic development of Nigeria. Founded in 1894 by Sir Alfred Jones, a shipping magnate from Liverpool, the Bank started out as a small operation in the office of Elder Dempster & Company in Lagos.
The Bank was incorporated as a Limited Liability Company on 31st March 1894, with a head office in Liverpool. It began trading under the corporate name of the Bank for British West Africa (BBWA) with a paid—up capital of £12,000, after absorbing its predecessor, the African Banking Corporation, which had been established earlier, in 1892. BBWA went on to establish a leading position in the banking industry in West Africa, recording impressive growth and working closely with the Colonial Government in its role as a Central Bank.
Marking the creation of the Bank’s international banking operations, a branch was opened in Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1896, and another in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1898. A second Nigerian branch was opened in the old Calabar in 1900, and two years later services were extended to Northern Nigeria.
To respond successfully to changing conditions over the years, the Bank has restructured several times. In 1957, it changed its name from Bank for British West Africa to Bank of West Africa, and in 1969 it was incorporated locally as the Standard Bank of Nigeria Limited, in line with the Companies’ Decree of 1968. In March 1971, the Bank obtained a listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Further name changes took place in 1979 and 1991 — to First Bank of Nigeria Limited, then First Bank of Nigeria Plc. In 1985, the Bank introduced a decentralised structure with five regional administrations, and this was reconfigured in 1992 to enhance operational efficiency.
First Bank of Nigeria today
The Bank has continued to be a leader in financing the long-term development of the Nigerian economy. Ever since 1947, when it advanced the first long-term loan to the Government, it has kept broadening its loan and credit portfolios to various sectors of the economy.
To satisfy the needs of its customers, First Bank has diversified into a wide range of banking activities and services. These include corporate and retail banking, registrarship, pension fund custodianship, trusteeship and insurance brokerage. The Bank currently has 394 branches throughout Nigeria — the largest branch network in the industry.
Over the years, the Bank has experienced phenomenal growth — from a share capital of N55.6 million in 1980, to N2.619 billion in March 2006. Also in March 2006, the Bank’s total asset base was N540.2 billion, its deposit base was N390.8 billion, and market capitalisation stood at N193.81 billion (N37,000 per share).
The Bank has developed impressively, based on key criteria such as number of branches, growth in deposit base, asset size, and size of loans and advances. A strong track record of profitability and reliability in sound banking has also helped it maintain a leadership position.
As it keeps moving forward in its second century of banking to the nation, the Bank will change and adapt as necessary, to fulfil its mission statement, to ‘remain true to our name by providing the best financial services possible’.