September 19th, 2012, Lagos, Nigeria – Determined to ensure that the vast majority of the unbanked and the underbanked Nigerians enjoy superior financial services, Nigeria’s Number One bank brand*, First Bank of Nigeria Plc (FirstBank), today launched its mobile money service, FirstMonie, in a move that is seen as a major push for local money transfer services.
With the launch of this service, the stage is now set for the Bank’s customers and anyone in Nigeria with a Mobile Phone to enjoy financial services, using their mobile phones to send money, pay bills, top up their phone airtime, do shopping, deposit and withdraw cash, without the need to visit a bank branch. The slogan “FirstMonie is the new money” encapsulates both the ambition and vision of the new service.
The FirstMonie launch event, held at WheatBaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos on the 19th of September, was witnessed by FirstBank’s network partners including Globacom, Airtel, Etisalat and MTN as well as key stakeholders and executives of the Bank. The operating platform for the FirstMonie service is powered by Fundamo, a Visa company. In 2002, Fundamo launched the world’s first mobile financial service in emerging markets with Celpay in Zambia.
Speaking at the launch, FirstBank’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Bisi Onasanya said: “FirstMonie services have been created with three principles in mind. The first is defined by how consumers receive money to fund their unique lifestyles; how consumers spend money for their unique lifestyle needs; and thirdly, the ability of the consumer to be informed and in control of their money.
“With almost 700 branches and business correspondent outlets strategically located across the country, about 1,900 ATMs – cash deposit, cardless and biometric, over six million active accounts and over 18,000 point of sale terminals, FirstBank offers the best and the most effective mobile money platform in Nigeria. We are already recruiting agents across the country to meet the needs of our consumers,” he added.
Beyond mobile money services, FirstBank has in place a world-class IT and electronic payment infrastructure to deliver unparalleled financial transaction experience to its discerning customers. These include Automated Teller Machines (ATMs); Point of Sale (POS) Terminals; FirstOnline – the Bank’s internet banking; and a bespoke Card portfolio comprising of Debit, Credit and Prepaid card variants issued on the brands of Visa, MasterCard and Verve amongst other electronic payment solutions.
Onasanya added that The Cashless Nigeria Initiative, introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which commenced in Lagos in January 2012, is a significant step towards reducing cash-based transactions and driving the provision and adoption of electronic financial services.
“However, it is important to point out that even before the new CBN policy came on stream, we had taken some proactive measures by rolling out various e-transaction services and products of our own. For instance, our online-real time banking services have been in place for almost two decades, in addition to massive deployment of alternative delivery channels, such as POS, ATM, and internet banking. We were able to recognize on time that in the increasingly dynamic and sophisticated business environment, the future of banking will be e-driven,” Onasanya added.
“The launch of FirstMonie is a great example of how consumers benefit when financial institutions and mobile operators form partnerships. Thanks to services like FirstMonie, we see significant growth opportunities in mobile financial services in Nigeria in the coming year. Only 30 per cent of the country’s 160 million people have access to formal financial services** while there are more than 93 million mobile phone subscriptions, the most in Africa***. These factors have created an unprecedented opportunity for mobile financial services to act as an agent of positive and fundamental social, economic and technological change,” said Hannes van Rensburg, CEO of Fundamo, a Visa company.
Also speaking at the launch, FirstBank’s Group Head, e-Business, Mr. Chuma Ezirim, said, “FirstMonie has been innovatively created to empower Nigerians, both banked (those who already have bank accounts) and especially, the un-banked (those who do not have bank accounts), providing them the most affordable, safe, trusted, fast and convenient access to doing everything they do with cash today. In ten years, 100 million people have been newly ‘banked’ using mobile technology, and while the industry has grown rapidly, the segment is still far from reaching its potential. GSMA figures show that 2.5 billion adults still lack access to formal financial services, such as savings, payments, loans and insurance (the GSM Association represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide).”
He however foresees a positive outlook for the sector as industry analysts are forecasting imminent growth in the number of financially included individuals. A recent Juniper Research report forecasts that the number of newly ‘banked’ people will double to 200 million by 2013, he said.
For subscribers wishing to use the new FirstMonie service, their mobile phone number will serve as the account number. Registration is free, simple and secure, all a subscriber has to do to sign up is dial *894# and follow the prompts. Alternatively, subscribers can sign up online at https://www.firstmonie.com/imobile or at any FirstMonie agent location.