First Bank of Nigeria Limited has promised its stakeholders that it will optimally maximise the opportunities from the disruptions occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the economy to their advantage. Dr Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank Chief Executive Officer, gave the assurance on Thursday at the bank’s Virtual Corporate Customers forum webinar.
The forum had the theme: Navigating the Financial Impact of COVID-19 – Business Leaders’ Role in Finding a ‘New Normal’. Adeduntan said that the bank would continue to leverage the changes to reduce cost of doing business.
“COVID-19 is giving business leaders an opportunity to rethink on an established wisdom. “It is a major crisis that we need to deal with and we must change it from a bad to good crisis. It offers an opportunity to reinvent our business. We have to think without the box,”Adeduntan said.
According to him, the bank is looking at several opportunities to do things differently to achieve desired result. Speaking on the topic “Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Nigeria Financial Sector,”the FirstBank CEO said the pandemic had put significant pressure on revenue and profits of commercial banks.
He said that the banking industry was witnessing more stringent interest rates, higher foreign exchange funding cost and concerns on level of foreign reserves, among others. The bank chief said that the pandemic had led to uptick in the level of non-performing assets and increase in the level of cyber attacks due to migration to digital channels.
Adeduntan assured customers that the bank would overcome the pandemic, having been in existence for the past 126 years. He said that FirstBank was already in existence when the first pandemic of 1918 occurred. “It weathered it and would still shake off COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our customers are right in there at the centre of our business,” Adeduntan. He said that the bank had unveiled enhanced palliative measures to help its customers and Nigerians through the times of COVID-19 lockdown. According to him, the bank has introduced moratorium to give customers more time to repay their loans.
Mr Ini Ebong, FirstBank Group Executive, Treasury & Financial Institutions, said that collapse of oil price, oil price war, COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown affected the foreign exchange market. Ebong said the foreign exchange market was under immense pressure due to exit of portfolio investors. He said that demand for dollars was heightened due to collapse of oil price and Coronavirus pandemic.
Ebong explained that steps taken so far by the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to support the economy would bring back liquidity. “If we create a good conducive environment, portfolio managers will still come back to our market,” he said. Mr Wole Obayomi, Partner, KPMG, said tax was part of life, while noting that no country had cancelled tax payment because of COVID-19.
Speaking on the topic, “Tax Advisory: Market Disruptions,” Obayomi advised corporates to ensure payment of tax as and when due, to reduce tax bills in form of penalties. He said that corporates could engage tax authorities for payment extension if they forsee late payment due to the global pandemic.
Obayomi, however, called on the Federal Government to suspend the new Value Added Tax increase to 7.5 per cent till 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic. Also speaking, Ms Bunmi Bajomo, FirstBank Group Head, Corporate Banking Group (Manufacturing), noted that fundamental change requires fundamental actions by corporates, governments, customers and consumers.
Speaking on the topic: “Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Manufacturing Sector”, Bajomo, said, ”there is always an opportunity in any crisis.” She said that companies with strong balance sheet would come out stronger and marginal players would struggle. According to her, corporates should be careful and smarter with operational expenses. Bajomo said that actions corporates take would determine where they would be post-COVID-19.