Nigerian banks: First Bank – the advantage and disadvantage of size
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Nigerian banks: First Bank – the advantage and disadvantage of size

First Bank would undoubtedly be the elephant – the biggest. The brand even features an image of an elephant. CEO Bisi Onasanya
First Bank CEO Bisi Onasanya< td="">

If Nigeria’s top five banks were the big-five African game animals, First Bank would undoubtedly be the elephant – the biggest. The brand even features an image of an elephant. CEO Bisi Onasanya acknowledges that his bank has always had a reputation, like the elephant, for strength and reliability. The relative trust First Bank enjoys is crucial in a country where depositors have learnt harsh lessons of banks with shorter histories. First Bank is the oldest bank in Nigeria – it was once part of Standard Chartered – and its branding trumpets a foundation date of 1894.

But in a similar way to Sberbank – the biggest and oldest bank in Russia – First Bank is trying to shake off an image of itself as lumbering, while still trying to keep the cheap-deposit advantages of reputational reliability. Indeed, First Bank has risen to second place in Euromoney’s survey of best-managed banks.

"We became the bank to beat," says Onasanya on the changes he has made since becoming CEO in 2009. Given its size, rival bankers repeat this view – one says First Bank has been thoroughly reinvigorated since its former CEO, Lamido Sanusi, left to become central bank governor four years ago.

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