FirstBank Private Banking: Our clients are keeping us on our toes

Idowu Thompson discusses the shifting demands of FirstBank of Nigeria's high net worth customers

November 25, 2019

FirstBank of Nigeria’s 125 year heritage and growing international network gives its private banking division a strong foundation to provide best-in-class, bespoke services to its high net worth clients. Idowu Thompson, Group Head of Private Banking for FirstBank of Nigeria, explains how the bank works to understand its high net worth clients’ individual needs, how those needs have been changing in recent years, and what the future holds for the bank.

World Finance: Idowu Thompson is Group Head of Private Banking for FirstBank of Nigeria. FBN’s 125 year heritage in Nigeria, and growing international network, gives the private banking division a strong foundation to provide best-in-class, bespoke services to its high net worth clients.

Idowu – who are your clients, and how do you work to understand their unique banking needs?

Idowu Thompson: Our clients are largely ultra-high-net-worth, or high-net-worth, individuals. These clients cut across different cultures, different backgrounds, levels of education, age, gender, religion.

One of the things we pride ourselves in doing is not just listening to our customers, but also hearing them.

There are two ways in which we do that. So, one involves looking at what their buying patterns are; looking at their behavioural patterns are in terms of what they’re demanding, what they’ve used historically, in terms of the proposition – the private banking proposition.

The other part, which is also more qualitative, involves sitting with them and getting a deeper insight as to their individualities. There’s a need for us to be able to treat them as individuals.

What we try to do is to put the piece of our own expertise – in terms of investment knowledge, in terms of the wealth management offerings, in terms of what’s available out there in the global trends – and make some of these things available to them, so that they can make the right decisions for themselves. And continue to see us as their bankers of first choice.

World Finance: Tell me more about the changes that you’re seeing in your clients and their financial services needs.

Idowu Thompson: Our clients are a lot more demanding these days, in a very good way. A lot of the clients want high yield on their portfolios; at the same time a lot of them also want the safety of their portfolios!

And what that has done for us is to also put us on our toes, as the leading private bank in Nigeria. There’s a lot more questions around the wealth management needs. A lot of what we are seeing now is the demand for a relationship – and not just a relationship with the individual, but also the relationship with the family. So in those instances we talk about things like family benefits, family recognition. And just being able to know our clients thoroughly, and help them actualise their financial goals.

And in that way we find out that we’re able to build trust. We’re also able to add value to them in terms of the quality of advice that we give to them.

So I think by so doing, it’s a bit easier for us to work on longer-term relationships, and create the kind of stickiness that we would seek with our clients.

World Finance: How important is having the 125 year heritage of the FirstBank Group to building and maintaining that trust?

Idowu Thompson: Well I can say to you Paul that it’s a fantastic feeling for me. It makes my job easier. There’s a saying that FirstBank, in terms of a corporate entity, is a bank where everyone runs to as a flight to safety.

We’re under a very dynamic executive team, and a very well-focused board.

The banking sector in Nigeria has indeed gone through some transformation; but one of the tests of us as FirstBank, and as the leading bank, is the fact that we’ve been able to stand firm. We’ve been able to make good progress, even when the environmental climes were challenged. And we are heading in the right direction – I can see that clearly.

World Finance: So finally, what does the future hold for FirstBank Private Banking, and for your clients?

Idowu Thompson: In terms of what the future holds, we want to be the clear leader, and also the private bank of first choice for our clients.

We do expect that there’s going to be a lot more competition coming in from the non-traditional institutions; so you’re going to see a lot more insurance companies, asset management companies, deploying wealth management solutions, providing advisory services, to their clients.

We also have competitors coming from offshore banks; even from the developed banks that have representative offices in Nigeria.

So for us, it’s being able to be anticipatory. It’s about being able to create innovative products for our clients. It’s about being able to find the role of technology in what we’re doing. It’s also about being able to comply with the regulatory requirements – and a lot has changed in that clime. You’re looking at requirements like the Common Reporting Standards. We’re also looking at the GIPS, which basically impacts how investment managers reflect the performance of their portfolios.

But what I can dare say is that for us as FirstBank Private Banking, and as an institution in FirstBank, with the leadership of the bank, with the board, the management: we are thinking steps ahead. A journey is not a race that’s won in one day. And that’s the way we’ve tried to position ourselves.

We are indeed a bank that’s here to stay, and a bank that would continue to be the leading choice for Nigerians.

World Finance: Idowu, thank you very much.

Idowu Thompson: Thank you very much Paul.