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FirstBank holds SME conference to empower entrepreneurs

By The Citizen
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As part of its commitment to sustain the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) nationwide, FirstBank, one of the leading SME banks in the country, has initiated an annual conference that will highlight challenges and opportunities for small businesses.

According to a release by the Bank, the maiden edition which comes up on November 26, 2013 at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island is themed: 'SMEs at the heart of National Development: Creativity, Capacity and Capital'.

Top dignitaries expected to grace the occasion  includes the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola as host, Minister of Trade, Mr. Segun Aganga as Guest of Honour, while CEO, SOKOA Chair Centre, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika and CEO,, Mr. Sim Shagaya will serve as keynote speakers.

Awosika is an award winning entrepreneur and  the founder and CEO of Chair Centre Group, has extensive experience in manufacturing and retail services that will drive conversations around capacity development in this sector and the opportunities available to entrepreneurs across the entire retail value chain.  Shagaya, is founder of and, and has over 11 years of management and entrepreneurial experience.

FirstBank's Executive Director Retail Banking South, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, said the critical role of SMEs as the engine of growth in the economy, providing employment to thousands of people and contributing significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP) makes the conference a timely platform for repositioning the nation's SMEs for sustained growth.

According to Shobo, the conference will have two panel sessions that will address access to Capital, leveraging creativity and deepening capacities, among others. 'Creativity is at the heart of entrepreneurship and all SMEs require some measure of this to birth their companies and continue to evolve and grow their businesses. Growth is not possible without building capacity in each sector by the acquisition of necessary skills and human resources to drive the business. Expansion can only be funded by acquiring the capital to invest in the business and take it to the next level of operation,' she said.

Participants, expected from across the nation, are expected to pre-register on the Bank's dedicated microsite for the conference at The site among others will provide links to non-financial services such as toolkits and templates serve as a channel to obtain feedback from customers and resolve complaints and communicate products and services targeted at SMEs.

FirstBank's value proposition to SMEs is focused on empowering SMEs and SME entrepreneurs. It is geared towards building the capacity of SMEs to deliver to business goals and contribute even more significantly to national development. The value proposition goes beyond an SME product or suite of products to a robust engagement programme designed in every way to help SMEs succeed. SMEs are given access to dedicated Relationship Managers (RMs) with deep industry knowledge of the customer's business and pain points, and can offer basic advisory services to the customer. SMEs are provided opportunities for capacity-building and business networking through National Conferences, Open Seminars, Industry-specific Forums, Town Hall Meetings, etc. They are also offered a free payments-and-collections platform to drive the payment and receipt aspects of their business and deepen their transactional capabilities and speed. SMEs are also given web presence for free on - a social commerce online portal to enable them trade as well as network.