First Bank Aims Higher Customer Base by 2020

Nigeria's First Bank plans to have 30 million customers by 2020, 17 million more than now, with digital banking helping it to reach that goal, its chief executive said on Friday.

Adesola Adeduntan said 47 percent of transactions were being carried out electronically by the end of March and the lender was aiming to serve customers more cheaply outside its branches.

Industry data showed that instant transfers hit 38 trillion naira ($125 billion) last year. Nigerian banks had a total of 65 million accounts last year, up from 23 million eight years ago.

"We have set ourselves an ambitious three-year plan of transformation," Adeduntan told Reuters by phone.

"We have enough brick and mortar (branches) and need to push digital."

Adeduntan said the bank had hired some executives and was transforming its processes including centralising approvals to execute its strategy over the next three years.

First Bank has 750 branches in Nigeria and has been developing an agency banking model to win more customers from next month, particularly in the rural areas where more than 60 percent of Nigeria's 180 million people live, Adeduntan said.

"In the aftermath of the implementation of biometric identification for customers we now have a clearer idea of Nigerians who have bank accounts," he said.

The bank is also aiming to increase its lending by five and 10 percent this year.