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FirstBank warns SMEs against sourcing finance from ‘loan sharks’

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FirstBank of Nigeria Limited has cautioned Small and Medium-sized Enterprises against seeking financing from unlicensed money lenders, generally referred to as loan sharks.

Dr. Abiodun Famuyiwa, Head, SMEs Banking and Money Transfer, gave the warning on Wednesday.

The FirstBank SMEConnect Webinar had the theme: “Pioneering SME Success: Growing Profit and Sustainability Goals.”

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the webinar, organised in collaboration with the MESH Consult Limited, was aimed at providing SMEs with a comprehensive understanding of the strategies and approaches necessary to achieve sustainable growth and profitability.

According to Famuyiwa, in sourcing for finance, it is advisable for SMEs to avoid unnecessary financial pressure by engaging “loan sharks”.

He said: “A number of times when they are trying to raise capital, we discovered that what most SMEs do, desperately, when they cannot get family members to give them money, is to go to ‘loan sharks’.

“The damage that has been caused by these ‘loan sharks; are many because they give you at an interest rate that is off the roof. By the time you are struggling to pay the interest, the capital is still waiting for you.

“Most times, the profit from these businesses is so marginal that you will not be able to cope with the high cost. So, please avoid expensive sources of funds like these loan sharks. They can be very damaging to the business.

“Records show that we have lost some great SMEs because some of them, out of pressure, commit suicide.”

The banker urged them to always seek financing from reputable and regulated financial institutions.

Famuyiwa, while providing growth levers, advised SMEs to ensure that their businesses are registered as a sole proprietor, private company or a limited liability before approaching banks.

He urged the SMEs to have proper financial records, adequate sales turnover, strong cash flow from business, tax identification number and ensure they also file their annual returns.

He advised them to ensure they have a valid bank verification number, saying it is important for their businesses.

He also advised them to take advantage of technology to improve their businesses, especially to boost their relationship with their customers.

Famuyiwa said that Know-Your-Customer documents and clean credit bureau report were also important when approaching the bank for finance.

He introduced some of the products that FirstBank has for SMEs that would aid their business and they would not need them to pay an Annual Maintenance Charge.

He said: “In FirstBank, we have a FirstSME current account that you can just open without paying any AMC and be running your business either as a nano, micro or small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The account comes in three variants with exciting features: FirstSME Basic, FirstSME Classic and FirstSME Deluxe. With these, you can pay money into that account without any AMC charges.

“This is one of the strong value propositions that First Bank has put forward to support every business. Whether that business is registered or not, you can run the business.”

He added that the bank also had other bouquets of products that would support any type of business and meet their requirements.

NAN reports that the highlight of the programme was a free offer of the FirstBank Point of Sale machines to over 300 SME operators who joined the meeting.

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