CFA University Challenge: FirstBank’s Unwavering Commitment to Ethics, Education
One of the critical issues that bother many Nigerians and features in topical conversations about the nation is the lack of or terribly low level of ethical practices, values and compliances.
This malady cuts across the national sphere including businesses, politics, trade, government, institutions and religion. In fact, every facet of life appears to be dogged by this oddity. Be it in business transactions, award of contracts, political leadership, government spending, construction, education, budget and planning, recognitions and awards, processes are dysfunctional and enforcement culture is weak, with embarrassing public cases of selective or poor compliance popping up while rules are easily bent for money, status, relationship and other gratifications. This generally erodes public confidence in institutions and establishments and there exists a pervasive belief that privileged people get away with almost anything.
The business sector especially which is a cardinal mainstay of any modern society is unfortunately not spared of this widespread challenge in Nigeria.
News headlines of sharp practices, shoddy transactions, bribery and corruption, shell companies, tax evasion and none compliance to regulatory authorities abound on the sector.
To address this and promote the culture of stringent corporate ethics, compliances, professionalism and integrity in Nigeria and West Africa, FirstBank Nigeria Limited has partnered with the CFA Society, an international organisation reputed for promoting global best practices and ethics especially in business and other financial transactions.
The CFA Society has since 2016 commenced a progressively growing partnership with tertiary institutions of learning in Nigeria through the annual University Ethics Challenge Competition, and it says plans are underway to extend same to Ghana beginning from 2023.
The CFA Challenge, a flagship project seeks to assist university students get required exposure into acceptable professional conduct, standards and integrity required to operate in the financial and business industry globally.
It adopted a key strategy of catching them young while still studying as undergraduates through nationwide competitions. Though a pan African target, the goal is to start with the Nigeria focus and ensure that university students within Nigeria understand what it takes to be ethical professionals.
Since 2017, FirstBank has committed significant funding, personnel and other resources into the pan Nigeria program, consistently sponsoring with millions of cash in a bid to give the campaign a good boost and raise ethics level in the nation.
Speaking on the partnership, CFA Society Nigeria President, Ibukun Oyedeji, said, “First bank started with us in 2017. We started this entire journey of ethics challenge in 2016 and approached First bank in 2017. They bought into the idea because it actually aligned with their own strategic goal around their corporate social responsibility. They believed the quality of people that come up from Nigerian universities would actually determine the quality of professionals in Nigerian banking system.”
She added: “At CFA Nigeria, we thought catch them young would be the best strategy for us. And that means going into the university and partnering to ensure the integrity of students are put in place before they actually get hired.”
“While students gain academic knowledge from the lecturers, we teach them the best ethical standards to actually operate in the markets. With that the convergence and partnership with First Bank gives us the kind of professionals that can compete globally.”
“We know First Bank believe very strongly in ethical values and so the vision was mutual. The convergence ensured First Bank got interested in sponsoring us and I just want to say a very big thank you for the consistency in which they’ve supported this vision over the last five years or six years now. This is the six year running. And they’ve been very consistent each year. We started very small, about five, six universities and now we have 22 this year, but last year, they were 25 universities, and next year, we’re going into Ghana and neighbouring West African countries with the partnership with First Bank. So I can’t over emphasize the importance of this partnership. We’re truly grateful as a society for this, and would ensure that we continue to work with them to spread the news of ethical values across the African continent.”
Miss Eniola Oyenuga, leader of the team of undergraduates from the Finance department at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) who emerged overall winners at the 2022 edition was full of praise and commendation for First Bank and CFA.
Meanwhile, Obafemi Awolowo University team had also emerged runner up with the University of Port Harcourt coming third while University of Nigeria, Nsukka came fourth during the edition keenly contested by 22 Universities which ended on October 29 at an event in Victoria Island, Lagos.
13 varsities, comprising 3 from the North and 10 from the South made it to the regional rounds. The schools included Abia State University, Ahmadu Below University, Zaria, Clifford University, Coal City University, Covenant University, Madonna University, Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Abuja. Others were the University of Benin, the University of Ilorin, the University of Lagos, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the University of Port Harcourt.
Speaking shortly after winning, Oyenuga said the Ethics event was very demanding and participants were given adapted real life financial transactions and business ethics case studies, and required to evaluate, make recommendations and presentations to a panel of highly experienced financial experts from whom they fielded related questions.
“The panelists during the finale included Oluropo Okunmuyide, Head, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd; Taiwo Olatunji, CFA, Head, Investment Banking, Coronation Merchant Bank; Tomilola Olakiigbe, CFA, Head Finance, All-On Energy; Eno Atoyebi, CFA, Managing Director, Valualliance Asset Management and Kazeem Alimi, CFA, Head Secondary Markets, NGX Limited.”
Oyenuga however said, “I want to say a very big thank you to first bank and also to the CFA society for organizing it.
She added: ” The event means a lot to myself and my team and we hope to see continuous effort for future editions. We believe that next year will on a greater scale and we look forward to coming again to learn and most importantly, encourage others to understand the standards and code of ethics.”
Narrating her experience, she opened up, “Well, I don’t know. I’m still in shock. But it’s excitement all round and I’m really proud to see that the hard work of my team and I paid off. We spent sleepless nights reading all through the standards amidst tight school pressures. So it really means a lot to us recording this win. And to note this is the first time that UNILAG is winning the Universities Ethics challenge in four years. So it’s a significance win and a big records for the books.
“Well, at each stage, there were different feelings I wouldn’t lie so from the semifinals we had about 14 to 20 schools competing, and it was a lot because it had to be virtual. So we had to meet on campus, hold virtual calls, late night calls to fit in everybody schedule. but we came out top four and we’re like, oh, this is the final we need to put in more work. So that makes it more demanding, reading more, had to go through the standard and perfect our presentation. So like I said, you know, it’s just great to see that our hard work and perseverance paid off.
In his own remarks, Ismail Omamegbe, Head, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability/Media & External Relations at FirstBank, said the partnership with CFA aligns with the Bank’s commitment to ethics, professional excellence, capacity building and inclusive growth of Nigerian youths and the drive for ethical values.
He noted that, “As an organisation, First Bank has a corporate responsibility and sustainability strategy which focuses on three core areas – education, health and welfare; diversity and inclusion; as well as responsible lending and procurement.
“We believe that education is critical, and remains the bedrock of any economy. So it is material to us in that sense and as an organisation that focuses on nation building, education is very relevant. That is why for example, we’re supporting the university ethics challenge. We’ve been supporting for about five to six years now. And also if we look at it from the other angle, in terms of materiality, corporate ethics, ethical practice, ethical values are relevant to any financial institution.
“We demonstrate this through policies to processes and initiatives like the current ethics challenge. And also, we’re currently supporting a Chair on business ethics at the University of Lagos as well. So everything is clearly thought out. There is a link; there is an alignment with the strategic, there’s an overall in terms of macro economic view. It’s that alignment as well when it comes to nation building. We would always support this initiative. The initiatives are well thought out and there is what is called materiality. So it is critical to us.” he added.
Dr. Peter Amah, a senior lecturer in the department of finance and UNILAG team Adviser said expressed gratitude to First Bank and CFA on the program.
“You know, University of Lagos is known as the University of first choice in Nigeria. And we are aligning with First bank. So you see first bank and your first choice university. So it’s a perfect combination. Then for CFA, we know the CFA is for excellence in Nigeria. You can never fault them for excellence in everything they do on professionalism. So that’s why consistently we have very, very strong belief and support in whatever they do and we are proud to, we’re always part of them. So we say thank you to the executive and members of CFA and also First bank.
He added, “Well, I can only say that it is also an emotional one for me and the university. University of Lagos has been part of CFA program since 2016. As a matter of fact, we won this competition in 2016. In 2017, when my current Vice Chancellor was resuming office on Monday morning. UNILAG won this competition on Sunday. So it was on television on Monday morning as he was coming into office so he took note of it. So every year he kept pushing us. Maybe that’s why since then we have always been winning this competition. Then again, he’s exiting office next week. As we had welcomed him, we are also sending him forth with the cup. Again, for First bank and CFA.”