Banking in its modern sense evolved in the 14th century in the rich city of Renaissance, Italy, but in many ways was a continuation of ideas and concepts of credit and lending that had its roots in the ancient world.

In the history of banking, a number of banking dynasties have played a central role over many centuries. In Nigeria, the history of banking could be traced from 1892, presenting 121 years of complete banking history, right from the establishment of the foundation of banks in Nigeria, the African Banking Corporation and the Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) to the first attempt at an indigenous bank in Nigeria in 1929 until the establishment of the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1959. Though, Central Bank of Nigeria is the apex financial institution within the entire financial structure promoting monetary stability and a sound financial system, regulating the banking industry and its policies, First Bank of Nigeria Plc emerged the first bank in the country.

African Banking Corporation was established in 1892. In 1894, the bank incorporated as a limited liability company and established a branch in Lagos becoming the first surviving bank in Nigeria in response to a rapidly changing economic and business environment, BBWA felt the need, at various times to restructure its operations.

The bank originally served the British shipping and trading agencies in Nigeria. The founder, Alfred Lewis Jones, was a shipping magnate, who originally had a monopoly of importing silver currency into West Africa through his Elder Dempster Shipping Company. According to its founder, without a bank, economies were reduced to using barter and a wide variety of mediums of exchange, leading to unsound practices. A bank could provide a secure home for deposits and also a uniform medium of exchange. The bank primarily financed foreign trade, but did little lending to Nigerians, who had little, to offer as collateral for loans.

The Bank, on 31st March 1894, with head office in Liverpool, began trading under the corporate name of the Bank for British West Africa (BBWA) with a paid-up capital of £12,000, after absorbing its predecessor, the African Banking Corporation, which had been established earlier, in 1892. Bank for British West Africa went on to establish a leading position in the banking industry in West Africa, recording impressive growth and working closely with the colonial government in its role as a central bank.

First Bank solidified itself as a brand of fortitude, strength and innovation in the Nigerian financial sector since its inception in 1894. The iconic African elephant with navy blue and ivory colours has been a national symbol of one of the biggest international players in the financial services industry to date.

Marking the creation of the bank’s international banking operations, a branch was opened in Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1896, and another in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1898.

Bank for British West Africa opened its second branch in Nigeria in Calabar in 1900 and, 12 years later, extended its services to Northern Nigeria by opening its Zaria branch. The Kano branch was opened in 1928.

To respond successfully to changing conditions over the years, the bank has restructured several times. In 1957, Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) changed its name to Bank of West Africa (BWA). In 1965, the Standard Bank of South Africa merged with the Bank of West Africa acquiring businesses including a banking operation in Nigeria, which dates back to 1894. The name was then changed to Standard Bank of West Africa. Four years after the merger, Standard Bank of Nigeria was incorporated locally to take over the business in Nigeria, in line with the Companies Decree of 1968.  In 1971, 13 per cent of the share capital was placed with Nigerian investors. The end of the civil war saw a major economic upturn and as a consequence, the military government sought to increase local control of the retail-banking sector, hence the bank’s investment in Standard Bank Nigeria

Standard Bank of West Africa’s investment in Standard Bank of Nigeria fell to 38%, and the bank changed its name to First Bank of Nigeria in 1979. Further name changes took place in 1991 – to First Bank of Nigeria Limited, then First Bank of Nigeria Plc. In 1985, the bank had introduced a decentralized structure with five regional administrations, and this was reconfigured in 1992 to enhance operational efficiency.

Headquartered in Lagos, First Bank has international presence through its subsidiary, FBN Bank (UK) in London and Paris and its offices in Johannesburg and Beijing. With about 1.3 million shareholders across several countries, First Bank is quoted on The Nigerian Stock Exchange and has an unlisted Global Depository Receipt (GDR) programme.

The bank provides a comprehensive range of retail and corporate solutions and through its subsidiaries contributes to national economic development – in capital market operations, insurance brokerage, bureau de change, private equity/venture capital, pension funds management, registrar ship, trusteeship,  mortgages and microfinance.

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