Inside the First Bank ‘Premium Lounge’

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First Bank Office

In a rare positioning move, handlers of First Bank brand have unveiled a new innovation, which aims at providing great comfort for loyal customers of the bank and brand, Raheem Akingbolu reports

Visitors to the Marina branch of First Bank on the Victoria Island in Lagos were surprised last week with the sudden emergence of a cubicle within the banking hall.
Although it was on a Monday morning when customers were eager to do their transactions and dash out, the alluring structure caused a stir as curious minds were willing to find out what was within and its purpose.

The little explanation by a young lady at the branch that it was an innovation that was still in the cooler was considered not enough for THISDAY and he decided to dig more into it.
Among other facilities, the structure, which is located in a specially-designed section of the branch, has a large seating area with leather sofas, refreshments, private meeting room for the customer to discuss personal business with the relationship teams without interruption.

However, after a number of calls to those in charge of the bank’s corporate image, more revelations emerged, which indicated that the structure, which is the ‘First Premium Lounge’ in this part of the world, was conceptualised to give patrons a better banking experience.  

On how the management came about the design of the premium lounge, it was revealed that it was conceived in order to create new targets point of service for affluent customers. “The design is aimed at providing comfort, security and luxury towards the well-being of the customer,” Mr. Tunde Owolabi, the group head for retail banking in Lagos Island, who was directed to field questions from THISDAY, disclosed.

Speaking further, Owolabi added that there are currently six of such lounges in Nigeria. According to him; “There are three in Lagos and three in Abuja. These lounges are comparable to those found in international banks such as Barclays and HSBC. It is expected that by June 2013, more would have been opened over 31 locations in Nigeria to cater to all customers in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other major cities”.

Another unique feature of the offering is that the service is said to be available by invitation only. “It is for customers who have a pre-qualified turnover with the bank.  Invited customers will be issued the Premium Card with which they can gain access to the Lounge” the bank stated.

Better Banking Experience
If the idea behind the innovation is followed to the letter, then customers who have access to ‘The Premium Lounge’ can enjoy imperial treatment such as a designated officer who would be available to answer queries, resolve complaints and provide feedback within a shorter turn-around time.

They would also be given priority in branch cash deposits and withdrawals, instant issuance of ATM cards, provision of account statements as well as other value-added services provided by the bank.

There will also be timely provision of statement of accounts through email or hard copy to such customers and they will have access to savings and time deposits in local and foreign currencies, remittance and foreign exchange services.

With five new Premium Banking lounges already located in high-brow areas of Marina, Victoria Island, Ikeja – and 26 others scheduled to be sited in various branches in Port Harcourt, Enugu and Abuja by June – a new service line has been developed for these distinguished clients and professionals, whose priority is to enrich and protect their assets.

On the second visit on Wednesday of the same week, to the Marina Premium Lounge of the bank on invitation to experience the new banking environment, three premium customers; Kanu Etia, Uchenna Ogbu and Kehinde Shote confirmed in separate interviews that the initiative was super; considering the value and customer service it offered.

Etia, an oil and gas expert, said he was averse to filling out forms and waiting for several minutes before being attended to; the reason he detests entering any of the banking halls except First Bank.

“I must confess that I enjoyed that personalised and royal treatment. Please, keep it up and do replicate it in other cities, as you promised,” requested Etia.

Ogbu, the managing director and chief executive officer of Eurocomm Securities Limited, said, as a customer, he has over 20 years banking experience with First Bank and relishes the initiative. “I have seen a lot of ideas and the things we have and I have personally benefitted from First Bank. This is well managed by the managers,” he said.

Shote said: “I hate filling forms. I don’t want to go to a bank where I fill forms. I got here and things got sorted out. I rather come here and rest and get things sorted out. I don’t like stress.”
“This is like a mini branch; we give the affluent customers the best service they want. Over here, there is high and reliable Wi-Fi connectivity. The customer can check his balance, buy airtime and do other minor banking transactions using the Firstonline facility while we quickly attend to his needs, said First Bank’s Ms. Olubunmi Oladimeji, who ushered in the premium customers into the ambience of the expanse premium lounge of the Marina branch.
“As a corporate client, we can even help the premium customer pay employees’ salaries.”

Positioning Stance
As a market leader, First Bank has consistently maintained its position and continues to bond strongly with customers. Considering the fact that an average customer hates to wait endlessly in the banking hall, this new idea may turn out to be another superlative tool needed to cow competition.

So far, analysts and especially customers have described the new move as something that would further position First Bank as a brand to beat, given the fact that the ‘Premium Lounge’  would give patrons a kind of ambience environment for transaction.