In this article, we will provide you with information about the top 10 oldest banks in Nigeria presently. Many of these banking institutions have a lengthy and illustrious history. It may surprise you to learn that some of the Nigerian banks you mistake for “new generation banks” have been around for quite some time, and that their long and rich history has seen them change names multiple times, go through numerous mergers and acquisitions, and emerge even stronger and more secure than ever before. Let us get right to the business of the day without further ado.
TOP 10 OLDEST BANKS IN NIGERIA: FULL LIST
The following is a comprehensive list of the 10 oldest banks in Nigeria today:
FIRST BANK OF NIGERIA PLC
As its name implies, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, is the first and oldest bank in Nigeria. The country’s premier banking institution was established in the year 1894, thus making it not just the preeminent bank in Nigeria, but also in West Africa. The Bank was founded by Sir Alfred Jones, a shipping magnate from Liverpool, England. With its head office originally in Liverpool, the Bank commenced business on a modest scale in Lagos, Nigeria under the name, Bank of British West Africa (BBWA).
In 1912, the Bank acquired its first competitor, the Bank of Nigeria (previously called Anglo-African Bank) which was established in 1899 by the Royal Niger Company. In 1957, the Bank changed its name from Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) to Bank of West Africa (BWA). In 1966, following its merger with Standard Bank, UK, the Bank adopted the name Standard Bank of West Africa Limited and in 1969 it was incorporated locally as the Standard Bank of Nigeria Limited in line with the Companies Decree of 1968.
Changes in the name of the Bank also occurred in 1979 and 1991 to First Bank of Nigeria Limited and First Bank of Nigeria Plc, respectively. In 2012, the Bank changed its name again to FirstBank of Nigeria Limited as part of a restructuring resulting in FBN Holdings Plc (“FBN Holdings”), having detached its commercial business from other businesses in the FirstBank Group, in compliance with the new regulation by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
FirstBank had 1.3 million shareholders globally, was quoted on The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), where it was one of the most capitalised companies and also had an unlisted Global Depository Receipt (GDR) programme, all of which were transferred to its Holding Company, FBN Holdings, in December 2012.
Building on its solid foundation, the Bank has consistently broken new ground in the domestic financial sector for over a century and two decades. FirstBank is present in the United Kingdom and France through its subsidiary, FBN Bank (UK) Limited with branches in London and Paris; and in Beijing with its Representative Offices there. In October 2011, the Bank acquired a new subsidiary, Banque International de Credit (BIC), one of the leading banks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In November 2013, FirstBank acquired ICB in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Guinea, and in 2014, the Bank acquired ICB in Senegal. These were major landmarks in its plan for growing its sub-Saharan African footprint and all the African subsidiaries now bear the FBNBank brand.
As the global operating environment evolves, FirstBank continues to keep pace, responding to the dynamic needs of its customers, investors, regulators, host communities, employees and other stakeholders. Through a balanced approach to plan execution, FirstBank has consolidated its industry leadership by maintaining transgenerational appeal. Thus, the Bank has continuously boosted its customer base, which cuts across all segments in terms of size, structure and sectors.
Leveraging experience spanning over a century of dependable services, FirstBank has continued to build relationships and alliances with key sectors of the economy that have served as strategic building blocks for the well-being, growth and development of the country. With its huge asset base and expansive branch network, as well as continuous reinvention, FirstBank is Nigeria’s strongest banking franchise, maintaining market leadership on all fronts in the nation’s financial services industry.
UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC
Union Bank of Nigeria is the second oldest back in Nigeria. The bank’s rich history can be traced to 1917 when it was first established as Colonial Bank. In 1925 the bank became known as Barclays Bank DCO (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) resulting from its acquisition by Barclays Bank. Following Nigeria’s independence and the enactment of the Companies Act of 1968, the bank was incorporated as Barclays Bank of Nigeria Limited (BBNL, est. 1969).
Between 1971 and 1979, the bank went through a series of changes including its listing on the NSE and share acquisitions/transfers driven by the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Acts (1972 and 1977); this resulted in its evolution into a new wholly Nigerian-owned entity. To reflect the new ownership structure, and in compliance with the Companies and Allied Matters Act of 1990, it assumed the name Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. (UBN “the Bank” or “Union Bank”).
In 1993, in line with its privatization and commercialization drive, the Federal Government divested by selling its controlling shares (51.67%) to private investors. Thus, Union Bank became fully owned by Nigerian citizens and organizations all within the private sector. During the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) banking sector consolidation policy, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc acquired the former Universal Trust Bank Plc and Broad Bank Ltd., and absorbed its one-time subsidiary, Union Merchant Bank Ltd.
In compliance with CBN’s Regulation 3, UBN is divesting of all non-core banking subsidiaries, which aligns with their core banking business model. Union Bank, United Kingdom (UBUK) remains the only subsidiary of the bank. Following the banking crisis in 2009 and the intervention of the CBN via Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), the bank was recapitalized in 2012 with an injection of $500 million by Union Global Partners Limited (UGPL), a consortium of local and international investors.
UGPL acquired 65% of the bank’s shareholding and in the last quarter of 2014, AMCON’s remaining 20% stake in the bank was acquired by Atlas Mara. UGPL comprises:
- Africa Capital Alliance
- ADC African Development Corporation
- Corsair Capital
- FMO (the Netherlands Development Finance Company)
- Chandler Corporation
- Standard Chartered Private Equity.
WEMA BANK PLC
Not many people know that Wema Bank Plc is the third oldest bank in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, this bank has been in existence in the country since 1945. They have been able to rise from humble beginnings to an award-winning National Bank, owning a nationwide network of branches and industry-leading technology. From a small organization known as Agbonmagbe Bank Limited way back in 1945, the same year the Second World War ended, this financial institution transformed into Wema Bank Plc and kickstarted a new phase in their rise to prominence.
In January 1990, they were listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and while the world did stand up and take notice, their first major expansion would not come until February 2001 when the Central Bank granted them a universal banking license to offer a broader range of banking services. Wema Bank became a regional financial powerhouse in 2009 and from there, it took them a short six years to achieve national relevance.
Today, not only are they Nigeria’s longest surviving indigenous bank, they have also been celebrated globally for their resilience and unprecedented adoption of digital technology which led to the launch of ALAT, Nigeria’s first fully digital bank, as a revolutionary Wema Bank product in 2017.
Their 150 business offices and digital platforms provide retail, SME, trade, treasury, business advisory and corporate banking services to millions of Nigerians and foreigners, meaning that they are here for the long haul, and they will always do their best to maintain the highest standards of social responsibility, diversity and corporate governance.
UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA (UBA)
The United Bank For Africa (UBA) has over 70 years of providing uninterrupted banking operations, dating back to 1949 when the British and French Bank Limited (BFB) commenced business in Nigeria. BFB was a subsidiary of Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNCI), Paris, which transformed its London branch into a separate subsidiary called the British and French Bank, with shares held by Banque Nationale de Crédit and two British investment firms, S.G. Warburg and Company and Robert Benson and Company.
The bank took over the assets and liabilities of BFB and was incorporated as a limited liability company in 1961. As the leading sub-Saharan African bank, UBA connects people and businesses across the continent through retail and corporate banking, innovative cross border payments, trade finance, and investment banking. In 2005, they merged with Standard Trust Bank (STB), one of the largest developments of its kind in the history of sub-Saharan Africa, and they have since that merger, transcended to become a truly global brand.
Sterling Bank commenced operations as NAL Bank, the nation’s pre-eminent investment banking institution in 1960. Following the Indigenization Decree of 1972, they became a government owned institution. Between 1972 – 1992, Sterling Bank was managed in partnership with Grind lays Bank Limited, Continental International Finance Company Illinois and American Express Bank Limited.
The Bank was partly privatized and listed as a public company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in the year 1992. In the year 2000, the federal government sold its residual interest in the bank effectively making it a fully privatized institution. In January 2006, NAL Bank completed a merger with four other Nigerian Banks namely; Magnum Trust Bank, NBM, Trust Bank of Africa and Indo-Nigeria Merchant Bank (INMB). The merged entities have successfully integrated and are operating as a consolidated group with the name Sterling Bank.
In 2012, the bank assimilated the entire business interest of the defunct Equatorial Trust Bank (ETB). This effectively enhanced their position in the hierarchy of respectable players in the Nigerian banking industry on all key parameters.
Heritage Bank dates back to the late 1970s, when the late Dr. Olusola Saraki formed Societe Generale Bank (Nigeria) (SGBN). The Central Bank liquidated SGBN in January 2006 after it failed to fulfill the minimum capital criteria for a National Bank of US$155 million (₦25 billion). The shutdown was successfully contested in court by SGBN. The CBN reissued SGBN’s banking license in December 2012, but this time as a regional bank.
Following the acquisition of the banking license, the new owners renamed the bank Heritage Banking Company Limited and began operations on March 4, 2013. Heritage Banking Company Ltd completed the requirements of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to own 100% of Enterprise Bank Ltd in October 2014. AMCON officially transferred ownership of Enterprise Bank Ltd to Heritage Bank Plc on January 27, 2015.
FIRST CITY MONUMENT BANK (FCMB)
City Securities Limited (CSL), the original company through which First City Monument Bank (FCMB) descended from, was created in 1977 by Oloye Subomi Balogun, the Otunba Tunwashe of Ijebu, a Yoruba traditional aristocrat. CSL provided startup funds for the establishment of First City Merchant Bank in 1982. On April 20, 1982, it was established as a private limited liability company, and on August 11, 1983, it received a banking license. It was the first bank in Nigeria to be created without the help of the government or foreign investors.
Following the bank’s transformation to a universal bank in 2001, the name was changed from First City Merchant Bank to First City Monument Bank Limited. FCMB Capital Markets Limited, a new subsidiary, was founded to support the company’s corporate finance activities. FCMB converted its status from a private limited liability company to a public limited liability company on July 15, 2004, and was introduced to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on December 21, 2004.
Credit Direct Limited was founded in 2007 as a non-bank subsidiary. FCMB Group Plc was founded in 2010 as a result of a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) rule, and it became the financial holding company for FCMB’s direct subsidiaries. FCMB (UK) Limited, a subsidiary of First City Monument Bank Limited, was granted permission to operate in the United Kingdom in 2014. The Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority oversee it.
FCMB Pensions Limited was bought by FCMB Group in November 2017. (formerly Legacy Pension Managers Limited). FCMB Pensions Limited purchased a 60% share in AIICO Pension Managers Limited in July 2021.
Ecobank Nigeria began operations in 1989. It operates as a universal bank, providing wholesale, retail, corporate, investment and transaction banking services to its customers in the Nigerian market. The bank divides its operations into three major divisions: Retail Banking, Wholesale Banking, and Treasury & Financial Institutions. The bank also offers capital markets and investment banking services.
Ecobank Nigeria, through its parent firm Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI), acquired 100 percent of Oceanic Bank’s ownership in the fourth quarter of 2011, forming the expanded Ecobank Nigeria Limited. The expanded Ecobank Nigeria had total assets of around US$8.1 billion (₦1.322 trillion) in December 2011, making it one of Nigeria’s top five banks at the time. The bank had 610 free-standing branches at the time, making it the country’s second-largest bank by branch network.
Fidelity Bank of Nigeria was founded in 1987 and started operations in 1988. It began with the acquisition of a Merchant Banking license. In an attempt to expand, Fidelity Bank transitioned to a commercial bank in 1999 as a private limited company, then in August of that year, it became a public limited company. That year, it changed its name to Fidelity Bank Plc.
In February 2001, it received its Universal Banking License, and in 2011, it received its International Banking License. Fidelity Bank of Nigeria has grown into a strong banking organization, acquiring FSB International Bank Plc (“FSB”) and Manny Bank Plc during the 2005 Nigerian banking consolidation to become one of the top financial institutions in the country.
Fidelity Bank is today present in all of Nigeria’s states and major cities, and the bank has earned a reputation for financial stability and honesty throughout the years. With approximately $1 billion in tier-one capital, Fidelity is one of Nigeria’s most well-capitalized banks.
ACCESS BANK PLC
Access Bank Plc completes this list. The bank received its license from the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1989, and was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1998. In 2002, Access Bank was taken over by a core of new management led by Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe, and in the year 2005, Access Bank acquired Marina Bank and Capital Bank (formerly Commercial Bank Crédit Lyonnais Nigeria) by merger.
Access Bank established a subsidiary in Banjul, The Gambia in 2007. This bank now has a head office and four branches, and the bank has pledged to open another four branches, and in 2008, the bank acquired 88% of the shares of Omnifinance Bank, which was established in 1996. It also acquired 90% of Banque Privée du Congo, which South African investors had established in 2002.
Access Bank acquired 75% of the shares of Bancor SA, in Rwanda. Bancor had been established in 1995 and reorganized in 2001. In September, Access Bank opened a subsidiary in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and then in October, the bank opened subsidiaries in Lusaka, Zambia and in London, United Kingdom.
By the year 2008, Finbank (Burundi) joined the Access Bank network but exited the group six years later. In 2011, Access Bank was in talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria to acquire Intercontinental Bank Plc. Intercontinental Bank became a subsidiary of Access Bank Plc, which recapitalized the former and acquired a 75% majority interest in its stock.
The combined effect of the restoration of Net Asset Value (NAV) to zero by AMCON and ₦50 billion capital injection by Access Bank Plc is that Intercontinental Bank now operates as a well-capitalized bank, with shareholders funds of ₦50 billion and Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 24%, well above the 10% regulatory threshold.
January 2012 saw Access Bank announce the conclusion of its acquisition of the former Intercontinental Bank, creating an expanded Access Bank, one of the largest commercial banks in Nigeria with over 5.7 million customers, 309 branches and over 1,600 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
In 2012, the London High Court indicted former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Erastus Akingbola to refund over $1 billion to Access Bank and in December 2018, Access Bank Plc acquired Diamond Bank, the board of Diamond Bank announced that the merger with Access Bank Plc was to be completed in first half of 2019.
Access Bank acquired Kenya’s Transnational Bank in 2020, including 100 percent of shareholding and 28 branches around Kenya, and in October of the same year, Access Bank received regulatory approval to establish Access Bank Mozambique. Plans were also announced of the Group transforming into a Holding Company and entering South Africa.