Wigwe, Okonwo: New Dawn at Access, Fidelity

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First, it was the trio of founding chief executives of UBA Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc who had to leave their prized institutions by handing over to their next in command in 2010, in line with the 10-year tenure policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria. As the current managing directors of Access Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc prepare to join the trail by stepping aside in December this year, Festus Akanbi writes on what would be the new dispensation in the two institutions come January 2014

Banking industry players are understandably busy at this time of the year. Industry sources hinted that at the board and management levels of each of the banks, there is pressure to improve the balance sheet two months to the end of the financial year, in addition to the pressure to safeguard the institutions against poaching of outstanding employees by rival institutions.

Industry watchers admit that this is also the period for bank chief executives to draw up their timetables for new financial year, where issues like improvement in revenue generation, cost saving, visibility in terms of registering their presence in the consciousness of the members of the banking community, retention/employment of quality hands, among others are usually trashed out. However, as the banking industry braces for 2014 operating year, a change of guards is underway in two banks, namely Access Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc. Their fortunes will be determined by new chief executives billed to take over from their present leaderships come 2014.

Tenure Policy
CBN had in 2010 issued new guidelines to address what it considered as some corporate governance issues by imposing a maximum limit of 10 years of two terms of five years each on the tenure of banks’ managing directors and chief executives.
Although, not all the chief executives of the banks may accomplish the required 10-year tenure due to ill-health or non-performance, the policy is expected to engender performance-driven environment as the chief executives could come back to their boards and shareholders to seek for reappointment after the first five year tenure.
Some banks that had been affected by this policy are United Bank for Africa Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc. Their erstwhile chief executives- Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia and Akinsola Akinfemiwa left their high positions after spending 10 years in that capacity and they were immediately succeeded by their former deputy managing directors-Phillips Oduoza, Godwin Emefiele and Kehinde Durosimi-Etti respectively.

Going by the arrangement put in place by the boards of Access Bank and Fidelity Bank, there will be change of batons in 2014 as the current chief executives of the two banks, Access Bank’s Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, and his counterpart in Fidelity Bank, Reginald Ihejiahi will bow out gracefully in 2014.

New Phase
By the time their successors finally take over in January 2014, the banks will be entering into a new phase, as the next line of action would essentially be determined by a combination of factors, which include their perception of the banking industry and the interpretation of whatever policies churned out by the new leadership expected to take over in Central Bank of Nigeria after the incumbent governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi eventually steps down in June next year.
In an industry where the buck stops on the managing director’s table and where a sort of cult-like loyalty is required of staff by managements of banks, a new alignment will be forged between the staff and the new management, a development, which may largely engender staff re-postings, transfers and in some cases job rationalisation.

New Dawn at Fidelity Bank
A fortnight ago, the management of Fidelity Bank Plc approved a successor to the incumbent chief executive Ihejiahi, who will serve out his 10-year maximum term by February 2014.
The man chosen to begin a new phase in the bank is Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, who is currently an Executive Director in charge of the South Directorate of the bank.

From all indications, Nnamdi who comes with over 23 years of experience in various aspects of banking is fully prepared for the new task. Between 2006 and 2009, he was Managing Director of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Ghana, and between 2008 and 2009, he doubled as the Regional Chief Executive Officer for UBA West African Monetary Zone, with responsibility for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. He later became Divisional Head for the Corporate Bank Directorate between 2009 and 2012, before returning to Fidelity Bank Plc as Executive Director, having earlier worked in Fidelity Bank (old FSB that consolidated to form the enlarged Fidelity) between 1998 and 2000. Within that period, he had been Senior Manager in branches both in Lagos and Port Harcourt.

Between 2004 and 2005, Nnamdi was General Manager in Standard Trust (which later became UBA) and later in 2005 was Regional Director of UBA in charge of branches in the FCT, Niger and Kogi states.
Nnamdi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agric. Economics from the University of Benin and an MBA in Banking & Finance from Enugu State University.  He is also a graduate of the Advanced Management Programme of INSEAD Business School, Fontainebleau, France.  In addition, he has attended various business and management training locally and overseas, including Harvard Business School, Oxford and many other elite leadership development institutions.
As one of the leading Tier-2 banks, the managing director-designate is expected to maintain the bank’s hold in its key areas, which include financing of key infrastructure and trade.

The Legacy
Ihejiahi took over Fidelity Bank Plc and inherited the challenge of setting the course for growth. From being in the top 30 banks in Nigeria with N20 billion in deposits, N30 billion in total assets and less than 150,000 in customers, he orchestrated the consolidation of the legacy Fidelity Bank with the former FSB International Bank Plc and Manny Bank Plc to form the currently enlarged Fidelity Bank Plc that now ranks among the top 10 banks in the country with over 1.0 billion US dollars in equity, over N1trillion in total assets and 2.3 million customers represented in 220 branches, compared to 17 branches at take on. The bank also has presence in all the state capitals and major commercial centres in Nigeria.

At Access, Wigwe Steps In
Earlier, the current Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, had served the bank notice to step down as the helmsman on December this year, in line with the 10 year-tenure policy of the CBN. Consequently, the bank announced Herbert Wigwe, who is the Group Deputy Managing Director, as Chief Executive Officer-designate. Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers and Lybrand Associates, an international firm of Chartered Accountants. He spent over 10 years at Guaranty Trust Bank where he managed several portfolios including Financial Institutions, Corporates and Multinationals. He left Guaranty Trust as an Executive Director to co-lead the transformation of Access Bank Plc in March 2002 as Deputy Managing Director.
The incoming Access Bank boss is an alumnus of Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme. He holds a Masters degree in Banking and International Finance from the University College of North Wales; a Masters degree in Financial Economics from the University of London, and a B.Sc. degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
Wigwe’s first assignment is the implementation of the bank’s five-year strategic plan unveiled recently.
But can Wigwe fill the big shoes of Aig-Imoukhuede? Does he have the resilience, ‘stubbornness’ and strong resolve that made his successor one of the titans of the Nigerian banking industry? Analysts said answers to these questions would be provided in the coming months when the new chief executive begins to call the shot.

Highlights of Access Bank’s Plan
Access Bank, which rates itself as Nigeria’s Corporate Bank Leader, plans to be “the world’s most respected African Bank” by 2018 but has set a mid-cycle goal post by 2015 of being a “high performing Nigerian diversified banking leader”.
By 2015, the bank expects to have consolidated its retail franchise and become a more consumer-centric bank, become more dominant in corporate banking, and be a leader in the Ghanaian banking sector.
By 2018, management expects to have expanded its African footprint to the most attractive markets, be a properly set-up multi-channel bank running an industrialised global operating model, be the preferred African bank in the U.K. and run the best in class technology platform in Africa. Access Bank aims to grow its customer base to between 15 and 20 million across its African markets by 2018 from around 6 million, as it shifts its focus to retail banking.
And giving an indication of his direction, Wigwe said retail banking would account for around half of its total business in five years’ time, up from 30 per cent.
The bank also said it intends to grow its loan book by 15 percent this year, up from 5 percent in 2012, channeling funds to retail, telecoms, and oil and gas financing. The bank is optimistic that corporate banking and infrastructure financing will also be key drivers of revenue.
The bank said it would participate in the financing of oil firms divesting from Nigeria to the tune of $30 million to $40 million, using some of the proceeds of its $350 million Eurobond sale, referring to expected asset sales this year by Shell and Chevron.
Access Bank completed the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank last year, which put it in the top four of 21 Nigerian banks, up from ninth in 2007.

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