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NIGERIA: The Chelsea Fan Who Would be CBN Governor

You can easily miss him in a crowd. His carriage betrays nothing of his position. Godwin Emefiele is the Managing Director of Zenith Bank, one of the leading financial power house in the country. He assumed office three and half years ago and wasted no time to prove his mettle. In 2012 financial year-ending, the bank breasted the tape to become the first bank in Nigeria to declare a whopping N100 billion profit after tax.
 
The bank’s winning streak is not only in successes recorded in its bottomline, it has also won laurels in corporate governance and costumer services. While Emefiele steers the bank in an ever more competitive environment, his confident hands, firm grasp of challenges and opportunities have earned him a winning streak. But he didn’t always want be a banker, instead, he had a fascination with medicine and wanted to be a doctor but switched to study banking and finance.  He loves to drive himself especially on weekends and relaxes by watching football. Shaka Momodu had an encounter with him briefly and writes    
 
There is something about Godwin Emefiele that appeals to you from a distance.  In more ways than one, your first encounter with him is likely to leave a humbling experience in you. His calm and dignified mien resonates long after you have left him; his very simple nature underscores a man unimpressed by the grandeur and prestige of his office. Big titles and big talk are hardly a part of him,  and as you visualise and digest his personality; the picture of a man shaped by time, knowledge and the very ordinary things of life begins to emerge.
 
Many say he is not an overtly ambitious person, they are correct, others say he is a fine gentle man they are correct, an even greater number believe he is the right successor to his boss and founder of the bank, Jim Ovia. Well, time will tell. But going by the signals coming from the bank, the man who prefers to operate quietly away from public glare, hasn’t dropped the baton. 
 
 
There is nothing about his carriage that tells you of his social status, his disarming mien present a contrasting picture with the high society glamour, paraphernalia and grandeur of his office. Until 2010, very few knew who  he was; he adopts the philosophy of been seen and not heard. When he succeeded his boss in August 2010 to steer the affairs of Zenith Bank, many believed then that a square peg had been found for a square hole. Three and a half years after, that confidence is proving appropriate; the bank is building on the successes recorded by its founder Jim Ovia whose tenure witnessed an unprecedented growth and expansion. From a startup bank to a mega bank providing quality banking services to its customers across the country and beyond.
 
 
Emefiele is a man who believes in hard work and loyalty and he minces no words about that when asked what value he looks out for most in his workers.  â€˜â€˜ I value loyalty and hard work. Every worker has to work hard and of course must be loyal to the institution that puts food on his table. It’s a minimum standard of expectation and I don’t think that is asking for too much.’’
 
 
On his philosophy of life.  he laughs. ‘‘I am a believer in destiny. Every man’s life has been ordained by destiny but you cannot say because your life is ordained by destiny you will not work. Hard work and focus will lead you to achieve your destiny otherwise that which was ordained for you will not materialise.’’
 
Perhaps drawing from the above, Emefiele’s life and career path would have been significantly different today. For some inexplicable reasons his childhood fascination was to be a doctor, but he switched to Banking and Finance. ‘‘I wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to study medicine in school but really can’t remember what happened that made me decide to change to banking and finance. I don’t know why I suddenly made that switch, but I did and even became a lecturer.’’ Emefiele may not have known that the unseen hands of fate were guiding him on. His path was later to cross with that of Jim Ovia who was to inspire him to abandon the classroom for the boardroom. And ever since he has stayed loyal to his new calling, rising to the pinnacle of his career.
Would such a man possibly be nursing a quiet regret for not reading medicine,  I managed to ask. His response was  quick and direct. ‘‘Absolutely not. I have come to love what I do.’’
 
 
And out of curiosity, one could not resist the temptation to ask how he socialises. He laughs yet again a little bit unsure of how to answer. Then in a very measured and business like manner he stated, ‘‘I am an introvert. So, I don’t do much of socialisation. I really don’t have many friends, and more than anything else, I cherish my old-time childhood friends who have been there for me over time,  and I have been there for them. I don’t pick friends in my old age,’’ he smiled reassuringly.
 
 
Little wonder then that under Emefiele’s leadership, Zenith Bank has strengthened its position as a leading financial institution in Africa, winning recognition and getting endorsement at home and abroad for giant strides in key performance areas like corporate governance, service delivery and deployment of cutting-edge ICT as well as impact in the bank’s numerous spheres of operations.
It became the first bank to gross 100 billion profit after tax for the 2012 financial year end. It was fitting accomplishment that further deepened the bank’s performance rating amongst its peers.
 
 
Commenting on the results last year, Emefiele, said then: “Our results for the nine months ended September 30, 2012 were strong as we sustained our culture of superior performance driven essentially by our people, technology and excellent customer services. With gross earnings and PBT of over N229 billion and N75 billion respectively, Zenith Bank continues to generate premium value and returns to all stakeholders. “
 
 
He had said the bank had sustained improvements in its net interest margin (NIM) year on year as well as quarter on quarter notwithstanding the very competitive business environment brought about by the liquidity tightening measures instituted by the CBN in the course of the year.
 
 
“The group’s balance sheet remains robust with total assets in excess of N2.45trillion as at September 30, 2012. Liquidity and capital adequacy remained at very comfortable levels of 60.4 per cent and 29.1 per cent respectively giving us enough latitude to continue to play a significant role in the money market while being able to withstand any systemic shocks. Our loan book continued to grow whilst ensuring that our cost of risk and NPL remained below industry average. Given the available micro-economic indices we are very confident that we would be able to sustain this strong performance and growth trend into the fourth quarter of the year,”
 
 
In 2012, the bank emerged the best bank in Africa following comprehensive findings by world leading financial experts, Capital Finance International and FTSE Global Markets that have named Zenith the Best in Corporate Governance, and Emerging Global Super brand respectively.”
 
 
It’s a tall feat if one considers the impressive array of international financial brands in the continent. But Emefiele makes no claim to personal financial wizardry. He believes it is team work and the vision laid by the founder and as such the credit goes to the excellent team in the bank. ‘’We have achieved what we have been able to achieve through team work.’’
 
 
Before his appointment as the Group Managing Director, the bank, in August 2010 he had served as the Deputy Managing Director of the bank, having been appointed into that position in 2001. Emefiele has been on the bank’s management team since inception and has held various management positions in the bank, including serving as the Bank’s Executive Director in charge of Corporate Banking, Treasury, Financial Control and Strategic Planning.
 
Until he took over as Group Managing Director, Emefiele was directly responsible for all the Group’s local subsidiaries, Treasury and Correspondent Banking, and Multilateral, Conglomerates, & Private Banking. He also had responsibilities for direct supervision of majority of the bank’s branches in Lagos and Northern Nigeria.
With over 26  years banking experience, this lecturer turn banker  holds a B.Sc and an MBA in Finance both from the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Before commencing his banking career, he lectured Finance, Bank Management, and Insurance at the University of Nigeria and University of Port Harcourt respectively.
 
An alumnus of some of the world’s best business schools. Stanford University, Harvard and Wharton Graduate School of Business where he took courses in Negotiation, Service Excellence, Critical Thinking, Leading Change and Strategy.
However like every other Nigerian, Emefiele loves to watch football. If you think his favourite football club would be Arsenal or Manchester United, then you need to think again. ‘I am a Chelsea fan; I know a lot of people would expect me to be an Arsenal fan, but I am a big supporter of Chelsea club.
 
 
But the surprise does not stop there, he equally loves driving. ‘‘I like to drive myself particularly on weekends, I enjoy driving myself. He comes across as a man with simple needs, Spartan, somewhat austere.  But you find him a jolly good fellow surprisingly  jovial when the chemistry is right, he comes down to the basics. His pidgin English is eloquent and very Niger Delta like.

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