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It’s a new dawn for Unity Bank – CEO

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The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of Unity Bank, Oluwatomi Somefun, in this interview, talks about the struggles of the bank in the last three years and declares that, “It’s a new dawn for everyone at Unity Bank.”

 

Can you shed light on why it appears Unity Bank has stagnated for a while?

Let me just give a brief background of the bank and some of the things we have been doing because it’s nice to put things in proper perspective.

Unity Bank is a product of a merger of nine legacy bank in 2006 and the biggest in that merger is the old Bank of the North.  Others were NNP, First Interstate Bank, Intercity Bank, among others.

I wasn’t part of the management then. Perhaps something should have been done correctly or differently, because at the time of the merger, there was an opportunity to sell off a lot of the legacy loans.  We would imagine that each of the nine banks had their fair share of none-performing loans and all kinds of things that would happen in a merger.

We have seen mergers in this country. We know of the merger between UBA and STB. I was part of that merger. I know how long it took us to integrate and I believe even right now the integration continues. It never ends in the life of the organisation.

We have other mergers and accusations and you can imagine between two to three entities the amount of work and the amount of issues that arise. Then imagine the amount of work and the amount of issues that will rise from the merger of nine banks which were operating on their own.

 

Why did the management move the bank’s headquarters to Lagos?

At the time the headquarters of the bank was decided to be in Abuja, it came with its attendant issues, because most of the commercial banks were headquartered in Lagos. The bank has its image crafted for it as a result of that one. So it was deemed to be a northern bank; that limited the kind of business and also limited, to some extent, patronage until I will say 2015.

We also struggled with different issues like management, staff and the biggest was legacy rules, legacy none-performing loans.

 

What happened to AMCON’s window for offloading bad loans?

At the time of the merger there was an opportunity to sell loans to the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), maybe because of the merger this was not done at the time of Unity Bank.

I think Unity Bank sold only less than 10 billion lot of loans, a lot of loans were returned to us by the way by AMCON. I guess because the merger was going on it wasn’t possible to handle t all those issues simultaneously, so the non-performing loans lived with the new entity.

Up on till 2017, Unity Bank had the highest non-performing loans (NPL) issue in Nigeria. At least we can say we are number one on that one. At a time, we had 98 per cent of NPL. I don’t think anybody could beat us on that one; at that time.

When we came on board in 2015, when you have an NPLs book and at the same time you are still accruing interests and charges over the years, you are just spoiling the NPLs of the book because even the principal is not performing and then you keep on accumulating interests and charges.

In 2015, when we took over, we decided to be truthful to ourselves. We could not continue to accumulate interests on loans that were not performing. If you look at 2014 and 2015, there was a huge decline in revenue because we took decision not to earn interest on NPLs, so we stopped that. If you look at the result, you will see a huge decline in revenue, apart from whatever was happening in the industry, we took that decision.

Secondly, when we looked at 2014, there was Profit After Tax (PAT) or Profit Before Tax (PBT) of 38 billion reported. A lot of the profit of that period came from these same loans that were not performing. So the sensible thing to do was to reverse the entire profit that was recognised and reported. We had to write back and revise the previous year’s profit from 2015.

It wasn’t something that we could do at a go. As we were discovering we were writing off. Perhaps we were the biggest customers complaints centre because customers kept taking us to that window because there were issues with overcharges. As those issues were coming up we were refunding customers from current income. Remember that those income had been recognised even before now; that will explain to you why it looked as if profit had been declining.

 

How have you managed customer retention in the face of this challenge?

Unity Bank has recorded recognition, customer’s acceptance or public acceptance and patronage in the last three years of this management.

However, you will not see a reflection of that in the revenue because of the things I mentioned to you. When you don’t have a good loan book or capital, you have to become creative and do things that your limited capital and resources allow you to do.

At the same time, you have to spend money to grow your business, so you are struggling with revenue at the same time you have to spend money to build a good franchise so that when business comes you have the capacity and the platform to take care of it.

We have invested in good people to the extent that we can get good people. The bank was struggling with eBusiness. All of us know that to get the right demographics, look at the demographics of banking today, we hardly had any young person banking with Unity Bank, expect those who had their accounts when they were youth corps members and as soon as they finished the youth service, they moved on to other banks. I don’t want to mention those banks.

The people that have been banking with us are old people. We still have a lot of loyal customers; even the loyal customers will have accounts in other banks and use you for convenience. However, the best thing for us is to reach out to the next generation because the future is in the next generation.

How do you attract the next generation? You give them what they want. They are not interested in your ambiance, they don’t go to the branch; they are not interested in your finances; they don’t really care. What do they care about? Convenience.

So we came out with a product for youths, convenient and easy to use, simple and all of that. If you follow our story since the beginning of January, we have launched an aggressive plan at least as much as our capital and resources would allow. We have launched an aggressive plan in reaching out to the youths, we have done some campus rounds.

Even the issue of staff as due to the merger, each of the nine banks came with anybody. There were people who had not been promoted because they were in some remote places and nobody remembered them. There were people who actually were not performing and who were just clogs in the system.

Therefore, in the last three years, some staff were promoted. We have brought in some strategic people. General employee happiness is coming back gradually because these are some of the issues that will affect performance of any institution, and we have tried to do that.

We have tried to create a balance so that it will not look like a northern bank. Being a northern bank is not a bad thing because it means that we are strong in agric; that’s the thrust of the current administration, and we hope that trust will continue, we are very strong in agric, we were number one in agric when it wasn’t popular and nobody was touching agric.

We have been approached by the wheat farmers association, we are doing a lot of interesting things in the agric space and by the grace of God, when we have more capital to deploy, we will really participate in that space.

We did not inherit any bad or serious huge oil and gas and energy loans as a lot of people did, we were not played with that. Today, whatever happens in that sector, Unity Bank is insulated. We had our share of bad news, but those bad news where from different sectors. There was no concentration in the power or energy sector.

-Daily Trust

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Zenith Bank appoints Henry Oroh Executive Director, Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, Non Executive Director

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Henry Oroh, Executive Director, Zenith Bank Plc

Also, the Board has approved the appointment of Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, FCA, as an Independent Non-Executive Director.

Both appointments are effective September 1, 2019, and have been approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Henry Oroh holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from the University of Benin, Edo State and an MBA from the Lagos State University as well as an LLB Degree from the University of Lagos. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN), Nigeria.

He has over two decades of banking experience. He began his banking career in 1992 at Citibank where he served for seven (7) years in Operations, Treasury and Marketing.

He joined Zenith Bank in February 1999 and has worked in various Groups and Departments within the Zenith Group Office. His expertise spans Operations, Information Technology, Treasury, Marketing, including the Manufacturing, Food and Beverages, Pharmaceuticals, Oil and Gas, Public Sector, Consumer, as well as Corporate Banking and Business Development.

In April 2012, he was seconded to Zenith Bank Ghana Limited as an Executive Director and became the Managing Director/ Chief Executive in February 2016, where he successfully spearheaded the phenomenal growth of the Zenith Brand both within the Ghana market and the West African sub-region.

Henry has attended several Leadership Programmes and Executive Management Courses at the Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, New York, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, HEC Paris, JP Morgan Chase, UK and the Lagos Business School.

He comes to the Board of Zenith Bank Plc with strong competencies in Credit & Marketing, Operations, Information Technology, Treasury and impressive Leadership skills.

Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar is currently the Managing Director of Apt Pensions Funds Managers Limited.

He is a graduate of the Leeds Polytechnic, UK. He is a renowned Chartered Accountant and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

Dr. Abubakar has extensive and tremendous experience in the financial services industry, audit and consulting. He worked with the firm of Akintola Williams Deloitte between January 2000 and November 2008, and rose to become the Partner and Board Member of West Africa sub-region. Prior to this, he had served on the Board of several financial institutions in Nigeria.

He has attended several management and leadership training programmes and conferences both within and outside the country.

He brings to the Board of the bank tremendous track record in Risk Management, Credit & Marketing, Auditing and very outstanding leadership skills.

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FirstBank Agric Expo set to promote new Agribusiness opportunities  

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Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has announced that its 2019 FirstBank Agric Expo would hold on Friday, 30 August 2019 at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos. The 2019 edition – the third in the series –  is themed “Agricultural Value Chain – Spotlighting Opportunities and Managing Risks” would have Professor Benedict Oramah, President of AFREXIM Bank as the Keynote Speaker.

The annual FirstBank Agric Expo, launched in 2017 provides the lead in national discourse on sustainable agriculture value-chain as a substantial source of Nigeria’s economic development, improved contribution to her balance of trade as well as foreign exchange.The 2019 edition would host over 600 delegates and over 60 exhibitors to display the latest technology in farm equipment, tools and machineries as well as packaged finished agricultural produce, logistics and supply, thereby keeping the participants and sundry agribusiness practitioners abreast with new opportunities in the Agricultural industry.

Besides the plenary session, the expo will feature three (3) Masterclasses with in-depth analysis on specific areas of Agribusiness, facilitated by enterprising Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The Masterclass facilitators include Mr. Leonard Anyanwu, Group Executive Director, Saro International Limited; Mr Segun Ogunwale, Team Lead, Kominity Digital and Mr Bamidele Ayemibo Managing Director, 3T Impex Trade Centrewho will provide insight as well as share success stories and experiences.

Expressing his delight on FirstBank’s leading role at not just promoting Agriculture but diversifying the Nigerian economy, the CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan said ”in the last 125 years, more than any other financial institution, we have played a key role in financing different sectors of not just the Nigerian economy but other economies in sub-Saharan Africa. As Nigeria expands opportunities in its non-oil sector – especially Agriculture – we remain committed to the growth of the agricultural sector and its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.”

“Our consistency in convening the FirstBank Agric Expo, which is in its third consecutive edition, is a demonstration of our commitment to building the agribusiness economy which is capable of delivering sustained prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, supporting sustainable income and creating employment opportunities”, he concluded

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Unity Bank partners Signal Alliance and Businessday to host SME Clinic

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As part of collaborative initiative to consistently promote Small & Medium scale enterprises (SMEs), Unity Bank recently held its maiden edition of SME clinic in conjunction with Signal Alliance and Businessday Newspaper as a capacity building workshop to bridge knowledge gap.

The SME clinic was designed to boost SMEs operators by leveraging effective branding and marketing strategy expected to play key role in creating added value for products and making start up become a big brand enterprise.

Coming on the verge of the 5th industrial revolution and the need to put SMEs ahead of the fast paced developments, the clinic provided platform to expose participants drawn amongst Fintech operators, Retailers, Social services, Schools, Contractors, Professional service firms, Wholesalers, Manufacturers, Hospitality, NGOs, Clubs and Associations, Supplies and Agric value chain to the opportunities available as convergence of technology and human begin to take center stage.

Commenting on the Clinic, the Head of SME, Unity Bank Plc, Opeyemi Ojesina said that as a key market focus contributing about 48% of the national GDP in the last five year, 50% of industrial jobs and nearly 90% of the manufacturing sector in terms of number of enterprises, hosting a capacity building initiative of this nature enables the Bank to have more insight for enhancing financial inclusion plan for SMEs.

He further stated that as a leading Bank in the advocacy for SME, Unity Bank has developed innovative products for SMEs aimed at enhancing greater access to financial services, financial advisory and cluster marketing initiatives.

Participants were of the view that the SME clinic gave practical insights into techniques for creating distinctive brand concept centered on consumers and appreciated the three entities that organized the workshop.

The Chief Technology Officer, Signal Alliance, Mr Uchechi Nwaukwa used the platform to launch CloudGo, an IT product built on Microsoft cloud platform.

As a “solution that enhances communication, collaboration and scales innovation for business becomes a necessity” he further stated that “the product is a results of huge investment in IT infrastructure which helps to overcome upgrade challenges, enhance data protection and disaster recovery challenges faced by small businesses.

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