With the change of guard at United Bank for Africa Plc billed to take effect from August 1, 2016, UBA appears set to build on the raft of transformation which started a few years ago. Kunle Aderinokun looks at the leadership transition process of the bank and the challenges before the incoming GMD

In 2010, when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) came out with a new regulation compelling all managing directors of banks that have spent a minimum of 10 years to relinquish their position, pan-African financial services group, United Bank for Africa Plc was the first bank to immediately announce a successor to the then Group Managing Director and CEO Mr. Tony Elumelu.

Phillips Oduoza, who was the most senior executive director, succeeded Elumelu. It was a seamless transition. With the appointment of Oduoza, the bank had also announced the appointment of a new deputy managing director in the person of Kennedy Uzoka.

Now, after two terms of three years each, Oduoza is retiring and making way for Kennedy Uzoka, who was named on March 1, 2016 as the Group Managing Director-designate of UBA Plc. His appointment will take effect from August 1, 2016 subject to the approval of CBN.

“By Mr. Kennedy Uzoka’s appointment, UBA has once again proven the resilience of its succession planning system. It is important that a bank has such a clear succession planning system in place especially for key roles within the bank. It is a good indication of the existence of a strong corporate governance system,” said a banking analyst.

THISDAY gathered that Kennedy Uzoka was selected at a meeting held at UBA House in the morning of March 1, 2016. This was after due consideration that the tenure of Oduoza, who has served his two terms piloting the activities of UBA Plc in the last six years is coming to an end. He is due for retirement on July 31, 2016. In order not to create any uncertainty over the bank’s future, the board met and chose Uzoka to lead the bank into its next phase of growth.

Oduoza is retiring on a strong note. Under his leadership, the bank’s total assets has grown by more than N1 trillion or 72 per cent in the last five years from N1.6 trillion in December 2010 to N2.8 trillion as at December 2014. Net operating income has also increased by about 24 per cent from N154 billion in 2010 to N192 billion in 2014. The bank has also reversed a loss position of N1.94 billion in 2010 to making a profit of N48 billion in 2014.

The bank’s third quarter results for 2015 released last year shows that Oduoza will also be leaving the bank on a strong financial note. In the third quarter results released in October 2015, the bank recorded a strong 44 per cent rise in profit after tax to N48.6 billion and a 17 per cent rise in gross earnings to N247.2 billion.

UBA also closed the third quarter of 2015 with total assets of N2.87 trillion, loan book of N1.01 trillion and a deposit base of N2.18 trillion showing that Oduoza is leaving behind a strong performing financial institution to his successor.

Uzoka comes well prepared for his new position. He has most recently been leading the transformation agenda of the bank, after returning from completing the Advanced Management Programme of Harvard Business School.

He has over two and half decades of experience in commercial banking, strategy and business transformation. Prior to his sabbatical at Harvard, Uzoka served as deputy managing director, UBA group and was also the CEO of UBA Africa, responsible for the Group’s operations in 18 countries across Africa.

A multiple awards winner, Uzoka has also supervised other key areas in the bank, including e-banking and information technology. He has also supervised the bank’s business in New York and London in addition to strategic support groups such as Human Resources, Legal Advisory Services, Procurement and Vendor Management, Corporate Relations and Marketing, among others. He has also had direct supervision and oversight over critical business functions like Group Treasury and International Financial Institutions and Transaction Banking, UBA Pensions Custodian, Consumer Banking and Cash Management.

He was once Head, Strategy and Business Transformation and also Regional Bank Head, South Bank covering 17 states in Southern part of Nigeria. Also prior to the merger of legacy Standard Trust Bank (STB) and United Bank for Africa (UBA), he was Regional-Director, South-east, Vice President Northern Nigeria, Chief Marketing Officer, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Chief Marketing Officer, Lagos, and Managing Executive Officer, STB.

Speaking on the appointment, Chairman of the bank, Tony Elumelu said: “Kennedy brings an extremely strong skill set and is ideally positioned to lead UBA in its next phase of growth. His most recent experience of managing the Group’s increasingly important African business is particularly relevant, as we all work to build one of the leading financial services franchises in Africa. I have no doubt that both he and Victor with their expertise and depth of business experience will ensure that the Bank is best positioned to deliver on its strategic ambition.

Uzoka is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from University of Benin and holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from University of Lagos.

Already, the bank has also appointed another tested hand, Victor Osadolor as the Deputy Managing Director, UBA Group. Osadolor also brings a strong finance and risk background, having previously served as the Executive Director, Risk and Finance at UBA. Mr. Osadolor also held the position of Chief Strategy Officer at Ecobank Transnational Incorporation.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Accountants of Nigeria. He also holds the Advanced Management Programme Certificate from the Harvard Business School.

Mr. Elumelu also expressed his appreciation to the outgoing GMD/CEO for taking the bank’s performance to new heights.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Phillip; for all that he has done for the bank in guiding UBA through a particularly challenging period. The board feels that the strong foundation created during Mr. Oduoza’s term provides an excellent basis for our further success,” Elumelu said.

Analysts are confident that UBA has done the right thing by choosing a tested, trusted and highly experienced insider to steer the bank’s growth in the years ahead especially at a particularly economically challenging period across Africa. Uzoka’s experience in managing the bank’s African subsidiaries is expected to come in handy as UBA seeks to increase the contribution of the subsidiaries to the group’s earnings.

Nevertheless, he is coming in at a time of slowing economic growth not only in Nigeria but also across Africa where the bank is a dominant player. He will face the challenge of not only sustaining the bank’s performance in its dominant Nigerian market but also ensuring that the African subsidiaries compensate for whatever shortfall in earnings that may be experienced in its Nigerian operations.

Another major challenge the new group managing director will be facing is shaking off the perception that UBA is an old generation bank. To the bank’s credit, it has been able to develop one of the most efficient e-banking platforms in the country but this has gone largely unnoticed especially among the youth customer segment. The new GMD will have to device strategies to show that UBA is as modern as any of the new generation banks operating in the country. Having led the bank’s e-banking division, he is definitely familiar with the capabilities of the bank’s e-banking platforms and the expectation is that he will drive its wider acceptance across the country and its African operations.