Skye Bank @ 10: People as Staying Power

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As the promoters of the Skye Bank brand roll out the campaign to mark the bank’s 10th year of existence, Raheem Akingbolu writes on how the commitment of stakeholders and expressive campaigns have entrenched the financial brand

Perhaps this period would have passed unnoticed but for the commemorative campaign that was recently broken by Skye Bank Nigeria Plc and placed in some national dailies. The new brand campaign, which is primarily conceptualised to mark the 10th year anniversary of the Skye Bank brand, is being used to highlight the bank’s achievement and re-state its commitment to invest in an ‘unlimited future possibilities’. Though, an offshoot of some well-known brands, Skye Bank Plc, as it is known today, came into existence in 2006 as a new entity, following the consolidation in the financial sector.

Unlike other players that went through the consolidation exercise and adopted a name from the component banks after merger, Skye Bank did the unusual by thinking out of the box. At a time the market was being dominated by some ‘giants’ that had become household names, the five financial institutions that merged to form a single entity, had surprisingly adopted a fresh identity-Skye Bank, that was unknown in the market. With such development, handlers of the bank were thus faced with two tasks; to build the bank and get the brand fully entrenched in the market place.

However, in a market where the science of brand management was just being given attention, many analysts had quickly dismissed the adoption of an unknown name as the first flaw of the promoters of the new brand. Ten years after, the bank has not only become one of the leading players when it comes to customer experience but the name has also become iconic. From any angle one chooses to look at it, the affinity between the name and the banking public has simply shown the dexterity of its spin doctors.

Staying power

What gave birth to today’s Skye Bank Nigeria Plc was as a result of the merger of former Prudent Bank, EIB International Bank, Bond Bank, Reliance Bank and Cooperative Bank in 2006. Instead of adopting the name of one of the components banks, the management of the then new bank had coined Skye as a fresh identity.

For a brand that was fairly known at the beginning to have gone this far within ten years, it is natural for one to wonder what its staying power is. In an exclusive interview with THISDAY during the week, the bank’s Executive Director, Corporate services, Mrs. Abimbola Izu, said the strength of the brand is the people behind it. According to him, whatever the brand has achieved today is made possible because of the support of its stakeholders.

She said: “The staying power for the Skye Bank brand is the people; that is what gives us the energy we have. Everything is built around our staff, customers and shareholders. So, in term of where we draw our strength from, I will say over and over again that it is from our people. Much as I appreciate other elements that make the brand strong, I still believe it is the people that have taken it this far.”

Izu admitted that coming out with an unknown name was a sort of concern to the promoters of the brand at the beginning. She however added that the name was unanimously agreed upon by stakeholders after they were convinced that it could fly, if supported with relevant strategies.

“At the time of consolidation, the issue of name was one of the things that came up for discussion. There were schools of thought that thought we should adopt the name of one of the component banks. To them, it would be tough starting from ground zero. But then, it occurred to us that it was better to come up with a new and fresh identity. Of course, we knew it could be tough building from the scratch but then, we also knew that it had its own benefits. We saw in it great potentials and opportunities to come up with great identity that we want. We thought it would be a great opportunity to carve a niche that we want to be known for.

“We saw it as opportunity to determine from day one the way we want to be seen, we didn’t want a carryover from those backgrounds. Don’t forget we had the diversities created by the five banks that merged into one to cope with. We saw it as an opportunity to come with something beautiful and unique. I remember at the beginning, when we mention the name in some places, it would look strange to people. A lot of questions would be thrown up as many people would be asking us what it meant. For about two years we grappled with that challenge,”

Looking back and what the brand has become today, the executive director was enthusiastic that the then unknown brand has become a household name. She described Skye Bank as a brand with strong equities. “The loyalty of our customers and stakeholders is legendary. The commitment of our staff is legendary. Above all, the affinity between the brand and its patrons is very strong. I think our commitment to mass market has tremendously helped us to get the brand fully entrenched in the market,” she said.

On why the bank focuses more on commercial and retail segments of the market, Izu said the decision to identify with the segment was informed by the need to develop the small businesses and grow the economy. She however pointed out that the bank still satisfies the need of its corporate customers and others in the market.

Commemorative message

In the last few weeks, the media has gone abuzz with appreciative messages from Skye Bank management to the banking public. The appreciation campaign which is currently being run in various media is the bank’s humble way of thanking its patrons, who have supported it for ten solid years. But beyond that, it is creatively used to tell the story of the bank and its plan for the future.

Meanwhile, a source within the Bank had earlier disclosed to THISDAY that the new campaign is part of the 360 degree communication plan put in place to celebrate the year-long celebration of the 10th anniversary of its merger and the evolution of the Skye Brand. In telling the story of the bank, the campaign flaunts the impact of the institution on key sectors of the national economy and re-states its future commitment.

The story of the Bank which grew modestly from the 2006 merger has continued to confound and demystify several positions of scholars and literatures on M & A and has consistently shown resilience throughout its existence, coming through unscathed.

The current campaign, focusses on amongst others, the Bank’s humble beginning when it was an unknown brand with no distinct identity, nor presence, and ranking 23 out of 25 Banks in Nigeria’s Banking industry by various measure criteria, to being classified as one of the Systemically Important Banks (SIB), and ranks among the top 10 lenders in Nigeria and one of the top 50 in Africa.

Other areas of focus of the campaign include the Bank’s significant contribution and impact on the nation’s hospitality industry. In 10 years, the brand supported the highest number of international hotels and hospitality chains in Nigeria, as well as several home-grown brands that have attained international standards.

In impacting the hospitality sector, Skye Bank is said to have contributed greatly to the development of the nation’s tourism industry and by extension, supported job creation for many Nigerians.

In the area of the all-important Agricultural sector, the Bank is known to have rekindled national enthusiasm towards farming and agriculture. In partnership with the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) the financial organization implemented one of the most successful agricultural funding models in Nigeria’s history. The process ensured the elimination of the hitherto entrenched corruption that was associated with the distribution of fertilizer in the country.

In the area of SME, Skye Bank’s footprint is believed to be bold, as the lender has supported and nurtured arguably the highest number of SMEs in all sectors of the economy, and in all the socio-economic zones. The bank has supported many one-man-businesses to large industry players and national corporates and even supported many of them to become publicly quoted at the national Bourse, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

Shedding light on the rationale and underpinning idea behind the new campaign, the Group Managing Director and CEO of the Bank, Mr. Timothy Oguntayo is quoted to have said, “having clocked a decade of our merger, there is the need to remind stakeholders and the general public how our Bank has impacted individual, groups, corporate, government and the society at large through creative and impactful intervention. “You know it is very easy to forget where we are coming from, but through this new campaign, we are reminding the general public and every stakeholder of what the Skye brand has been able to achieve and the critical sectors we have impacted over the years. Every claim made in those campaigns are real, have substance and not superfluous”,

Supporting campaigns

Aside normal banking activities, promoters of Skye bank brand have given wide visibility to it through exciting campaigns and commercials. Shortly before the consolidation era was completed, the bank had rolled out a campaign that was weaved around the yuletide period to celebrate the season with customers. It was considered in some quarters to have been timely and successful.

After that, the bank’s spin doctors again came out with the Akuna matata campaign that pricked on the mood of the masses at a time the economy was getting tougher. With the new creative, the bank simply assured its patrons that it was there for them. Literarily, the campaign, which was conceptualised by a leading advertising agency, Centrespread, can be interpreted as ‘Don’t worry.’

While the banking public was still relishing the impact of ‘Hakuna Matata’ and ‘Say Yes!’ the management unveiled yet another campaign, ‘Skye is Big Enough’. Though the official release from Skye Bank indicated that it was unveiled to promote the bank’s new selling proposition, not a few analysts see the campaign as a creative way of establishing its new status, having acquired Mainstreet Bank and ready to operate in the big league.

The various campaigns were not only instant successes; they became anthems in most homes and offices while they lasted. As the bank moves towards the next decade, Mrs. Izu has pointed out that it will not derail in its plan to support the people and grow the economy. To make the bank a bank of all times, the executive director said effort will be made to intensify its effort in growing businesses rather than making buying and selling its priority.

Despite the achievement, independent survey carried out by this reporter has shown that some observers still believe the bank should work more in the years ahead to be able to compete well nationally. One of those who share this belief is 42 year old police officer, who simply introduced himself as Simon. In an interview with THISDAY, the Akwa Ibom State indigene said he liked the bank and will want it to work more on extending its branches to customers’ door steps in all the 36 states of the federation.