Semenitari: An Emerging Face of the South-south



Mr. Henry Semenitari, a former Managing Director/CEO of Unity Bank Plc, appears to have his eyes on the political turf, writes Shola Oyeyipo

He had remained relatively silent but his profile soars. Mr. Henry Semenitari, the husband of former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication and immediate past acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, is by every measure a good ambassador of the South-south region and Nigeria at large.

He is reputed to have taken the Unity Bank from a shrinking asset base to the position of seventh largest bank in Nigeria, with shareholders’ fund at N51.2 billion, a move that won him admiration of investors, while he is still being remembered for his giant strides in repositioning the bank. It was, perhaps, his incredible success at the bank that earned him the 2014 Leadership Newspaper Banker of the Year award. He however resigned his appointment after 18 months with the bank in pursuit of other endeavours.

Born on June 29, 1963, Semenitari, who hails from oil rich Rivers State in the Niger Delta region attended Saint Cyprians Primary School, Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 1974. He moved on to Okrika Grammar School, Okrika, Rivers State in 1979, Enitonna High School, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State in 1980 and University of Lagos in 1987.

In furtherance of his academic pursuit, he went to the International Graduates School of Management, University of Navar, Barcelona, Spain in 2000, Harvard Business School, Boston, US for Advanced Management Programme in 2007 and the Cambridge Judge Business School for another advanced leadership programme at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Today, Semenitari holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from International Graduate School of Management, University of Navara (I.E.S.E) Barcelona, Spain. He is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School, Advance Management Programme (AMP173) in Boston, USA. He is also an alumnus of Cambridge Judge Business School, Advanced Leadership Programme (ALP 1), Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK.

His banking experience spans over 26 years. He is valued very consistent and highly experienced in operations, internal control, branch management, credit and marketing, commercial and retail banking, consumer and corporate banking (Energy) and several other aspects of the banking operations.

He had worked in banks such as Zenith, Diamond, United Bank for Africa, ACB International Bank and Continental Trust Bank. He also held senior Management positions in United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc as an Assistant General Manager – Commercial and Retail Banking Group, General Manager (Credit and Marketing) in ACB International Bank Plc, acting Managing Director/CEO, ACB International Bank Plc and Executive Director (Business Development) in Continental Bank Limited, Afribank Nigeria Plc in May 2003 as General Manager in charge of Consumer and Retail Banking business with responsibility of supervising and development of business activities across the entire 150 branch network.

He later joined First City Monument Bank Plc in November 2005 as Executive Director Retail and Enterprise Banking. His job description while there was to develop and grow retail and enterprise banking business across the entire branch network. That was where he held sway before eventually joining the Unity Bank Plc as non-executive director. He would later become the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Bank in January 2014.

While at Unity Bank, Semenitari made some remarkable improvements that are still on record today and which won him global accolades. For instance, the bank’s gross earnings grew from N62 billion in 2013 to N77 billion in 2014, the profit before tax grew from negative of N33.6 billion in 2013 to positive of N13.6 billion in 2014 while profit after tax grew from negative of N22.5 billion in 2013 to positive of N10.6 billion in 2014.

The cost to income ratio improved from 28.4 per cent in 2013 to 69.6 per cent in 2014, return on asset improved from negative 5.7 per cent in 2013 to positive 2.6% in 2014, return on equity improved from negative 56.7 per cent in 2013 to positive 20.5 per cent in 2014, capital adequacy ratio improved from negative 13.8 per cent in 2013 to positive 2.02 per cent in 2014, liquidity ratio improved from 34.5 per cent in 2013 to 44.8 per cent in 2014 and most importantly, the Unity Bank attained the enviable international ‘A3’ global rating by GCR.

He established a robust electronic business (E-Business) group in the bank that gave rise to electronic channels transactions. For instance, Point of Sales (POS) transactions grew from 17.5 million transactions in 2013 to 75.3 million transactions in 2014 and ATM transaction grew from 3.3 million transactions in 2013 to 5.7 million transactions in 2014.

Still during his tenure as the MD, non-performing loans (NPL) improved from 25.5 per cent in 2013 to 17.6 per cent in 2014 and the bank also recorded a historical achievement in debt recovery drive by recovering in excess of N10 billion bad debts in 2014 financial year.

Working with other experts in the Unity Bank, his leadership won several awards, which included European Business Assembly Best Africa Regional Bank Award, Oxford University, England, for year 2014; top 100 businesses in Nigeria Award by Federal Government of Nigeria; Business Day Newspapers Top Chief Executive Officer Award; Banker of the Year 2014 Award in Nigeria by Leadership Newspaper and Semenitari himself was admitted into the famous Bill Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in Times Square, New York, USA.

In rating Semenitari’s acumen, those evaluating him have always attributed his unique selling point to his strengths in business process re-engineering and design with specialisation in strategic process enterprise management, and integration of business process models with information technology to drive business at product and strategic business unit levels.

He also had development and implementation experience of major banking applications such as Micro Banker/Flexcube, Phoenix, Bank Master, SAP (Systems Application and Product), Globus and Finacle Banking Application etc.
Mr. Semenitari is a fully registered Engineer (R.29, 331) and member Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). He is a member the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); Fellow, Institute of Credit Administration (FICA) of Nigeria and member, The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

Although he has not really ventured into politics, considering his growing profile, indications are high that his people are beckoning on him to also deploy his wealth of experience to developing his state and the country at large by picking a public office to serve.

Although he has not really ventured into politics, considering his growing profile, indications are high that his people are beckoning on him to also deploy his wealth of experience to developing his state and the country at large by picking a public office to serve