Inside First Bank’s Business Strategy 


The need to earn the trust of the banking public as well as maintain its position in the market place are responsible for the continuing investment in technology and training by the First Bank Group. Raheem Akingbolu reports


Nothing kills a brand like complacency, after a huge breakthrough.  Over the years, stories of many failed brands have been linked to overconfidence and the belief that they have conquered the market. But the smart brand never gives in –it continues to reinvent and innovate.

Experts have often times reiterated that most organisations that continue to succeed and innovate have a culture poised for positive change and taking risk. The implication of this is that they don’t wait for the ship to spring a leak. They proactively and constantly set aggressive goals. They sometimes even intentionally develop a sense of urgency.

As a local brand with eye on the global market, First Bank brand has over the years explored necessary marketing tools to remain relevant. Aside advertising, the brand has consistently leveraged on technology, sponsorship and training of employees to earn the trust of its customers.

Perhaps what gives the bank an edge in today’s market is the periodic leadership training it organises for its senior managers. Like many organisations  that strongly believe there is no success and sustainability without succession, First Bank is determined to groom corporate leaders within its fold to avoid vacuum. The bank’s management also believes that battle field and competition as witnessed today requires adequate preparation.

Top on the list of the most important strategies of the management of the bank is a succession plan and strategy for the bank, which has remained dominant in the competitive Nigerian banking sector. In this connection, therefore, the bank recently organised a six- month Senior Management Development Programme, SMDP, designed to equip senior managers for higher responsibilities and top leadership roles in the bank.

Succession strategy

With the ‘Senior Management Development Programme’ organised by the bank recently, its promoters are sending a strong signal that everybody within the organisation is a leader.  To them, the leadership culture that emanates from their Chief Operating Officer percolates down to the banking hall.

Besides, the bank has pointed out that the senior level managers are consistently being equipped for higher responsibility, to give customers the fulfillment they require.

At this year’s graduation ceremony, held recently in Lagos, the bank pointed out that the five months course for middle level managers was designed to equip them for higher responsibilities and leadership roles in the bank.

According to the bank, the first set of staff members in this category (13 men and 10 women) were identified across the Bank’s departments/branches in the six geopolitical zones of the country and were made to undergo the unique learning experience that fosters the professional, intellectual and personal development.

The senior managers for the programme were also said to have been carefully selected along strategic business units of the Bank such as Retail, Corporate Banking, Information Technology, International Banking, Financial Control, Credit Risk, Human Capital Management and Development, Marketing and Corporate Communications, and Procurement.

At the end of the programme, these candidates were expected to have been exposed to various leadership developmental opportunities such as executive coaching by renowned career and coaches, strategic and executive job shadowing and handholding by Bank executives as well as prioritisation for international assignments.



The managing director of the bank, Adesola  Adeduntan underscored the objective of the programme when he said at the end of the course last week in Lagos that there is no success without succession. “No matter what we do today, we must quit. Even if we don’t want to quit, the natural biological factors will force us to quit as we may not be able to run again in the near future as fast as we want to run” and that is why it is important to prepare successors, he said.

Adetuntan, who recognised that competition is tough in the industry, also said that the bank is creating the next level of leaders who are adequately prepared for the challenges ahead. He said that it will be dangerous to go to the battle field without preparation.

According to him, the bank’s transition will be incomplete without developing the workforce for leadership roles. He therefore challenged the graduands to embark on continuous personal development, warning that any professional that fails to improve will become a dinosaur.

He said the concept of SMDP was to have an army of well trained, well groomed, very broad skill and capable middle level officers that are prepared to transition to the general management role. This will enable the bank to look inwards to fill very senior management positions.

The CEO also encouraged them to mentor those under them explaining that promotion comes to seniors when the management knows that there are capable people who can take over from the superiors.  The CEO also encouraged them on networking in business saying that Strategy without execution is hallucination.

Also speaking, the chairman of the first academic governing council Ini Ebong,  appreciated the CEO who has kept his promise to develop the people through courses seen as catalyst to the continuous growth and survival of the bank. This is because the people are the most important asset the institution has and the bank has to invest in them to become effective leaders.

He said that the plan was to develop leaders in the bank across different cadres. However the bank is on a journey on this but there was the need for immediate targeted programme   intervention to look at existing crop of senior staff to prepare them for next level of most senior management.

He charged the graduands to unleash their potentials as the bank believes that they have something to offer. He was confident that the programme was a world class course. He also told them that beyond what they were taught in the classrooms, the important aspect is how the graduands continued to develop themselves. “There would be executive mentoring and couching for you to develop further”

Also speaking, a board member of First Bank, Malam Waziri, said that success today does not guarantee success tomorrow and that is why human capital is important to guaranteeing continuous success.

Appreciating the bank’s management, one of the participants,  Yemi Adesanyan, who spoke on behalf of her colleagues said the  SMDP prepared  participants on what purpose of leadership is which she said is to mobilise others to genuinely want to struggle with you for shared aspiration.

According to her, the SMDP explored relevant subjects like how to manage growth and complexity, digital transformation, execution, discipline and customer focus, operational efficiency and effectiveness, corporate governance and sustainability. The course also dwelt on different factors that will help a leader to succeed such as innovation, creativity and continuous learning and improvement, motivation and networking.

While congratulating her bank for being on the right path, and noting the fierce  competition, constant organisational change and challenging regulatory regime, Adesanya promised that the graduands will live up to the expectations of higher responsibilities.



Key things that organisations crave for are profit and long term survival.  While some companies take different approaches to these goals, others wish it. However, preparing for growth and long term survival is now more critical. Also, planning for organisational survival has become more dynamic especially in this constant changing world assisted by technology.

In fact, today’s business environment is totally different from the past.  Businesses are now competing globally, horizontal and vertically, staff movement across sectors has increased, ICT has brought new thinking and there is product and service revolution. It is simply a disruptive business environment.

Today, First Bank is demonstrating practically what has been its staying power in the last 124 years of operation. Above all approaches to long term survival and continuous growth, the bank is saying that quality and trained staff are important. It is believed that such approach will not only drive the systems, but will also align the workforce to long term-term objectives of the business.