Goddy Egene writes on the positive results released by Nova Merchant Bank Limited in its first year of operations

Doing business in Nigeria is very challenging considering the poor state of infrastructure. Despite the huge potential as a result of the country’s large population, operating successfully and profitably requires ingenuity and prudent management of resources.

Even at that, many companies do not record profit in the first year of operations.
However, NOVA Merchant Bank Limited (NMBL), which began operations in 2017 was able to close its first year of operations with impressive performance.

The merchant bank, with a focus on wholesale banking, investment banking and asset management, formally opened its doors to the public on Thursday 1st of February 2017 in Lagos.
At a ceremony to officially open for business, the bank unveiled its objective to re-establish merchant banking as a key economic driver by providing long-term funds and advisory services.

Barely one year after it opened its doors for business, the financial institution recorded a profit of N510.58 million. The bank rode on a high level of productivity and cost-effectiveness in its activities, thus laying a strong foundation for its future success.
According to its results for the first eight months of its operations ended December 31, 2017, NMBL recorded gross earnings of N1.22 billion.

With a marked and strategic approach towards cost-saving and maximisation, the bank’s operating expenses stood at N743.39 million, while profit stood at N510.58 million.
The bank ended the period with total assets of N17.99 billion, while shareholders’ funds stood at N16.51 billion.

Speaking on the results, the Chairman of NMBL, Mr. Phillips Oduoza, expressed satisfaction at the performance and commended the staff.
He said: “We have assembled a team of professionals and our building state of the art technology to drive our innovative products and services in realisation of our vision to be Africa’s preferred financial solutions provider and our mission to create superior value in the markets we serve.

According to Oduoza, it is expected that the size of the bank’s balance sheet will provide a strong foundation to support the growth of its business and rapidly growing client base.
Speaking in the same vein, the Managing Director of NMBL, Chinedu Ikwudinma, noted that the performance was achieved by a commitment to the core values of the institution encapsulated by the acronym UPLIFT( Uniqueness, Passion, Leadership, Integrity, Fairness and Teamwork).

He said: “NOVA is positioned to bring transformative advantage to our customers in keeping with our vision to be Africa’s preferred financial solutions provider. We are deploying the systems, services and personnel to make this happen and are excited about the future we envision for ourselves and our clients.”

Laying strong foundation
Analysts expect this trend of performance to continue in 2018, saying the results showed impressive work based on the strong foundation which the company laid at the beginning of its operations. According to analysts, the performance reflects the good vision and mission put together by a formidable board, made of highly experienced professionals in various fields.

Apart from Oduoza, who is the chairman of the bank and Ikwudinma, who is the MD/CEO others are: Ayodeji Adigun, who is executive director/chief operating officer and Mr. Anya Diwoha, executive director, wholesale banking; Shams Butt, non-executive director; Malachy Nwainwu, Emmanuel Ijewere, Bolanle Onagoruwa and Habiba Wakil who are independent directors. These directors brought their various experiences to ensure the bank performs well.

Specifically, Oduoza has about 30 years banking experience in major financial institutions. He retired from UBA after firmly establishing the bank as a leading African Financial Institution with global brand recognition. He was part of a small team that pioneered and established Diamond Bank Plc as one of the most successful and innovative banks in the early 90s. He supervised/led many breakthrough financial products and initiatives of Diamond Bank. As a result, he rose rapidly to the position of Executive Director in 1999.

Oduoza has thorough knowledge of the Nigerian (indeed African/global) banking environment and what it takes to pioneer and run a very successful/sustainable financial institution. He has initiated and led many key successful financial transactions in infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, telecommunication, energy, technology projects, financial advisory, oil & gas, corporate finance, capital market activities and debt restructuring in Nigeria and across Africa. He has been involved in some of the key banking industry transformational initiatives, having led the Bankers Committee sub-committee on Payment Systems and Infrastructure that drove the BVN implementation and Electronic Payment System of Nigeria (Card, ATM, POS, Online transfers, etc).

Similarly, the MD/CEO, Ikwudinma was the ED/ Country Risk Manager for Citibank Nigeria Limited. During his over 25-year career at Citibank, he was the MD of Citibank Uganda from May 2009 April 2015, Corporate and Investment Bank Head at Citibank Zambia from January 2007  April 2009 and the Country Head of Commercial Banking for Citibank Nigeria from 2005 to 2006. He also held various executive positions covering Corporate and Investment Banking, Risk Management, Commercial Banking and Transaction Banking.
He possesses a strong track record and expertise in large ticket transactions across vast sectors of the economy, covering oil & gas, manufacturing, trading, consumer goods, telecommunications and building materials/construction.

Ikwudinma was the Chairman of the Uganda Bankers’ Association from May 2014 to March 2015, during which period he significantly improved the perception and reputation of the banking industry while at the same time developing strong engagement with all key stakeholders. These earned him the recipient of the Bank of Uganda Governor’s Award of Appreciation for Dedicated Service to Ugandas Banking Industry in 2015. He also served as the Director of American Chamber of Commerce in Uganda from 2009 to 2013.

Business focus
Speaking at a ceremony to formally begin operations, Oduoza, had said that banking was changing globally with the emergence of new entrants and the infusion of non-traditional business models leveraging advances in technology.

“We believe Nigeria should not be left behind. Therefore, NMBL is here to bring a new experience in the banking industry. That was why we selected the name, NOVA, which means new. We want to do new things,” he said.

Oduoza reaffirmed his belief that the number of merchant banks in Nigeria was still very low and there was opportunity for more, considering the key role merchant banks play.
“The major international financial institutions involved in investment banking are doing very well.

“Today, we do not have any of such institutions in Nigeria and this is the space NMBL plans to occupy not only in Nigeria but across Africa,” he said.
He said the bank was equipped with talented people and cutting-edge technology, necessary to deliver its mandate as a merchant bank.
“We have structured our products and designed our business model around merchant banking. We have carved a niche for ourselves and we believe strongly we will deliver in this area,” he promised the customers.

On corporate governance, he assured the highest standards are maintained at NOVA.
“There are three executive directors and six non-executive directors. So, we have twice the number of non-executive directors as executive directors.
“Out of those six directors, we have four independent directors. These board members are well accomplished and capable of independent opinion,” he said.

On his part, Ikwudinma explained the strategic direction of that the focus of the bank would be on wholesale banking by offering trade services, project financing, cash management, corporate solutions, advisory services.
“In investment banking, the bank would be looking at mergers and acquisition, advisory services, securities and trading, wealth and asset management as well as debt and equity capital management,” he said.

Securities & Trading
According to the bank, its wealth management offerings are tailored to the investment goals and risk appetite of its clients.
“We will work with you to build and manage your portfolio to facilitate the achievement of your investment goals and aspirations,” it said.

In the area of asset management, it offers a wide range of services covering mutual funds, structured products, portfolio administration services and trustee services.
“We seek to provide our clients with unrivalled investment performance across a wide range of asset classes through superior market insight, technical expertise and strong execution capabilities,” it said.