Assessing Uzoka’s Performance as UBA GMD
Combining the precision of a good engineer, proficiency and acumen of good human resources manager, the immediate past Group Managing Director of United Bank for Africa Plc, Kenney Uzoka, ran it efficiently for five years and left the bank on higher pedestal, writes Goddy Egene
A month ago, the Board of United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) effected a management change, announcing the retirement of the Group Managing Director, Mr. Kenny Uzoka and the appointment of Mr. Oliver Alawuba as his successor.
Uzoka’s retirement came after a five-year sterling performance. However, one person, who must very proud and felt fulfilled at the retirement of Uzoka is the Chairman of UBA Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu. His decision to make Uzoka the GMD when Phillips Oduoza retired in 2016 has come out as perfect one because the confidence reposed in Uzoka was not betrayed given the growth trajectory of UBA.
“Kennedy brings an extremely strong skill set and is ideally positioned to lead UBA in its next phase of growth,” Elumelu had said in 2016. Five years after, Uzoka really led the next phase of UBA and took the bank to higher pedestal.
Despite the challenging economic terrain, which witnessed two recessions and COVID-19, UBA posted highly impressive performance in the years of Uzoka as GMD. During the period, many financial institutions and other companies suffered hemorrhage but UBA rode on the back of Uzoka’s led management to make sure that the bank came out stronger.
A look at the performance indicators showed that gross earnings rose fromN383 billion before Uzoka assumed duty as the GMD to N660 billion at the end of 2021. Profit after tax grew from N72 billion to N119 billion.
The bank made significant contribution to the economy through loans and advances to customers during Uzoka’s tenure. The bank supported its customers with loans of N2.8 trillion at the end of 2021, up from N1.5 trillion in 2016.
Also, the bank became very attractive in the Uzoka’s years as reflected by the level of customers’ deposits which rose to N6.4 trillion, from N2.5 trillion. Specifically, number of customers rose by 178 per cent from nine million in 2016 to 25million as at March 31, 2022. Total assets improved from N3.5 trillion to N8.5 trillion as at March 2022.
Apart from the improved financial performance, UBA also recorded some achievements and led the industry in innovations in the period under review.
“In UBA, innovation is the sum of consistent process improvement leading to positive customer experience,”Uzoka had said.
Apparently to testify as a really innovative bank, Uzoka won the “Finovator of the Year” award at the Finnovex West Africa Awards in 2021.
In all, UBA pioneered some innovations in the banking industry. For instance, UBA was the first bank in Africa to roll out Artificial Intelligence (Leo) in 2018. Leo disrupted the digital landscape in Africa. Before leaving office, Uzoka ensured that Leo was extended to 20 African countries, currently speaks four languages including English, French, Portuguese, and Swahili.
Leo remains the undisputed market leader and it is available on
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple Business Chat in multiple countries. Leo was the only chatbot showcased by Mark Zuckerberg at the F8 in 2018.
UBA also launched an in-house developed Mobile Banking App in March 2021. Similarly, in-house processing of VISA card was deployed in 2021.
Apart from personal laurels, under Uzoka’s leadership, UBA won the “Best Automated Chatbot initiative, application or programme
Award” and “Best Digital Transformation initiative, application or Programme.”
Others are: The West Africa Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards, West Africa (The Asian Banker) in 2019; “Best Digital Bank in Nigeria”; Best Digital Bank in Africa Sponsored Company Award” “The Asian Banker Technology Innovation Award”; The Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards, West Africa (The Asian Banker) in 2019, Euromoney Awards in 2018, and Asian Banker Awards In 2017, respectively; Winner, Africa Bank of the Year 2021 and Winner, Bank of the Year 2021 (Nigeria) from The Banker Magazine, a Financial Times publication in 2021 International Bank of the Year and Bank of the Year.
In fact, UBA broke the Banker Magazine record by winning Best Bank in Africa, Nigeria, and 12 other Subsidiaries in one year (2021). Before then, in 2018, UBA met Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) stringent corporate governance conditions to be listed on NGX Premium Board. This is an attestation to the bank’s strong adherence to international best practices on corporate governance.
In 2017, UBA launched the $500million 5-year Eurobond notes, which was over subscriber and redeemed in 2021 despite foreign exchange challenges.
UBA grew its footprint from 22 in 2016 to 24 countries in Q1-2022, extending operations to – Mali (2019), and the United Arab Emirates (2022).
UBA equally commenced Click Credit in 2020, an instant online consumer loan application/availment platform.
Equipped for the job
The achievements recorded by Uzoka may come to many as a surprise. However, to some other analysts and stakeholders, the former GMD laid a strong foundation and prepared well to achieve those feats.
Uzoka obtained his first degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Benin. He was the best Mechanical Engineering student in the 1987 graduating class. He later obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Accountants of Nigeria.
The former UBA GMD has an MBA from the University of Lagos attended the Harvard Business School in Boston United States, the International Institute of Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland and the London Business School, United Kingdom.
In terms of his career milestones, Uzoka worked with the Standard Trust Bank (STB) as the Regional Director-South East; Vice President-Northern Nigeria, Chief Marketing Officer – Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Chief Marketing Officer, Lagos and later, the Managing Executive Officer at STB. When STB merged with UBA in 2005, he then joined the new UBA. He served as the General Manager and Head of UBA Group South Bank covering the Eastern, Southern, Mid-Western and Western States of Nigeria.
He later held various positions including Group Director, Resources, Group Human Resources Director, Executive Director, Resources, Deputy Managing Director UBA Bank for Africa, and Deputy Managing Director/CEO UBA Africa managing the subsidiaries across 18 countries on the continent. He became GMD in 2016.
Shareholders who have reaped handsomely from their investment in UBA in form dividends, have commended the performance of the financial institution under Uzoka.
For instance, the President, Association for the Advancement of Nigeria Shareholders, Dr. Faruk Umar, said Uzoka did very well as GMD of UBA.
He said:” Under Uzoka ‘s leadership , UBA had consistently improved on its performance. It had expanded the business of the bank to 22 African locations which no Nigerian bank had done . The corporate governance of the bank under his purview, including compliance and risk management, was excellent. With the guidance of Tony Elumelu, who chairs the board, we were confident that Uzoka’s tenure would be successful. Also, he had related very well with the leadership of shareholders’ associations, and we wish him God’s guidance in his future endeavours.”
In his assessment, the Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria(PSAN), Mr. Boniface Okezie, said UBA’s balance sheet grew into trillions, while its services became second to none.
“In the area of service delivery, you hardly see customers queuing in the banking hall any more unlike in the past when people used to crowd the bank. He decongested the banking hall through the deployment of robust information technology (IT). I have witnessed this improvement because I am one of the customers apart from being a shareholder as well,” Okezie said.
He explained that in the area of dividend payout, it was also remarkable in the history because the bank began to pay higher amount to its shareholders.
“I will give kudos to Uzoka and the team that worked with him to deliver good returns to stakeholders as well as keeping the bank’s strong both in Nigeria and Africa. We must commend the Board of Directors, especially the chairman, who gave him free hand to run the bank,” he said.
Okezie noted that the good staff members of UBA, who gave in their best, should also be commended, saying that without the dedicated staff, Uzoka would not have succeeded.
“Because only him would not have done the job. In all, I rate Uzoka very high. The way he ran the bank successfully in the midst of the stiff competition, poor economic environment and over-regulated industry must be commended. Despite those headwinds, the bank continued to pay handsome dividend to shareholders. My hope and prayer is that the new GMD should continue well from Uzoka stopped and improve on the performance,” Okezie said.
In the assessment of the Chairman, Ibadan Zone Shareholders Association, Mr. Eric Akinduro, Uzoka tried his best to have kept the bank’s flag flying in the face of critical economic downturn.
“Uzoka, to us as shareholders, really tried his best to keep the flag of our bank flying even in the face of critical economic downturn. I have come to realise in his leadership style that our value is not determined by what we have but what we do with what we have. He sustained the legacy of the bank in terms of return on investment and during his time he was able to create goodwill with shareholders which is the major part of any business legacy. His extra-ordinary ability to keep the team together and on task in a perfect harmonious way is a good example of his professionalism. He had been a great asset to our bank and we would miss him,” Akinduro said.
Also speaking, the National Coordinator, Pragmatic Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mrs, Bisi Bakare said Uzoka performed excellently well.
“For me, Uzoka has performed excellently well during his tenure as the GMD of UBA. He improved on the growth started by his predecessor, Oduoza and Elumelu. Uzoka consistently grew gross earnings, PBT and PAT and shareholders regularly received good dividend. He has retired on a very positive note and he should be commended,” Bakare said.