As Nigerian Women Break Grounds in Banking

Nigerian women are leaving an indelible mark on the banking sector, showcasing leadership, innovation, and resilience, and redefining the industry’s norms. As Nigeria joins other members of international community to celebrate women this month, Festus Akanbi, in this report, focuses on how women chief executives have lifted the profiles and performances of frontline banks including Fidelity Bank Plc, GTB, a subsidiary of Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, and First City Monument Bank Plc

Like many other sectors of the economy, the Nigerian banking landscape has undergone a significant transformation over the past two decades, helping to position many of the industry players for the global market.

It was a period that witnessed two recapitalisation exercises, attracted significant interest and investments from foreign investors, experienced rapid expansion, and invested heavily in technology to digitise operations and take advantage of global opportunities.

But perhaps the more profound transformation the sector has witnessed is in its human capital recalibration which opened up more opportunities for female bankers to lead the sector as chief executives of banks and be fully ingrained in the decision-making process in the industry.

In the early to mid-1990s, a female bank chief executive was an unheard-of development. For instance, of the over 100 banks in operation at the time, none had a female CEO.

In the late 1990s, however, Oceanic Bank bucked the trend when it appointed Cecilia Ibru as its CEO. Years later, the likes of Funke Osibodu of Union Bank, Sola David-Borha of Stanbic IBTC, and Bola Adesola of Chartered Standard Bank, among others followed in Ibru’s footsteps to the top of their respective banks.

However, credit must be given to the central bank for introducing the National Gender Policy target of 35% affirmative action for women in the banking sector.

Breaking the Glass-ceiling

Today, 10 of the leading banks in the country are run by women, including the largest bank by assets, Access Bank, which recently named Bolaji Agbede as interim CEO of Access Corporation. Others are Yemisi Edun of FCMB; Miriam Olusanya of GT Bank; Halima Buba of SunTrust Bank; Ireti Samuel-Ogbu of Citibank Nigeria; Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe of Fidelity Bank; Tomi Somefun of Unity Bank; Kafilat Araoye of Lotus Bank; Bukola Smith of FSDH Merchant Bank; Yetunde Oni of Union Bank.

The women have more than held their own and have shown strong leadership qualities as they drive some of the most outstanding financial performances in the banking industry. A new report on Africa’s top women CEOs published by African Business, an online news journal, showed that “The share prices of African companies run by women outperformed the continent’s leading stock exchanges in 2022.” The report showed that the top four performing stocks were in the financial services industry.

As we celebrate women globally this month, we take a look at three banks in the country run by women and examine their performance vis-à-vis the banks’ balance sheet and liquidity positions and their profitability.

Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe (Fidelity Bank)

Appointed in 2021 to oversee the next growth phase for Fidelity Bank, Onyeali-Ikpe, a lawyer turned banker, has shown strong leadership to continue to steer the mid-tier bank to unimaginable heights.

Under her leadership, Fidelity has maintained high asset quality and a healthy balance sheet, with its regulatory ratios well above the minimum regulatory thresholds

For two consecutive years, the bank has emerged as the company with the highest earnings per share on the NGX, based on half-year financial figures.

The bank continues to garner positive credit ratings from leading rating agencies such as S&P Global Ratings, Fitch Ratings, and Agusto, among others, to affirm its financial strength and stability.

Fidelity Bank’s recently released condensed unaudited financial statement for 2023 was very impressive. PBT grew by 128% to N122.15 billion from N53.68 billion in 2022. Top-line earnings grew by 64% to N552.77 billion from N337.05 in 2022.

Its net interest income was 82% higher than the 2022 figure. Its total assets grew by over 56% to N6.23 trillion.

The bank expressed its desire to play in the international market. Most notably, in 2023, it acquired the United Kingdom subsidiary of Union Bank to show its intent even as it reiterated plans for further acquisitions on the continent. “The strategy is for us to move our footprint outside Nigeria and compete favourably with our peers. In the next three years, we should be able to be in six countries by doing at least two yearly,” Onyeali-Ikpe told Bloomberg.

This consistently strong financial performance has endeared the bank to capital market investors as reflected in the sustained interest in its shares on the NGX.

Yemisi Edun (FCMB)

Like her Fidelity Bank counterpart, Yemisi Edun was given the nod to lead FCMB Group in 2021. She duly rewarded the faith in her by delivering a 72% growth in the bank’s profit before tax in 2022.

The bank continues to be strong in lending to enterprises. For the 2023 financial year, the group achieved gross earnings of N516.8 billion, representing an 82.6% growth over the full year 2022, as seen in the unaudited financial results released.

 It achieved a net interest income of N177.42 billion in 2023, a 45.4% growth year-on-year. 

FCMB recorded a 206.9% growth in net income for the year to N95.52 billion as against the N31.13 billion recorded in 2022.

Total assets grew by over 48% to N4.41 trillion from N2.98 trillion. Edun has consolidated the bank’s liquidity position and continued to exploit growth opportunities.

Miriam Olusanya (GTB)

In July 2021, for the first time in the institution’s history, Guaranty Trust Bank appointed a female to direct the affairs of one of the most loved banks in the country. Olusanya wasted no time in getting to work, showcasing her leadership qualities as she expertly directed the bank, tapping into growth opportunities.

Her adroit management continues to show in the financial performance of the bank. Its available results, Q3 2023, GT Bank posted some remarkable financial performances. The GT Group, with a dual listing on the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE), reported a 155.2% profit before taxation of N433.2 billion compared with N169.7 billion in the comparable period of 2022.

The Group’s balance sheet remained healthy with total assets and shareholders’ funds at N8.6 trillion and N1.3 trillion for the period under review. The GT Group has some of the best metrics in the industry, with positive pre-tax return on equity (ROAE), Capital Adequacy Ratio, and pre-tax return on assets.

Nigerian banks have continued to reap the benefits of tapping into the latent human capital available to them, regardless of their gender.

Banks today run an inclusive operation with equal opportunity given to both males and females to grow and attain whatever height their talents, experience, and dedication can take them in the banks.

Women have significantly revolutionised the banking sector in Nigeria, playing pivotal roles across various levels of leadership and innovation. From breaking traditional gender barriers to introducing novel financial products tailored to women’s needs, their influence has been profound.

Women executives have spearheaded strategic initiatives, driving growth and fostering inclusivity within the industry.

Moreover, female entrepreneurs have been instrumental in shaping microfinance and fintech sectors, empowering communities, and driving economic development.

Through their resilience, vision, and expertise, women have brought about transformative changes, redefining the landscape of banking in Nigeria.

And as Nigeria joins other members of the international community to celebrate this year’s Women’s Month, we must acknowledge the invaluable contribution of the female gender to nation-building in Nigeria.

Related Articles