Celebrating 75 Legacy Years of Impact, Innovation and Trust at UBA

For 75 years, the United Bank for Africa Plc, UBA, has exhibited commitment in delivering exceptional service and driving global impact by building people, businesses, and communities, standing strong on a legacy of trust and unwavering dedication. Known for its customer-centric policy, Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that for Africa’s global bank, this primary strategy is achieved through the deployment of three key levers – People, Process and Technology while emphasising the core values of Enterprise, Execution and Excellence

“It’s been 𝟕𝟓 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐛𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲! Whatever stability I have today started from UBA.” Those were the words of Sir Olatunde, a devoted shareholder, who gave this testimonial at the recently held United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc 62nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Abuja, Nigeria, to the admiration of the Group Chairman, Tony O. Elumelu (CFR), board members, executive management team and others. 

Re-echoing this sentiment were Dr. Faruk and Mr. Hamza, also shareholders, who literally have UBA on their heads as their passion is as strong as the unreserved dedication to customers and shareholders in their 75 years of banking Africa. The AGM came at the tail of the global celebration of UBA at 75 when the bank rolled out the gong to commemorate over seven decades of renaming

 a strong brand, renowned for innovation, agility, excellence in service delivery and value creation, essentially dominating the global financial sector.

 Since 1949, the bank has been committed to building people, businesses, and communities, delivering exceptional service, creating value for their shareholders, and shaping a brighter future together

Commemorating 75 

To commemorate the auspicious occasion of its 75th anniversary of exponential growth, the bank held a hybrid world press conference on May 20, 2024, where the Group Managing Director (GMD), Mr. Oliver Alawuba first appreciated those whose sacrifices, contributions, support, and guidance over the years, shaped the bank. He also honoured the Group Chairman for his visionary push in 2005 to get the bank to its present status, just as he commended the bank’s teeming customers around the globe. 

He said: “You meet several people, they will tell you that they are third or fourth generation of UBA customers in their families, that their grandparents and parents were customers of UBA and their children currently carry UBA ATM cards, enrolled on our mobile banking and LEO chat bot banking. This is the strength of UBA.

“This milestone is not just a celebration of longevity, but a testament to resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to excellence that have defined UBA’s journey over the decades.

“As we reflect on the significance of this epoch-making event, it is important to acknowledge that UBA means different things to different people. For some, UBA is a trusted financial partner; for others, UBA is a beacon of stability and reliability, a development partner in various local communities as well as a catalyst for African development.

“Since its inception in 1949, UBA has evolved from a modest beginning in Lagos Island to a global financial institution with a presence in 20 African countries and four global financial nerve centres (New York, London, Paris and Dubai).

“Today we have over 25,000 Staff, over 35 million customers served through multiple channels – over 350,000 POS terminals, 2,000 ATM terminals, 1,000 Business Offices and 19.7 million Card Customers.”

He added that the past 75 years have been marked by stability and excellence, pillars upon which UBA’s legacy stands tall and they take pride in being “ the first Bank in Nigeria to offer an Initial Public Offering (IPO); first in Nigeria banking industry to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE); first Nigerian Bank to open a branch in the USA and London; first to install Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in Nigeria. 

“UBA was first to open a campus branch at the University of Lagos in Nigeria; UBA was the first Nigerian Bank to open a subsidiary in Africa (Ghana in 2005); UBA appointed the first Female Board Chairperson in Nigeria; Mobile Banking in Nigeria was first introduced by UBA; UBA launched the first Multi-lingual Chatbot Banking in Nigeria: LEO; and UBA was the first Nigerian Bank to launch the most successful Prepaid Cards across Africa.”

Amidst economic challenges and market dynamics, he noted that UBA has demonstrated remarkable financial strength and resilience, adding that innovation and digital transformation are at the heart of their strategy for future growth and competitiveness. 

This is just as he said their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility is strong, with initiatives focused on education, healthcare, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability; thus, making a concrete impact on communities across Africa.

Not done, he said in looking ahead, their vision is clear – to be the role model for African Businesses. “UBA is one bank, uniting Africa while connecting Africans to the World and the World to Africa. Our primary focus is to be the payment bank for Capital flows, trade and investments between Africa and the rest of the world.

“We are committed to expanding our presence, seizing growth opportunities, and delivering value to all stakeholders. Collaboration and partnerships as exemplified by the $6bn SME funding agreement signed with the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will be instrumental in achieving our strategic objectives. 

“We are dedicated to deepening relationships with customers, employees, regulators, and other stakeholders for mutual benefit and long-term success. As we embark on the next phase of our journey, I urge all stakeholders to continue their support and collaboration. Together, we will write the next chapter of success for United Bank for Africa Plc,” he added. 

Growth Trajectory

In 1949, British & French Bank (BFB) commenced business in Nigeria with its first office in Lagos and in 1961, UBA was incorporated as a Limited Liability Company, taking over the assets and liabilities of British & French Bank. 

In 1970, UBA became the first Nigerian bank to make an Initial Public Offering and UBA’s London business became a subsidiary. In 1984, UBA established its New York branch and in 1997, Standard Trust Bank commenced operations.

In 1998, UBA became the first Nigerian bank to issue Global Depository Receipts and fast forward to 2004, Standard Trust Bank commenced operations in Ghana. In 2005, UBA merged with Standard Trust Bank and also acquired Continental Trust Bank. 

In 2007, it successfully raised fresh equity capital and UBA Capital (Europe) London opened. Between 2008 to 2011, UBA successfully raised N20 billion debt capital and acquired majority interest in banks in Burkina Faso and the Republic of Benin. Operations in other African countries; Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Congo DR, Gabon, Guinea, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia also commenced.

Within this period, 2009, to be exact, the Paris office opened and in 2012, UBA won the Financial Times’ Bankers Award for the overall Bank in Africa, Best Bank in Cameroon and Best Bank in Senegal. In 2013, it successfully divested from its non-bank subsidiaries and property management business.

In 2014 and 2015, UBA Chad and Senegal were awarded Bank of the Year by the Banker Magazine and UBA also won the Africa Investor Social Infrastructure Deal of the Year award. In 2017, UBA successfully raised $500 million through a five-year senior unsecured Eurobond and achieves Premium listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. 

In 2018, the bank established a subsidiary in Mali and launched the first Artificial Intelligence Virtual Banking Bot, Leo on Facebook. The bank was also named Africa’s Best Digital Bank by Euromoney. Same year, UBA Capital Limited received its wholesome banking licence to commence full banking operations in the UK as UBA UK Limited. 

In 2019, it celebrated a milestone achievement of 70 years of banking operations and was also named Africa’s Bank of the Year by “The Banker”. In 2021, the bank  was again awarded the Prestigious ‘African Bank of the Year by The Banker Magazine. The bank also won Best Bank in 13 of its African subsidiaries. Same year, the bank received its operating license for the United Arab Emirates. 

In 2022, it commenced business operations in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and in 2023, launched the Braille Account Opening Form. Same year, UBA and AfCFTA signed $6B SME finance agreement and the bank won 

the Financial Times’ Bankers Award for Best Bank in Africa. The by no means exhaustive list has extended to this year and just days ago, the bank clinched l the 𝐁𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐑𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐁𝐚𝐧𝐤 – 𝐖𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐀𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚 at the prestigious 𝐀𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐁𝐚𝐧𝐤𝐞𝐫 𝐀𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 in Kenya, underscoring their leadership and excellence in the banking and finance sector. 

Seven Decades of Exponential Growth 

As one of the leading and most recognised banks to originate from sub-Saharan Africa with growing operations in 20 African countries, the UK, USA, UAE and a representative office in France, Africa’s global bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) boasts of seven decades of uninterrupted banking operations in providing superior financial services to small businesses, corporations, governments, institutions and individuals globally. 

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, it has thriving operations in Republique du Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Congo Brazzaville, Congo DRC, Cote d’lvoire, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tchad, Uganda and Zambia.

But beyond these, they also operate in the United Kingdom and France and are the only sub Saharan African bank with a deposit taking license in the USA. Additionally, they officially opened for business in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates in 2022.

With proven expertise and capacity

UBA provides corporate, commercial, SME, consumer and personal (retail) banking services to more than 45 million customers, served through diverse channels: over 1,000 business offices and customer touch points with 2,669 ATMs, 87,223 PoS, and robust online banking services. Additionally, UBA offers pension custody and related services.

The bank has proven expertise and capacity in key sectors of economies across Africa, especially in Oil and Gas, Infrastructure Finance, Agric, and Commodity/Export, and this positions them as a preferred partner for structured solutions to key governments and corporates operating in/into Africa.

It is essential to note that its mission is to be a role model for African businesses by creating superior value for all their stakeholders, abiding by the utmost professional and ethical standards, and by building an enduring institution while leaning on its vision to be the undisputed leading and dominant financial services institution in Africa.

Strategic Intent

At UBA, under the Chairmanship of serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu, the strategic intent of the bank  has been continuous focus on the customer as the undisputed employer. This primary strategy is achieved through the deployment of three key levers – People, Process and Technology.

Not done, the bank also emphasises the core values of Enterprise, Execution and Excellence and aims to be the leading financial services institution as well as the undisputed Sustainable Financial Institution in Africa, all targeted towards maximising customer satisfaction while engaging in some key strategic alliances.​

With plenty laurels to show for its excellence and diligence, including the Best Digital Bank in Africa and African Bank of the year, the bank has created a corporate culture founded upon strong organisational values and performance-driven operating standards.

It’s pertinent to state that the bank  continues to enjoy an international reputation for excellence as a result of its commitment to constant innovation as a means of enhancing the image of the brand. 

Aspiration for the Future 

Given all that has been achieved in the past 75 years, the bank is not resting its oars to sustain the gains made. In fact, it was UBA’s Group Deputy Managing Director, Muyiwa Akinyemi, who put it succinctly. 

He said: “We are committed to offering value that enhances the experience of our customers, while solidifying our position as a forward-thinking institution. 

“Additionally, our intentional commitment to global sustainability principles, corporate social responsibility with significant impact across Africa through initiatives in education, healthcare, and environmental sustainability.

“We look forward to another 75 years, 100 years of impact; to our people, businesses, and communities across the globe. Together, we will continue to uphold our core values of Excellence, Enterprise, and Execution, driving sustainable growth and successes.”

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