• Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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Encouraging more female CEOs in the banking sector

Nigeria’s female Bank CEOs

Bola Kuforiji-Olubi (September 28, 1936 – December 3, 2016) was a chartered accountant, renowned banker and federal minister of commerce. When she was appointed Chairman of the Board of United Bank of Africa (UBA) in 1984, people thought it was an impossible feat. But she occupied that seat until 1990 and went on to serve in other capacities both locally and internationally. She was the 25th president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria; the first female to become president of the Institute, the first Nigerian woman to become the CEO of a multinational company (VYB Industries Limited, with British affiliates (Inchcape plc) and the first female Chairperson of a public listed company (Bewac Plc), among others.

It took several years before other prominent women joined banks’ boards and they include; Cecilia Ibru, first female bank CEO and former Managing Director/Chief Executive officer, defunct Oceanic Bank, Bola Adesola, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Limited, Nigeria, Ibukun Awosika, former Chairperson, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Mosun Belo-Olusoga – Chairperson, Board of Directors of Access Bank Plc, Osaretin Demuren, Chairperson, Board of Directors of Guaranty Trust Bank, and Caroline Anyanwu, Deputy Managing Director and Chief Risk Officer of defunct Diamond Bank Plc.

Interestingly however, unlike in 1984 when Kuforiji was the only female voice, today, the Nigerian banking sector has woken up to the reality that women can make the difference in both corporate governance and financial stability. This is exemplified by the recent elevation of 8 women to the banking top echelon bringing a 27% occupation rate.
It is gratifying that while the banking sector, like almost every other sector in Nigeria, is a male dominated field, it has witnessed some revival in terms of women holding key positions and successfully driving growth and development in their various positions.

The boards that appointed them and the CBN that did the confirmation must have done a thorough job and these people have had reasonable length and practical experience on the job to be considered

The development is a paradigm shift in a sector aiming to meet up with the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP) specifically in gender diversity and inclusiveness at the top management levels. The policy, introduced in 2012, seeks 40 percent women representation at the upper tier of the banking industry.

With the addition of more women landing the topmost job in 23 of the country’s leading banks – four of them appointed in 2021 , it represents a massive boost to the actualization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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The recent appointees include, Miriam Olusanya Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), Yemisi Edun, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited, Bukola Smith, FSDH Merchant Bank Limited; Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Fidelity Bank Plc ; Halima Buba, Suntrust Bank; Ireti Samuel-Ogbu Citibank Nigeria, Oluwatomi Somefun Unity Bank Plc, and Kafilat Araoye, Lotus Bank respectively. The appointments of the women (except Smith) marked the first time ladies would lead the respective financial institutions.

NSBP, which was introduced in 2012, requires banks to develop clear short and long term objectives on their business activities and provide products and services aimed at promoting gender equality for women and financial inclusion. It also advises banks to promote a gender-inclusive culture and female talent-management schemes, establish internal committees that comprise senior leaders from across the business to oversee accountability for gender diversity and steer gender inclusive strategies consistent with their core business activities, among others.

The goals of the NSBP are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which states that encouraging more women leaders would help achieve greater gender equality.

Indeed, the ongoing recognition of women is long expected. Nigeria has come a long way and the banking industry has come a long way too. We need to see more of a blend of both men and women playing key roles in the banking and financial sectors of the economy.

The boards that appointed them and the CBN that did the confirmation must have done a thorough job and these people have had reasonable length and practical experience on the job to be considered. We therefore have no reason to doubt their capacity to deliver on their mandate. This conviction is hinged on the fact that providing more opportunities for women to progress to senior roles in an industry that remains a male bastion is a step in the right direction.

Once they do well of course, the impact would be very high. The customers and other stakeholders would begin to appreciate ladies even more. But it is up to them to take up that challenge and prove they can do it and once they can do it, they open more doors for other ladies that are coming at their back. But if they go there and do not do better than the men, they may jeopardise the chances of other women taking after them.
Above all, they should avoid making the mistakes of a former female bank CEO, which earned her a prison sentence.