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FITC Leadership Series: Harnessing innovation, digitalisation, talent management to drive growth

This edition of the FITC Leadership series drew over 1,700 participants, with over 70 per cent of them C-Suite level executives and business owners, representing 800 organisations from 12 countries across five continents including Africa.

Participants at the webinar were from Nigeria, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany Guyana, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, South Africa, Europe, Ghana, Liberia, among others and cut across several sectors from banking, oil, and gas, manufacturing to mention but a few.

FITC has reinforced its commitment to promoting quality leadership in the business space through knowledge sharing and providing innovative solutions to a wide range of organisations.

The Institute brought executives across several industries together for the second edition of its Leadership Series webinar with the theme: ‘Post Crisis Recovery: Preparing for the New Normal’ to unravel the opportunities, threats and fears created by the COVID-19 pandemic and how leaders should approach them. The programme succeeded in boosting leaders’ confidence in building a resilient workforce and adopting winning business strategies.

A large part of the world population, including top business leaders, never saw the devastating effect of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the global economy coming. And it is easy to overlook their error.

But business leaders will have no excuse for not planning for the post-crisis era, which will come, sooner than later. And when that time comes, only leaders that have prepared their workforce and processes for it will benefit and stay ahead of the competition.

FITC has therefore held its second Webinar version of its Leadership Series with the theme: Post Crisis Recovery: Preparing for the New Normal’ to get business leaders ready for it. All the speakers and attendees agreed that there will be recovery, but in returning to normal, there are things that leaders and executives should be thinking about and doing now in preparation for that phase.

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This edition of the FITC Leadership series drew over 1,700 participants, with over 70 per cent of them C-Suite level executives and business owners, representing 800 organisations from 12 countries across five continents including Africa.

Participants at the webinar were from Nigeria, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany Guyana, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, South Africa, Europe, Ghana, Liberia, among others and cut across several sectors from banking, oil, and gas, manufacturing to mention but a few.

The speakers were chairman, UAC Nigeria, and senior partner at Udo Uroma & Belo Osagie, Dan Agbor, who was the keynote speaker; managing director/CEO Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman; global head, Human Resources at First Bank Nigeria Limited/subsidiaries, Rosie Ebe-Arthur, and group managing director/CEO, UAC Nigeria, Fola Aiyesimoju.

In her opening remarks, managing director/CEO, FITC, Chizor Malize, said the webinar was an opportunity for leaders to see and think ahead of the crisis while taking necessary measures that will guarantee success of their businesses.

She said the theme for the programme: Post Crisis Recovery: Preparing for the New Normal is very important to business executives considering the way the world is approaching the pandemic. She said the speakers and attendees would be able to share insights on things bothering executives in today’s business environment including the apprehensions, fears triggered by the pandemic.

FITC is now, in its over 39 years of operation, providing innovative solutions to a wide range of organizations, the financial services sector and allied industries including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and all the service banks that drive economic growth.

FITC learning and innovation services cut across leadership, talent management, capacity building for board of directors, digital transformation, risk management programmes among others, which have in no small measure strengthened the capability of business leaders to drive their organizations and workforce to achieve and surpass set targets.

Malize reiterated the importance of the workforce to business successes insisting that employees’ health should be a priority for organizations seeking higher role and sectoral leadership in the new normal. For her, now is the time for companies to adopt HSE policies to protect, safeguard and keep their people healthy because only a healthy workforce can compete for market share.

For her, organizations will have to come to the reality that consumer behaviour has changed, and their operations and services will have to be tailored towards the new normal. Also, companies must have new insights on customers on what behaviours have changed, what consumption patterns, channels, environment, buying attitude, even the economic power have changed.

Dan Agbor said the crisis was never predicted and still a huge shock to many leaders many of whom are still not sure what to do.

Agbor said the crisis impact has reverberated globally and across sectors, leading to contraction in most economies. For instance, drop in crude oil prices, which is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy has affected key sectors of the economy. And as the spread of the virus reaches a peak in most countries, conversations have turned to the need for cautious reopening of economies.

For Nigeria, he expects leaders to consider several interlinked response strategies including developing a flexible and balanced response to the crisis. Also, companies with foreign exchange exposures will be at higher risks while their economies battle inflation, drop in customers’ purchasing power and depressed valuation of companies.

But the UAC chairman urged companies to have a positive outlook on their operations, by rising up to the challenge of turning the adversities to opportunities for growth. But winning at this time, would require communicating with your employees and passing the message of hope to them. Again, he suggested defining the roles employees will play in actualizing the envisaged hope and in keeping their jobs.

Also speaking, Abubakar Suleiman highlighted the need for leaders to keep innovating through the COVID-19 crisis. For him, innovation, planning ahead and staying connected to the customer are key for business success.

The disruption of global supply chain will likely lead to food crisis while credit and currency crisis are inevitable. He predicted massive value erosion for currencies, and bigger government structure to meet increased need of the populace.

Businesses that will succeed, will have to go back to the basic things of life or solve real problems affecting the people, who are expected to migrate their spending pattern to critical things in live. He further predicted that as individuals, stay nimble, simple and light, the world is will become less connected, trusting and collaborative.

But no matter what happens, healthcare, Information and Telecommunication technology, power and agriculture sector will stay ahead of others. He specifically insisted that investment in healthcare will be rewarding as the sector is expected to benefit significantly in the next decade.

He reiterated that communication through technology will be the focus of businesses as people now want to use technology to solve their problems and stay connected within the lockdown and continue to run their businesses remotely.

On power, the Sterling Bank boss said big power projects will become less likely with the drop in government revenue, hence the need for more viable alternatives like solar power, small scale power projects. But more importantly, this is the time for food production, food processing and distribution and storage because the countries’ ability to import food across borders will be reduced.

In her presentation, Rosie Ebe-Arthur, said business success lies directly in the hands of the people, and the performance review should reward top performers and take decision on laggards.

For her, COVID-19 is first of all, a health crisis with human impact but it has also forced employees and employers to look each other in the face, and recognise themselves as humans, with needs, families, and anxieties presenting no option than for employees to work from home.

But the crisis has also made employers understand that working from home differs from being on holiday, with many employees rising up to the challenge to deliver desired results. The onus, she believes is for employers to trust their employees to do the right thing insisting that the global new normal is that engagement has become so important and people want to know that you care about them before you ask about your work.

“People talk about the new normal, but it has never been accelerated as we are seeing today. For me, communication is the future of work. Suddenly, we are having to communicate to bridge gaps, and intimately with employees. We trust employees with company information, and we have to manage risk, compliance, regulations, and cybersecurity differently,” she said.

Ebe-Arthur said organizations would need to build a resilient workforce, by providing them with the right tools to achieve desired results. “As a bank, we know that we need to continually provide solutions to our customers. Companies will need to recruit people with digital skills, and those that can come in and deliver results. HR needs to deepen its relationship with the business and must understand that revenues are low, and then hire only for critical roles”.

Fola Aiyesimoju spoke on what businesses should be doing to move ahead in the crisis, advising leaders to think naturally about what forms the boundaries of their industry.

He made several predictions on what lies ahead for companies. For instance, immediately after the COVID-19 lockdown, there is likely to be a short-term spike in demand and being first time mover is going to be very, very important for most businesses as factories have closed, and supply chains disrupted.

Hence, companies will have to plan not only on how to meet the initial surge but sustaining the demand and a critical step is asking what are we doing to support our supply chain but companies must deliver quality products at good prices or lose out in the market share game.

One way of maintaining market leadership to continually stay on customers’ minds, through constant communication with distribution and supply chains and constantly asking what is changing, and whether we still meeting our customers’ needs. So, our plan is never to be displaced in the first place.

Again, companies must think of how to operate in an economy where for a very long time, there will be restriction on the number of people that can congregate in a particular environment.

Management is also expected to stay focused and keep an eye on cash flow liquidity and business continuity at this critical time. It is also vital for companies to keep their eyes on the future, and not spending the year or next two years looking downwards by being optimistic and making best use of bad situations and the opportunities they present.

Feedbacks from attendees

Feedback and comments from participants indicated a high level of impact from the webinar and encouragement for more of the Leadership Series from FITC.

Gbolabo Awelewa, group head, IT/payment transformation, Unified Payment described the webinar as very insightful. “It focused specifically on the impact of the pandemic on the different sectors of our economy and the points raised in preparing us for the “New Normal” were apt and straight to the point. I thoroughly enjoyed attending,” Awelewa shared.

Deputy general manager at Ecobank Nigeria, Kuponiyi Ayotunde, described the webinar as very insightful and educative and commended FITC for the success recorded at the event.

For Amarachukwu Okogbue, the webinar was a wonderful experience sharing by seasoned practitioners and experts which should be sustained by FITC given the massive impact it will have on business growth. Her biggest takeaway, she said was the need for businesses to build their strategy from people’s needs, which makes it infallible.

Another attendee, Taye Adelanwa, described the sessions as enlightening, and the analysts as awesome while TMT Business Director at Verraki Partners Africa, Ifeanyi Akosionu said his takeaway was understanding that digitization must start from within. “I learnt that when you succeed in transforming your people, they will transform their work”.

Adaobi Okwesi said, “Breath of fresh air. Every knowledge shared just takes you from one horizon of hope to the next. Not because it denies the challenges but because it clearly gives you feasible solutions from well informed and experienced people, nudging you to the direction of great and impactful possibilities. Thank you FITC for putting this together.”

For Tsukunda Yakubu his take home from the webinar was that business recovery was going to depend on people. “Recovery will truly depend on “people first”. Building trust!”

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