Ifie Sekibo: Celebrating grit, vigor at 56
Heritage Bank’s success story will not be a surprise to those who have followed Ifie Sekibo’s life story, as times without numbers, he has shown that he possesses the Midas touch required to bring a declining business endeavour back to life.
The rebirth of the bank to what it is now, with a coterie of local and international awards, follows a trajectory of similar brands in the past that almost went under until Sekibo took over the reins, turned their fortunes on the path of sustainability and why he is regarded as a turnaround captain by players in the economic landscape of the country.
His strategic prowess became more prominent when his Heritage Bank, which started as a regional bank, in 2013 defied all banking tenets and was able to withstand the might of top established players like Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, Skye Bank (now Polaris), Diamond Bank and others to win the bid for the acquisition of Enterprise Bank in 2014 which also saw it inherit over 160 branches, over 177 ATMs, and 2000 POS terminals spread across major markets and commercial centers in the country.
It should be recollected that in 2009, Sekibo had led his team of professionals to nurture the re-birth of Societe Generale Bank that has been dead for 10 years and transformed it to an innovative regional bank called Heritage Banking Company Ltd, where he served as pioneer MD/CEO.
Sekibo, an alumnus of the renowned Harvard Business School OPM class (2006-2009) and Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (2002) with over two decades of professional work experience spanning across the financial services and energy sectors, is a tenacious entrepreneur and a passionate game-changer with a proven track record in turn-around management.
He believes that the success so far achieved is as a result of the mindset that went into the execution of the task as he posits that, “Organisations do not become the best by themselves but can become the best if the individuals who drive them have the necessary mindset to make it so. This is why I say vision is nothing without the right attitude or mindset to push it to success”.
This success mindset has consistently driven his vision to lead tenacious teams which mobilize strategic investments and capital injection to resuscitate and restructure moribund companies to the path of sustained profitability.
His teams are led by the mantra of hard work and them understanding their feelings which he succinctly explains in one of his famous quotes, “Ignoring your feelings is the number one reason why people never achieve optimal thinking to make the best decisions for success. Get to know that inner voice – it’s not always on your side. We must become the master of our mind and body. Nothing changes without a lot of hard work and determination. And nothing is as satisfying as reaching goals’’.
This is why he seeks to grow the country’s revenue by revamping the abandoned gold reserves through Heritage bank’s partnership with Dukia Gold & Precious Metals Refining Co. Ltd to develop Nigeria’s potential reserves of 200 million ounces of gold and fast-track the 10 percent contribution of the mining sector to GDP by 2026.
Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, during the virtual platform launch of Dukia-Heritage Bank Gold & Precious Metals Buying Centres nationwide, said the initiative would enable Nigeria to mine reserves properly, trade responsibly, refine locally and boost the nation’s foreign reserves.
Now at 56, Sekibo remains a man of vision and an enigma in the field of business. People marvel at how he excelled in taking almost dead business ventures to profit-making, but to him, it’s all in a day’s work once the mindset is attuned to success.
His special ability to turn around dead businesses and make them profitable became evident back in 2003 when he led a team of technocrats to acquire a moribund company named Global Assurance Company Limited as the executive vice-chairman and also steered the institution named International Energy Insurance (IEI), which later emerged as a frontline Insurance company in Nigeria after undertaking a capital raise and listing on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
This passion and relentless efforts of his at turning around businesses that have nose-dived also took him to the South-Eastern part of the country where Golden Breweries in Umuahia, Abia state, was resuscitated after 16years of inactivity following a lifeline of $10 million it obtained from Nigerian Export and Import Bank, (NEXIM) and facilitated by Heritage Bank Plc. Heritage Bank’s involvement in financing the revival of the Golden Guinea Breweries under the amiable leadership of Sekibo remains one of his greatest achievements of bringing back another moribund business.
Aside from being highly reputed for turning a moribund business into profitability, his next interest is to make sure that Nigerian languages do not go into extinction. This was why he joined other private citizens to support the call for local dialects to be taught in schools, as most youths, due to parental or societal influence, feel the English language is superior to their native languages.
He championed the launch of a book titled ‘Let Us Speak Ikwerre’, (A KWU IWNUROHHNA), in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The book originally written in the English Language was authored by Mrs. Oyintarela Umeri and translated to the Ikwerre language by Dr. Tony Enyia, an indigene of Rumuor-Ogbakari, Emohua Local Government of Rivers State.
One of the cardinal points of his life is mentorship, and he is involved in mentoring the youths over the years, as despite his busy schedules, he still mentors and gives direction to the youths. He believes that by developing their emotional intelligence, his influence can outlive him in their minds. This is what a leader will be remembered, loved, and celebrated for, according to him.
Sekibo is a valued member and Fellow of several Professional Institutes, including the Institute of Directors; Institute of Petroleum, London; Nigerian Institute of Management; Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.