SOURCE: Leadership

Formerly dominated by men, the Nigerian banking industry is gradually being overtaken by female banking gurus as the number of women leading the major banks in the country has increased in recent years.

Nigeria currently has 25 major banks with the number of female bank chief executives soaring from just one in 2019 to 10 in 2024, representing 36 per cent of Nigerian major banks' chief executive officers.

Before 2019, the banking industry had been largely dominated by men with a sprinkle of the female gender who had also made their mark in the industry. The likes of Cecilia Ibru, former managing director/chief executive officer of defunct Oceanic Bank, said to be the first female bank CEO, was one in a million among male bank CEOs. Ibru became the MD/CEO of Oceanic Bank in 1997, but on August 13, 2009 she was one of the five bank CEOs who were dismissed. Then, more female bank CEOs came into the industry as turnaround managers after the 2009 shake-up in the sector. Funke Osibodu led Union Bank while Suzanne Iroche was also appointed by the CBN in 2009 as turnaround MD/CEO of FinBank Plc. They both served their banks until 2012 when they successfully completed their assignments.

Other women who presided as CEOs of banks include Bola Adesola, MD/ CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Limited, Nigeria, who in 2011 was appointed by the bank as the first Nigerian, and first female CEO of the bank. In 2012, Sola David-Borha was anointed as chief executive of Stanbic IBTC and served until 2017.

The latest addition of Dame Adaora Umeoji as the group chief executive of Zenith Bank further extends the list, which has been on the rise since 2021. Besides the managing director of Unity Bank, Mrs. Tomi Somefun, who has stood tall in the midst of men since 2015, the banking industry rarely had female representation at the CEO level. At least 10 of the 26 commercial banks in the country are currently being led by women.

However, the list has consistently grown with the additions of Miriam Olusanya, Yemisi Edun, and Halima Buba, among others.

Speaking on the development, MD/CEO of Arthur Steven Asset Management Limited, Olatunde Amolegbe, said the transition into an equal gender industry is a welcome development.

According to him, the female gender has proven themselves as support cast in the finance industry for a long time and it is time they take the reins eventually.

"My personal belief is that the natural trait of fairness, probity, and sense of responsibility will stand them in good stead to make a positive impact in the industry, as did their predecessors such as Mrs. Kuforiji-Olubi who led UBA sometimes in the 80s. I support this transition 100 percent," he said.

On how women have been able to take their place in the male-dominated banking industry, Amolegbe said, "I would like to put it down to a coincidence of succession planning and, in some cases, possibly deliberate institutional policy to uplift and empower the fair gender. It could very well be that these two scenarios just happen to be playing out at about the same time."

The vice president of Highcap Securities Limited, David Adnori, said, "Businesses are not bound by whether the head is male or female; they are bound by performance. All the female CEOs appointed are highly qualified and with experience in their field."

He added that "we are having more women who are educated and occupying high places."

According to Adnori, while progress has been made in recent years, women still face numerous challenges and barriers to advancement in many industries. Employers have a crucial role to play in creating an environment that empowers and supports women to thrive professionally.

Miriam Olusanya, MD, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank)

Miriam Olusanya made history as the MD of Guaranty Trust Bank, becoming the first woman to ascend to this prestigious position in the bank on June 2021. Graduating with a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Ibadan and later acquiring a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Liverpool, Olusanya's academic prowess laid the foundation for her remarkable career. Joining GTB as an executive trainee in 1998, she steadily climbed the ranks, culminating in her recent appointment as managing director. Prior to assuming this pivotal role, she served as an executive director at the bank, showcasing her leadership acumen and strategic vision. Olusanya's appointment marks a significant milestone for GTB, heralding a new era of diversity and excellence at the helm of one of Nigeria's foremost financial institutions.

  1. Yemisi Edun, MD, First City Monument Bank (FCMB)

Yemisi Edun was appointed MD in July 2021. She has a background in finance and extensive experience in the banking sector.

Edun has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and strategic vision in steering FCMB towards growth and innovation. Known for her commitment to excellence and integrity, she has played a pivotal role in positioning FCMB as a leading player in the Nigerian banking industry. Edun's leadership has been marked by a focus on customer satisfaction, employee development, and community engagement, making her a respected figure in the Nigerian business community.

  1. Halima Buba, MD/CEO, SunTrust Bank

Halima Buba was appointed the MD/CEO of SunTrust Bank in January 2012. Halima Buba, a seasoned banker with over 22 years of cognate experience obtained from working in All Sstates Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Inland Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc, and Ecobank Nigeria Limited, is one of the few women to have attained that height as an MD in the industry.

Prior to her appointment to suntrust bank ltd as md/ceo, halima was a co-founder and former executive director in Taj Consortium, an organization of young dynamic technocrats and financial advisory experts.

She was also a member of the Board of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as a non-executive director and a director on the Board of Adamawa Homes and Savings Ltd.

She holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Business Management from the University of Maiduguri and an MBA from the same University.

Ireti Samuel-Ogbu, MD, Citibank Nigeria

Ireti Samuel-Ogbu was appointed in September 2020. It is the first time a woman has been appointed to the lender's top post after 36 years of operating in Africa's largest economy.

She had served as managing director of payments and receivables, treasury and trade solutions for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at the lender's office in London.

Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, MD/CEO, Fidelity Bank

Mrs Onyeali-Ikpe assumed the office on January 1, 2021

She has been an integral part of the transformation team at Fidelity Bank in the last six years. She was formerly executive director, Lagos and South West, overseeing the bank's business in the six states that make up the South West region of the bank. She led the transformation of the directorate to profitability and sustained its impressive year-on-year growth, across key performance metrics, including contributing over 28% of the Bank's PBT, deposits, and loans.

She is a consummate professional with over 30 years' experience across various banks, including Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, and Citizens International Bank Limited.

  1. Tomi Somefun, MD, Unity Bank

Tomi Somefun was appointed as MD in August 2015.

She obtained a B.Ed. in English Language in 1981 from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State, and is an alumna of Harvard Business School and the University of Columbia Business School, New York.

Somefun began her professional career with Peat Marwick and Co. and later moved to Arthur Andersen (now KPMG) before becoming an executive director at Unity Bank Plc.

  1. Kafilat Araoye, Pioneer MD, Lotus Bank

Kafilat Araoye was appointed MD since May 2021.

She holds a first degree in History from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (1985), and an M.Sc. in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from the University of Lagos (1987), graduating as the best student in her class. She also holds Islamic Finance certifications issued by Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance, the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment/Bahrain Institute of Banking & Finance, as well as the Islamic Research & Training Institute.

She has attended various executive management courses at the Cranfield School of Management (UK), Lagos Business School, Institute of Management Development (Switzerland), INSEAD (France), and Ross Business School, University of Michigan (USA).

  1. Bukola Smith, MD, FSDH Merchant Bank

Bukola Smith heads FSDH Merchant Bank, leveraging her B.Sc. in Economics and an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School.

Her expertise in investment banking fosters FSDH's growth, while her mentorship supports aspiring female leaders in the finance sector. She became the MD of FSDH Merchant Bank in April 2021 and still serves in this capacity.

  1. Yetunde Bolanle Oni, MD, Union Bank

Yetunde Bolanle Oni recently assumed the role of MD/CEO of Union Bank in January 2024, marking a significant milestone in the bank's leadership. With degrees in Economics and Business Administration, including executive training at Oxford University, her appointment is poised to shape Union Bank's strategic direction.

  1. Dr. Adaora Umeoji, GCEO, Zenith Bank

Dr. Adaora Umeoji's appointment as group managing director/chief executive of Zenith Bank becomes effective June 1, 2024. Umeoji's appointment makes her the first female to take up the position.

Before her appointment, Umeoji has been the deputy managing director of the bank since October 28, 2016, and has close to 30 years of cognate banking experience, of which 26 years have been with Zenith Bank.

Umeoji is an alumna of the prestigious Harvard Business School where she attended the Advanced Management Programme (AMP) and an alumna of Columbia Business School with a Certificate in the Global Banking Programme.

She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from the University of Jos, a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting, and a First-Class honours in Law from Baze University, Abuja. She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Calabar, and a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA.

She also attended the executive programme in Strategic Management, and has a Certificate in Leading Global Business, all from Harvard Business School, USA.

Analysts said the increasing presence of female MDs within Nigerian banks highlights the acknowledgment of women's capabilities and their significant role in driving the country's economic progress. This trend, according to them, signifies a progressive movement towards gender equality and inclusivity in corporate governance, marking a departure from conventional patriarchal norms towards a more balanced and diverse leadership landscape.

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