Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, FirstBank

By EMEKA EJERE

The profile of the managing director/chief executive officer of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adetola Adeduntan, recorded yet another historic addition on September 11, 2020, when he was honoured with the Forbes Best of Africa Award.

The award presented during a virtual event in conjunction with the Foreign Investment Network (FIN), is for business personalities with a record of creating and building great global businesses that have made far-reaching contributions to the development of Africa.

In its announcement of the awardees earlier, Forbes had stated: “Adesola Adeduntan believes strongly in the importance of doing well by doing good. In March 2020 he spoke at the Edinburgh School of Business about financial institutions’ role as drivers of financial inclusion.

“In his leadership role at First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank), Adeduntan is part of a 126 year legacy of sustained development-oriented services. FirstBank is the region’s foremost financial inclusion services provider.”

With over 125 years of operation, more than 15 million customer accounts and over 750 business locations, First Bank of Nigeria Limited is a shining example of a resilient organisation in Nigeria. Dr. Adeduntan believes that organisations must continuously reinvent themselves to survive as long as FirstBank.

Today’s Nigerian banking industry is continually evolving and remains dynamic. While many CEOs appear to understand their competitive positions today, most of them are worried that new entrants, including established international technology organisations and fintechs could decide to use their sophisticated customer insights to disrupt the customer relationship models.

“Disruption is a factor that remains constant in any industry. It is nothing new,” said Dr. Adeduntan. “But to endure as long as FirstBank has, institutions must be agile; they must reinvent themselves.

“FirstBank has retained that ability such that, irrespective of the leader at any point in time, it has been able to maintain its quality and standard.”

Dr. Adeduntan believes that FirstBank has made great effort to improve and transform its capabilities in a market characterised by rapidly changing customer preferences and constant technological changes.

“We have articulated and are systematically pursuing our growth objectives,” he said. “To ensure success, we have made significant investment in our technology that has now enabled digital banking and we’ve been quite successful.

“Remarkably, First Bank recently hit the N1 trillion mark in Firstmonie transactions, has over 10 million digital banking customers transacting actively on our FirstMobile and USSD applications, and over 25,000 agencies in our Agent Banking Network – the largest in the country. We see these as leading indicators of what the future will look like and we have made investments in such areas, both internally and externally.”

Adedutan succeeded Bisi Onasanya as the MD/CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Limited and its commercial banking subsidiaries (FBN UK, FBN Ghana, FBN DRC, FBN Guinea, FBN Gambia, FBN Mortgages, FBN Insurance and First Pension Custodian Limited) in January 2016.

His working career had begun in 1994 with the defunct Afribank (Nig) Plc in Ibadan Main branch as a graduate trainee, where he worked for 18 months in various functions in banking operations, including cash management, clearing operations, credit risk management, and foreign operations.

He was with Arthur Andersen Nigeria between 1995 and 2002, where he rose to become manager in financial services industry business. In this role, he led and managed the statutory audit of a number of leading Nigerian banks. In August 2000, he served as an instructor at the Andersen World-Wide Induction training for new hires in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He also served as the lead instructor for the Local Office Basic Accounting Training and Induction course in 1999.

Dr. Adedutan worked as a senior manager, financial services industry in KPMG between June 2002 and October 2004, where he co-pioneered the firms’ financial risk management advisory services. A knowledge manager, he was also a KPMG-accredited Trainer and facilitated several internal training programmes.

He also worked with Citibank Nigeria Limited between 2005 and 2007 as the Senior Vice-President (General Manager) and Chief Financial Officer responsible for the bank’s financial and product control functions, quality assurance and operational risk management. He played key roles in the recapitalisation of the bank during the Nigerian banking consolidation era.

In November 2007, Adedutan joined the Africa Finance Corporation, as the pioneer Chief Financial Officer and Business Manager. In March 2014, he led the team that secured an A3/P2 investment grade international credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service. This made the Africa Finance Corporation the second highest-rated lending financial institution in Africa.

In July 2014, he joined First Bank and was appointed an Executive Director/Group Chief Financial Officer of the bank, where he was responsible for the bank’s financial control, internal control and enhancement, business performance management, treasury and procurement functions.

Adedutan currently sits on the boards of the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS); Africa Finance Corporation (AFC); FBN Bank U.K. Ltd.; Universal Payments Plc.; and FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange. Also, until his recent voluntary resignation, he was a non-executive director on the board of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.

A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Adeduntan was admitted to the University of Ibadan in 1986 to study Veterinary Medicine and qualified in 1992 as a veterinary surgeon. He holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Cranfield University Business School, United Kingdom which he attended as a distinguished British Chevening Scholar. In addition to his MBA, he has also attended executive/leadership programmes at Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and INSEAD.

Little wonder his leadership style has earned the bank several awards across all areas of business interest both locally and internationally. The bank emerged “First financial institution in Nigeria to achieve 100 million sustained monthly transactions in Electronic Payment” in December 2015 and again in May 2016.

Also, FirstBank won “Most valuable banking brand” award for the 6th consecutive times in 2017 by The Banker Magazine of the Financial Times. In the same year, the bank won “Digital Bank of Distinction, Nigeria” award by the Global Finance magazine for the 2th consecutive time.

Notable among other numerous awards include: ´Best Retail Bank in Nigeria” for the 7th consecutive time by the renowned Asian Banker Awards in 2018, “The Best Bank in Nigeria” for the 15th time by the Global Finance Magazine, also in 2018 and “Best Mobile Banking App” and “Fastest Growing Retail Bank” winner by Global Business Outlook in 2019.

In 2016, Adedutan was awarded the “Banker of The Year 2016” by the Leadership Newspaper “for refusing to ‘go with the flow’ even when the temptation was high and the reward substantial, and for reminding his colleagues that banking is nothing without integrity.”

Speaking at a virtual award presentation organized by First Bank in conjunction with the Foreign Investment Network (FIN), Adeduntan dedicated the award to the bank’s customers and “to the board, management and staff of First Bank of Nigeria Limited and all our subsidiaries, for their cooperation in delivering the best to our esteemed customers and shareholders, and ensuring that we give back to the society in which we have sustained our business for over 126 years.”

In a congratulatory message to Adeduntan, President Muhammadu, described the Forbes award as one attestation again that Nigeria has a surfeit of illustrious professionals in all spheres of endeavour, “who can hold their own in any part of the world.” Buhari urges seasoned banker to always hoist the flag of the country proudly, and tell the true Nigerian story to his colleagues and counterparts the world over.