UK Ekeh
UK Eke, Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings

By Emeka Ejere

Loud and sustained ovation swept through Nigeria’s corporate business circles last week following news that Elder Urum Kalu Eke, MFR, the Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings PLC is set to take a bow from the boardroom of the oldest surviving financial establishment in the country.

The astute banking sector player and erudite administrator who has been in the saddle at Nigeria’s longest running banking institution since January, 2016 had previously served as Executive Director, Public Sector South, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd. and later as Executive Director, South within the same institution.

His forthcoming exit from the saddle at the heritage institution after a chequered time in helping to steer the institution through the changing landscape of the nation’s financial sector is being seen by many as a quintessential example of one who has indeed ‘fought a good fight.’

It also seemingly underscores the maxim that when strong and focused institutions with prospects get to be complemented with good and astute leadership, that chemistry is sure to produce quite solid results.

Reputed as being a bank that goes the extra mile in going for the best when it comes to leadership matters, in the course of his sojourn in FBNH, Mr. UK Eke proved the saying quite right. And now after six years of being in the saddle, he is handing over the mantle of leadership to Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, another boardroom strong man.

It is notable also that while Eke spent a total of 11 fruitful years at FBNH, achieving significant milestones with enduring legacies, Okonkwo on his part has just finished an equally exceptional tenure as MD at Fidelity bank.

This no doubt and the already noted commitment to sold leadership capacity would clearly be part of the reasons why the board of FBN Holdings Plc, has now approved the appointment of Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, to step into the saddle after UK Eke, as its new Group Managing Director, with effect from January 1, 2022.

News of Eke’s imminent departure and Okonkwo’s appointment was contained in a statement posted on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd (NGX) website, and signed by FBNH, Company Secretary, Mr. Seye Kosoko, on Thursday.

The statement outlined that Okonkwo was the immediate past Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, and would be replacing UK Eke, who completes his two-year tenure on December 31, 2021.

It noted also that the notice was in accordance with the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) Rule Book.

“The board approved the appointment of Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo as the new Group Managing Director of FBN Holdings Plc, with effect from January 1, 2022, subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the shareholders at the next Annual General Meeting of the company,” it said.

The statement also posted notice of the appointment by the bank of Mrs. Tope Omage, as non-Executive Director in First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., subject to the approval of the CBN.

The board equally approved the renewal of the appointments of Dr Adesola Adeduntan and Mr Gbenga Shobo as the Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., for another term in office.

“The board approved the renewal of the appointments of Mr Kayode Akinkugbe and Mr. Taiwo Okeowo as the Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director of FBNQuest Merchant Bank Ltd respectively, for another term,” the statement also disclosed.

In addition, the board, equally approved the appointment of Meristem Registrars Ltd as the new Registrars to take over the Register of Members of FBNH in replacement of First Registrars and Investors Ltd, with effect from December 1, 2021.

Tale of accomplishment

An astute administrator, UK Eke is credited as having brought his wealth of experience and very prodigious managerial and motivational skills in the nurturing and expansion of FirstBank’s Public Sector, Retail and Private Banking segments.

In the course of what has turned out to be an 11-year sojourn at the Bank, UK Eke was also to variously serve as Non-Executive Director at First Bank of Nigeria Limited, FBNQuest Merchant Bank Limited, FBN Bank (UK) Limited and First Pension Custodian Limited.

On the national public service plane, UK Eke was in 2017 appointed to the board of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (Sovereign Wealth Fund), where among other schedules, he chaired the Externally Managed Investment

Committee and helped the Authority to drive capital raise and other capital market engagements. He has also chaired several committees for the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN) and the Institute of Directors (IoD).

An indigene of Abiriba in Abia State, UK Eke had attended the prestigious Government College Umuahia before proceeding to study Political Science at the University of Lagos. He also holds an MBA in Project Management Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.

He has also attended several Executive Management and Board training programs at Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, IESE Barcelona, China European International Business School, Shanghai, China, International Institute for Management and Development Lausanne, Switzerland, Wharton Business School and Lagos Business School.

A consummate team player, Eke first joined the board of First Bank of Nigeria Ltd in January 2011.

An astute professional and fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, the Rotary Club International, Institute of Management Consultants, Institute of Directors and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Eke had previously been engaged as Executive Director, Regional Business, Lagos & West at Diamond Bank Plc and on the board of Diamond Bank Du Benin, and Diamond Capital before moving over to join the First Bank Group.

But even before then, his early working career had seen him engage during his NYSC and immediate post-NYSC period with Deloitte Haskins & Sells International where he rose to the position of Audit Senior before leaving to join the Internal Audit team at Abacus Merchant Bank.

A rounded financial services professional, UK Eke has close to four decades of cognate experience in the field and spanning segments like financial services, strategy, auditing, consulting, taxation, process re-engineering and capital market operations.

According to a statement from FBN Holdings Plc, Eke’s notice of retirement is coming on the heels of the successful completion of his two-term tenure and his Notice of Retirement which he tendered on August 10, 2021.

The statement also confirmed that the formal retirement would take effect at the end of the current Financial Year on December 31, 2021.

Mr. Eke’s retirement follows from a 35 years’ career in financial services, strategy, auditing, consulting, taxation, process re-engineering and capital market operations. He has spent almost 11 years in the FBNHoldings Group, serving meritoriously in the last six years as Group Managing Director. He has been able to build sustainable synergies across the FBNHoldings Group, fostering collaborations to maximize business development opportunities with diverse stakeholders globally,; the statement outlined.

Continuing, the statement then went on to zero in on some more detail, and with accompanying numbers to boot, of the gains that UK Eke’s sterling leadership had brought to the bank:

‘His tenure has witnessed an upsurge in value creation for shareholders and other stakeholders, with a diversified and healthier portfolio. Remarkably, as at January 01, 2016, FBNHoldings share price was N5.13 and market capitalization of N175b trading at price to book of 0.29; whereas comparatively as at October 26, 2021, the price was N12.40, with market capitalization of nearly N445b and price to book of 0.58.’

A recipient of the Deloitte Distinguished Alumni Award and Nigeria’s National Honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), Eke was recently named recipient of the prestigious Zik Prize in Professional Leadership.

A philanthropist, Eke is Founder and Chairman, Elder K.U. Eke Memorial Foundation, Patron, Lagos State Council, Boys’ Brigade Nigeria and a Paul Harris Fellow of The Rotary Club International.

He is also the Chairman Advisory Board, Lifeforte International High School, Ibadan and recipient of Nigeria’s National Honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).

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