Replacing Mr. Bisi Onasanya, as the Group CEO of the bank was no easy assignment for the Board as a result of the unfolding economic scenario in the country as well as the high standards already achieved by the departing leader.
It was speculated that the Board even had to travel as far as California in the United States to brain storm on who the cap fits.
A comparable rigour also went into the choice of Onasanya as the top man in the bank from a pool of sharp, bright and competent Executive Directors of the oldest surviving bank in Nigeria was not an easy one.
But one significant thing that made his appointment irresistible to the board was his effective and efficient management of one of its subsidiaries, First pension custodian Nigeria limited as Managing Director/CEO.
This was six years ago, precisely, in 2009. Ever since, the bank has not looked back.
Stakeholders of the bank are, in fact, proud and happy that the board settled for Mr. Onasanya to pilot the affairs of the Century bank then.
Not many have forgotten the lacklustre performance of First Bank a few years ago when queues were a common feature in its banking halls.
While that is now history, Onasanya’s deliberate re-orientation of staff and purge of those who could not measure up with the new standards did indeed pay off.
The bank noted that Onasanya has been able to stabilise and modernise the expanding First Bank brand since his appointment in 2009, thus reinforcing the confidence of the bank’s diverse stakeholders and the global financial publics.
Insider sources, told Hallmark that on assumption of office, the GMD confided in them that the bank needed a radical change to be able to compete and he focused first on working on the psychology of the staff to adopt ‘ I can do attitude’ and set goals and high targets for them.
Looking back, the team, as Onasanya would say has in the last six years grown the Group’s total assets from a paltry figure of N2.009 trillion in 2009, representing about 116 per cent to N4.342trillion in 2014.
Similarly, its profit after tax has leapt by 559 per cent to N82.838billion in 2014 from N12.569billion in 2009 while Gross earnings rose by 120 per cent to N480billion in 2014 from N217billion in 2009.
Presently, other performance indicators of the bank which include; NPL at 3.9%, loans /deposits at 67.7%, CAR at 19.1% and ROAE at 17.0% have been fairly impressive.
Even though the bank believes that target focus should apply now in its expansion plans, it had increased its branches from 510 in 2009 to 892 business locations. But it is a bit regrettable as it has started closing down non-profitable outlets which seen to have added to its huge cost of operations.
”In spite of the highlighted challenges, FBN Holdings Plc delivered solid financial results in 2014, across a number of key financial metrics including gross earnings and profit before taxes. This strong performance is championed by our Commercial Banking franchise, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, and buoyed by our Investment Banking and Asset Management business which is rapidly growing into a powerhouse in the investment banking space,” said Chairman of FBNH, Oba Otudeko.
”The bank prepared me very well for that job unconsciously. I had the opportunity in my days as the deputy general manager and financial controller to also combine that with being the co-coordinator of the enterprise transformation project. This job gave me the opportunity to access and understand very deeply the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of the bank.
In addition, my foray into First Pension Custodian gave me the opportunity to use the services of the bank as a customer. I was able to see the bank from the viewpoint of customers. After six months of being an executive director of banking, operations and services, I was appointed Group managing director, he once said.
This was after Mallam Lamido Sanusi was appointed Governor of Central Bank. Though a challenging task, I am delighted at my achievements.” Onasanya said
A seasoned banker and chartered accountant, Mr. Onasanya is a highly respected and personable executive who has established a reputation at FirstBank for solid performance and sound judgment, said a statement from the Bank.
” He is widely reputed as the architect of the modern FirstBank, associated with various innovative and creative achievements. He was Project Coordinator of Century 2, the new frontier, FirstBank’s far-reaching enterprise transformation project at the turn of the century, as well as Project Coordinator of the FirstBank Corporate Transformation project which has seen the bank accentuating its foothold on modernisation.
Mr. Onasanya also superintended the latest composite Corporate Identity/Brand Refresh of the FirstBank Group, a bold step heralding the international expansion of the FirstBank brand.”
Accolades from stakeholders
Analysts were unequivocal in their impressions about the man who modernised the operations of First Bank will be remembered for many things.
”Onasanya achieved a lot. He stirred the bank to safety in difficult times. Onasanya took the first bank to greater heights from where it was in 2009. A very safe and stable pair of hands, to have run the biggest bank in Nigeria in a time of turbulence was not an easy feat”, a Nigerian based Managing Director/ Chief Executive of Financial Derivatives Company limited, Bismarck Rewane said.
Dr. Richard Mayungbe, a financial analyst reckons that Mr.Onasanya brought a lot of re-engineering and innovation in the bank as well as improved the human assets of the financial institution.
President Association of Stockbrokers of Nigeria (ASHON) Emeka Madubuike told Hallmark in a telephone interview that looking at Onasanya’s performance from the capital market perspective is satisfying given that First Bank is a foundation stock. ”He has done well,” said he
”He is also reputed as a people person having pioneered significant transformation in the development of staff at FirstBank. His tenure saw the transformation of the bank’s training centre into FirstAcademy, a best in class corporate university that recently clinched the 2015 Global Council of Corporate Universities Award for best impact by a corporate university on the implementation of business strategies. The bank has also received the highly coveted Best Place to Work award.
”An articulate and insightful thought leader in the financial services industry, Mr. Onasanya has made meaningful contributions as a member of the Bankers Committee and is the Chairman of the Sub Committee on Ethics and Professionalism.
He has served as a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Sub-Committee on Fiscal and Monetary Policies and a member of the Presidential Committee on Reduction of Interest Rates. He has also delivered several papers and served on various conferences C-Suite panels across the globe. He is Editor of the new book, “Perspectives on Banking in Nigeria”, featuring a collection of learned articles by banking and finance professionals including operators, regulators and academics.
”Mr. Onasanya is a Director of Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and has been Chairman of First Registrars Nigeria Limited, Kakawa Discount House Limited, FBN Bank UK Limited and Unified Payments Limited. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria he is also an Associate Member of the Nigerian Institute of Taxation and a Fellow and Member of Council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.
Mr. Onasanya was early in 2015 honoured as The Sun Man of the Year 2014 and Newswatch Man of the Year 2014 respectively, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to national development in the financial services industry.
”Under Mr. Onasanya’s leadership FirstBank has been back to back winner of both national and international awards, having been named “The Best Bank Brand in Nigeria” four times in a row – 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 – by the globally renowned “The Banker Magazine” of the Financial Times Group. Several other awards have also been won by him.
BY OKEY ONYENWEAKU