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The rise of female amazons in banks

By Olusegun Olanrewaju
Nigerian women are rising, and they are showing the evidence in the hallowed boardroom of banks. Many of them are steadily climbing to the topmost of their careers as chief executives, and that signifies a significant shift in gender relationships in society.

The confirmation of Yemisi Edun the other day as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) easily points to this fact.

A holder of a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife, she also has a master’s degree in International Accounting and Finance from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Mrs Edun, a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), joined FCMB in 2000 as divisional head of Internal Audit and Control before assuming the role of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the bank.

Again, one of the latest to climb the ladder as amazon in the hallway of banking in the country is Mrs Miriam Chidiebele Olusanya of Guaranty Trust Bank. She is the first woman to become MD in GTB’s history.

With a Bachelor of Pharmacy (B. Pharm) degree from the University of Ibadan and a Master of Business Administration (Finance and Accounting) from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, Mrs Olusanya has also attended several executive management and banking specific developmental programmes in leading educational institutions across the globe.

She joined the bank as an executive trainee in 1998 and rose through the ranks until her appointment as Executive Director in 2018. Prior to her appointment, Olusanya served as a non-executive director on the board of GTBank (Gambia) Limited.

Another of the banking amazons is Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, who sits pretty comfortably as the MD/Chief Executive of Fidelity Bank. She assumed the post on January 1, 2021, becoming one of the women directing affairs at the nation’s commercial banks.

Before her assumption of office as the bank’s Managing Director/CEO, Onyeali-Ikpe had been an integral part of the transformation team in the financial institution for six years. She was formerly the executive director of the bank for the Lagos and South-West region.

A consummate professional of over 30 years standing, she worked with several banks including Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Citizens International Bank Limited, where she held several management positions in Legal, Treasury, Investment Banking, Retail/Commercial Banking, Corporate Banking.

Onyeali-Ikpe holds Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Master of Laws (LL.M) degrees from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and Kings College, London. She also has attended executive training programmes at the Harvard Business School, The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania, INSEAD School of Business, Chicago Booth School of Business, London Business School. As an Executive Director, she was part of the team that successfully turned around the fortunes of Enterprise Bank Plc.

Citigroup appointed Ireti Samuel-Ogbu as its first female country officer for Nigeria in August 2020. As the country officer, she was invariably the MD/CEO of the bank in Nigeria. Before becoming the chief executive in Nigeria, she had served as managing director of payments and receivables, treasury and trade solutions for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the group’s office in London. She was also on the board of Citibank Nigeria Limited since 2015 as a non-Executive Director.

For over 32 years, Mrs Samuel-Ogbu has held various roles across Citi’s businesses in the UK, Nigeria and South Africa, having worked in each of these countries twice.
She co-founded two impactful mentorship initiatives within Citi – the Sapphire Leadership Programme for the Middle East and Africa, and the Momentum Programme in the UK. Samuel-Ogbu, who holds a BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance from Middlesex University, United Kingdom, also has an MBA from the University of Bradford, UK.

Another of the high flyers is Tomi Somefun. As one of the ‘early risers’ in the industry, TomiSome fun became the MD/CEO of Unity Bank in August 2015.
Before her assumption of office, she served as the executive director overseeing the Lagos and South-West Business directorates for Unity Bank.

Somefun had a distinguished career with the UBA group where she led two major subsidiaries of UBA as MD/CEO, including a start-up company, UBA Pensions Custodian where she was the pioneer managing director. She also worked with two leading consulting firms: KPMG and Arthur Andersen (now KPMG).

A fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), she graduated with a Second Class (Upper degree) from the Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife) in 1981 with a Bachelor of Education in the English Language.

She has been conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration by the Redeemer’s University Nigeria (RUN).

An alumna of the Columbia Business School, USA, and INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France, she also holds a Certificate of Management Excellence from Harvard Business School (HBS).

She is a member of various professional bodies including the Institute of Directors (IOD), Bank Directors Association of Nigeria (BDAN) and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN). She served on the board of several quoted and unquoted companies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Not missing from the list is a seasoned banker, Halima Buba. She has over 20 years of experience working in Allstates Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Inland Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc and Ecobank Nigeria Limited. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Business Management and an MBA from the University of Maiduguri.

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An alumna of the Lagos Business School Senior management programme, Halima is a senior honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants. She sits on the Board of many reputable Institutions, including those of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as a non-executive director. Halima is much involved in youth and women empowerment programmes.

Kafilat Areoye is the MD of Lotus Non-Interest Bank. She assumed duties in 2020. With about 30 years in banking, Areoye is an expert in virtually all areas of core banking, with emphasis on International and Domestic Operations, Payments, General Management, Business Development, Risk Management, Human Resources and Strategy. She had previously worked with Guaranty Trust Bank.

Bukola Smith sits atop FSDH Merchant Bank as managing director.

Before her appointment, she was the Executive Director, Business Development in First City Monument Bank (FCMB) from April 2017 and April 2014. She had also been a chief auditor and regional director in Lagos for FCMB. Bukola Smith was Senior Vice President Investment Banking and Financial Markets, Vice President, Treasury and Financial Markets and head, treasury and Financial Institutions for Fidelity Bank Plc. There is no doubt that with the calibre of these women piloting the affairs of banks, the sky is no limit to achievements.

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