The Leading Female MDs of Nigerian Banks

The banking sector has made a dramatic leap in its Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP) with the recent appointments of two females as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). 

The recent appointments of Miriam Olusanya and Yemisi Edun as Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) and First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited respectively, have marked an important paradigm shift in the approach to decision-making and management with regard to gender at the highest levels of the Nigerian banking industry.

The NSBP states that as part of a wider sustainable banking commitment, the industry should work towards 40 per cent female representation at top management and boards levels.

Currently, there are eight female CEOs of 23 banks in the country.

The other six banks headed by females are: Unity Bank Plc (Oluwatomi Somefun); Fidelity Bank Plc (Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe); Citibank Nigeria (Ireti Samuel-Ogbu); FSDH Merchant Bank Limited (Bukola Smith); Suntrust Bank (Halima Buba) and Lotus Bank (Kafilat Araoye). 

The appointments of the seven women (except Smith) marked the first time ladies would lead the respective financial institutions.

NSBP, which was introduced in 2012, requires banks to develop clear short and long term objectives on their business activities and provide products and services aimed at promoting gender equality for women and financial inclusion. It also advises banks to promote a gender-inclusive culture and female talent-management schemes, establish internal committees that comprise senior leaders from across the business to oversee accountability for gender diversity and steer gender inclusive strategies consistent with their core business activities, among others.

The goals of the NSBP are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which states that encouraging more women leaders would help achieve greater gender equality.

Many believe providing more opportunities for women to progress to senior roles in an industry that remains a male bastion is a step in the right direction.

Below are the profiles of the eight female bank CEOs in the country.

MIRIAM OLUSANYA, GT Bank

Miriam Olusanya has over 23 years banking experience that cuts across Transaction Services, Asset and Liability Management, Financial Markets, Investment Banking, and Investor Relations. She holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy (B. Pharm) degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a Master of Business Administration (Finance and Accounting) from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. Olusanya has also attended several executive management and banking-specific development programmes in leading educational institutions around the world.

Olusanya had served as a Non-Executive Director on the Board of Guaranty Trust Bank (Gambia) Limited. She is a member of the Financial Markets Sub-Committee of the Bankers’ Committee, the primary interactive policy platform composed of the Central Bank of Nigeria and banks.

Olusanya joined the bank as an Executive Trainee in 1998 and rose through the ranks until her appointment as Executive Director in 2018. Before her appointment as CEO, she was the Group Treasurer and Head, Wholesale Banking Division, responsible for balance sheet and financial markets activities of the Bank and its African subsidiaries, Corporate Finance, as well as Investor Relations.

YEMISI EDUN, FCMB

Yemisi Edun, the CEO of FCMB, holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife and a Master’s degree in International Accounting and Finance from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. She is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

Edun is also an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers and an Associate Member of the Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Member of Information Systems Audit and Control, U.S.A., and a Certified Information Systems Auditor.

She began her career with Akintola Williams Deloitte (member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu) in 1987 with focus on corporate finance activities as well as audit of banks and other financial institutions. She joined FCMB in 2000 as Divisional Head of Internal Audit and Control before assuming the role of Chief Financial Officer of the bank.

NNEKA ONYEALI-IKPE, Fidelity Bank

Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe assumed office as Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank, on January 1, 2021. She was an integral part of the transformation team at Fidelity Bank in the last six years. Onyeali-Ikpe 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 per cent of the bank’s profit before tax, deposits and loans.

Onyeali-Ikpe is a consummate professional of over 30 years experience across various 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, and Corporate Banking. She has been involved in the structuring of transactions in various sectors, including oil and gas, manufacturing, aviation, real estate, and exports.

Onyeali-Ikpe holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and Master of Laws (LLM) degrees from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Kings College, London, respectively. She has attended executive training programmes at Harvard Business School, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, INSEAD School of Business, Chicago, Booth School of Business, London Business School, and IMD, among others.

OLUWATOMI SOMEFUN, Unity Bank

Oluwatomi Somefun is the Managing Director/CEO of Unity Bank Plc. Prior to her appointment in August 2015, she served as the Executive Director overseeing the Lagos and South-West Business Directorates, the Financial Institution Division and Treasury Department of the bank. She is a Member of the Board Finance and General Purpose Committee, Board Risk Management Committee, Board Credit Committee, among others.

Somefun is a career professional with 35 years post qualification experience, over 26 of which were in the banking sector, spanning key segments, including Treasury and Investment Banking, Corporate Banking, Retail, and Commercial Banking Operations. She had a distinguished career with 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. Prior to UBA, Somefun worked with two leading consulting firms, KPMG and Arthur Andersen (now KPMG).

A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Somefun holds a Bachelor of Education in English Language. She graduated with a Second Class Upper Division from the Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife) in 1981. She was recently conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration (D.BA) by the Redeemer’s University, Nigeria.

IRETI SAMUEL-OGBU, Citibank Nigeria

Ireti Samuel-Ogbu is the CEO of Citibank Nigeria. Prior to her appointment, she served as Managing Director of Payments and Receivables, Treasury and Trade Solutions for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at the lender’s office in London. She also had a 31-year career at Citigroup, working in three countries – Nigeria, UK, and South Africa – and performing various roles, which span Relationship Management with Global Subsidiaries Group and the Public Sector Banking Team, Corporate Finance and as Transaction Services Head for two of the largest markets in Africa. She has been a leading voice for the institution on open banking following Citi’s announcement that it was the first corporate bank to enrol as a payment initiation service provider.

HALIMA BUBA, Suntrust Bank

Halima Buba is a seasoned banker with over 20 years cognate experience obtained from working in Allstates Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Inland Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc, and Ecobank Nigeria Limited. She holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Business Management from the University of Maiduguri and an MBA from the same university.

Buba is an Alumnus of the Lagos Business School Senior Management programme. She 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 several reputable Institutions, including the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as a Non-Executive Director and Anchoria Asset Management Company Limited.

She is a champion of youth and women empowerment, and consistently makes philanthropic contributions towards the girl child education.

BUKOLA SMITH, FSDH Merchant Bank

Mrs. Bukola Smith is the CEO of FSDH Merchant Bank. She holds an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK, and a B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Lagos.

Smith is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Honorary Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and an Associate Member, Certified Institute of Pensions (Nigeria). She has 28 years of progressive experience in the industry with a track record of strategic execution and leadership.

She was appointed Executive Director, Business Development at First City Monument Bank (FCMB) in 2017 and held several other leadership positions since she joined FCMB in 2006.

In her most recent role, Smith was responsible for the bank’s 200 branches across the country, as well as the public sector, business banking, agriculture, and transaction banking divisions. Under her, the bank’s SME-focused team moved from fifth position in the industry to first position in 2019 (KPMG Customer Service Report 2020) within three years.

In addition, she established the FCMB Women in Business Desk (branded SheVentures), which supports female entrepreneurs. She also set up FCMB Trustees and FCMB Custody, both of which broke even in the first year of operations and are building traction in the asset management field.

KAFILAT ARAOYE, Lotus Bank

Kafilat Araoye is the managing director of Lotus Bank, a financial institution which was granted a non-interest banking licence by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in June 2021.

The bank describes itself as a non-interest Nigerian bank deeply rooted in ethical banking and committed to deepening financial inclusion and broadening the array of non-interest products available to the banked, unbanked, and under-banked population.

With over 25 years commercial banking experience, Araoye has expertise 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.

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