The Oasis Reporters
February 23, 2021
By Greg Abolo.
Large corporate bodies do not rise to become what they are on ‘a flash in the pan’ template. Their growth path is usually a well calculated step by step move to their set goal.
As a financial services sector watcher with an eye on growth enablers, my eyes have been trained on Fidelity Bank PLC, a top seeded Tier-2 bank. After looking at their figures for a few years, I moved closer to examine the factors behind their self assured confidence in their bid to berth at the topmost ranking amongst Nigeria’s leading banks.
Fidelity Bank’s profit rose 21% (a double digit showing) as PBT hit 30.4bn in a Covid-19 growth slowing pandemic era, amongst all economies across the globe.
Even while flying under the radar, I noticed that the bank does it’s best to quietly find and gather accomplished experts, people of worth and standing in the financial sector. Then they fix their gaze on emerging techs that crash costs and drive earnings. In other words, people and technology are important bedrocks in their drive to the top.
One of the persons that emerged to the top from the rot and ruins of the banking crisis in the 90s was a very young man, Ernest Ebi who despised the gross financial indiscipline that pervaded the era. There was anger that Nigerian banks were then failing. Insider trading via directors borrowing big and not paying back, led to many crashes, amongst other factors.
Ebi started his banking career in 1978 after his studies at Howard University in the US as Assistant Vice President of Community Federal Savings and Loan Association.
In November 1981, he returned to Nigeria and joined International Merchant Bank up till 1993 when he heeded the call to switch over to New Nigeria Bank as Managing Director at a time that the regional bank had no positive breaths. All it’s indices were negative minus.
Investment opportunities took a nosedive, dragging the regional economy with it since there was no growth owing to the dearth of liquidity.
Read on to see what he did, since most NNB Customers did not feel the need to pay back what they borrowed, despite reminders.
Ebi knew exactly what to do to successfully stem the Bank’s slide into chronic distress.
Letters of court summons were pasted on the walls of the last known addresses of debtors. That psychological warfare paid off.
The chronic debtors got angry, but amazingly started paying up. Then a team would equally go and massage their big egos, pleading that they should not abandon the bank that was there for them when they were starting out.
The strategy worked and New Nigeria Bank, owned by the then Mid-West State which metamorphosed into Bendel state before being split into Edo and Delta States, snapped out of distress, in time to merge with Bank of the North, Kaduna owned Nigeria Universal Bank, Tropical Commercial Bank (Kano state owned) and a few others to become today’s Unity Bank.
A grateful people of Edo and Delta thanked Ernest Ebi for the rescue, but then, waiting in the wings was a watching Central Bank of Nigeria, the country’s reserve bank. The CBN promptly headhunted him as one of it’s Deputy Governors.
He completed his ten year tour of duty, and later joined Fidelity Bank as Chairman.
As a banker who inspires confidence in investors , little wonder that his presence at Fidelity led to continued stability, confidence, reliability and rising profitability.
As optimism in the Bank’s future continued to surge, another non-executive director of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Chidi Agbapu, purchased an additional 1,000,000 shares of the bank worth N2.75 million.
Mr. Chidi is the second Non-Executive Director of the bank to purchase additional shares of the bank within a one week period.
This was according to an official notification by the bank, signed by its Secretary, Ezinwa Unuigboje which is in line with the Nigerian Stock Exchange Policy on insider dealing, aimed at ensuring transparency in the system.
Hitherto, a Non-Executive Director of the bank, Chief Charles Umolu, had purchased 3,138,000 additional shares worth N8.8 million.
The breakdown of the latest transaction revealed that Mr. Chidi acquired the additional 1,000,000 units of Fidelity Bank shares in two tranches of 500,000 shares, at an average share price of N2.75 per share. This puts the total consideration for the 1,000,000 shares purchased at N2.75 million.
Suddenly, US-based Nigerian billionaire, Dr Oluleye Adigun moved to invest N3bn ($6.8million) in Fidelity Bank through shares acquisition.
Adigun told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) by himself in a telephone interview, that the acquisition was part of his planned investment in the Nigerian economy, adding that the process of buying Fidelity Bank was almost done, attributing the little delay to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Fidelity bank purchase is almost done. COVID-19 delayed the process a little due to everything closing down, but the process just picked up again. I was told I have to open a bank account and will need BVN. I am planning to come to Nigeria to do that as soon as possible.
NAN reported then that the Osun State-born billionaire is the owner and Chief Operating Officer of Golden Glades Treatment Center, as well as Adigun Investment Group, with stakes in nine companies operating in commercial real estate, several e-commerce companies as well as wind and solar energy.
Others are aviation, with four private planes, a technology company, which owns computer software/applications, and six clinics in the healthcare industry.
“Mr. Peter Aletor, Managing Director for Apel Asset Limited, and a friend, Mr Tosin Afolabi, have been very helpful on it. Afolabi will be a partner in my bank venture in Nigeria with a small share,” he said of his foray into the Nigerian economy.
Adigun expressed willingness to bring his airline company, healthcare, technology as well as solar and wind energy to Nigeria in the future.
“I am interested in investing in Nigeria because it’s my fatherland. I believe there has to be a way of doing something in my own country and be successful in it.
He added: “The Nigerian economy has great potentials. Nigeria has everything to be a giant in the world. We have the smartest people in Nigeria.
“With the right people, with great mind and good intentions, Nigeria can be like the US and other thriving countries. I need to build my own too. Nigeria is my home regardless of what I have here in the US.”
After his tenure lapsed since his chairmanship can’t last beyond two terms according to CBN rules, Mr. Ernest Ebi had to retire and another asset manager and financial juggernaut, Mustafa Chike Obi stepped in as chairman.
Mustafa Chike-Obi started off his Nigerian Banking career with Chase Merchant Bank from 1980 – 1982 as Head of Treasury Department. Mustafa Chike-Obi worked with Bear Stearns & Co as Co-Head Emerging Markets Trading 1992 – 1995. On 6th July 2020, he was appointed as Chairman, Fidelity bank Nigeria PLC.
Asides being a University of Lagos trained economist and also an alumnus of Stanford School of business, Mustafa Chike-Obi has a vast boardroom experience serving on the board of several establishments both in government and the private sector.
Often called the boardroom guru, Mr. Mustafa Chike-Obi is the son of Nigeria’s first doctorate degree holder in Mathematics, professor Chike Obi.
He has over 40 years of experience in investment banking and the financial services sector, working with reputable global investment banking and asset management firms.
Obi was the inaugural CEO, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), a Federal Government backed institution, established to resolve the problem of non-performing loan assets of Nigerian Banks after the 2008 global financial crisis.
Mr. Chike-Obi was Founding President at Madison Advisors, a financial services advisory and consulting firm in New Jersey, specializing in hedge funds and private equity investment advice.
Six months into his tenure as Chairman, Fidelity Bank was issuing Tier II Local Bonds, described as largest ticket so far in the category.
When The Oasis Reporters shared the news mid February, we said that the strong fundamentals underlying the investor confidence in Fidelity Bank Plc are showing signs that the leading Tier 2 financial powerhouse may be on it’s way to the top segment, pretty shortly.
Read more here :
It is pretty certain that Fidelity Bank’s net assets, representing the total equity or shareholders’ funds of the bank, indicative of its strength and resilience will quickly show under a guru of assets management as Chairman and an accomplished banking guru like Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe as Managing Director/Chief Executive.
The Oasis Reporters equally broke the news first, of Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe’s rise to the top as CEO of Fidelity Bank PLC.
Hopes of Fidelity Bank PLC’s berth at Tier-1 status seems like a matter of time with the indicators examined in this report.