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Facts Behind Nnamdi Okonkwo’s Step Up From Tier-2 Fidelity Bank To First Bank Holdings As GMD On Jan. 1, 2022

The Oasis Reporters

November 2, 2021

Debonair banker, Nnamdi Okonkwo retired after his tenure as Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (GMD/CEO) of Fidelity Bank of Nigeria Plc only on December 31, 2020.

In less than one year as a young retiree, FBN Holdings Plc, the holding company of First Bank of Nigeria Group, have headhunted him to come back into active service again, this time as the new Group Managing Director.

The appointment, announced in Lagos last week Thursday afternoon, October 28, 2021, thus marks the return of the award-winning banker.

The question is, why would a top seeded Tier-1 bank like First Bank Plc, a big bank that is over a century old seek out a young man whose biggest resumé dot is having led a Tier-2 bank to head it’s holdings company?


Nnamdi Okonkwo was hugely successful in serving out his term at Fidelity Bank.

Mrs.Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe (left), incoming CEO, Fidelity Bank and outgoing CEO, Nnamdi Okonkwo, who would now assume office as GMD/CEO of FBNHoldings on January 1, 2022.

After leading Fidelity Bank Plc as the managing director/ chief executive officer, for six years Nnamdi Okonkwo, the ebullient and consummate banker is retired in grand style following his recognition as the Banker of the Decade at the Business Day Banks and Other Financial Institutions, BAFI Awards in Lagos 2020.

Encomiums poured in on Okonkwo, the Anambra state born banking guru for turning the fortunes of the Tier-2 bank, once seen in parochial terms as an ‘Igbo’ bank, to a truly national bank that’s now the envy of competitors.

The six years he was at the helms of Fidelity Bank, one of the top 10 deposit money banks, DMBs in the country, was rewarding and tasking for Okonkwo.

At the awards ceremony, he spoke of staff diversity and professionalism as the hallmark of his success.

“We brought on board some seasoned professionals. For instance, the Chairman of the Board is a former Chief Executive of a bank and a former Deputy Governor of the CBN for 10 years”, referring to Clement Ebi who came on board as then distressed New Nigeria Bank and turned it’s fortunes around before being head hunted as Deputy Governor at Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

“We also have with us the former Managing Director of Guinness Nigeria PLC and another former MD of a bank. As a deliberate strategy, each time a Director retires, we replace with yet another very experienced one. We also ensure diversity.”

Therefore, analysts in the sector say, the Banker of the Decade award is truly deserving of the man who put the bank on the map of prestigious global lending institutions, within a very short period of time that he ran the affairs as managing director.

Who, then, is better to testify to Okonkwo’s success than those he venerably calls his ‘colleagues’, trusted men and women who have worked with him in those trying years when the graph of Fidelity Bank’s rise to the top, was being plotted in the hot and, sometimes electrifying board room, where ideas were shared among ‘players’ without the bossy attitude, known with some bank’s CEOs, being a constraint?

The same employees, who also ensured that the bank emerged the Commercial Bank of the Year, after beating other banks in the country to the prestigious prize.

With technology ruling the game in banking currently, Fidelity Bank’s Bot, Ivy is practically number one in virtual banking apps due to it’s easy and friendly disposition to navigation.

While receiving the Banker of the Year award in 2020 on behalf of Okonkwo, Gbolahan Joshua, the bank’s Executive Director, Operations and technology, said his boss has ended his career in the bank “in a blaze of glory”.

This award, Gbolahan said “comes as a crowning glory to the contributions of Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo to Fidelity Bank, the banking industry and the entire Nigerian economy”.

The award went to Okonkwo for changing the total outlook of the bank, through deliberate rebranding project which caused an increase in youth appeal; revamping of the bank’s performance management culture to instill a culture of performance; technology refresh and digital transformation in furtherance of the digital retail strategy he implemented.

A gold fish cannot be hidden. Okonkwo has indeed, left imprints in Fidelity Bank and the financial service sector that will be hard to erase for many years to come. For, from a scarcely known bank, before he took over, Okonkwo transformed the fundamentals of the bank in figures, brick and mortar.

Instructively, the bank under Okonkwo’s leadership, imposed itself as one of the most visible commercial banks in the country, in terms of branch networks spanning 240 business offices and 774 ATMs, as part of efforts to deepen financial inclusion in the country, and bring banking to the door steps of many Nigerians.

Under Okonkwo’s watch, the bank witnessed a growth rate of over 230 percent in profit before tax from N9 billion when he came in to over N30 billion within six years.

Customer deposit grew from N806.3 billion to N1.35 trillion while savings deposits grew from N83.3 billion to N312.1 billion.

Okonkwo also ensured that net loans and advances rose by over 170 percent from N426.1 billion to N1.16 trillion; customer base increase by 121 percent from 2.4 million to 5.3 million and digital banking penetration improvement from 1.0 percent to 50.1 percent by the end of 2019.

Okonkwo as CEO traversed Fidelity bank as a colossus. “You have to go the extra mile to accomplish and be distinguished when you set a goal because that will go a long way to determine your success or failure,” Okonkwo said some years ago.

He set the goal for himself at the beginning, to make Fidelity Bank one of the top commercial banks in the country. He largely achieved it by making it better than he met it before handing over to Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe.

Little wonder, FBNH saw all the successes and knew that Okonkwo would be the one to raise the bar for the entity. So the board of FBN Holdings Plc looked at all his flight curves and growth patterns at Fidelity Bank. Satisfied, they approved his appointment to become the boss, effective Jan. 1, 2022.

In a statement posted on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd (NGX) website signed by FBNH, Company Secretary, Mr Seye Kosoko, said the appointment followed notice of the retirement of the Group Managing Director, Mr U.K. Eke, with effect from Dec. 31, 2021, having served for two terms.

It noted that the notice was in accordance with 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.

Greg Abolo with
The Source
Additional reports by NAN

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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