By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The new owners of Polaris Bank Limited, Strategic Capital Investment Limited (SCIL), have appointed Mr Adekunle Sonola as the new Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.
This followed the acquisition of the 100 per cent equity stake in the bank for N50 billion and the agreement to pay the N1.3 trillion injected into the lender by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over the next 25 years.
Mr Sonola, who is replacing Mr Innocent C. Ike, has more than 33 years of experience in the African financial services sector, most recently as Executive Director of Commercial Banking at Union Bank Plc.
He was the pioneer Regional Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank East Africa and the Director of Investment Banking at Standard Bank in South Africa.
The banker has also served on the boards of Airtel Africa Plc and First Bank of Nigeria, where he chaired the board’s Risk Management Committee.
He would be expected to reposition the bank for greatness.
“We are excited to participate in the next phase of growth for Polaris Bank and to have been able to recruit such an experienced and diverse board of directors we are confident can lead Polaris Bank into a new era of sustainable growth.
“This is an exciting time for the Nigerian financial services industry, and we are committed to building on the strong foundations established by the departing board. We would like to thank them for their service and wish them well.
“We have mandated the incoming management to develop an innovative but sustainable growth strategy that prioritises the needs and aspirations of our current customers,” the MD/CEO said.
In a related development, Polaris Bank has announced the appointment of new board members to be headed by Mr M K Ahmad.
He has more than 37 years of experience and has been the Chairman of Polaris Bank since 2018, overseeing the stabilisation of the bank and the introduction of best-practice corporate governance.
He currently serves as the Chairman of the Interim Management Board of International Energy Assurance and the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation.
Mr Ahmad is also a Board Director of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc and FBN Holdings. He was the pioneer Director-General of PENCOM.
The bank has also appointed Mr Abubakar Danlami Suleiman, Ms Salma Mohammed, Mr Adeleke Alex Adedipe, Mr Ahmed Almustapha, Mr Francesco Cuzzocrea, and Mrs Olabisi Olubunmi Odunowo as non-executive directors, while Mr Abdullahi S Mohammed and Mr Segun Opeke were chosen to be on the board as executive directors.
While commenting on the acquisition and board transition, the Chairman of Polaris Bank said, “I would like to thank the outgoing board members profusely for their hard work and dedication over the last four years as we have established a strong governance structure and stabilised the bank.
“I am very pleased with our progress and that we have delivered on our mandate to prepare the bank for a return to private ownership.
“I am personally proud to have been asked to lead the bank into an exciting new future, and I look forward to working with the new board and our core investors to build on the platform we have created.”
Visa Sponsors Ecobank Cardholder’s Trip to Qatar for World Cup
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A customer of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Ejike Michael Eziuche, will have the opportunity to travel to Qatar for the ongoing FIFA World Cup taking place in the country for free.
This was made possible by just being a customer of the financial institution in Nigeria and being issued a Visa card by the bank.
The Ecobank cardholder was among the winners of the payments firm’s Spend & Win Campaign, designed to reward customers and football lovers who were active users of their Visa cards.
The only condition to be part of the promo was spending a minimum of N50,000 in at least five transactions to qualify. The winners will have the opportunity of a first-class experience in the tournament, all expenses covered as Visa is the Official Payments Sponsor of the tournament.
“Mr Eziuche’s emergence as a winner is a reflection of the hassle-free payment experience our customers enjoy with their Ecobank Visa cards.
“At Ecobank, we are always innovating our services to suit our customers’ lifestyles, especially when it comes to how they can effortlessly access our products. I am truly delighted for him and wish him a memorable time in Qatar,” the Head of Consumer Banking at Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs Korede Demola-Adeniyi, commented.
“We understand our role as a leading payments provider, pioneering seamless payments experiences across Africa; this is why we partner with critical stakeholders like Visa to ensure that our customers can have cards that allow them to enjoy financial services from anywhere in the world.
“Our promise to our customers has always been the same; to provide them with access to affordable and reliable financial services.
“We will continue to do so through our digital platforms, including Ecobank Mobile App and USSD *326#, Ecobank Online, Ecobank OmniPlus, Ecobank Omnilite, EcobankPay, Ecobank RapidTransfer, ATMs, POSs and an extensive distribution network of over 250 branches and over 50,000 agency banking locations,” she added.
Ecobank Nigeria is a subsidiary of the Ecobank Group, the leading pan-African banking group with operations in 33 African countries and an international presence in four locations (London, Paris, Beijing, and Dubai).
The lender is a major player in the distribution of financial services in Nigeria, leveraging digital platforms, including Ecobank Mobile App and USSD *326#, Ecobank Online, Ecobank OmniPlus, Ecobank Omnilite, EcobankPay, Ecobank RapidTransfer, ATMs, POSs and an extensive distribution network of over 250 branches and over 60,000 agency banking locations.
Sterling Bank Sponsors Training of 1,000 Youths at NJFP
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Sterling Bank Plc has sponsored the training of 1,000 fellows at the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme (NJFP), a youth empowerment initiative between the Nigerian government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The programme, launched in 2021, was borne out of rising unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic, which adversely impacted the ability of young Nigerians to find work.
The initiative seeks to connect talented graduates with local job opportunities that apply their expertise while equipping them with world-class practical knowledge and relevant skills, and it does not matter if an applicant does not have job experience.
It targets a broad range of sectors, including the start-up economy, innovation, and creative industries, the digital and technology sector, the green economy sector, financial services, key public and international development institutions, research and development, agriculture, real estate, construction, transportation, and health services. In other words, there is a place for every organisation in this programme.
The Managing Director of Sterling Bank, Mr Abubakar Suleiman, explained that his company supported the programme because of its interest in the education sector as one of five sectors it is presently concentrating investments in under its HEARTs of Sterling programme. The other sectors are Health, Agriculture, Renewable Energy and Transportation.
It will be recalled that as part of its commitment to the reduction of unemployment among youths in the country, Sterling Bank Plc recently renewed its partnership with iCreate Africa to provide a payment system that allows qualified workers to purchase tools and pay in instalments.
Consequently, the bank has also introduced different packages so that skill-seekers can access soft loans to buy tools, and it is encouraging skill-seekers not to let the opportunity slip off their hands.
Also, as part of this strategy, the commercial bank had also expanded its Café One community to Abuja in partnership with iCreate.
Zenith Bank Assures Budding Entrepreneurs Necessary Support to Succeed
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria have been assured by Zenith Bank Plc of all the necessary support they need to succeed and become corporate organisations capable of employing many people.
The Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, who gave this assurance last Wednesday, disclosed that this was why the bank organised the second Zenith Tech Fair themed Future Forward 2.0.
At the keenly contested hackathon session, the sum of N53 million was won by the participants, with Ecotutu, a cleantech company making cooling affordable and accessible for businesses, especially in the agricultural sector, emerging as the overall winner and taking home the grand prize of N20 million.
This is in addition to a mentorship programme with Seedstars, a company dedicated to implementing high-quality capacity-building programmes for entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
The first runner-up, Foris Labs, an app-based platform that allows students to conduct science experiments individually and in groups interactively via their mobile phones, won N15 million and a mentorship programme.
The second runner-up, Finva, a start-up which helps creditors offer credits at low risk, won N10 million as well as a mentorship programme.
Other finalists who took home N1 million each were Sanwo, Itinu -Ev, Eduvacity, Green Bii, Zion Robotics, Sono Care, Base, and I grow Africa.
Addressing guests at the Eko Convention Centre, Mr Onyeagwu announced that “all finalists would be enlisted into our incubation lab for grooming and mentorship.
“Our expectation is that we are going to scale and grow them just like the zenith brand. So, looking at what we have gone through, I can tell you that so much iron has been loaded on fire. The only thing left is to activate the digital talents, tech skills and entrepreneurship that would culminate in a new digital economy for Nigeria.”
Described as a huge success by participants, the two-day Tech Fair featured presentations on the leading technological innovations that cut across different aspects of life, such as Artificial Intelligence, Computing, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Robotics, Big Data, FinTech, Augmented Reality, Data Analytics, 5G and Communication Technologies, with the keynote address, The Future of Banking: Digital Transformation Journey, delivered by Brett King, the renowned futurist, bestselling author, award-winning speaker, founder of Moven and Author of Bank 4.0.
The event also featured a goodwill message by the founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia.
Other eminent IT practitioners from top global brands who also made presentations included Tarik Alatovic, Senior Partner, McKinsey; Juliet Ehimuan, West Africa Director, Google; Ola Williams, Country Manager, Microsoft Inc.; Andrew Uaboi, Vice President/Head, Visa West Africa; Mrs Rakiya Mohammed, Director of Information Technology, CBN; Chris Lu, Managing Director, Huawei Technologies Nigeria, and Dame Ms Adaora Umeoji, Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, amongst others.
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