The succession process at Fidelity Bank Plc came to a smooth close on December 31, 2013, when the out-going Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi, proceeded on terminal leave. In his place, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, who was announced CEO-designate in October last year, has assumed duties as the substantive Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the bank effective January 1, 2014, his appointment having been approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
With this successful transition, Mr. Okonkwo has become the third CEO of Fidelity Bank, which for a quarter of a century had only two CEOs, becoming one of the banks with the most stable management in the industry.
Until his appointment, Okonkwo was the Executive Director in charge of the South Directorate of the bank.
The new MD holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Benin and an MBA in Banking & Finance from Enugu State University. He is also a graduate of the Advanced Management Programme of INSEAD Business School, Fontainebleau, France, as well as an alumnus of Harvard Business School and Wharton School University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he has attended various other business and management training programmes locally and overseas.
Mr. Okonkwo comes with over 24years experience in various aspects of banking covering Domestic Operations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Banking, Retail, and Commercial/Consumer Banking. Before joining Fidelity, he had a shiny career in United Bank for Africa (UBA) where he rose to the position of Managing Director and CEO, UBA Ghana, and later doubled as the Regional Chief Executive Officer for UBA West African Monetary Zone, with responsibility for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Between 2004 and 2006, Okonkwo was General Manager in Standard Trust (which later became UBA) and later in 2005 was Regional Director of UBA in charge of branches in the FCT, Niger and Kogi States. He later became Divisional Head for the Corporate Bank Directorate between 2009 and 2012, before coming back to Fidelity Bank Plc, as Executive Director, having earlier worked in Fidelity Bank (old FSB that consolidated to form the enlarged Fidelity) between 1998 and 2000. In that period he had been Senior Manager in branches both in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Nnamdi’s early career was nurtured at Guaranty Trust Bank where he was at various times, Account Officer and Relationship Manager in Corporate Bank in Lagos and Port-Harcourt. He later rose to the position of Manager of Onitsha branch which was GT Bank’s second branch in Eastern Nigeria.
In his maiden address to the staff at the weekend, Mr. Okonkwo paid glowing tributes to Mr. Ihejiahi for his achievements in Fidelity Bank over the last 10years. He pointed out that under the former CEO, Fidelity had grown from being in the Top 30 Banks in Nigeria; with 17 branches; N20 billion in Deposits; N30 billion in Total Assets; less than 150,000 Customers to a bank that now ranks among the Top 10 Banks in Nigeria with over USD1billion in Equity; over N1trn Total Assets; and serving 2.3 million Customers through nearly 220 branches with presence in all the state capitals and major commercial centres in Nigeria. The workforce also grew exponentially to about 6,650 today. Fidelity is now the 6th largest bank in Nigeria, by Shareholders’ Funds, and one of the few companies that have consistently paid dividends, without fail, in the last eight years. Under him also Fidelity has had some of the landmark international financial transactions in the industry, including the issue of Global Deposit Receipts (GDR) in 2007, and the $300m debut issuance of internationally-traded Eurobond in 2013. The bank is also rated very highly by two International Rating Agencies – Fitch (BBB+) and S & P (BBB+), as well as locally by Agusto & Co. (BBB+).
Unveiling his plans at a Town Hall meeting with Senior Management staff drawn from all locations across the country last week, Mr. Okonkwo promised to build on the successes of the immediate past CEO as pedestal to take the bank to a higher level.
Earlier in December last year, the new CEO was formally introduced to other CEOs of Nigerian banking industry by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, at the Annual Retreat of the CBN with Bank CEOs in Calabar.
Commenting on the new era in bank, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fidelity Bank, Chief Chris Ezeh said “we are very pleased to have made this choice and have no doubt that Nnamdi will bring his solid banking experience to bear on the task of moving the bank to a higher level. We, at the Board, will give him our full support to excel”.
One of the leaders of the Shareholder Associations contacted at the weekend was full of praise for Fidelity Bank for “their style and approach which epitomize quiet efficiency and professionalism.” He said he was impressed by the appointment of Mr. Okonkwo, whom he described as very experienced as sure to continue the tradition of professionalism and integrity that Fidelity has been associated with.