We are deepening our Nigeria operations and consolidating our investments in Africa”-Phillips Oduoza, UBA GMD/CEO.

Phillips Oduoza, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (GMD/CEO) of the UBA Group recently sat with a group of senior business journalists to discuss the recent realignment of the bank’s operations to boost efficiency. Here are excerpts from the interview. 

Background on UBA’s business re-alignment. 
In 2012, the Bank came up with a transformation agenda by launching 3-year Program, tagged Project Alpha. The Project is essentially to help us achieve industry leadership by 2015 through the implementation of key strategic initiatives.
Phillips Oduoza, GMD/CEO, UBA Plc  

In pursuit of Project Alpha plans, the Bank effected key changes to its operating structure and announced key appointments to drive its quest for industry leadership by 2015.

UBA’s Project Alpha is a 3-year road map of key transformation initiatives, designed to reinforce the Group’s strategic positioning and leverage its huge Africa presence to fully exploit the burgeoning opportunities in Africa’s economic renaissance

In order to accelerate the level of achievement of the Project Alpha objectives, the Group has announced the splitting of its operations into two broad divisions, UBA Africa and UBA Nigeria.

It is however imperative that I underscore the fact that the two divisions are mere directorates of the UBA Group and  there is no entity called UBA Africa or UBA Nigeria. 

Phillips Oduoza, GMD/CEO, UBA Plc 

With the creation of UBA Africa Division, the Bank will be able to grow and deepen the bank’s presence in member countries, optimise the ensuing synergies within the network, deepen service delivery excellence, and grow productivity for improved profitability.

The rationale for expanding our revenue base
As a Bank, we have always realized that expanding into other African countries is a key strategy for expanding our revenue base.  You will recall that Standard Trust Bank (STB) was the first Nigerian bank to venture into Ghana which was the initial step for the bank’s expansion into West Africa and Africa. This conviction has helped to shape our thinking about venturing into Africa

The rationale becomes more compelling when you imagine the heavy dependence of Nigeria on crude oil for its earnings and the attendant volatility and uncertainties. So, we felt that one of the strategies to add value to our shareholders, was to diversify our investments and revenue streams as a means to naturally hedge against uncertainties around our income streams

Our Africa Play
We commenced aggressive expansion into  Africa in 2008 following the merger of STB and old UBA. We started with Cameroon in 2008, then went into Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, and then Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry, Chad and so on.

Huge business opportunities abound in these countries and playing in these economies from the home front has enabled us to understand the economic drivers in these economies. We have also improved our country-to-country synergies to create competitiveness and thus enhance profitability from our African play

Post African expansion
After the investments have been done, we started developing the businesses.  It is important to understand that this process of setting up in a country involves getting the banking license, putting in place infrastructure and the people, and then keying into the economic drivers of the country, to start developing your business.  This is what we have been doing since 2011.  Having made the investments in the last few years, we believe that this is the time to start taking the full benefits of our investments in Africa.

Phillips Oduoza,  GMD/CEO, UBA Plc

How we intend to maximize benefits from African business
With the new structure, we will extract more value and maximize the benefits from our investments across Africa. Our plan is ensure that UBA Africa contributes 50% of the Group’s earnings from its current position of 20%.  We believe that high average GDP growth rate of African countries is indicative of the burgeoning opportunities that can help to deliver better returns for our African operations.

To this end, the UBA Africa Division will be made up of the 18 African country subsidiaries of the UBA Group outside Nigeria. UBA Africa will have a CEO supported by two Deputies along the Bank’s two core product lines: Wholesale Banking (comprising, Corporate Bank, Institutional Bank and Public Sector) and Retail Banking (comprising Personal Banking and SME Banking).

Kennedy Uzoka, Deputy Managing Director, has been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer, UBA Africa while Emeke Iweriebor, an Executive Director, has been appointed UBA Africa Deputy CEO, Retail Bank; and Oliver Alawuba is now UBA Africa Deputy CEO, Wholesale Bank.

The new UBA Nigeria Division of the Group which will be managed by Mr. Apollos Ikobe, DMD Domestic Bank. UBA Nigeria Division will consolidate all of UBA’s Nigerian businesses into a single division and will comprise all the Regional Banks in Nigeria, Corporate Bank, Energy Bank, and UBA Pensions.  The Nigeria division will intensify the bank’s focus on the Nigerian market, the largest economy in Africa, with the aim of expanding its market share, while deepening UBA’s wallet share of existing businesses.

Support for UBA Africa and UBA Nigeria
Both UBA Africa and UBA Nigeria directorates are going to be supported by the Group verticals like a common technology, a central processing unit, and human resources. In addition to the verticals, you also have functions like treasury, which will manage the liquidity for both directorates. We also have UBA London which will also support both sides of the business. Our representative office in Paris will essentially support our French speaking African operations, and our franchise in New York which will support both businesses.

Visibility for African operations
What we have done with this restructuring is to create a focus and visibility for our African operations. We have put a deputy managing director in charge with the country subsidiary CEOs reporting to him. 

Governance for the new structures
The new divisions will not affect the current operational structure of the subsidiaries. Each subsidiary still has a board and CEO fully regulated by the regulatory authority in the respective host country central bank as well as Nigerian central bank.

Future of UBA expansion into Africa
It is important to say that the Bank is still bullish about its African expansion plan. However, we have completed the phase 1 and we are now consolidating and hope to launch phase 2 of the expansion plan immediately after the consolidation phase.

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