Finally! Arisekola takes control at FirstBank

Arisekola - a turban in the bank?

Arisekola - a turban in the bank?

As published in the Sept. 28, Issue 33. Uploaded by ol’Victor Ojelabi.

Public attention, especially in the investment and banking sectors, have been riveted on Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, FirstBank Plc’s Executive Director, Risk and Management Control, whose appointment as the Managing Director-designate of FirstBank Plc was announced about two weeks ago.

For insiders of the bank, however, the board’s ratification of the appointment of Sanusi may not be without the deft hand of business mogul, Alhaji Alao Arisekola. Top level insiders confided that the elevation of Sanusi, an economist turned banker, was in consequence of a balancing act necessitated by Arisekola’s desire to further his interest in the bank.

A respected source in the bank’s senior hierarchy observed that Arisekola who holds substantial interest in FirstBank may have, by rallying the support of members of the board for the appointment of Sanusi who takes over from Mr. Moyo Ajekigbe who retires as the bank’s Managing Director in December 2008, he (Ariskola) would have positioned Dr. Ayoola Oba Otudeko, currently a non-executive director of the bank to assume the influential office of the Chairman of the Bank’s Board of Directors.

“Though FirstBank is not inclined to consider issues in appointment or other decision making process on grounds of ethnic origin or affiliation, it is obvious that a bank with the shareholding character and size of FirstBank, creating geographic balance in official appointment and occupation, may be necessary once in a while,” a source in the bank, said.

“Of course, in the appointment of Salisu, he is highly exposed to the rudiments of modern banking and therefore deserving of his designated posting, but again, don’t forget that there are other highly skilled executives in the management cadre of the bank who could have been made the Managing Director, but it would not have been appropriate in the circumstance because Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the current Chairman of the Board of the Bank, who is of Northern Nigerian extraction like Sanusi, would also be stepping down from that capacity as soon as he attains the age of 70,” Fortune and Class Weekly source, said.

According to our source, Arisekola, who is believed to be the name behind the large shareholding indirectly held by Oba Otudeko in the bank (Otudeko holds the largest shares of the bank, 2.46 per cent, indirectly, before the bank’s May-June 2007 public offer) decided to show his hands in who becomes who in the bank’s hierarchy.

“It is natural that if he wants his man (Otudeko) who hails from the Southwest to step into the shoes of Mutallab, the office of the bank’s Managing Director must, of course, go to the North,” Fortune and Class source, reasoned.

“It’s like taking control from behind the scene which I really don’t have any problem with. The Managing Director-designate is a superb professional and has shown himself to be a worthy scholar with an active mind on public and religious issues. I tell you, this may be the next level of evolution of CEOs of large private sector holdings like FirstBank. CEOs that are not just limited to their professional callings but are willing to contribute to the debate on developmental and other ancillary issues in the country, this, I believe from my reading of Mr. Salisu, is his inclination. On the other hand, If eventually Oba Otudeko assumes the office of the board’s chairman, I am assured of a well-heeled board room giant as the corporate governance face of the bank. Now, that is like benefitting from the best of two worlds,” another Fortune and Class Weekly source said.

Meanwhile, a statement from the bank has hailed the succession plan of the bank as being a furtherance of the bank’s corporate governance practice. The statement notes that Sanusi will be understudying Ajekigbe, with a view to assuming office in a seamless manner. “As is well known, the bank’s corporate governance posture has won it much respect and awards both locally and internationally, the appointment is expected to take effect from January 1 2009.”

The new managing director is coming from a background of championing remarkable developments in the bank’s enterprise, risk and management control mechanisms. He was General Manager at United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), where he anchored the transformation of the previous Credit Risk Management Division into an Enterprise-Risk Management sector and spearheaded UBA’s Basel 2 focus by establishing the framework, policies, processes and systems necessary for compliance with the guidelines of the new capital accord.

Sanusi graduated with a B.Sc. in Economics from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1981 and was later in the M.Sc class and started his working career in academics, teaching undergraduate Economics (1983-1985) at the Ahmadu Bello University. He then proceeded to a banking career, first with ICON Limited (merchant bankers), where in a period of about seven years he gained wide experience in Issuing House activities, Financial Advisory Services, Privatization, Debt-Conversion and Credit and Marketing, before joining UBA.

Sanusi is expected to provide reinvigorated leadership taking the bank to the next level, drawing from the vast experience of Mr. Ajekigbe, an industry icon in his own right. The seamless transition will ensure that FirstBank remains focused and maintains its leadership position in the industry.

Mr. Ajekigbe is retiring at the impressive peak of an outstanding career with FirstBank, spanning over 30 consecutive years, the last six of which he is serving meritoriously as Managing Director/Chief Executive. He has been able to stabilize the bank from the crisis situation which he inherited on his appointment in 2002, thus reinforcing the confidence of the bank’s diverse stakeholders and the global financial public.

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