Akinsola Akinfemiwa is on a roll. His dedication and personal prowess has led him all the way from a young bank executive to leading the affairs of an international bank. Despite losing his mother as early as twelve, this father of four children and husband of one wife credits his strong work ethics and sound values to his father’s drilling who ‘raised us singlehandedly with my uncle.’ Standing out in the recent Nigerian banking chaos as one the flawless bank CEOs in Nigeria with over three decades banking experience, Akinsola served as CEO of Skye Bank Plc which he lead to grander pinnacle. The current Chairman of Heritage Bank rubs mind with TopNaija.ng’s Isaac Oladipupo on rising to the top in his field. Enjoy!
Educational background and career origin
I had my Primary education in Lagos and Ondo States. I went to the University on Nigeria, Nsuka, where I read Agricultural Economics. I also had my MBA at Obafemi Awolowo University. I started banking in the early 80s, precisely 1981. I started with a Bank called IMBE, then I moved on to Chartered Bank. From Chartered Bank I went on to become the CEO of Prudent Merchant Bank that became Prudent Bank and then became Skye Bank.
Challenges on the road to success
I wouldn’t say I had any major challenge while growing apart from the usual anxiety of passing exams, facing school, looking for job, not being promoted when you deserved it and all that. The challenges were the normal everyday experience; wanting to be promoted at work and stuffs like that. Apart from those usual occurrences I don’t think I faced any other major challenge while growing.
Becoming the GMD/CEO of a global bank
The truth is that I never sat down anywhere or at any particular day to resolve that I was going to become a banker when I grow up. My actual love and ambition was to become a lecturer, a professor in a University, that was what I wanted to be. But then, you know, you finish school and you start to write applications out and then somebody invites you for something and things begin to change. At that time, the fastest way to get a job is to go to an accounting firm, and from there you get introduced to other things. There was really no time I sat down to say I was going to be a banker but, of course, when I got into banking I wanted to be the best. I did everything to make myself one of the best in the industry.
The task of leading Skye Bank
It’s the same thing you feel leading any organization. When you do it well you’re happy, when it doesn’t go well, you take the responsibility. You feel very good when you see results, when you’re progressing and when your workers are taking giant strides. You feel great when you produce great results and vice versa.
Standing out in such a time as this
Banking remains a conservative profession, banking is about integrity. I say to people that if you lose some money, you’ve lost nothing because you can make money over again. If you lose your health, you’ve lost something because you don’t create health; you’ve got to see the doctor, take some drugs, and some can be very tough. But if you lose your integrity, you’ve lost everything. So if you start life in banking knowing that it’s about integrity and trust, I think you’ll go very far. Whatever you do, character is very important; people are going to come to you based on the level of trust they have in you. That has helped us here. We’ve built a brand that people feel comfortable with, we’re people oriented, we’re community oriented, we believe we live in the heart of the people. We are one bank that people see as soft and nice. So basically, the trust people have in us has helped us this far.
Staying on top of the game
We’ll continue to do what we know best to do, improve on our area of weaknesses, ensure we learn from the mistakes of other, keep our integrity intact, and try to be good bankers basically. Like I said, banking is about trust, integrity, good governance and character. All of those elements are essential while you still continue to put your customer at the center of everything. When we say Hakuna Matata, we mean it; to say we give service to people and ensure the customers are having the best. Just like you have your readers in mind every time you publish your magazine.
Changing lives via Corporate Social Responsibility
We take it as it comes actually, most times the things that we do come from the community. As we move from one community to the other, people come with different needs. In some situation, they say “help us with transportation”, so we get involved with the taxi drivers. In some situation its education, so we adopt ways of helping out with the school system. And in some situation it could be health, like what we’ve done in LUTH and one other institution, so really we’re diversified based on the needs of the people.
Pathway to national transformation
That’s a very good question. You see, countries do well if they have been able to deal with the issue of corruption and governance. Countries that have been able to deal effectively and installed good governance have been known to do well. So the point I’m making is if you look at Europe and America where they’ve been able to deal with the issue of governance, they’re doing very well. In Africa where we’re still battling with the issue of leadership and governance, you’ll see that we’ve not done too well. So the theory is that if we are able to deal with the issue of governance, corruption, character, leadership etc, that is only when we’ll begin to taste the good life. For instance, if we don’t have power, it’s not because we’ve not spent money on power, it’s simply because the leadership has not spend the money the way it should be spend, and this applies in almost all of our sectors. This governance thing has a way of destroying so many things, that’s why we keep importing generators with foreign exchange and emitting carbon into the air. So my point is, we must find a way of dealing with governance where there’ll be serious consequences for doing wrong no matter who you are. In some countries, no matter who you, you pay dearly for doing wrong. When they dealt with the issue of corruption in Ghana, we all saw what happened.
Channeling the energy of our youth
The unfortunate thing I see today is that many young people don’t even know what the good Nigeria looks like because most people grew up to know the ‘bad’ Nigeria. My view is that the hope of Nigeria is of course in the youth, and we can’t shy away from that. We must continue to ensure that people know the right things to do, and that there’s serious consequence in doing wrong. People talk about leadership, but I also like to talk about followership. Followership is such that we put leadership in check and guard leadership into action so anywhere you have the opportunity of doing something as a youth, make sure you do it right without any supervision. The developed countries are simply the way they are because of the strength, character , dynamism and agility of their youth. For example, if you continue to do what you are doing excellently you will influence a lot of people around you, and the circle goes on like that. If our youths can also focus their energies positively, they can change this country.
Skye High on radio
The idea of Skye High basically is that Sola Akinfemiwa has been around for a while, he’s been trained by institutions and employers, he’s gained some experience along the line for over twenty eight years. So the managers of the brand felt it is good time for Sola Akinfemiwa to give back to the society. So when I go to the recording studio and talk about the things that I’ve experienced, that does not mean that those are answers to all the problems in the world. They are just my own view on how to set up your company, how to handle communications, how to manage your time, how to build relationships with people, how do you advertise and all that.
Resultant effect of Skye High
If we go by the feedbacks that we get, it’s been quite wonderful and incredible. What people write us about, the changes that happen in people’s lives and the whole feedback is just overwhelming. Skye High is also on the internet now, doing very well.
Greatest lesson learnt in life
Like I said earlier on, it’s about character. Having being brought up in a particular way, you don’t want to disappoint the people who brought you up. You don’t want to get back home and face your people and say you’ve been locked up or sent to jail. For instance, I can tell you, if I go wrong I would find it very difficult going back home, I’ll find it difficult facing my own people with shame. When these whole thing about the banking crime started I was quite amazed how the whole of my community was celebrating the fact that ‘their own son’ is different. You know, the power of where you’re coming from is quite incredible on your person. I don’t know about other people, but for me, all through my career, that has always been a strong influence.
Parent’s role in molding me
I lost my mum quite early when I was twelve, my father was everything. He raised us singlehandedly with my uncle. My uncle took me through some stages alongside my father. Those two guys were my key groomers during childhood, though my father has the greatest influence on my life.
The absence of motherly care
Of course, there’s no way you wouldn’t feel it when other kids are talking about their mum but I think my father did a good job. I think I got all the love a parent gives to his child, my father gave everything.
I’m married with four children, three girls and one boy. Two of them have finished school while the other two are still in school. And my wife is a medical doctor.
ABOUT AKINSOLA AKINFEMIWA
Mr. Akinsola Akinfemiwa obtained his B.Sc. Degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He also holds an M.B.A. degree from the University of Ife. He was the Managing Director/CEO of Prudent Bank Plc and CEO of Skye Bank.
He is a seasoned banker with over four decades of banking experience. His areas of expertise include Strategic Planning and Management, Corporate Banking, Project Financing, Leadership and Interpersonal Relationship and Advisory Services. Mr Akinfemiwa has attended several senior management development training programmes both locally and abroad. He also attended Senior Executive Internship program at the American Express Bank N.Y.
Mr. Akinfemiwa is capitalizing on the amiable blend of skilled and experienced professionals the merger has conferred with a view to creating wealth for the stakeholders. He is an alumnus of the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD).