In order to catapult Polaris Bank Limited into a new growth phase, the bank’s new owners, Strategic Capital Investment Limited (SCIL), wasted no time in announcing a new board of directors.
The new board was announced shortly after it became public that SCIL had paid N50 billion for a 100% equity stake in the bank and had agreed to pay back N1.3 trillion in consideration bonds that the CBN had previously invested in the institution.
Experienced technocrats make up the new board. Adekunle Sonola, the new Chief Executive Officer, is now in charge of managing the day-to-day operations of the business. He is an African boardroom veteran with 33 years of experience.
Sonola’s first message as CEO speaks volumes of his readiness for the new role if words were enough to judge character. He said:
“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.“
A quick preview of his experience and background reveals that he is eminently qualified for the job. His most recent experience before joining Polaris Bank was as Executive Director of Commercial Banking at Union Bank Plc, a position he was appointed to in 2015. He left Union Bank in March 2021 after six years.
He has also had international experience as he was the pioneer Regional Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank East Africa, where he successfully rolled out the franchise in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. He rose from being a member of the Corporate Finance Group to the Divisional Head of Corporate Banking. He also served as Director of Investment Banking Africa for Standard Bank of South Africa.
Sonola has served on the boards of Airtel Africa Plc and First Bank of Nigeria where he chaired the board’s Risk Management Committee.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language from Ogun State University, an LL.B in Law from Obafemi Awolowo University, and an MBA from Durham University Business School, Durham, United Kingdom.
Indeed, with such a background he appears ready to help Polaris Bank navigate the rough waters of Nigerian banking. There is little surprise at this stage why he brims with confidence.
“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.
“We have mandated the incoming management to develop an innovative but sustainable growth strategy that prioritizes the needs and aspirations of our current customers,” Sonola was quoted as saying in the press release announcing his appointment.
But Polaris Bank is no ordinary bank; it is a bank with legacy issues hovering over it that stretches back to the days of AfriBank. It has been one takeover after another with the triune of the Central Bank of Nigeria, AMCON, and the NDIC working overtime to keep it afloat before the eventual sale to SCIL.
Given this rather shaky background, not a few Nigerians are convinced that the bank will be able to hold its head above water in this business that overwhelmingly depends on the confidence of customers to stay afloat.
But to dispel these doubts will remain the first, if not primordial concerns of Sonola in the days to come. What better way to shut up the naysayers than to keep to the new board promise to steer the bank to “a new growth phase”?