Lola Akinjoko was recently retired after spending thirty-one years in banking and nine years as the Chief Executive Officer of the Seedvest MFB. As she wrapped up her last days on the job, Publisher/EIC, WesternLifeNews, BABS-OLURIBIGBE ADEOYE asked her to reflect on her career and the future lie ahead in the industry. She also spoke on her achievements in bringing Seedvest MFB to an enviable height it is today.
Tell us your growing up
I grew up in Ibadan where I came from by both parents (Baba and Mama LADEPO). Only my primary education took place in Ibadan. I started my secondary education in Ebenezer Grammar School, Ijedo Ilesha and from there, proceeded to Igbo Elerin Grammar School. I thereafter attended Oliver Grammar School for my A’ level. I later gained admission to Federal College of Education, Obudu, Cross River state. I attended University of Lagos for my first degree and did my Masters in Business Administration in Ladoke Akintola University. I got married in March 2nd, 1991 and blessed with four children.
What spurs your interest in banking?
I have an uncle and a blood brother, who happened to work in banks and anytime I paid them visit in their respective locations, I took notice the way the bankers dressed, the way they organised and how they composed themselves; that really aroused my interest to pursue banking career.
If you have not been in banking industry, what would you have preferred as a career?
If I had not been in banking industry, I would have been in teaching services. Although I love nursing with passion but I was discouraged because my parents believed nursing, b basically, the night duty of a thing can change the kind of virtues they have deposited in me.
Having spent over three decades in banking industry, what are those things you think you will miss after retirement?
Having spent over three decades as a banker, I will miss a lot, my way of life, waking up as early as possible, meeting people of diverse opinions and characters, having knowledge of different business ideas, imparting in people’s life especially micro clients, being fulfilled in contributing to their business growth.
How did you join Seedvest MFB and let us know how your first day in this organisation looked like?
I joined Seedvest through Mr Kehinde Oyeleke. At the period, there was no vacancy for my post and the bank was in restructuring stage which did not necessitate any employment. I was interviewed by the executive directors of the bank then, after which they discovered I can add value to the organisation.
When I joined the place, everything looks strange, gross indiscipline, too much staff, 50% of the staff were redundant but because I joined as a Manager which was created by opening new branch for me at challenge, there was little I could do, I only used to advise the then Managing Director to work on discipline staffs.
You became the Managing Director of Seedvest after spending two years in the organisation, how did it happen?
As I said earlier, the bank was facing serious challenges. Then, the bank has Managing Director and they have to create a branch for me at challenge. After 3 months of breaking even in the branch, I was transferred to another branch and I worked in the five branches, the Bank has within a year. The Managing Director then proceeded on leave and I was asked to relieve him. He was later transferred to our parent company in Lagos, Seedvest Limited and that’s when I became the acting Managing Director. My appointment was later confirmed as substantive MD/CEO of the Bank, after two years of joining the bank.
Tell us the first step you took as the chief executive
The first step I took was addressing the gross indiscipline among staffs, cutting cost and excesses in terms of expenses; training and retraining staff mind set; letting them to know the best way to achieve is having ownership mentality, and ensured that I lead by example, because you won’t find me doing what I asked you not to do.
What was the hardest part of your job as the MD of Seedvest?
The hardest part of my job as Managing Director was changing the mindset of the existing staffs by letting them to know the need to do something different before we can get different results. Another hardest part of my job was dealing with defaulters and implementation of 5 credits rules as essential in lending as 5 Cs of Credit with particular emphasis on character lending, not collateral but also on capacity to pay. Also dealing with multiple borrower customers, collusion and conniver by staffs with customers, staff fraud (many will apply for job basically to come and steal), booking bad loans as a result of knowledge gap for the staff, dishonest clients and staffs.
What was the biggest transformation Seedvest went through while you were CEO?
The biggest transformation was that the Bank started recoding profit from the very first month I became the acting managing director, and that transformed the Bank from loss making to a profitable one up till this present moment. The Bank was stable throughout my tenure.
Expansion, good portfolio quality, growth in portfolio and inculcating good attitude among the staffs were also manifested during my tenure as chief executive. I inherited great loss, the Bank has never recorded profit since inception until June 2011 when I took over. The capital base of the bank has been eroded by loss, all these happened because of what I mentioned a while ago. With the formidable management team, support of the Board especially my brother and friend Mr Kehinde Oyeleke, with all hands on deck, we were able to make remarkable changes and qualified the bank to get State licence. Also, we were able to bring in lending partners like Rotary Club International, Jericho Business Men’s Club, Adebayo Adelabu Foundation and lots of other foundations as well.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge Seedvest is likely to face in the future and what strategy have you laid down to address same?
I don’t envisage any serious challenges except for the industry at large. As in new capitalisation policy, the Bank is almost there. The board of the Bank is proactive and always ahead of any policy that can affect the Bank. However, the sustainability of some of the MFBs may indirectly affect the bank’s unhealthy competition, which we are always at alert to combat.
Looking back at your career, and now that you are retiring, is there anything that you would have done differently?
I don’t think there is anything I would have done differently rather than building on the existing policies that assisted us to deliver and encourage the staff to keep the flags flying and taking bank to promise land because we are not there yet. Although, there are so many environmental factors challenging the performance of MFB in general.
What advice do you have for the new Managing Director?
My advice for the new Managing Director is simple. I may not have much to say in this area. The new helmsman has been part of the system from outset. He understands the system and has been performing the role in acting capacity whenever I’m not available, thus I don’t envisage any fear, he is capable of doing it well. My advice for him is to be himself and don’t tolerate any indiscipline and not allowing people to rubbish him. He should remain focused and more committed in discharging his duties. He should be more prayerful and allow decorum and also run a transparent policy of no sacred cow.
What is your thought on the future of Microfinance bank in Nigeria?
My thought about the future of MFB has to do with government policies. The regulatory authorities should come up with policies that will promote and encourage both the operators and the shareholders. The industry should also taking what happens in the environment and government policies into consideration.
What are you intending doing after your retirement?
I want to have more time for myself and family. I’m thinking of consulting, training and any other non time consuming ventures as it comes.
Your memorable day
My memorable day was the day we recorded the first profit in the life history of Seedvest MFB.