Atedo Peterside is the chairman of Cadbury Nigeria Plc and also maintains significant presence on the boards of major companies in Nigeria. He was the chairman of Stanbic IBTC Bank until lately – the bank he founded in 1989 and from where he made his outstanding mark in corporate leadership.
The Opobo-born corporate strategist is remarkable for his decisive focus in business, his strong convictions with defined strategy and a persuasive force that draws people towards his set goals. Such a strong character presents a high mark of confidence for any board of director or shareholders any day – that if Peterside believes in a mission seemingly impossible, he will be able to make it happen eventually.
His ability to identify opportunities even in an overcrowded market space and carve out a profitable niche was clearly demonstrated in the organization and management of Investment Banking & Trust Company Ltd. While he was yet at school in the London School of Economics, he had seen an opportunity in investment banking in Nigeria.
That aspect of knowledge-based financial services delivery was yet in its infancy then in the country. It really got its biggest push when Peterside realized his dream of building an investment bank in Nigeria.
The massive bank closures that quickly followed the removal of entry restrictions in the late 1980s happened because most banks competed with themselves excessively on basic commercial banking services. Peterside’s IBTC wasn’t part of this crowd and was therefore equally shielded from their troubles.
Anybody could set up a bank, collect deposits, lend money and collect interest. However the skill and expertise needed to structure and close deals in corporate positioning do not lie in the realm of anybody. To be able to see what competitors aren’t seeing or to do what they can see but unable to is the distinguishing mark that easily identifies Peterside in the boardroom. This precisely what he demonstrated with IBTC.
The business world is quite dynamic and shareholders know this and are often frightened by the prospects for losing their position in the business as regulatory and operating environments change with time. The ability of corporate leadership to see ahead and navigate carefully through the changing times is the key to corporate survival.
Peterside has aptly demonstrated this ability when his limited investment banking focus had to mix with retail banking in regulatory compliance under Soludo-led banking consolidation. Peterside didn’t have the retail banking expertise in house and therefore had to ally with Stanbic Bank of South Africa to drive a changed operating structure.
In order to realize the corporate mission of growing wealth for shareholders, the ability to locate or drive the business towards the most profitable area of operation is key. Peterside’s success in IBTC clearly demonstrates this rare ability in corporate structuring.
Investment banking is a knowledge-based business, not a large asset carrying endeavour as do commercial banks. He didn’t need a relatively large capital investment neither did he have to build a large network or branches and carry so many people on the payroll. He didn’t have to carry a large portfolio of risk assets, which prevented credit losses from hurting revenue and profit.
Yet, he did the biggest deals in the market in the areas of capital raising, mergers & acquisitions, divestment and corporate restructuring. These transaction yielded big fee incomes at low operating cost. Hence IBTC was converting one of the highest proportions of revenue into profit for shareholders.
Peterside is rated high in terms of insight and proactive understanding of market situations as well as effectiveness in decisions and judgments that produce desired results. This has made him a master in the boardroom and a highly desired personality, spurring investor confidence in any company he decides to enter. Like Warren Buffet, wherever he enters, he enters big and soon changes the operating tune.
He presently sits on the boards of market leading companies. His entry into Cadbury at a hopeless time for the company did raise new hopes for the beverage company, which eventually enabled it to pay off crippling bank loans and gave it a new operating momentum.
Respect for Peterside in the investment market is tremendous – the ability to plant a business on a profitable soil or redirect a company that has lost its way. This is to the extent that if Peterside is entering a troubled company, existing investors would rather increase their stakes rather than leave.