The business of banking has a lot to do with integrity; the stewardship of money and the power of credit creation reside in the realm of conservatism and discipline. Paschal Dozie is one man whose career in banking has been strictly guided by these principles. Playing within the defined rules of the game hasn’t been that easy to enforce in the Nigerian banking industry but Dozie seems to have toed the path of self regulation in his own style of corporate governance.
He is a man ruled by diligence and driven by tenacity in his mission to accomplish a great purpose. That combination yielded the appropriate leadership qualities needed to define a path of operating stability for his bank in a volatile industry and at the same time take the lead in technology-driven innovation in the business.
His disciplined approach in managing Diamond Bank, which he founded in 1991, appears to have been shaped by his role as a director of the Central Bank. He entered into the banking industry to solve a problem he observed in the flow of money and goods. In the 1980s, commercial activities thrived on physical movement of cash from business locations to suppliers.
Large amounts of cash were continuously on the move from one location to another in payment for goods and services. This involved a high risk of loss of both life and money, as cash carrying businessmen were often waylaid by robbers. Dozie saw an opportunity there and explored it as an entry niche into banking and wove a financial service around it.
It was a simple idea, according to him but it opened up the road to riches. “I wanted to establish a technology-driven bank where the staff knew they are there to provide efficient, courteous service. I wanted a bank that would be creative and I think we succeeded”, he said.
Today’s technological innovations that move money at the push of electronic buttons had its simple beginning. In Nigeria, Dozie gave it a thriving force that pulled the entire banking industry along the path of ICT revolution. This was the pioneering effort for the development of electronic money transfers in Nigeria. The development of this service brought a large section of the public who had nothing to do with banks into the industry.
He is one of the few Nigerians that have gone beyond talking about Nigeria’s great potentials and took steps to exploit the opportunities. “Every single disadvantage you see – the traffic and the infrastructure – is an opportunity…” he said and Diamond Bank today stands as one such opportunity acted upon to improve the lot of society.
Dozie grew up in a typical village setting in Egbu, Owerri when enforcement of discipline in children upbringing was a shared duty in society irrespective of to whom the child belongs. Besides, his father was a devout Catholic Church catechist and a court interpreter. He therefore imbibed the culture of discipline that shaped him up for the great accomplishments in the field of banking.
He attended London School of Economics and Political Science, where he earned a degree in economics and then proceeded to City University in London where he obtained Masters in administrative science, specialising in econometrics and industrial engineering. He also attended University of Seattle in the United States.
He worked as an economist in the United Kingdom and also taught part time at North Western Polytechnic, London. He has expertise in project preparation, coordination and management which took him to several countries in Africa and Europe. He served as a consulting economist at the African States Consulting Organisation in East Africa where his major tasks included the construction of an input-output model for Uganda.
Driven by the spirit of entrepreneurship, he went into consultancy after returning to Nigeria, which was a major success. From consulting, he launched into banking at a period of high competition to promote Diamond Bank. He grew the bank from the scratch when most companies would not deal with a bank less than three years old. The Diamond Bank’s team then went to town to persuade the unwilling as to why the bank should have their deposits.
Despite the high competition in the banking industry of the early 1990s, the industry then was underdeveloped. Telecommunications services were poor and that posed a major hindrance to improving service delivery efficiency in banking halls. The underdevelopment itself was an opportunity, as Dozie saw it. “The question was how to improve and add value to the banking sector. The problem was obvious, and a solution was needed”, he said.
Diamond bank was then conceived as a solution provider to an identified problem quite unlike many banks that emerged simply because entry restrictions into the industry were reduced. Dozie’s strategy paper found that solution to the indentified problem lay in the realm of technology and that a shift into the electronic banking field was the way for the future.
“We had to improve the system of fund transfers and reduce transaction times for businesses, which is what we did. We introduced electronic fund transfers and the first debit cards. Now we have full mobile services, from transferring money to checking a balance”. Dozie positioned Diamond Bank in the forefront of technological innovations because that was where he saw the opportunity to add value in the banking business. With that, he spurred ICT-centred banking that has now transformed the business beyond recognition.
Diamond Bank commenced operations with 20 personnel but presently employs about 5,000 people. At the time that Dozie stepped down as chief executive officer in 2006, the bank had grown into one of Nigeria’s major banks in the post consolidated banking operations. Diamond Bank is presently Nigeria’s 7th largest bank in Nigeria with a balance sheet size of a little below N2 trillion at the end of June, 2016.
The bank has become a large financial services provider in West Africa with a network of about 250 offices across the sub-region. It has banking subsidiaries in Benin, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and The United Kingdom.
Dozie started Diamond Bank as a private limited liability company in 1991. It became a public limited company in 2005 and was listed on The Nigerian Stock Exchange in the same year. In 2008, Diamond Bank’s Global Depositary Receipts were listed on the London Stock Exchange, the first bank in Africa to attain that standard.
While the bank began operations in 1991, it had been in the pipeline since 1985 when Dozie applied for a banking licence. “Here I was, somebody who did not have money, yet wanting to establish a bank”, he recalled. It was the will to accomplish that eventually made the way. At the time he applied for a banking licence, the minimum capital requirement was N10 million. Before he could raise the money from intending shareholders, the capital requirement was raised to N20 million.
While Dozie was looking for additional people to approach to raise the additional N10 million, some of the initial subscribers began to withdraw. That delayed the licensing of the bank for about five years.
Why Diamond Bank succeeded in an industry where so many banks failed was largely because its board of directors comprised people quite knowledgeable in the business of the enterprise. Dozie said the tradition of a strong and knowledgeable board has been sustained and has led to the emergence of the bank as a star in the firmament of Nigerian banking.