Mr. Waheed Olagunju, Ag. Managing Director/Chief Executive, Bank of Industry Ltd [BOI] occupies a position that has become the central shaft upon which Nigeria’s industrial operation now has to revolve. An effective engagement of development banking and entrepreneurship development are the feasible options open to Nigeria in a high interest rate environment, unavailability of long-term credit facilities and heightened difficulties in importing raw materials and other inputs.
Developing and growing small- and medium-scale businesses constitutes a key strategy of government in recognition of which the President voted N15 billion for the recapitalization of Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture this year. The engagement strategy is informed by the fact that the grassroots impact per unit of investment in micro, small and medium-scale enterprises [MSMEs] is higher than in large enterprises. Olagunju understands both the strategy and the challenge and the terrain of SMEs development is well known to him.
His 27 years of banking career is entirely devoted to nursing and nurturing SMEs where he has demonstrated exceptional capability for taking on higher responsibilities. This is exhibited in the various positions he has occupied since joining the bank, culminating in his ascension to the leadership position of BOI.
Olangunju’s business is to develop and grow the most vulnerable types of businesses with the least prospects for surviving even in times of economic prosperity. Yet, he has to prop them up and give them life in the most challenging period of Nigeria’s economy. He cannot afford to fail in that mandate because in it lies the industrial revolution dream of the nation. They are the hope for industrial growth, business expansion and new job creation.
Development of MSMEs – the third- and fourth-tier businesses has become imperative for Nigeria that is starving of job opportunities. Rapid growth and expansion is required in the business sector to deliver new jobs but large businesses have stopped growing and are rather declining.
For Olagunju, developing and growing MSMEs through financial support and entrepreneurship development is a task that must be accomplished. He has defined the task ahead, which is to prop up core emerging sectors, provide effective service delivery and support entrepreneurial skills development. He has also identified leveraging strategic partnerships, effective enterprise management and deployment of technology as key ingredients for delivering on mandate.
A peculiar aspect of the task is to structure products fitted for entrepreneurship development, which demands expertise on the part of BOI in every minute aspect of productive activity across sectors and industries. The bank is designed to make far greater developmental impact across a large number of operators and sectors than commercial banks.
With steps taken to decentralize the processing of loan applications from MSMEs, BOI’s loan disbursement to the group has tripled. This is a striking achievement in BOI’s credit operation brought about by management’s innovation.
Olagunju has demonstrated able leadership in pursuit of the mission to transform the industrial sector by properly matching money and entrepreneurial skills. He isn’t running a bank that can afford to sit back and wait for people to come to it: he is leading an institution that must be out to look for people able or willing to do business in the real sector and empower them to accomplish their desires.
Putting money in enterprises that haven’t been tested in the business isn’t much of a pleasant experience. So, Olagunju has to do a lot of extra work to anticipate the problems that customers will face in the businesses and develop antidotes well ahead of take off. He has to follow the business; every business of his client and ensure proactive responses at every critical point in need.
The BOI chief executive has attained a number of milestones in pursuit of his bank’s mission. He has increased the number of the bank’s offices to achieve a good spread across the length and breadth of the nation. This has taken the bank’s developmental services closer to existing and potential beneficiaries.
Another milestone is the effort to build capacity in the MSMEs by assisting potential entrepreneurs to develop bankable business plans. The bank has increased the number of business development service providers engaged to help MSMEs develop bankable business plans as well as improve their entrepreneurial capabilities. This has raised the number and quality of business plans rolling in for BOI’s support.
The bank has built a large internal capacity for efficient processing of loan applications by leveraging technology to automate its processes. It has also developed MSMEs clustering strategy under which 40 clusters cutting across the sectors of the economy have been defined. This has helped the bank to develop and administer tailor-made financial products to suit each cluster.
Local sourcing of raw materials and less dependence on foreign inputs are part of the BOI’s development strategy, which is designed to stimulate multiplier effects across industries. Availability of adequate resources to meet loan requests, single digit interest rate and simplified securities arrangements are the critical elements of BOI’s success so far.
Another great accomplishment is the engagement of a group of domestic and foreign development partners. This move has raised BOI’s operating capacity considerably and reduced the average cost of its financial intervention.
As a step to counter declining job opportunities in the formal sector, BOI is doing a lot to reposition the mind-set of Nigerians towards self employment. It has developed special funds to encourage young graduates to start up their own businesses. It has also developed programmes to train the youth and provide them with financial support to start up businesses. In this way, Olagunju is turning job seekers into job givers. He expects to raise 185,000 such enterprises in four years to 2019, creating 400,000 direct jobs.
In recognition of his numerous innovative steps towards wide spread industrial development and job creation in Nigeria, Olagunju is named one of the top 10 CEOs of the year, 2016 by Top 10 Magazine.