Tony Elumelu – Nigeria’s Top Ten Boardroom Leaders

Tony Elumelu is chairman of United Bank Of Africa Plc that wears a corporate carriage as Africa’s global bank. Such a towering corporate personality for a bank that was struggling to retain its local market share is a clear reflection of how this banker/economist picks up the smallest business idea and makes it big. That is precisely what he did in Nigeria banking that dramatically reconfigured the industry’s long established competitive league and placed the leadership baton in his own hands.

Elumelu is also chairman of Transcorp Plc, Nigeria’s only home grown conglomerate, which he has turned around from corporate obscurity to an enviable high growth after acquiring a strategic stake in the business in 2013. A high-powered new growth engine has since fired off at Tarnscorp with Elumelu’s  entry that actualized new investments in power, oil and gas, agriculture and hospitality.

The corporate whiz kid has a big heart for business that is often hidden from competitors the time he appears in the scene. He was not taken seriously when he picked up a bank gasping for survival breath and renamed it Standard Trust Bank Ltd[STB] in the Nigeria’s  troubled financial markets in 1997.

He appears to have a laid the ailing bank on the spreadsheet of a master craftsman and redesigned its service framework to give it a niche it lacked in the business. He steered the bank towards two new services areas that lay fallow even as banks crowded themselves in the lethal competitive combat in conventional markets. These are management of public sector accounts and personalized financial; services.

 Having defined a viable path, Elumelu applied an innovative service to win the hearts of clients. The response the market gave him was the equivalent of discovering gold – setting the bank on one of the fastest growth seen in history of the industry. In terms of service quality and products innovation, STB became the reference mark in corporate turnaround success in the sector

While the competitive dust that STB’s emergence in the competitive frontline of Nigerian banking was yet to settle, Elumelu took his corporate structuring experimentation to another level. Then the market was segmented In terms of service quality of the old and new generation banks. The newcomers drove growth with innovative financial services while the old brigade commanded dominant market shares.

 Elumelu is the man who found a meeting point for the parallels: the strength in business of an old generation bank and the growth driving services quality of a new generation bank. This great corporate titration added the quickening spirit of STB to the massive business volume of UBA.

That was the creation in 2005 of new UBA that emerged as one of the largest financial services organization in Africa, operating in 19 African countries, as well as New York, London and Paris. The merger appears to have defined the path of consolidation that Nigerian banking followed just a year after.

 It takes a vision to rightly define a corporate purpose and a big heart to drive its realization. Elumelu has demonstrated he possess the two. By far, his greatest attributes that sets him apart in the business space is the ability to think big but begin small. A business coup is sure to happen when an organization that has the desire to rule the industry is under rated or disregarded while it is painstaking working on its dream. This is indeed the corporate story of how Elumelu moved from the insignificance of taking over a troubled bank in 1997 to presiding over one of Africa’s largest banks.

What he has accomplished in the banking sector, he has taken across to other sectors of the economy even at a continental level. He has created business across the continent, in sectors critical for economic development. His vision is to create institutions that will be role models for African business. He is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, an African investment holding company he founded in 2010, with investment in financial services, power generation, oil and gas, agribusiness, real estate and hospitality.

 He is acknowledged as one of the most influential corporate leaders in Nigeria and a prolific African entrepreneur of the new generation. The ability to nurture a mustered business seed to become a great oak, providing robust financial shelter for shareholders gives Elumelu an undeniable top spot in Nigeria’s boardroom leadership.