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Uzoka: Six Years of Efficient Leadership @ UBA

Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, GMD, UBA.

July 31, (THEWILL) – Mr Kennedy Uzoka is six years this week, August 1, 2022, on the exalted position of Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (GMD/CEO) of Africa’s Global Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc.

When the Chairman of UBA, Mr Tony Elumelu, ‘unveiled’ Mr Uzoka as the GMD/CEO-designate at the bank’s 54th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Friday April 8, 2016, the atmosphere in the wide expanse events hall of Eko Hotels & Suits, Victoria Island, Lagos, erupted into visible ecstasy. The joyous shareholders responded in a thunderous unison that could be mistaken for excited school children being offered a bunch of free chocolate: “Yeah! Kennedy we love you … we love you …!”

It was an infectious joy. The shareholders had applauded the board and management of the bank for an impressive performance in the previous year. They had also approved the board’s recommendation to pay a final dividend of 40 kobo per share having paid an interim dividend of 20 kobo in September 2015, bringing the total dividend paid in respect of its 2015 financial year to 60 kobo per share.

Speaking on behalf of the shareholders, President, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sir Sunny Nwosu, expressed their appreciation to the bank’s board and management for growing profit and increasing dividend payment at a time when many other banks recorded lower profit and had to cut dividends.

He said; “this dividend payment reinforces the resilience of the Bank amidst a challenging operating environment; it also shows the quality of the bank’s management”. He added, “Kennedy, we welcome you as the GMD/CEO effective August 1, after Mr Phillips Oduoza, who is holding his last AGM with us today. We have been with you all these years and we know you have the capacity to deliver.” Nwosu was not wrong.

Uzoka, then Group DMD of the bank’s operations in Africa, had assured shareholders that UBA’s African subsidiaries were growing stronger and that the group had a target to increase Africa’s contribution to the Group’s profit to over 25 per cent in 2016 from 24 per cent in 2015, without undermining the positive outlook on Nigeria, where he predicted a positive growth. He was both prophetic and realistic. The shareholders’ applause was more thunderous. But what was the future going to offer Kennedy, who was assuming the challenging position of leading Africa’s Global Bank, then in its 67th year, ahead of two critical junctures – two recessions in 2016 and 2020 coupled with the ruinous effects COVID-19.

Proof of the pudding

The six years of Uzoka as GMD/CEO of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc leaves indelible footprints of premium leadership by a young man who studied Mechanical Engineering and later opted to ‘engineer’ money. He has shown capacity in the application of Elasticity, Plasticity, Ductility … to create and multiply wealth in an organized manner. And the numbers are there.

The bank’s gross earnings surged by 71.6 percent from N383.64 billion in 2016 to N658.29 billion in 2021, according to data from the annual reports of the Tier-1 Bank. Profit before tax rose to N153.07 billion from N90.64 or 68.9 percent, while profit after tax jumped by 64.3 percent to N118.67 billion in 2021 from N72.26 in 2016.

Loans and advances to customers increased significantly during Mr Uzoka’s leadership, from N1.50 trillion on his assumption of duty to N2.68 trillion, a rise of 78.7 percent; while deposit from customers, a measure of growth of confidence in the service and performance of the bank jumped by 156.5 percent to N6.36 trillion in 2021 from N2.48 trillion in 2016.

Total earnings by external operations (subsidiaries) in Africa and the rest of the world, increased by 135 per cent from N159.42 billion in 2016 to N374.69 billion in 2021. E-banking income rose to N64.59 billion from N30.46 billion during the period, an increase of 112 percent which confirms Uzoka’s brilliant performance as DMD in charge of Africa subsidiaries.

These numbers evidenced the strength of the bank with robust assets which jumped by 144 percent to N8.54 trillion in 2021 from N3.50 trillion in 2016 reflecting in the remarkable performance of the bank’s earnings per share, which rose to N3.39 from N2.04 – a jump of 66.2 percent.

Plethora of awards

Uzoka’s tenure is a harvest of awards, prizes and recognitions for the bank and for himself. He emerged as the winner of the ‘Finovator of the Year’ award for 2021, organised by the Finnovex West Africa Awards 2021 and co-located with Finnovex West Africa Virtual Summit. UBA was also named as the winner, ‘Excellence in Digital Banking’ award at the same event.

Finnovex is the leading series of summits on financial services innovation and excellence that examines the future of financial services on how disruptive innovations are reshaping the way they are structured, provisioned and consumed.

While presenting the awards at the virtual event, Ancy Antony, conference manager, Finnovex West Africa Awards 2021, said, “It is our utmost delight to honour the pioneers and visionaries who have transformed the financial services industry and present you with this award.” Ancy said that the Finnovex Awards cherishes and celebrates outstanding achievements in the banking and finance industry, adding that the award is aimed at honouring organisations and individuals that have consistently demonstrated exemplary performance.

UBA reaffirmed its leadership position across Africa, as it was globally recognised as the African Bank of the year 2021 by the prestigious Banker Magazine, a leading global finance news publication published by the Financial Times of London.

The organisers explained that UBA’s solid financial performance, its excellent service delivery to customers and its continuous role of facilitating rapid economic growth across the African continent were some of the reasons that led to the bank being named best bank in 12 of its African subsidiaries and in Nigeria:

UBA Nigeria Plc, UBA Benin UBA Burkina Faso UBA Cameroon, UBA Chad, UBA Congo Brazzaville, UBA Cote D’Ivoire, UBA Gabon, UBA Guinea, UBA Liberia, UBA Senegal, UBA Sierra Leone and UBA Zambia all came out top as the best banks in their respective countries.

In 2020, six of its subsidiaries in Benin, Cote D’Ivoire, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Zambia were winners of the Best Bank award. The UBA Group, in 2021, broke a record with its exceptional wins as African Bank of the Year and Bank of the year in 13 countries. “The total 14 awards makes it the first time ever in the history of the almost 100 years of The Banker, that any banking group will be clinching as many as 14 wins in a single year,” the announcement stated.

The bank’s digital transformation continued unabated during the year, with the continued rollout and take up of its relaunched UBA Mobile and Redd apps, together with its Leo chatbot and UBA Connect services. These were complemented by innovative services in individual markets, such as the low-income UBA Sharp-Sharp account service offered in Sierra Leone, which can be opened with a deposit of just 10,000 leones ($0.91).

Uzoka’s leadership is leveraging technology to improve the bank’s operations on consumer lending among other areas of operation. In a webinar held last year on loans with the theme: ‘Stimulating Nigeria’s Economic Growth and Impacting People’s Life’, the bank gave insights on the approach it is using to navigate current challenges in the consumer lending space.

Digitizing lending is one of the plans the bank is adopting to scale up that sub-sector. Others include expanding to customers of other banks, leveraging the power of the ecosystem which has to do with fintech partnerships and convenient user-friendly products. The bank said it had created a data warehouse whereby it can profile a customer and know exactly what is happening in his business.

“Uzoka is a ‘bulldozer’. The bank has recorded phenomenal growth in all aspects since he came on board as the GMD/CEO. The banks’ customers and shareholders are satisfied. How he steered the affairs of the bank during the COVID-19 period is commendable,” a top management employee of the bank who would not want his name disclosed, told THEWILL last week.

The National President, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mr Boniface Okezie, commended Uzoka for his impressive performance since his appointment six years ago. “Mr Kennedy Uzoka has done quite well as UBA GMD in every aspect. Dividend pay-out has improved significantly. Service delivery has also improved significantly unlike in other companies which shares have nosedived. I hope the board will allow him to continue and complete the good works he has started,” he told THEWILL in a note.

The National Chairman, Trusted Shareholders’ Association of Nigeria (TSAN), Alhaji Mukhtar Mukhtar, described Uzoka as a colossal personality and master of the job, under whose leadership has achieved tremendous progress. He remarked that Uzoka’s leadership has widened and strengthened the bank’s off-shore locations with the recent inauguration of the Dubai Branch in the United Arab Emirate.

He said, “We truly love this man for his commitment, dedication and vision for a greater, efficient and solid UBA and he has made investors to always smile to their banks. As a matter of fact, he is the best for UBA. We all love and appreciate him for the excellent achievement and value he has continued to create for the investors. Kennedy is a silent achiever who accomplishes set goals without unnecessary media noise.”