The Man Who Sees Tomorrow…How Tokunbo Abiru Has Taken Polaris Bank To The Top

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The Man Who Sees Tomorrow…How Tokunbo Abiru Has Taken Polaris Bank To The Top

The Man Who Sees Tomorrow…How Tokunbo Abiru Has Taken Polaris Bank To The Top
April 05
14:57 2019

Tokunbo Abiru is a miracle worker. Unlike the middling marabou his miracles aren’t deceptive in nature rather each one is an event that creates faith in his abilities as fiscal guru and bank chief. The  Bank chief is not just administrative Managing Director (MD) but a seasoned leader.

Administrators are always cheap and easy to find, and even cheaper to keep but leaders are worth their weight in gold. Leaders are risk takers and they are often in very short supply; ones with enduring vision however, like Tokunbo, are pure gold.

When he assumed the mantle of leadership at Skye Bank, pundits believed he had been to play the role of an undertaker due to the destructive plunder visited on the bank by its previous directors.

However, Tokunbo eventually rescued the bank from collapse. Besides entrenching a culture of professionalism and excellent results in the bank, he ensures that there are no more dirty deals going on within the bank’s halls

Just a few years ago, Skye Bank Plc tottered precariously on the brink of collapse; its share capital had run into negative territory due to bad loan deals and it was in urgent need of recapitalisation which its shareholders could not enable. To safeguard customers’ savings, the Central Bank of Nigeria stepped in to save it from total collapse and shopped for another managing director. Then, Tokunbo Abiru, was brought in to steer the bank to survival and profitability.

An alumnus of the Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School, Abiru, a financial guru extraordinaire, was a former Commissioner for Finance under former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State during which he was credited for successfully floating an N80 billion bond, earning it the EMEA Finance’s Best Local Currency Bond Award for 2012.

He resigned his commissionership to take up an offer as Executive Director, Corporate Banking at First Bank of Nigeria PLC. He had earlier worked at Guaranty Trust Bank so from the moment he walked in through the door at Skye Bank, he knew what to fix. So far, he has proved that he is in charge and that the bank is in good hands.

In 2018, Skye Bank Plc was changed to Polaris Bank Limited; a bridge bank to oversee the liquidated entity until Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) finds a new buyer. Indeed, getting back to normal takes time – a long time. But Abiru has been painstaking and proactive and he has assured customers and shareholders that within the next five years, the newly-announced bank has the potential of becoming one of the top five banks in Nigeria.

He premised his assurance on the continued implementation of the regulatory intervention to include entrenching sound corporate governance and risk management practices and transforming Polaris into a fully fledged retail and commercial bank with strong digital backing. One year into his tenure, the bank, through his aggressive recovery initiatives, was able to recover over N60 billion of outstanding bad loans. It was also able to reach settlement and restructuring agreements with many of the chronic bad debtors resulting in substantially improved payments and prospects of future recoveries.

Three years down the line, his ingenuity, initiative and insightful leadership style have helped in changing the fortune of the bank. He has championed series of transformative business initiatives geared towards repositioning and boosting the fortunes of the bank to the admiration of both the customers and shareholders. Across the banking industry, he is lauded for successfully implementing cost management initiatives that have enhanced liquidity and efficient service delivery to customers.

In line with the bank’s broad mandate which includes cost management and optimisation, as well as divestments to improve its financial position, Abiru has embarked on several initiatives aimed at restructuring and repositioning the bank. Some of the initiatives he introduced include branch rationalisation, review of service contracts and cash management operations which have resulted in hundreds of millions of financial savings. Also, through some of the initiatives, the bank has successfully settled many matured trade and bilateral obligations and restructured outstanding balances with the relevant institutions and counterparties.


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