By Omoh Gabriel
Introduction and background of management
My NAME is Faith Tuedor-Matthews, I am the Group Managing Director/CEO, Mainstreet Bank, I have almost 26 years banking experience, virtually , all I have done in my life is banking in terms of work, I came back to the country in 1984 after my Masters Degree in University of My first job was actually in UBA PLC, Ibadan, and since then all I have done is banking. I work for UBA for a number of years and moved on to work in Devcom Merchant Bank for a very short time, then I moved to Ecobank Transnational, where I worked for many years as GM. I also moved on to Standard Trust Bank as an Executive Director.
We merged with UBA and I found myself back to UBA where I started my career as an Executive Director as well. I rose to the position of Deputy Managing Director in UBA before I resigned from UBA, and four weeks after, I was appointed to run the old Afribank which is now Mainstreet Bank. So, I found myself here to rebuild a once great institution and to actually make it greater.
I have talked a little bit about myself, Let me talk about my team and the mandate that I have here. On August 4, 2011, Mainstreet Bank was formed, and I was appointed as CEO. Mallam Falolu Bello is the Chairman of the Bank. I am the GMD/CEO. I have five executive directors working with me.
What is your assignment in mainstreet Bank?
Basically, what we are trying to do here is to build a strong bank. When I say a strong bank, I mean a bank that is strong in terms of efficient processes, offers excellent service delivery and also has very good people. The mandate I have is to rebuild the bank, try and stablise the bank and re focus it in terms of the market, make it profitable and in the long run make it attractive for investors. We all know that monies have been pumped into this bank. So, there is need for us to make it attractive and add value to the institution so that government can realize the money they have pumped into the bank, and bring in a good buyer into the bank if it is possible.
My mandates also include making the bank to have a very rich legacy. I think it was formed 50 years ago, and was called IBWA (International Bank for West Africa).It is still a very strong bank because it has a very strong brand. They have customers that are still very loyal in spite of all the issues the bank had gone through all the years. The customers are still very loyal to the bank and we still have a lot of workforce that have shown a good degree of loyalty to the bank.
On assumption of office what immediate steps did you take?
When we came aboard on August 5th, we decided there are a number of things we needed to do to stabilise the bank immediately. There were issues such as staff morale, apprehension, anxieties about what their fate was, and so, there was need to actually calm them down, and we started by having town hall meetings all over the country. I had to meet with the staff and try and just douse the tension. All was well, and all of them, their jobs were secured.
We all needed to work together as a team to rebuild the institution. This was another opportunity, because there has been successive intervention by government to reposition the bank but each one had met with different challenges. So, my job was to first of all, to really calm the workforce, and I am glad to say we have been able to do that. All the staff is back on the payroll of Mainstream Bank on their existing pay and on the job they do. It was a long exercise and it was successful.
After this, we also went further to identify the gaps in the system. Clearly, when you look at the bank, it’s a mixture of old and new generation banks in terms of attitude and processes. I and my team met with all the departmental heads and all the Units to identify what are the issues, what are the challenges, what can we do together, and it’s been very revealing, it has been very good for us. We understand there are gaps, and we are looking at feeling these gaps.
How are you filling the gaps?
We know that there are gaps in the system and processes. For instance, you all know that technology is the driver of businesses in modern banking, we have some challenges in this area and we are addressing it. We are also bringing new people to see how we can become more competitive. My shareholder, the MD of AMCON, told me to go and run the bank like any other commercial banks, and not with the stigma of a state owned or not state owned. So, what I am doing is to run Mainstreet the way you will run FirstBank and Zenith, GTbank,and that is what we have been doing.
How have you first seventy days in office been?
I must say, over the last 70 days, if you look at our record, we have done very well. Two days ago, we had a profitability report. It was like a performance session, and before now the bank did not have a system where you measure people’s performance. People just come to office and work without performance evaluation. We needed to change that organizational structure which we did. We have now structured our business. What we did is along geography. We found that there was no ownership, there was no accountability, and where there is no ownership and accountability, nobody is accountable.
What did you do then?
What we did was that if you go to a branch, for example, you know that a manager is responsible for the branch. Before now, we had three different units, everybody reporting to the Head Office. So if you have a problem and you go to the Branch, nobody is responsible. We felt it was necessary to change that structure to one whereby the Manager is the Head of the Branch. There are Units that still reports to the Head Office, and the Manager is responsible for the performance of that Branch.
What we did was to move people around and put them in the right position. It was also an extensive exercise and we’ve been able to do that. We have also been able to have a performance review session.
I actually ran that session myself as the CEO for two weeks and we invited all our regional directors from all over the country to review our performance and also to chart the way forward so that there is clear understanding. For me really, we need to get the buying in of staff because the staffs are the ones on ground and they need to buy into the vision, and this is what we are going to be doing regularly until we are able to get the right culture and attitude to work. I must say it was a very good meeting.
Are you satisfied with the technology you have in place now?
In the area of technology, we are also looking at it. We have some technology but the application is what we need to look at very critically, so we are talking to two companies that might help us deploy application platforms that can be easily deployed and that can enable us drive our business faster. We are looking at the technology that can allow our ATM, and POS to be very effective and also help us not to replicate the bricks and mortar offices.
We have 200 branches presently. With these 200 branches, if we have the technology working as it should be coupled with other channels of providing banking services, we should be able to reposition the bank. Most banks are moving all over the world from bricks and mortar to other channels of providing banking services. So that is what we are doing on the technology side.
What about the staff on ground, are you comfortable with them?
On the staff’s side, we need to do a lot of training; we need to retool our people. So we are going to embark on culture orientation to ensure that our people are actually trained to be able to operate within the competitive environment. We want to be in the league of banks like the ones I mentioned earlier. So, that is where I see. My vision for Mainstreet is to be, when you call GTB, you call Mainstreet. I REALLY do not see the institution anything less, and when you look at the caliber of management from the Chairman to Management that are driving the institution, most of us are from those types of Banks. I believe if we have been able to be so successful, and it is something we can do here and do it quickly and properly because we have the experience and the expertise.
Mainstreet has no history?
The former Afribank is a very solid institution that has had challenges. These challenges can be handled and we are fortunate our balance sheet had been cleaned-up by AMCON, and all our bad loans, most of them have been taken out and we are still taking some of them to AMCON in order to meet the statutory 5 percent Non performing loans NPL ratio that we are going to achieve. AMCON has injected about N319 billion into Mainstreet Bank and so with that we are fully capitalized. We have strong liquidity and in fact, in our book, there is no corporate body that does not have an account in Mainstreet Bank. For instance, we have Julius Berger with us, and they bank with us actively, so most of the corporate bodies are our customers. For the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board JAMB, we have a very strong collection business. So the former Afribank is an institution that is very solid in spite of all it had went through. We believe that we have something to work with, we still have the customers, and what we are doing now is actually reactivation of these relationships with our customers.
Once we are able to deploy the right IT, retool and retrain our people, refocus the market and get that public trust and confidence. Banking is a business about trust and confidence. Your customers have to trust and have confidence in you, so what we need to is to rebuild that confidence and that trust. We have been there before and what we can do is to reposition Mainstreet to where it was, and with the result we are getting it is possible. It is daunting though.
I have sleepless night, likewise my colleagues because there are issues that crops up and we have to tackle them as they come along. I think so far we are very much on course, we are focused. I believe that as a person whatever you want to do if you have the passion you can never fail in what you do. That has been my philosophy and that is what has been driving me. I believe in this institution that we are running and by the very grace of God, we would be able to achieve as the confidence had been reposed on all of us, we would deliver on it.
What sectors and market segments are you actually targeting?
We are commercial bank. When a bank has more than 200 branches across the country, you are actually a commercial bank. And when you are a commercial bank, you focus really is retail business. The whole idea of commercial bank is taking its services to the nook and cranny of the country. So, we focus on the retail, we focus on the consumer business. We also have a corporate and investment banking directorate and we have an Executive Director driving that area. So, we do the whole gamut of banking- we do retail, commercial banking, we also bank government agencies and states government. So our focus is typically what every commercial bank does.
Would you say that trust is back to this bank, and are all stakeholders buying into the idea?
Trust is not something that you earn one day. It takes time to build trust. And when we talk of our stakeholders, they include our customers, our staff, our shareholders and the general public. We say general public like people like you the press, maybe you do not bank with us , and after this meeting you say I trust this lady, let me bank with them. So trust is built over time. We cannot say we are there but we are trying.
What am I saying? I have been in the banking industry for a number of years. I have friends, I have family, and I have customers that I have banked, so those people they trust me, the same with my colleagues, and because of the trust they have in us, they will translate that trust into where we are now. So if they trust us, they will trust the institution, and we on our part also ensure we understand what their needs are and deliver our services in such a way that the customer is comfortable. So trust is something that we have to earn, and it takes time.
If you come to our banking halls, they way you were served, and if you use our ATM; the way we relate with you at every touch points is what will build trust. I think we are on a journey, and I think we are getting there. For most of us, we have been in the industry, the banking industry is a service industry, and for me, when I look at the industry, the differentiating factor is service, because all banks are the same, we offer similar products but calls them different names. For me, the differentiating factor is the customer experience: how does the customer feel anytime they come in, if you are my friend and I am not there while you came to the banking hall, what was your experience? For me building customer experience and intimacy are things that are very important. So these are the things that we want to build in Mainstreet Bank and I believe if we are able to do this, you will see integrity inn us. You will see professionalism in us; you will see people that really care in us. I think with that we will be able to build our trust. I can’t say we have achieved this but we are on that part and with every stakeholders support we will get there while doing our part.
The transition from Afribank to Mainstreet, was the name change technically imperative?
I think it was imperative to change the name because if you follow the history of the all the banks that were nationalised, and the issues in the industry in the last few years, it’s imperative to change the name. The Executive management and the Board were always at logger heads even with investors that showed interest so it became difficult for the regulator to move forward with the transaction because of all kinds of litigation and all kinds of issues that came up. So, the only thing to do and the right thing to have done were to change the name of the bank, not just the name but also ownership.
I think the bank was liquidated. If a bank was liquidated it exist as a company in CAC but as a bank the license was canceled, it was withdrawn and that bank does not exist. Of course, if a bank does not exist there has to be a new name. So, it’s not just that Afribank was changed to Mainstreet bank that is not what happened. The bank was liquidated and the asset and liability was assumed by the NDIC and a new bank was licensed and took over its asset and liability. So it’s not just that Afribank was changed. There was a process that was followed. It wasn’t just a name change. It went through a deeper process. It was liquidated and its asset and liability was moved, and a new bank was created. That was what happened and the records are there to show that is what happened.
What risks do you perceive now and in the coming years?
I think the whole banking business is all about risks. There are all kinds of risks, risk in the credit we give, market risk in the environment we operate, we have operational risks, and there is also societal risks out there. I think for us, the greatest risk is the credit risk. We have money and we need money that we will use to trade, we have bad loans taken from us, and the other risks are the ones from the everyday business- the risk that somebody will defraud you, and those ones we have systems and structure and processes that we are putting in place to mitigate those risks.
What were the challenges you met on ground when you assumed office?
There were a number of litigations all over the place. And we have challenges on IT, but these are things that we can address, and as you see the head office building, I would like it to look nicer and I want our reception to look a little bit nicer. We have too many staff. I think it is a big issue, and we are looking at how we can make them more productive. It is not a problem to have too many staff as long as they are productive. The total staff strength here is over 4,000.
So, we have a large workforce with a large concentration of staff at the Head Office and we are looking at how to make them more productive. We also have the challenge of acceptance by the public. It is a big challenge because we are going through a change. We need to do a lot of confidence building because some people say why I should bank with you again; I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So we need to build that confidence. That is also a challenge. We are also working on a public relations campaign to reintroduce the brand to tell people who we are and what we stand for and what we have set out to achieve. As I said before, we have a very strong and dynamic management team, the market is there; we have capital that we can give to people, we have good products. There is no reason why we can’t compete with any other bank. But we need to address people’s minds and their fears that they can trust us. You can put your money with us and go to sleep.
Why should the public trust you?
You can trust us because I have over 26 years banking experience, and I have the competences and I have colleagues, and if you put all of us together, it’s over a 100 years’ experience that we all have. And we’ve all worked up to the senior level to the Board level of banks, and we have a shareholder, 100 per cent by sovereign list, and we have the capital. So people should trust us and have that confidence in our bank.
There seemed to be no panic withdrawals on nationalisation
Let me start with run on banks and whether we have deposit. I think, clearly, following the announcements it is expected that people would withdraw money out of panic but we didn’t witnessed significant drop in deposits even within the first two weeks. We actually witnessed deposits withdrawal but it wasn’t significant. What happened was that the regulator and government actually took steps to reduce that from happening among the banks and even among government agencies. Monies were not allowed to move out for no reason at that time, especially for government funds. On the individual customers, some of them expressed apprehension initially. What happened was that our people were on top of their game. So throughout that week, we were out engaging the customers. We found out that even the little money that went out actually came back in. So the panic wasn’t as much.
AMCON is my shareholder. We run as a commercial bank and not as government banks. My shareholder does not interfere in the way I run my business. What I am to do is to run the bank, stabilize the bank, make it profitable, return dividends, and make it attractive for sale. The chairman of AMCON told me that you guys must return dividends, because it’s a business to my shareholder. So, I am competing in a space like any other banks. So that is the way we are running the business as a commercial and not as a government bank.
The question of gaps, Skill -gaps.
When I talk about gaps, you can have many workforces and there are areas where you do not have the required skills. We need skills to drive this management. You can really be overstaffed and yet don’t have the required skills to drive the business. And in banking this day, you have to retool your people or bring in people with the right skills to drive the business. In the areas that we have people that are excess, we will move them round and retrain them.
We have already started that process. We have offered everybody their jobs back. Some wants to leave and I have begged them not to leave. As soon as we came in, some staff wanted to leave, and I said, no, you can’t leave. This was because we have some good people and we have to keep them. Some have institutional memory have been here for years. With a lot of these people, you need to have the history of the organisation. So we need most of them in the system because some of their skills are still relevant to the institution.
AMCON injected N319 billion into the bank. We have a shareholders fund of N45 billion, our margin loan was N20 million and above, we took them to AMCON and we were giving consideration bond for those loans and they gave us value for those loans, they are not collateral. So if we have loans that are troubling us we take them back to AMCON to give us consideration so that our book is clean, and so that we are not saddled with things that happened in the past that we’re not able to recover.
My vision for this bank as I said earlier is to reposition it to be in the league of banks. An institution can be small and be in the leagues of the top banks, and it can be massive. It depends on the objectives and how you see the institution. My strategic thrust is in three areas. Once I am able to achieve those three areas, I think I would have reposition Mainstreet Bank.
They are customer intimacy, operational efficiency, and products leadership. I believe if we can focus and excel in three areas, I would be able to reposition Mainstreet Bank to be like First Bank, Zenith and GTBank.
The level of investors’ interest.
Investors have not been coming to me. They may have been going to my shareholders, AMCON. I am extremely busy, and even if an investor should come to me now, I would direct them to AMCON. My mandate is to turnaround the business. Investors are for AMCON.