What He Told City People Before He Died 6 Years Ago
Until he died on June14, 2011, the late Tayo Aderinokun was the Managing Director/CEO of GTBank, one of Nigeria’s leading banks. On Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, the former Managing Director (MD), Tajudeen Fola Adeola, formally retired and handed over to Tayo, his Deputy of 12 years then.
When Tayo walked into the reception on the ground floor of the Oyin Jolayemi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos headquarters office of the bank for work on the morning of the next day, Thursday, he was overwhelmed by the considerable show of love and attention showered on him by all members of staff, right from the 2 security men in white uniform to the tea boy who stopped in his tracks right there with the silver tea tray seating elegantly on his palms. “Congratulations Sir”, they all chorused as other staffers peeped from their various offices downstairs. Tayo, in a nice grey suit, clutching his brown leather bag, nodded in acknowledgment, pressed the button to recall the elevator downstairs and quickly rushed in to his office.
When he got to the Executive Wing on the 4th floor where his office was, he was in for another shocker, as he was to discover that his expansive office had all been taken over by balloons and decorations of all sorts, as if a carnival was about to take place. There was also a big banner on the wall with a bold message etched on it, “Tayo, Welcome on Board”. Then came some staff members to again congratulate him on his elevation to the post of MD.
When City People entered his office to capture Tayo’s first day at work and to pick his brain on the possible policy direction, it was an elated Tayo who exclaimed: “See what they have turned my office into. I didn’t bargain for all these”, as he made to clear his office of all the cards and cakes that had been dropped all over in his absence.
As we settled down to talk, Tayo came across as a shy, in fact, very shy person. So shy was he that when he took over, he wondered how he would cope with the attendant deluge of media attention and publicity that was likely to come. Tayo had hoped City People would not make the interview appointment. Unlike his predecessor, he was one banker who did not like publicity of any sort. That was why he rarely granted interviews.
In fact, in his 12-year stint as DMD of the bank, Tayo never granted one single interview, leaving Fola to do all of that. He was simply a backroom person who liked to call the shots from behind the scene, allowing Fola to enjoy the front seat. But then with Fola out of the scene, how did Tayo, a reserved person intend to handle, or, deal with the publicity issue? It was not the only question we wanted to ask him. We told him that there was the need for him to open up for the very first time on his life and career as a banker.
How did he also intend to cope with the challenges of running a huge bank, which as at February 2002, had a balance sheet of well over N65 billion. Furthermore, he came in at a time when GTBank was growing from merely being a national organisation to an international sub-regional institution, encompassing Nigeria, the Gambia and Sierra Leone, just as it has evolved from a private company with a limited shareholder base of just 41 shareholders and from an employee base of 84 to over 500.
Tayo also came in at a time when the bank’s profitability had grown. So, he came in at a time when the bank needed to be taken to the next level. He took over a bank that was undergoing much transformation in terms of growth and expansion.
So, having to co-ordinate this octopus-like empire was going to be one hell of a job for Tayo. Would he be able to cope? Would he be able to keep the pace? Would he also be able to keep the high standards, culture and ethics? These and many more were the questions we wanted Tayo to respond to. Many of his aides, whom we spoke to then said they didn’t see a problem with Tayo coping at all. Their explanation was that all the while, Tayo it was, who had actually been running GTB.
They said although he was a very quiet and reserved person, he was very effective. And somehow, he achieved results. Unknown to many people, he had all along been the main driving force in the bank. As to his management style, we gathered that he was proactive and he effectively delegated duties to his aides, who were given full powers to run their various units. Just as his predecessor, he was constantly breeding younger players to assume positions of responsibility. He was also someone who did not joke with meeting set targets, explained one of his aides.
A stickler for time, with him, expectations and standards were high. He was said to be the prime mover of maintaining high ethical standards. He was said to be very strict. Despite being very strict, he was free with all members of staff. He ate with them at times and his office was open all day to any member of staff who wanted to see him, as long as they were not out to gossip. All GTBank staffers knew that he detested lies. The known gist in the bank was that with Tayo, just as with Fola, you were better off telling the truth at all times, no matter how bitter it was. He was 47 years old when he took over as MD and he began his banking career at a very early age, just as he left school. Below is the interview he granted City People’s Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE before he died.
Somehow, many people don’t know too much about the man called Tayo Aderinokun, the way they do about Fola Adeola. You seem to be someone who enjoys being a behind-the-scene person. Is that deliberate? Did you choose not to be known? Why are you not as outgoing as Fola and other bankers who we get to read about on a daily basis?
Well, that is just me. I don’t know why others are the way they are. I am somebody who believes a lot in substance over form. I believe in letting my work speak for me. I am a shy person. Even though I speak publicly, deep inside me, it is not something that comes naturally. I am naturally a shy person. So, that could, in short, explain why I am the way I am. Also, the role which I was playing before, that of Deputy Managing Director & Chief Operating Officer was more of a background role. I enjoyed it because I enjoyed what I did. Maybe it is time now to play a slightly more different role, even though I am not too sure that I would be as good as Fola, you know, as per the public side of the job, since playing the public role, does not come to me naturally.
The question people ask is how easy has it been for Tayo and Fola to manage their relationship so very well, in such a way that it has not led to bickering, in an environment like Nigeria where partnerships don’t last?
What people often forget is that Fola and I were friends well before the bank came on the scene. We’ve been friends from our high school days. So, the relationship goes beyond business. Second, there is divine intervention. We are 2 different kinds of people. He is more of an outgoing person, while I am an introvert. Also, he is certainly more of a marketing person as I am more of a technical person. So, we complement each other. If you bring the combination together, it is bound to work perfectly. But now, we are going into a new phase which may be for me more challenging, because I have to play 2 roles. So, I have to start looking for somebody who will play either the role Fola was playing or the role I was playing before. That is really the challenge I am facing.
You talked about a new phase. What are the ingredients of this new phase?
When I say a new phase, what I mean is that now, it is me alone. It used to be Fola and Tayo, now it is Tayo alone. Maybe over time, it will be Tayo and Segun, we don’t know. But it is just generally a new phase.
Now that you have taken over, what do we expect? Will there be a policy change, or will it be a continuum of the old policies?
It will be more of a continuum, honestly, because I was part and parcel of the running of the bank before I got here as MD. It was more of a partnership between Fola and I, than a boss-worker relationship. So, there is nothing that I would say that I wanted to do back then, that I would want to do now that I am the boss. There is nothing like that. We’ve done it together. It is just to improve on what we have done already. So, don’t expect anything dramatic in terms of policy or strategy change.
Talking about banking in Nigeria, what is your own view? How do you see the industry?
It is probably going to get more interesting as time goes on. I believe consolidation will be the next phase in the Nigerian banking industry. All over the world, the bigger the better, even the banks that we looked at as being big are merging to form bigger banks all over the world. In America, Chase merged with Chemical Bank to form an even bigger bank, JP Morgan. The bigger it is, the better. The tendency or the way it is going in Nigeria is that everyone has his or her own little shop. I expect that to change.
Why do you think it will change?
Because in order for us to compete and remain relevant internationally, Nigerian banks need to become relevant in the international scheme of things. The only way we can do that is to have size. The way in which we can have size now is by coming together. Right now, there is too much fragmentation here in Nigeria. Resources can be better utilized if people pool their resources, rather than you open 1 branch here and I open another one next door. One branch which is slightly bigger can do the job. Then, we can have bigger things and do bigger deals in terms of vigour and project finance.
At the time you and Fola set up GTB, what kind of vision did you have? What was the goal? What sort of bank did you plan to have?
To create a banking institution that will outlast all of us, a timeless institution. That was the first primary objective from the very first day, wanting to create a timeless institution. And we are still committed to that goal. Fola has left, I have to carry on. Honestly, the primary objective is that this institution must be Bigger, Better, Stronger, even after I leave.
At what stage would you say the bank is now, looking at it as a continuum?
I don’t know what I want to say but I think it is more like where would I want it to be. I would like it to certainly be one of the biggest, if not the biggest bank in Nigeria. I will want it to be one of the major players in Africa and the continent and for it to be a bank that is relevant on the world scene.
Looking at the performance of the bank, how do you feel?
It is okay. Last year was a very beautiful year, we made a record profit of N4 billion last year. Last year, meaning a financial year ending in February 2002, because our year ends in February. That is the best we have done so far. Now that other banks have started publishing their results, you can see that we rank very high. I think we are very well placed. We even beat Citibank, you know. It has been a long term objective to beat Citibank, even though we didn’t expect we are going to be able to do that so quickly. I can say it has been a good year. So, this is more like a kind of challenge, how to be able to maintain that level and improve on it.
How do you also explain the rapid expansion that the bank is going through?
We actually want to be big. In order to be relevant, we have to increase our size and that size you can get only by spreading around. We don’t want to spread ourselves thin on the ground. We don’t want to be like First Bank, with about 300 branches. We don’t think we need 300 branches to improve our business. There is a certain critical mass that we need to be able to cover the country, geographically. That is what we are trying to do. I am thinking that by the time we get to about 30 to 60 branches, we would have covered that critical mass.
Talking about your taking over as MD of GTB, how did you feel yesterday when Fola Adeola retired? How did you feel this morning when you woke up, realising that you are now the new MD? Did you feel different?
Well, I can say the reception I got this morning when I was coming into my office, uplifted my spirit. I was just coming to work normally and I saw so many people in my office saying Welcome, Congratulations. I came into my office and saw other people saying, Tayo, Welcome on Board. It is interesting. Also in a way, it makes you weak. You ask yourself. Are the expectations of me so much? Can I actually meet those expectations? Somewhere deep down, you sit down and you also pray to God for divine assistance to come in. Yes, you might believe that you know the technicalities, that you know how to run the bank, that you have done it before. Also, everything that you do in life, you require divine intervention and divine support to make it work. And I am also praying for divine intervention. Yes, I have been running the bank before now and I have performed the role of MD in a quasi-role for some time, but still, there is nothing like the real thing.
Is it the case like your predecessor, Mr. Fola Adeola did, that you are already looking beyond GTB, to the day when you will leave and go into early retirement?
Yes, I am, actually. But I don’t think I should on my first day be talking on my retirement. But all I can say is that I have a fair idea of how long more I should put in here. It’s all towards this goal of creating an institution. Let there be a clear succession plan, clear job definition, let other people also know that I can make a career here, and there is something for me in future.
How did Tayo Aderinokun get into banking? Why banking? Why not Law or Medicine?
I have always done banking from the beginning. I did my NYSC with the Central Bank from the beginning. Immediately after my MBA, I joined Chase. I don’t know any other thing. I have always been a banker.
At the time you chose to go into banking, was it by happenstance or did you plan tit?
I finished from the University of Lagos and I went for my NYSC and got posted to Central Bank, through normal posting. Immediately after that, I went abroad to get an MBA. I finished my MBA at UCLA and I came back to Nigeria. At that time, banking was it, with all the glamour. They paid better, the suits were sharper. Glamour seemed to work. That was how I started and I found out that I liked it. And it was something I did very well.
How do you explain your literary bent? Most people don’t know that Tayo Aderinokun writes a little bit of poetry. How did this evolve?
I come from a family of very literary people. My 2 elder brothers are poets, published poets; Eddie and Kayode Aderinokun. They are published poets. I am not published, but I also write poetry. You asked me the question how I came into banking. You asked me if I came into banking by design. When I was in school, I was very good in English. I got A in ‘A’ Level English, something which was unusual. So, it was my original intention to go and study English, but my brothers felt my grades were too good for me to study it. That was how I ended up in Business Administration. So I kept harbouring those literary traits. I still write once in a while.
Can you also explain how the Aderinokuns developed the literary talent?
I don’t know. I really don’t know. It started off with Eddie, who was a journalist. He was the Editor of Daily Express in those days, and also worked in Daily Times.
If you are not found on the Fourth Floor of GTB at Plural House doing banking, what would Tayo Aderinokun be doing?
(Laughs) Is there any leisure time? I like to swim. I like off-road driving, unusual driving. Like taking my jeep to unusual roads. Many people don’t even know what those machines can do. Taking them over hills, down the valley over really tough terrains is exciting.
What is your family size like?
I am married with 3 children, 2 girls and a boy.