The Tomi Somefun-led Unity Bank Plc has been tagged a financial institution without a banking philosophy.
Years ago, a Managing Director of Unity Bank Plc, Henry Semeniteri, was quoted saying that the financial institution was repositioning to have a South/Western outlook, as to be able to rub shoulders with its competitors in the nearest future.
The plan was a good one, as the bank which wanted to come mainstream had being labeled a northern financial institution. For this reason, it was being undermined in some business spheres. There was definitely no arguing it, Unity Bank Plc was a northern bank to a lot of people.
Less than two years into the implementation of the plan that was to see Unity Bank Plc metamorphose for good, Semeniteri alongside his dreams were axed overnight. He was accused of not complying with in house policies of the bank, and so he had to go. Without a thoroughbred leader, the bank remained what it was, a struggling one with little business strength.
Not only did the proposed reposition of the bank fail, since then, the bank has been operating on the peripheral lacking the ability to even pass for a third tier bank not to talk about rubbing shoulders with the top financial institutions in Nigeria. To aspire to be among the Systemically Important Banks was a wild goose chase.
Its inability to innovate and kickoff new business ideas soon became evident in the bank’s net income, as Unity Bank Plc slid by almost 54 percent to N2.18bn ($6.1m) in the 12 months through December 2016, with assets of N493bn, according to the company’s latest annual report.
Somefun, hinged the bad business result of the bank on “economic headwinds stifled business growth during the period accompanied by increased inflation and foreign exchange liquidity“. Unfortunately, she failed to reveal to her depositors that there were other in house problems bedeviling the bank.
Interest of the management put above those of its investors and depositors became too obvious, as tales were abound of how investors were being turned away due to conflicting interests, despite the dare need to recapitalise.
A case in point was the withdrawal of Milost Global Inc., a New York-based private equity firm which announced its termination of its proposed $1billion investment in Unity Bank Plc, after receiving threats.
In a statement released via GlobeNewswire , the equity firm said that termination of the deal came as a result of threat messages the company received from a ‘well connected’ politician since an initial announcement of the deal broke out.
“The said individual was very well informed about our dealings with Unity Bank such that he knew the audit group Milost had hired to carry out the final due diligence. He told Milost to tell the board of Unity Bank that the audit firm had instructed Milost that Unity Bank was a bad investment, failing which he would unleash the media on Milost using among other things accusations that would cause the government to send Milost packing. These threatening emails were shared with the CEO of Unity Bank and the then CFO Ebenezer Kawole.
A $1billion investment into Unity Bank Plc would have done the financial institution a lot of good, as it affairs would have been expanded tremendously.
However, with that deal having hit the rock once again, it is back to the basis, as the financial institution continues to operate in an abysmal condition seeking ideal leadership and business skills to move it to its next level which seems oblivious even to those at the top echelon of its affairs.