Ademola Adebise: A legacy of innovation, growth at Wema Bank
How do you sum up a record of remarkable leadership by one of Nigeria’s finest corporate executives and business leaders, spanning over a decade of enabling significant progress at the oldest indigenous Bank in Nigeria?
Your success metrics may easily revolve around the leader’s exceptional corporate governance, the exciting digital transformations that he led or even his overall positive goodwill and reputation, but for Ademola Adebise, the outgoing MD/CEO of Wema Bank, success for him, especially in the last 13 years, carries more essence.
At the start of the year, the bank announced the retirement of Ademola Adebise, on its website with effect from March 31, 2023, adding that Moruf Oseni will take over as Managing Director/CEO, effective April 1, 2023. If the accolades and the commendations that the outgoing MD/CEO is receiving from key stakeholders across the banking and finance ecosystem, since the announcement, are anything to go by, then it is safe to conclude absolutely, that this golden era, for Wema Bank was laced with purposeful and legacy defining leadership.
Exceptional and Influential leaders have existed since the dawn of recorded history, inspiring positive change across diverse fields of endeavor and as American billionaire and executive, Sheryl Sandberg puts it “leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence”
In June 2018, when Ademola Adebise took his turn as the captain of the ship, at Wema Bank PLC, on the heels of Segun Oloketuyi’s retirement, it didn’t take long for him to convince both internal and external stakeholders, that the bank made the right choice. By October 1, 2018, when his confirmation came on the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Adebise was already laying the blueprint that exceptional leaders are known for and he consolidated on this, to achieve his vision for the bank throughout his tenure.
Since assuming office in 2018, Ademola has consistently steered the bank in an upward direction of growth and profitability. He was part of the leadership team that launched ALAT which has grown to become a foremost digital financial services platform in Nigeria with over 1.3m users. Everyone will quickly recall how the bank signed Davido, one of Nigeria’s greatest musical exports, as brand ambassador for ALAT, which led to the opening of over 700,000 accounts in about a week – a record-setting feat for a banking campaign in Nigeria.
Since inception, ALAT has continuously provided a full range of retail, SME banking, corporate banking, treasury, trade services and financial advisory to its customers and emerged as the 2021 most outstanding digital bank brand.
Shareholders and other stakeholders of Wema Bank would hardly forget that it was during Ademola Adebise’s administration that the bank shared dividend for the first time in 13 years, since the tenure of former CBN Deputy Governor, Mr Tunde Lemo. Whatever magic wand that Ademola employed to bring this to life, this achievement speaks volume of his immense ability to turn things around to the brighter side.
The strategy that Ademola Adebise employed to successfully advance the Anchors Borrowers’s Scheme is laudable. Especially because everyone was carried along, from medium, small and peasant farmers to aggregators and everyone else along the value chain. Ademola’s focus was on leveraging technology to provide access and finance to thousands of farmers across the country.
Being in charge of the steering wheel at a time when the world witnessed an unprecedented disruption is nothing short of remarkable. Ademola Adebise demonstrated his strategic thinking and leadership skills by successfully navigating the bank through the stormy waters of the challenging economic environment that emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The leadership team before his tenure, led by Segun Oloketuyi, had laid a solid foundation of dealing with the years of icebergs underwater, providing a pedestal of support for Ademola to build on, when he assumed leadership. On the back of this, Ademola implemented measures that ensured the bank remained financially stable and supported its customers during the challenging time. He also initiated various cost-management initiatives that helped the bank to remain profitable.
Ademola’s leadership has been recognized by many organizations. In 2020, KPMG Nigeria named Wema Bank as a leader in Payments and Transactions for digital banking. The following year, in its Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey, the consulting firm confirmed that Wema Bank climbed ten places to 2nd position in the Retail category. In 2022, the bank was ranked No 1 in the retail category of the same survey.
Across the several boards where he served, the Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System PLC, the Great Nigeria Insurance PLC, AIICO Insurance PLC and AIICO Pension Managers , Ademola remained an outstanding leader and a strategic business executive. In 2019 he received the Business Day Award for Top 25 CEOs in Nigeria for his exceptional leadership and giant strides with the Bank.
Ademola leaves behind a legacy of innovation, growth, and stability. He was a visionary leader who took the bank to new heights, and his impact will be felt for years to come.
Through the many ways that he has demonstrated his commitment to sustainable and responsible banking alongside the initiatives that he led to promote financial inclusion and support economic development, Ademola will remain a strong and relevant force to reckon with across the financial and banking sector across Africa, even after his golden era at Wema Bank.