Caroline Anyanwu and Chioma Afe
Caroline Anyanwu and Chioma Afe are two top executives at Diamond Bank. As the bank joins women worldwide to celebrate Women’s History Month, the two senior bankers spoke about the bank’s financial support for women, programmes lined up for them this month, challenges of being a female executive, while also advising other women to aim for the top…
Caroline Anyanwu – ‘We Now Have Women At The Top In Every Sphere Of Life Doing Very Well’
Caroline Anyanwu is the Deputy Managing Director/Chief Risk Officer of Diamond Bank Plc. Prior to this; she was the Executive Director, Risk Management. She had a temporary sojourn in Finbank when she was appointed as the bank’s Executive Director, Risk Management by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in September 2008. Anyanwu is a First Class Honours graduate of Statistics, a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a priz- winner in the ICAN Final Qualifying Examination. She has garnered extensive experience in auditing, financial accounting and financial control, beginning with her time as a trainee accountant in PriceWaterHouse Coopers from 1985 to 1988. Anyanwu commenced her banking career at the Strategic Planning Unit of ACB Plc. in 1988 from where she proceeded to Oceanic Bank International in 1990 as the pioneer Financial Controller. In September 1996, she joined UBA with responsibility for International Funds Transfer and rose to the position of Head, Head Office
Operations/Process Management. Prior to joining Diamond Bank in January 2006, she was a Deputy General Manager (DGM) in charge of Credit Risk Management at UBA Plc.
Tell us about your journey to Diamond Bank?
I am the Deputy Managing Director (DMD) and Chief Risk Officer (CRO) of the bank. I finished with a first class in Statistics and I am also a chartered accountant. I joined banking about 30 years ago but I joined Diamond Bank in 2006 and it has been a lot of fun since then working with the bank.
How would you say your experience has been so far?
It has been good so far and I have worked in several areas of banking. I’ve worked in operations, financial control, risk management, marketing and so on. I have been all over. I basically advise customers on what would be good for them and also what would be good for the bank.
March is Women’s History Month. What message would you want to pass to Nigerian women?
Before, people remarked that there is a glass ceiling for women but I can tell you that Nigerian women have broken that ceiling. We now have women at the top in every sphere of life doing very well. More importantly, women are thriving unbelievably well in small businesses and we’ve found that a lot of women are now able to manage their finances. Diamond bank is trying to support women in this area, with the products we rolled out specifically targeted at women. We have the #BankOnHer Campaign, the Beauty Souk and other services such as this. Even when we lend to people, we give lower interest rates to women because they are lower risk as they pay back better than men. At Diamond Bank, we love women, we love to support women and their businesses.
We also work with the Enterprise Development Center (EDC) to provide financial literacy for women because we believe that you need a good financial head to survive in your business. These are just some of the ways we are trying to show our support for women. For Nigerian women, I would tell them to keep the flag flying as we have done a lot; we have achieved a lot as women and shouldn’t let any man tell them they are inferior because they are women. In my opinion, women achieve better than men because whatever they put their hands in, it is usually successful.
What are some programmes put together by Diamond bank and targeted at women to celebrate this month?
There will be business seminars and clinics, non-financial advisory workshops, it’s not all about taking your money or opening an account, it is also about helping women run their businesses better, discuss challenges, help you and point you in the right direction. We also have an Xclusive cocktail event for female entrepreneurs in Lagos and other states. There is a huge power in networking, a lot of people don’t know this and what this cocktail would serve to do is mix relatively high-net worth women with entrepreneurs from all walks of life. There will be stands to sell products, mix and get to know each other. The EDC partnership is not just in Lagos, we would be doing it in other states like Sokoto, Abuja, Enugu and Onitsha, where we would be helping women Press for Progress, break through the glass ceiling and so on.
Who inspires you?
There is a woman, I think she was the first DMD in the industry, Cathy Echezor, she used to be the DMD of GTBank. It was her footsteps I followed and I am glad I did.
What would you say to encourage other women that want to get to where you are?
In this industry, I tell women that even though our roles may be multi-faceted, we have been blessed with the ability to multi-task. So you’re a mother, a wife, a boss in the office, all rolled in one. You have to learn to plan things properly. I would tell women, especially those in the banking industry, do not give up. Do not think it is too stressful. At some point in your life, your children would be grown up and you will discover that you are at the top because you persevered.
Chioma Afe – ‘When You Educate, Empower And Activate A Woman, You Activate An Entire Household And Multiple Households’
Kindly share highlights of your career with us- education, jobs and so on
I presently work with Diamond Bank as the Corporate Communications Divisional Head. I have been here for over a year and a half now, my first foray into the banking sector. Prior to this, I have primarily been with FMCG, media and communications, and the telecommunication business.
I have been working since 1998 and my career has spanned 20 years. I started with consulting in Anderson for about two and half years when I first started and then I also worked with a marketing agency called Tequila, one of the early below the line marketing agencies. From there, I moved on to British American Tobacco (BAT), where I was a brand executive and I left there as brand manager and moved on to Coca Cola, where I was a brand manager for Sprite and Colas. I left there as a Senior Brand Manager before moving to Airtel, where I worked on assets, activation and trade marketing which basically meant that I handled brand activations across the country, developed strategy for trade marketing, be visible at points of sale and so on. I did that for a very short period, about 10 months, before moving to Cadbury, where I handled 60 per cent of their portfolio, which is beverages (Bournvita, hot chocolate and Tang) as a category manager for about a year and half before moving to Multichoice, and I was there for about four years and I handled DSTV, which is their flagship product before joining Diamond Bank. It has been quite all over the place for me.
What informed your move towards banking?
For me the focus has always been “what do I want to do?” and that has always been PR. I started out in PR, Quadrant (where I served) and this made me realise I like communications and I seem to like engaging customers. I did this at Anderson before moving to marketing and brands and I knew I wanted to continue in that line but I needed to learn and the best place to learn is FMCG, if you want to be in brands and marketing. It is always to be on the client’s side and to understand the nitty-gritty of a product, how to manage brands and how to sell them, to create that positive perception of them. Moving to the bank for me was another step to say, “I am not all about products, I am about the whole mix.” What corporate communications teaches, outside of FMCG, is about wrapping all the various elements of communication and just making it speak positively about a corporate brand. This is a role I have been looking forward to, so it’s a place I want to be and it will surely take me to the next level, which would still be in communications but also from a corporate perspective.
Why is Diamond Bank celebrating women’s month and why does this bank place a lot of emphasis on women?
I think women are the future and I am not saying this because I am a woman, I say this because when you educate, empower and activate a woman, you activate an entire household and multiple households. If a woman is empowered, her children feel it, her grandchildren feel it, her entire generation would feel it, it spreads to her entire lineage. A man thinks in a linear fashion while a woman thinks wide, in a diverse way. Diamond Bank has hit the nail on the head by focusing on women, because that is the way into the home. When you win a woman’s head and heart, you would definitely get into whatever her household is about. Advocating for the woman, telling her story, empowering her, enables a generation, enables multiple families, helps us with our income at the end of the day because we are a business and we are here to make money but it also goes into building a nation and these are things we are very passionate about.
What are some programmes put together by Diamond bank targeted at women to celebrate this month?
There are quite a few things happening and another thing we are good at in Diamond bank is collaborating. We don’t tell our stories ourselves, we tell our stories in collaboration with our partners because we don’t know everything and we can’t do everything but we recognize that the strength we have from stability and brand equity, other people can leverage from that. One of the activities we would be doing for a start this month, is partnering with EDC (Enterprise Development Center) at Lagos Business School and they champion the cause of entrepreneurs, they train and empower them. Every Women’s Day (March 8), there’s always a breakfast seminar for women and we share stories, we talk about new learning and experiences, new insights, network and get new ideas out there.
We have always been passionate about driving awareness on Endometriosis and this is our fifth year running, working with Nordica, a fertility clinic in Lagos. Dr. Ajayi and Diamond have come along this journey for five years where we just want to give visibility to this illness that is largely silent. A lot of women don’t know they have it and those that know don’t know where to get help while others get help from the wrong places. We try to generate enough awareness, support them with a walk and on social media, print and radio. We just generally talk about what available facilities are there for you to go and get treated and diagnosed properly. This would take place this month and we intend to go beyond just that day and create more awareness about it. We also partnered with Eventful on the Beauty Souk because we are passionate about financial impact in women’s lives and a large number of entrepreneurs are women. We did the Beauty Souk last year in June but this year we decided to hold it in March and we had 80 entrepreneurs in a space of two days on March 17 and 18. We also have a cocktail event for female entrepreneurs in Lagos and other states. The EDC partnership is not just in Lagos, we would be doing it in other states like Sokoto, Abuja, Enugu and Onitsha, where we would be helping women Press for Progress, break through the glass ceiling and so on. There is a huge power in networking, a lot of people don’t know this and what this cocktail serves to do is mix relatively high-net worth women with entrepreneurs from all walks of life. There will be stands to sell products, mix and get to know each other.
In what ways has your bank specifically helped women grow economically and career-wise?
I recently attended a meeting and some of us got talking and we asked ourselves, ‘How many executive boards have women on them? How many women are above senior manager level and what percentage is it?’ Here, there are four ED’s (including the MD) consisting of two women and two men, a 50-50 split and this is deliberate. On the board, we have several women and when you come down to other ranks, basic things like maternity leave is four months and fully paid. At the entry level, we pull in more women than men and this has significantly helped us, it is part of our strategy to drive inclusion. We have several products designed to drive inclusion as well. Our Beta products, Diamond Yellow has opened up banking and access to financial services for many women. Our Beta product, aimed at market women who usually don’t have time to walk into our branches to open or operate accounts or might be illiterate, this service helps them keep track of their money and empowers these category of women.
Does is mean there has been some successes which the bank intends to build upon?
When we started Diamond Woman, which is our proposition not a product, I think a lot of institutions were just trying to understand what that was all about and we deliberately did not call it a product because it wasn’t about creating a unique product for a woman, but so much of giving her the opportunity to access a finance that she could not access before. So with Diamond Woman, there’s an opportunity to keep building and there’s a deliberate attempt across all products and services to always ensure that the woman is well represented and fully impacted. So that is one way that we will keep on building and improving the Beta Woman product, Diamond Yellow and other financial products. The financial inclusion products recognize that the woman is the homemaker and she cannot always have the time to visit a banking hall, so we try to either come to her or create access at her convenience via the mobile app, Diamond Yellow or Beta. The more these products are available, the more we would be able to empower women.
So how has it been for you in the journey so far?
(Laughs) It has been tough, it has been hard. Early on, I’ve always looked up to strong men and women. When I first came into Lagos, I lived with an aunt and I learnt a lot of things from my aunt and her friends who were all strong single women. From these women, I learnt I could do it; these are women who were heading businesses, banks and advertising agencies, tough and strong women. They gave me the belief that I could actually get there. A lot of women lack good support system around them, so I am always encouraging others the same way and support them. I am lucky to have a good husband that encourages and supports me and urges me to rise higher in my career. He’s available to help with the children and this has been a huge source of support for me. I’ve also been lucky to have good bosses who have encouraged me to grow.
How are you helping other women be like you?
I have tried in the last previous years to make myself available to mentor young women; my door is open to have conversations. I can be very blunt, frank and I can also be very dismissive of weakness, I don’t know if this is a good thing. I’m not saying be hard all the time but sometimes, tough love is needed. I’ve realised from conversations I’ve had in the last six months, that a lot of young women don’t know where they want to go; they think they just started working and still have time. I try to speak with several women, guide them and connect them with other women I think can be of help to them.
What are the exciting and challenging aspects of being a top executive at the bank?
For exciting, it is never the same everyday; everyday there’s a new challenge. I always come in with a to-do list that I probably never go through, there are all sorts of chaos that could come up in your day and that is exciting for me. Working at Diamond Bank has made me realise there’s always an opportunity to do things differently. There’s a focus on getting the product out there but there’s also a focus on caring. For challenges, it is the expectation. Nobody tells you ‘well done’ or ‘thank you’, and the challenges and expectations keep getting bigger. As a woman, people expect you to crumble and make excuses of baby or husband, but being able to trust your colleagues and they in turn trust your ability to get it done, this is a plus.
How do you juggle career and family life?
Apart from Uzoma’s call, I don’t respond to work calls after 8:00pm. I might reply an SMS however. This gives me time to sit at home, spend time with my younger kids and go over homework. I think I have gotten to a stage where I don’t have to physically work on weekends, but I am usually available online. I can work at my own pace at home, so that allows me some freedom to have time with my family. I try to take time off with the children, catch a movie and, on weekends, we spend a full day together. My husband and I try to have at least one date night in a month probably at home or we go out, where we unwind and gist about any and everything. We also always take a yearly holiday without the children and this is a big help.
Who inspires you?
My mother is my greatest inspiration. She has been widowed for 20 years and raised five children without looking back. Women mostly play lip service to encouraging other women. We say the right things but are not doing the right things.
What’s your advice for younger women who are pushing careers and businesses?
It’s important to have a plan, your plan can change at any point but it’s important to have a plan. When you start your career, ask yourself, ‘where do I want to be?’ especially if you’re in a non-professional field. This will make you more deliberate in where you want to go. Listen to your inner spirit because you will know in your guts when you are doing the right thing and if you are moving in the right direction. Don’t give up. When you realise you’re done in a place, move on.
How do you unwind from Lagos stress?
I watch ‘silly’ television, soaps, science fiction and movies. Instagram is my best friend as well; sometimes I read as well, especially comic books.
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