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Viewing the upcoming bank merger as ‘Access to Diamonds’ (and access to some real gems)

By Anita Kouassigan
02 February 2019   |   4:42 am
How do we all feel about the upcoming merger between Access Bank (Access) and Diamond Bank (Diamond)? That, of course is rhetorical question...

How do we all feel about the upcoming merger between Access Bank (Access) and Diamond Bank (Diamond)? That, of course, is rhetorical question, and I can only share my own thoughts – with an “Investing In Women-centric” viewpoint included of course!

Today, I would like to write about what I call The Access to Diamonds consolidation. This upcoming merger has to be a real gem. How can it not be? Yes, bankers predict that Diamond Bank will cease to exist and that Diamond’s CEO/MD, Mr Uzoma Dozie, will resign. However, what will remain is the good name and goodwill that Dozie has built during his tenure.

Standing alone, Diamond’s family of brands and products, especially in relation to women were inspiring before this recent chain of events. Dozie has an impressive list of achievements under his belt and he is ongoing with his commitment to the financial inclusion of women in Nigeria. Last week I mentioned N5m for 5 Women. Then there’s The Diamond Bank/Women’s World Banking partnership, which has led to innovative solutions for women such as the Y’ello Account (powered by MTN) and BETA Savings Account (supported by VISA and EFInA).

As for Access, the bank is already well known for promoting financial support, inclusion and education for women via, for example, its ‘W’ Initiative and ‘W’ Academy. Women holding key board and management roles also attest to Access as a champion for women’s growth, development and empowerment.

Although I have not had the opportunity to meet The Group MD, Mr Herbert Wigwe, I am aware of the hand he plays in empowering women by some of the projects he supports. Art X is a case in point. I’ve been unable to attend any edition of Art X yet, but while sitting in London and reading articles in The Financial Times and viewing footage on Social Media, I felt proud to be Nigerian, happy to witness one of its major banks supporting a young woman with a huge idea and very bold dream. One that most people wouldn’t have the grit to even entertain, let alone pull off.

I have, however, had the chance to personally witness Dozie as a champion for women. Back in 2008, I was only 31, and as a young woman in a business climate which was even more patriarchal then, I was grateful that he signed off lead sponsorship for a Recruitment Expo Event that I put together. Before the event, we’d never even met so when he personally came to see the work we were doing in this area of Human Resources, this was a huge deal, being up against the larger consultancies – with mostly male decision-makers.

I really wish Access and Diamond well, as I am a huge fan of what both banks offer women. During the course of my research on which banks are most committed to investing in women in Nigeria, both Access and Diamond have stood out. I view the upcoming consolidation as nothing less than “access to diamonds”.

Diamond has some real gems that will be acquired by Access, and they will add more value to each other. Stronger and together the exercise will result in the creation of the region’s largest leading bank. For Wigwe, the “merger” with Diamond and its leadership in digital and mobile-led retail banking “will accelerate our ambition to become a leading corporate and retail bank in Nigeria and a Pan-African financial services champion.”

Wigwe also holds that it is “a huge step towards the delivery of our goal to bring the power of banking to millions of people across Nigeria and an exciting transaction for Access Bank and Diamond Bank’s customers, staff and shareholders.” If more women are also included in this equation by being encouraged to open bank accounts and therefore have more access to finance due to innovative digital banking solutions, being half the population, this will certainly increase the resulting bank’s profitability with a higher customer base.

Dozie has agreed that giving up the bank’s independence now for a merger is in the best interest of all stakeholders: employees, customers, depositors and shareholders – a tacit admission of frailty. There is nothing wrong with admitting one’s weaknesses and believing that there is strength in numbers. Certainly, as the old adage goes: “Two heads are better than one”. Some of the leading banks and law firms of the world are double or triple-barrelled e.g. Bank Of America Merrill Lynch and Norton Rose Fulbright.

Consolidation is not a sign of weakness. “If you want to walk fast, then walk alone, and if you want to walk far, then walk together.” Focusing on the principles of merging and collaborating – quite distinct from a hostile takeover (which, thankfully, is not the case here) – there really is positive outlook for the whole situation and I am sure many women who share my views are looking forward to what’s coming.