‘We want to bring in more young people into rotary’
Rotarian Pantelion Ndubuisi Onuoha is the 36th President of Rotary Club of Festac Town. He was officially installed as the President of the club on August 12, 2017 after 12 years of joining the club. He is also currently the Group Head, Specialized SMEs at Fidelity Bank Plc. He spoke to DEBO OLADIMEJI on his duty as a Rotarian and professional banker.
Why did you join Rotary Club of Festac Town?
This is my thirteenth year in Rotary. Then I was managing the Fidelity branch at Trade fair and I needed to belong to a social group within the Trade Fair Festac Amuwo Community where I will meet business and professional people. So for me it was for achieving a dual purpose; identifying with business and professional people and also joining as a platform where I can put out something to touch the society. Many people have come to Rotary and they have left. Maybe they came for a wrong reason. Because for you to remain in Rotary you must understand what Rotary is all about before you come in. I found in Rotary a perfect organization. That is why I am still there.
What are your strategies to bring in new members?
It is all about awareness. This Rotary year there are three cardinal objectives. One is to strengthen membership, which means getting more people into the Club. But we are conscious about achieving an age balance. If you look at an average age of a Rotarian, you will see there is the need to bring in more younger people, so that this organisation will continue into a foreseeable future. But if we don’t bring in more younger people, when the older people become older, Rotary will go into extinction. We are bringing in more members below the age of 40 and we are also targeting to bring in more women into Rotary because it is not a boys’ club, it is a family thing. The next objective we are pursuing this year is to increase our service to humanity, especially in the five cardinal areas of rotary. The third thing we want to do is to increase publicity about what we do.
What are the things you will want to do better?
As the president of Rotary I know that at the end of this one year, I will be measured purely on the number of projects that I have done, which translates into the number of lives that I have touched. I will be measured by what I have been able to contribute to Rotary Foundation. Rotary foundation is the purse from where all the fight against polio in the world is being funded. I am going to be appraised based on how far I’ve increase membership and the quality of members that I brought into Rotary. By the extent of public image I brought to Rotary, I am going to change the membership and we are going to take our time to bring in the right people. If you join Rotary for the wrong reasons you will not last in Rotary. I am going to ensure that people that we bring into Rotary are people who understand what Rotary is all about, which is strictly service to humanity. People of business and professional people who are ready to take a token from what they earn to give to humanity. I am going to make sure that our projects are directed to indigent people that need it.
Any relationship in what you are doing in Rotary and at Fidelity Bank?
Rotary is about service to humanity. Rotary is an association of business and professional persons who are united in their deal of service. They have a common purpose. The common purpose is to mobilise for service; to make life easier for the less privileged. Part of what we do in Rotary is also to empower indigent people who may be youths, who may be market women. Empower them to stand, start a business, to help indigent people to acquire skills. We train them on skill acquisition and provide a little funding for them to even start their own business. For a bank it is purely a business where others have brought their funds to form a bank and like every other business there is a profit motive. But for what we do in Rotary, it is purely humanitarian service.
However, in Rotary we can partner with any other business, we can partner with a bank for helping the less privileged. In most organisations they have corporate social responsibility departments, which means those organisations that want to give back to the society that have kept them and supported them. Part of what we do in Rotary and part of what I intend to do in my Rotary year is to identify those organizations that have these flair and programme of helping the society .We can get those organisations to use Rotary as a conduit to reach the less-privileged. We can partner with them, get our own funds, match it with whatever funds they have and do bigger projects that will have a sustainable impact on the society where we live. To that extent, you can see similarity between what we do in Rotary and also connecting socially responsible organizations to extend this service to humanity.
What are your responsibilities as the head of SME in Fidelity Bank?
The government of the day is focusing on creating employment, not necessarily by getting youths employed in white-collar jobs, but by funding youths, helping them build capacity so that they can start their own small businesses, which we expect them to nurture till maturity and eventually become employers of labour. As always, the banks are there to partner with government to achieve this. A lot of intervention funds the government are now injecting to the CBN, Bank of Industry and even most civilised countries, most multilateral agencies abroad are also interested in funding small businesses in Nigeria. So banks are the centre-point to make sure that all these funding attract the right set of people.
At SME in Fidelity our basic function is to identify youths who have entrepreneurial spirit, identify small businesses that are struggling and help them build capacity because we have discovered that the major reason why most small businesses fail in the first three to five years is because entrepreneurs that start those businesses don’t apply the basic skills and once you don’t have the necessary skills to run the business, no matter the extent of funding available to you, it will go down the drain. At Fidelity we do SME banking to start helping these entrepreneurs build capacity. A lot of them don’t know the intervention funds available to them at single digit. They don’t know how to package themselves to access these funds. Also, even when they get the fund, some of them don’t have the capacity to manage the fund. All we do is provide the right funding and help them to grow from micro, medium small enterprise and eventually become big companies of tomorrow. We organize seminars for them. We sponsor agencies that organize seminars for them. As I speak to you, we are partnering with Empretec Nigeria Foundation to train young entrepreneurs.
Is it easy for the young ones to provide collateral for loans?
The truth is that the major reason why entrepreneurs complain about not getting enough funding from banks is because the kind of collateral that banks require from them is different from what they have. Thank God the Federal Government has also responded by creating a National Collateral Registrar, which has made it possible for entrepreneurs to use movable assets as collateral. Fidelity as a bank has adopted this as a form of collateral. With this arrangement, it will become easier for entrepreneurs to use the kind of assets they have to secure loans. It could be their phones, motor vehicles, their receivables, their stocks and all that to pledge as collateral for lending.
The point I am making is that collateral has been an issue because most small businesses lack capacity to manage and support whatever facility they are asking for, but it is getting easier and it is going to get much more easier.
For young people who are coming out of school, the first thing I recommend is they should identify the space they want to fill. They should identify the gap and the opportunity in that segment. Once you have a good business plan that is the starting point. If you have the right business plan you do not need tangible collateral. Remember every business you want to do is at a point what you call the value chain. If you are still small and you have not been able to build enough asset to present as collateral. You can move into the value change and find out what those people who are older in the business require. The bank will be willing to give out that money not on the strength of the entrepreneur who is young and lacks capacity or asset to pay up the loan, but on the strength of the off-taker who is credible and have a good record of payment, you can get all the money you want.
Just like the Anchor borrowing scheme that the government has started today. The major problem is not just a collateral, the major problem is awareness of what is on ground because most people are not even aware of what is called Anchor Borrowing Scheme, National Collateral Registry, CBN Youth Entrepreneurship Development Fund, where youths can get up to three million naira. It is not all about collateral; it is not all about we are not getting money from a bank. It is all about understanding the business dynamic, understanding the structure you want to run, the model you want to run and trying to fit in through a space that business allow you to fit in.
Tell us your educational background
I studied Finance and Banking from the then Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri. I also have a BSc in Economics from Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma. I did my MBA in University of Ado Ekiti and I did an MSc in Corporate Governance from Leads University in UK. I am a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, CIBN. I am also an alumnus of Lagos Business School. I worked with Liberty Bank before I joined Fidelity Bank in 2002.
My father was a civil servant. Late Daniel Onuoha. My mother was a nurse per excellence. I am from Mbaise LGA of Imo State. I am the fourth in the family of seven. I am married to Nesta and our marriage is blessed with two boys and two girls: Stephanie, Brian, Olga and Daniel.