1. How would you say your previous work experience has helped you in your position as chairperson of Access bank?
I have been a banker for a number of years so I have a good idea about banking. I have knowledge of banking entails. I’ve been on the Board of Access bank for about 7 years, so I understand the workings of Access bank and I have a good rapport with other Board members so I’d say I’m doing quite well.
2. How did your appointment come into fruition?
Honestly, I don’t think I have any special skills. It could have been any other board member, our board members are very diverse and well experienced, it could really have been honest. I think the CEO thought he could work with me and as I said I get on well with the other board members. To be honest I just think it’s Gods grace.
3. There are currently three female chairs on the boards of the nations biggest banks, do you think this can bring about a change in attitude in women in banking?
Absolutely, because in the history of Nigeria there has never been this number of female board chairs, never. We’ve had some women, Mrs Kuforiji Olubi was the former Chairman of UBA at that time, we’ve had another two, I’m sorry I can’t remember their names but truly these instances have been very few and far in between and its never been up to three. Women have come a very long way and our appointments show the level of acceptance of women leading organizations.
To a large extent women are a bit more visible now. Women have always been competent but I think a lot of us women work without seeking glory or attention, but more and more our organizations have started to realize woman are generally more loyal, more hard working, even if they’re silent. There’s also been a drive pioneered by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the former governor Sanusi was very vocal about women being visible in management positions and on boards. I think generally the atmosphere is now one of ‘We have competent women, why don’t we let them come and lead?’
“To a large extent women are a bit more visible now. Women have always been competent but I think a lot of us women work with-out seeking glory or attention…”
4. How has the banking industry evolved from the time you started out?
I was the first and only female director at Guaranty Trust Bank, which was where I had worked for a number of years. Fortunately, at Guaranty Trust Bank at that time it was about your capability and your competence, not your gender. Fe-males weren’t put in the corner but in the banking world in general yes, there are some instances where women tend to be overlooked more. At entry level for example you see that there are almost the same number of males and females, but later, because of the challenges of bringing up a family and things like that, a woman has to prioritize. Honestly I don’t think women should apologies for choosing their families or a home life over a job. If a woman decides that for this number of years I won’t not pursue my career aggressively, it’s fine. Some can balance the two depending on the organization you work for, GTB and Access Bank are led by self confident people who believe in the power of a woman to balance both family and work. I do have to admit that there are still organizations that are still quite male dominated, but things are changing.
5. How do you balance work and family life?
It’s the grace of God and a supportive family, especially a spouse. I tell young people all the time to be careful about the person they choose to marry. Choose your spouse very carefully, your spouse should be your friend, someone who is self confident, and that you can build with, rather than someone who sees you as a competitor. Someone who supports your ambition and cheers you on. A spouse is very important because he/she can help you pick up the slack. For women a husband has to be comfortable with himself, some men worry that a successful wife will take the shine off him, so that confidence is important.
My late husband was very supportive. I didn’t get married early so I was sure of the kind of woman I was before I became his wife. He was my friend so we would joke together a lot. I remember people called me Aunty Mo and called him Uncle Mo; he didn’t take offense to that but you know some men would.
He was somebody who was comfortable with himself.
6. How has your experience as Chair-man been so far?
I haven’t been Chairman for that long, but it hasn’t been that difficult so far. All the board members cooperate, if we don’t all agree on a decision it won’t be carried out, if there’s a member that doesn’t understand something, we all help carry the person along.
7. What qualities do you believe are important for leader to possess?
A leader has to be technically competent, I think I inspire people be-cause I am a very disciplined per-son. A leader has to walk the talk, be well mannered and respectful. No one is perfect, but I’ve observed that true leaders can get better by being nicer and showing people that they care. It encourages people to go the extra mile. People in GTB would say Aunty Mo is nice but she won’t pamper you, which is true. I’ll train you, sit you down and talk to you, but I won’t pamper you. I detest people who are rude; we need to be respectful of all people and cultures.
8. What experiences have made you the leader you are today?
My parents were very disciplined people. My dad was the religious type and he taught us a lot, my mum was incredibly disciplined and the entrepreneurial type, she taught us how to be very prudent. She supported us and pushed us in our studies, she was the type that would lead you to the stream and force you to drink! All her children are very disciplined and that encouragement.
Professionally my senior colleagues at Continental Merchant Bank, they were strict and pushed me into doing things because they believed in me. Mentorship has always been very important and necessary.
9. What female leaders do you admire?
Margaret Thatcher, I like her because she was a disciplinarian, she never apologized for making tough decisions and for speaking out when people around her misbehaved. Mother Teresa, I love her for her selflessness, she was meek and humble throughout her life, she did so many things that were just totally selfless. Ibukun Awosika, I’m older than her but I love her passion for always doing the right thing, that and her strong faith, her religion is very important to her and I admire that about her a lot.
10. What kinds of books do you like reading?
Inspirational books, Thrillers, The Art Of War, I read the book ‘From Third World to First World’ a book about Singapore, I found the book very inspirational. I also enjoy professional book that get my attention
11. What advice would you give to young women interested in banking?
First, have a passion for what you do, that is crucial. Second, learn it, whatever you want to do, study and learn it very well. Shining and standing out in the work place comes with a lot of hard work. Society is more accepting towards women now, so we owe it to ourselves to be more self confident, You don’t need to be aggressive but you need to let yourself to be seen, don’t be afraid to accept responsibility , don’t be afraid to fail because when you fail you learn and from that you grow.