Amechi Ogbonna, Business Editor
Abubakar Suleiman, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank Plc, is a young and enterprising banking professional whose proficiency in the financial services industry has singled him out, like the proverbial golden fish that cannot be hidden in the ocean. He has carved a niche for himself in the fiercely competitive financial services landscape with his innovative responses and solutions to complex problems facing both the industry and customers.
After studying Economics at the University of Abuja, he capped it up with an MSc. in Major Programmes Management from the University of Oxford, as a deliberate strategy to prepare himself for the challenges of leadership at the peak of his professional career. An alumnus of Arthur Andersen (KPMG Nigeria), Wharton School and INSEAD Business School, in addition to executive education from Harvard and Saïd Business Schools, Abubakar cut his teeth in the financial sector early in the 1990s, working with Arthur Andersen & Co. from August 1996 – Dec 1997. As a young employee then, he was involved in reconciliation of Corporate Taxation & Business Advisory Services, including Personal Income Tax Computation & Payroll Management, Withholding/Value Added Tax Management Statutory & Compliance Audit. Based on his excellent delivery and response to challenges that came his way, a new window opened for him when America’s Citibank snatched him from MBC International Bank for higher responsibilities in January 2000. This, of course, meant higher professional calling. He oversaw business audit, tax consulting, treasury and investment management, strategy and quality assurance.
Abubakar held several strategic roles in different department of Sterling Bank, which prepared him for higher responsibilities. For instance, prior to his elevation as CEO, he served as the Executive Director/Chief Financial Officer of the bank from September 2012 – March 2018, overseeing Finance & Performance Management, Strategy & Innovation, Brand Management & Communications, Human Capital Management, Treasury & Financial Markets and Assets & Liabilities Management.
As Integration Director between September 2011 and August 2012, he also had the singular responsibility for the integration of Equitorial Trust Bank into Sterling Bank Plc following the merger of the two banks. As Group Treasurer of the bank from November 2003 – October 2011, he developed and implemented an ALM strategy for the Sterling Bank Group ensuring full adherence to best practices and regulations in trading and Balance Sheet Management. He also handled the preparation and implementation of annual budgets for all trading activities and managed existing local & foreign correspondent banking relationships.
It was also under his watch that the bank developed contingency funding plans for liquidity and capital management, including developing and translating treasury strategy into action plans for currency trading and fund management.
With his sterling performance in previous assignments, it was not surprising that Abubakar was appointed the MD/CEO of the bank. Since taking over as the helmsman of Sterling Bank, he has re-engineered the financial outfit, focusing on excellence. Under his leadership, Sterling Bank’s interest income grew two per cent yearly and five per cent quarterly, driven by the improvement in interest earned on loans and advances. Interest expense showed a steep decline, down 12 per cent, while customer deposits rose 18 per cent due to rising confidence in the ability of the current management to add value to stakeholders.