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Banking not route to billionaire status, says Sterling Bank MD


Abubakar Suleiman

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman, has warned newly-inducted members of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria that being a professional banker is not the route to becoming a billionaire.

Suleiman said this on Saturday at the 2024 Stream 1 graduate induction and prizegiving day of the CIBN held in Lagos, themed ‘Ethics and Professionalism: A Prerequisite for Building Sustainable Career and Institution.’

CIBN inducted 485 graduates, comprising 18 from the CBMBA route, four from the MSc/ACIB route, 33 from the collaboration with Lagos Business School on the Chartered Bankers route, 281 from the regular examination route, and 149 candidates as Microfinance Certified Bankers.

Speaking to the gathering, which included former presidents of the institute, Lagos Commissioner of Finance, Abayomi Oluyomi and other stakeholders, Suleiman urged the inductees to examine their reasons for being in the professio

He said, “If your purpose is wealth and I will say this with all sense of responsibility, if you find a banker, a professional banker, not an owner, not an owner-manager, not an entrepreneur in banking but a professional and he says he’s wealthy, look at the person and ask how?

“By virtue of being a professional in employee status, that is not the road map to ‘billionaireship’ unless you are a thief and you are not. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be bothered becoming certified, taking your professional career so seriously, if all you are interested in is to make money.

“If you are looking for a purpose, banking will offer you a purpose. And there is a lot that banking can offer you if you are looking for a higher level of service. But if you are looking for wealth and to ride private jets, your ambition has already denied you the ability to be ethical.”

He urged the inductees to hold the institution in the highest possible esteem, adding that the only thing that is traded in banking is trust, and without trust, there is no banking.

Sharing his personal experience of banking as a development tool, Suleiman spoke about bonds raised by two subnationals in the South-West and the steps he took.

He said, “One of the things that I brag about and probably don’t say in public enough was when two states, Lagos and Osun, issued their first set of bonds. There was a development bond issued by Lagos State, and the yield was roughly 10 per cent. It was below market; it was not profitable.

“I was one of those who insisted that the institution where I was treasurer invest a significant amount in that bond. I knew that money was just going to be spent; it was money that would be invested and create opportunity for all of us.

“The second one was when Osun State issued a sukuk for education. It had never been done before. People were reluctant to invest, but I knew that putting money into something that would improve education, even if it was not the most profitable decision, was the right decision because my purpose was beyond making a profit and getting a bonus. I wanted to be part of the nation-building exercise. So, I urge you to have clarity of purpose.”

In his opening remarks, the President/Chairman of the Council of the CIBN, Ken Opara, highlighted the need for ethics and professionalism, listing some of the initiatives of the institute to drive them.

He said, “In recent years, the financial services industry has faced numerous challenges and controversies that have underscored the critical need for a renewed focus on ethics and professionalism.

“Instances of unethical behaviour, regulatory violations, and breaches of trust have tainted the reputation of the industry and weakened public confidence. High-profile cases of misconduct and infractions have not only resulted in financial losses but have also injured the reputation of financial institutions and professionals.

“In response to this challenge, the institute has implemented a mandatory annual Ethics Compliance Certification Programme, which is being deployed through the CIBN e-Learning platform for staff of banks.”

According to Opara, the purpose of the certification is not only to address specific cases of misconduct but also to ensure that the practice of banking in Nigeria aligns with global standards as prescribed by the Global Banking Education Standards Board.

“By fostering a culture of ethical conduct and continuous learning, we can uphold the integrity of our profession and enhance trust and confidence in the financial services sector.

“Another critical initiative of the institute, which will help drive this crusade, is the human capital development project, which will culminate in the establishment of a banking school, which will, among other things, harp on entrenching ethics and professionalism among practitioners. The governing council will, in the days ahead, constitute the board of that banking school to superintend on the project,” he declared.

The Lagos commissioner, who was the special guest of honour at the induction, enjoined the inductees to “uphold the lofty ideals of this great institution by being of good character and resisting all temptations to compromise on the ethical standards laid out by the institute”.

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