Sola David-Borha is arguably one of the best bankers to have emerged from the continent of Africa. For many years, she excelled within the Nigerian banking industry, before moving on to a bigger, more Pan-African role as the Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group’s Africa Regions in 2017. Four years down the line, she is set to retire at the height of her career. Her story deserves to be told, the story of how she went from being a shy, little girl who moved constantly with her diplomat parents, to becoming a seasoned Pan-African corporate executive thriving in a field traditionally dominated by men.
Born in Ghana, Raised in Nigeria and prepped for Africa
Sola David-Borha’s Pan-African life and professional track record is an interesting one, set in motion even from birth and early childhood. According to available information, Sola’s father worked as a diplomat in Accra, Ghana around the same time she was born. Her early adolescent life was then lived in Ghana until she was ten years old.
After her family moved back to Nigeria, Sola was enrolled at Queens College in Yaba, Lagos where she completed her secondary school education. At this stage in her life, she wasn’t quite sure about what she wanted to do in life. As she would later admit many years later, “I knew what I didn’t want to do in life. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do Medicine, although my father wanted me to do it.”
She gained admission into the University of Ibadan where she studied Economics, and graduated in 1981 as one of the best students in her class. Afterwards, she relocated to Manchester in the UK where she undertook some professional courses in Banking and Finance. While in Manchester, she had the option of staying back and starting her life, but had no interest in staying in the UK. And this is because by this time, she was beginning to get some ideas about how she could contribute her skills towards shaping Africa’s future financial industry.
Returning to Lagos, Meeting Atedo Peterside and Starting a Career in Banking
Sola David-Borha was among the pioneer staff members of IBTC, a privately-held merchant bank that was established by Atedo Peterside in 1989. It was at this company that young Sola built her career for many years. Interestingly, her journey with IBTC began long before the company was even established. Sometime in 1983 shortly after she returned to Nigeria from the UK, she told her sister about her interest in banking and the sister, in turn, introduced her to a young banker named Atedo Peterside. At the time, Peterside was working for NAL Merchant Bank (now Sterling Bank Plc). She would later recall how she got a job at NAL Merchant Bank shortly after the meeting with Peterside.
“When I came back, my sister had a friend who worked in NAL Merchant Bank. That friend happened to be Mr. Atedo Peterside. So she arranged an appointment for me to go and talk to him and chat with him about career prospects. I subsequently applied for a job there among other banking institutions I was already considering. I got a job and started work in the credit and marketing department of NAL Merchant Bank. NAL was the pioneer merchant bank in Nigeria at the time.”
Sola worked with NAL from 1984 to 1989 and left with Atedo Peterside to help start his new company IBTC. At the new company, she worked in the role of a Senior Manager, alongside other notable business executives namely: Angela Omo-Dare, Wale Edun, Oluwande Muoyo, Toyin Danij and of course, Atedo Peterside himself.
Growing with IBTC and Climbing the Corporate Ladder
A lot happened between 1989 and 2017 when Sola David-Borha finally moved to become the CEO of Standard Bank Group’s Africa Regions. First, there were a number of mergers and acquisitions happening around IBTC; including the 2005 merger between the bank and two other commercial banks – Chartered Bank Plc and Regent Bank Plc. By early 2006, the bank had rebranded itself to IBTC Chartered Bank Plc. In September 2007, the newly rebranded bank again merged with Stanbic Bank Nigeria Plc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Stanbic Africa Africa Holdings Limited, or SAHL for short. Now, SAHL is a subsidiary of Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group Limited.
With these changes in corporate structure came massive expansion within the company. For instance, six new subsidiaries emerged, offering different financial services including stockbroking, asset management, pension administration, and of course banking. All of these managed Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, a holding company that is currently listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange…
EDITOR’S NOTE: For the rest of this profile and other amazing stories of African female entrepreneurs, read our Top 30 African Women Entrepreneurs and Influencers below.