When the name Tunde Lemo is mentioned, it immediately rings a bell for many, especially within Nigeria’s banking sector.
He is well known as a former Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Surveillance and Director of Operations at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He came under the spotlight recently when news filtered out that four-year-old Titan Trust Bank, of which he is the Chairman, had bought controlling shares of Nigeria’s second oldest bank, Union Bank of Nigeria.
Tunde Lemo’s illustrious banking career, which has so far spanned over three decades, is one that teaches that a good name is better than riches and that the honour of serving one’s country should be chosen rather than a mindset fixated on ‘what’s in it for me’?
In a world where the desire for overnight wealth is the order of the day rather than growing wealth through diligence and hard work, Tunde Lemo’s career is an inspiring one that espouses these time-tested values and should be emulated by every young professional.
Tunde Lemo is a man who wears many caps. A chartered accountant, he has over 26 years of leadership and top management experience in both the public and private sectors. He is the chairman of foremost fintech startup, Flutterwave, and was appointed as chairman of the governing board of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018.
He attended the University of Nigeria Nsukka where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy (first-class division). He also emerged as the best overall graduating student, among several others.
He subsequently attended Wharton College, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, U.S.A. in 2002 where he studied Advanced Management Programme (AMP) as well as other executive training programmes in notable institutions such as Harvard University, INSEAD, Fontainbleau, France, Brandies University, Boston etc.
Tunde Lemo’s Illustrious Banking Career
Tunde Lemo started his career with Arthur Andersen & Co, Chartered Accountants, in 1985 and served as the MD/CEO of Wema Bank between 2000 and 2003. During this period, the bank experienced a superlative performance such that it climbed up the list of the top ten most profitable commercial banks in Nigeria in 2003.
While at CBN, where he worked for more than 10 years between 2003 and 2014, he served as Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Surveillance and also oversaw the Operations section, where he supervised five departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria, including Reserve Management, Banking and Payments System, Currency Operations, Branch Operations, and Information Technology departments.
Under his watch as Deputy Governor in the Financial Systems Surveillance directorate, two major audits were carried out in Nigeria’s banking sector.
The first was under Charles Soludo when Nigeria had 89 banks in operation, many of which had very weak bases and were fragile.
Under him, an audit of the banks was carried out, and 14 of those banks failed the audit and had to be liquidated. Others were asked to shore up their capital base. With this, 74 banks merged to become 25 banks in all.
Again, during Mallam Sanusi’s tenure as governor of the bank, another audit had to be done. This was because, due to their increased capital, many of the banks had increased their lending over time.
As a result, profits were created in the capital market and in the oil and gas sector. However, this didn’t translate into an improved economy. As such, bubbles were created, and this caused the economic downturn of 2008/2009 when the bubbles burst.
Again, the CBN had to carry out an audit of the banking industry. The result was that about 10 of them failed the test. According to him, the CEOs had to be removed as investigations showed quite a number of corporate governance flaws and shady dealings.
He was subsequently moved from the financial surveillance directorate to Operations, and there he was involved in overseeing the drive to digitise the processes of the banks.
This initiative turned out well for the Nigerian banking industry. It led to many banks adopting the digital process, and today it is very evident that banks are now opening fewer physical branches but are going hard and maximising the possibilities that digitised banking offers.
Honour over money
Contrary to what many might think, he says his move from Wema Bank to becoming deputy governor was more of a public service as he earned way less than he did as MD of Wema Bank.
“The Central Bank is not a place one goes to accumulate wealth; it is a place one goes to offer public service. For some of us that were appointed from the private sector, we actually had to settle for very low pay.
“I remember that when I was appointed in 2003, the then-CBN governor, Chief Joseph Sanusi, took my pay slip to then President Olusegun Obasanjo, and told him that I would be earning less than one third of the salary I got as a bank CEO. Obasanjo said he knew the government could not (adequately) pay for my services, that even as president, he was also not paid (adequately).”
Attributing the move to become a deputy governor of the CBN to simply the grace of God, he revealed that he never saw it coming as his intention was to retire after his term as MD/CEO of Wema Bank.
Positioning Titan Trust Bank As A Frontline Digital Bank
Under his leadership as chairman of Titan Trust Bank, the bank has recorded some laudable feats within just four years of being in existence.
The bank, which prides itself on being the first commercial bank with national banking licence authorization to be so approved within the last ten years, has been silently revolutionising how banking is done.
A testament to this is the award as the fastest growing digital banking brand in Nigeria given by Global Brands Magazine in 2021; the best new commercial banking brand in Nigeria (2021) and best trade finance provider (2021 and 2022).
The takeover of 104-year-old Union Bank by Titan Trust Bank with the purchase of 89.39 per cent of its issued share capital in December 2021 is another masterstroke delivered by the astute banker.
No doubt, Titan Trust Bank is poised to record more landmark achievements under Tunde Lemo as its chairman.
Jorn Lyseggan is a serial entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, and founder of Meltwater…