Tony Elumelu: 5 Inspiring Lessons from His Biggest Career Move 
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Tony Elumelu: 5 Inspiring Lessons from His Biggest Career Move 

The career move of Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian economist offers valuable lessons for aspiring professionals or young entrepreneurs. One of Elumelu’s biggest career moves is a led acquisition of  United Bank for Africa (UBA) in 2005 and later transforming it from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with more than seven million customers in 19 African countries.

After his resignation at UBA as the institution’s MD/CEO in 2010, he founded Heirs Holdings, which invests in the financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors. In the same year, he established the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded philanthropic organization.

This article would explore Elumelu’s big career move and some lessons that can be noted from it.

Giving room for the next generations

Tony Elumelu says encouraging the dreams and aspirations of young people who are hardworking, focused, and committed to making a difference in their communities is a driver of creating a sustainable future. Having assumed the position of CEO at the age 34, making him the youngest CEO in the country, Elumelu says the greatest success in leadership is leaving a legacy and pathway for the next generation.

Elumelu believes successful entrepreneurs must become role models for the younger generation, so that they can learn from their mistakes and achieve more. He said ““I believe that prioritising our youth – supporting their dreams and aspirations – is how we can create a sustainable future for the world”.

Be hardworking

One lesson from Elumelu’s career move can be attributed to hard work and luck. The former CEO of the defunct Standard Bank said his success said the road to success isn’t smooth, but determination and hardwork is required for success.

For instance, his courage and determination made him apply for an ‘Entry Analyst’ position in the now defunct Stand Trust Bank despite not meeting the requirements. This employment gave an opportunity to be the bank’s manager after a year leading him to acquire UBA.

He said “I owe my accelerated career and successes to two things: hard work and luck, and I know firsthand how these factors are inextricable in success.” 

Take calculated risks

Another lesson from Tony Elumelu’s career move was taking a calculated risk when he took over as the chief executive officer of the United Bank of Africa, knowing the bank was in dire straits.

However, he saw the potential and was confident he could turn it around. This move paid off, as UBA became a highly successful bank under his leadership. For example In 1997, Elumelu led a small group of investors to take over a struggling Crystal Bank (later renamed Standard Trust Bank). He transformed the bank into a profitable institution and in 2005 he led one of the largest mergers in the banking sector in Sub-Saharan Africa by acquiring UBA

Believe in yourself

Elumelu’s confidence in his abilities and his vision for UBA were key lessons to deduce from his career move. He had a clear plan and executed it with determination and conviction, despite the challenges he faced.

From the start, when he applied for a job he did not meet the requirement for and was eventually employed shows the level of belief he has in himself which accelerated his success in all areas.

Always embrace change

Elumelu recognized that UBA needed to change in order to survive and thrive after the acquisition. He implemented significant changes in the bank’s culture, operations, and strategy, which helped transform it into a more dynamic and customer-centric institution.


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