Japan is globally acclaimed as the “Land of the Rising Sun” and Just like Japan, Sterling Bank has carved a new identity from “Aiming for the Moon” to the “Rising Sun”. True Nigerian Experience had an Extensive Conversation with Sterling CEO Abubakar Suleiman on the new dawn at the Bank.
Q: Sterling Bank is one of the 50 biggest companies in Nigeria by market capitalization. Gross earnings and net profit have grown under your leadership. As we approach third quarter, what are your projections?
A: We are on a transformational journey and what that means is that we are more focused on medium to long term outcomes. We are glad to be able to deliver meaningful numbers in the short term. What I would really like to talk more about is the journey we are taking Sterling Bank on and what our success looks like.
Q: The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) recently extended a $65 million credit facility to Sterling Bank. Does it hint at an investment in the bank?
A: I think it has become clear to some of the development financing institutions that we are a platform for them to achieve their objectives. More recently, we have refocused the institution through a campaign called the “HEART of Sterling,” which speaks to five critical areas that are in dire need of investment for the economy to grow. They are the Health, Education, Agriculture, Renewable Energy and Transportation sectors. There is no plan at this point for a change in our shareholding structure.
Q: You’ve taken the bank from ‘Aiming for the Moon’ to the ‘Rising Sun.’ Can you explain what this is all about?
A: The most significant change in our branding is to see ourselves as being more than a bank, so there’s been a significant investment in various sectors. We have invested in businesses that are trying to create change in the agriculture, transport, health and education sectors. Although we are a banking franchise, we recognise the need to focus on the bigger picture. So, the refreshed brand speaks to deploying our resources for the creation of a better economy for everyone.
Q Can you tell us about the innovations coming from the stable of Sterling Bank under your leadership?
A: Given the huge number of people who lack access to credit in Nigeria, I think we need to do so much more and we are trying to deploy technology to solve the problem. We deployed a platform called ‘Specta’ that allows the average Nigerian with an income to access credit in five minutes. At this point, irrespective of where your banking relationships are today, we can lend to you.
Q: Can you speak a little bit more about the HEART of Sterling initiative?
A: The HEART of Sterling represents Health, Education, Agriculture, Renewable Energy, Transport; which speak to our focus sectors. In trying to figure out what our future must look like, we concluded that we need to integrate ourselves into the things that are important to the people and the government and to also find a way to bring in development agencies that are looking to have a positive impact in Nigeria. For instance, it was clear that we were not producing enough food because we were importing a significant amount. Therefore, the sensible thing was to put money behind agriculture and increase production because the demand already exists. In the health sector, the amount of money spent on medical care abroad is significant. The amount of money being spent on education even in neighboring countries is so significant that you know if you make the right investment in Nigeria you will have the demand and same scenario plays out in the transport sector. There’s no gainsaying that we have a power crisis and there’s a need to intervene there too.