Reviving Lazarus: The gradual recovery of Skye Bank

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    “Phillips Consulting is committed to helping organizations succeed. Today, it is not enough just to have a website, it is essential that this website is used to facilitate transactions, enhance customer loyalty and facilitate a broader market reach.” — Mr Folusho Phillips, Chairman Phillips Consulting.

    The resurrection of Lazarus, dead for four days remains one of the most remarkable miracles of all time. Apparently, it is not only dead souls that are capable of being revived after being given up as dead. The Board and Management of Skye Bank Plc have embarked on a bold programme of bringing the bank back from the brink.
    They have started in a remarkable way. Lagos-based but global Phillips Consulting is arguably Nigeria’s leading consulting firm with several Nigerian and global companies as its clients. Highly regarded as a top grade consulting outfit, it had established a reputation for integrity in whatever it undertakes. Its Chairman, Foluso Phillips, an Old Igbobian is one of the finest gentlemen one can ever hope to meet on earth.

    Thus when Phillips Consulting started the Web Jurist Award a few years ago, objective observers were certain that it would never degenerate into a “cash and carry” affair like most others going to the highest bidder. This was going to be serious business. It would become in time a process of evaluating the effectiveness of business organizations through their “window of communication”.
    In its twelve years, the Web Jurist Award had lived up to its promise. There had been a surprise every year among its top five or six winners. This year would also not have been an exception if not for the emergence of Skye Bank among the top winners. The bank whose Board of Directors and top management was re-organised two years ago and which was be-devilled by so many problems, seemingly unsolvable, has gradually been revived by a strong and determined team of leaders.
    Its rapid progress in web site creation is symptomatic of the quiet but effective measure being put in place in many other areas of its operations to ensure that the bank lives up to the dreams of its founding fathers. The bank which was placed No 18 two years ago among all the thousands of companies evaluated had move up to No 8 in 2016.
    According to available information, the bank bagged three individual awards including: Winner, Performance Category, Winner, Accessibility Category and Third place in the Technical Category of the 2016 Web-Jurist Award – beating such bigger banks like Access Bank, Diamond Bank, FCMB and Union Bank.
    Readers who might be wondering what excellent and superior web sites have to do with core banking functions need to understand that banking increasingly is becoming an on-line affair. Banking services will henceforth be provided through impersonal media and the web sites of banks will become the “branches” of the future. Right now, there are individuals who seldom enter any bank these days for transactions. Most of their transactions are conducted on line. Utility bills, school fees, membership annual dues, purchases, insurance, taxes are all paid from the comfort of their homes.
    The best web sites are those which provide maximum security and trust while minimizing errors and complaints. That is what is summed up as customer satisfaction and that is what Skye Bank is providing better than most Nigerian banks today and it is already paying dividends. One customer who operates four different accounts – two corporate and two personal – revealed that he was on the verge of closing his account with Skye Bank when all the problems developed.
    Fortunately, he decided to “wait and see” by leaving some money in his account with the bank. As the web site improved he found himself relying more on Skye Bank than the other banks. Then other benefits followed. He had since noticed that, even face-to-face, Skye Bank managers are more attentive and they go the extra mile to please their customers.
    He summarized his own personal experience this way: “Skye Bank is the only bank in Nigeria today which makes the customer feel like he is king.” The question now is: what has changed? Certainly not the buildings; they remain the same. The technologies available to Skye Bank are not different from those of other banks. So, why is it steadily digging its way out a hole despite a devastating recession? There are two possible answers – both of which are inextricably linked. The first is related to the role of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN – which stepped in just in time before the bank collapsed under previous board and management. Had the CBN waited a little longer, there might be no bank to save.
    Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Singapore, in his world-acclaimed book, FROM THIRD WORLD TO FIRST, made the point repeatedly that “It had taken me some time to see the obvious, that talent is a country’s most precious resource.” But, it is not just countries which need talented and fully dedicated people. Business organizations also need a lot of those people under ordinary circumstances to survive. They need them more when the business faces extra-ordinary challenges. Then they need people with integrity, intelligence, technical know-how and, above all courage. It requires more than an ordinary captain to handle a sinking ship in the middle of a gale.
    The Chairman of the Board of Directors, the Managing Director and the other top executives of Skye Bank have demonstrated rare courage and competence to have kept the bank going for so long and from all available evidence, now, they have turned the corner and the performance at the Web Jurist Award might have provided observers with some idea of how hard they are working, with great fortitude to put the unpleasant past behind them. Mr Nduneche Ezurike, Head of Corporate and Strategic Brand Management of the bank had said that “the industry leadership in digital space is one of Skye Bank’s value proposition to its customers.” The results on that proposition are sufficiently encouraging to leave observers and potential customers waiting eagerly for the rest of the value proposition.
    This column cannot end without paying well-deserved tribute to the two gentlemen who symbolize the “never-say-die” spirit of Skye Bank. First is Muhammad K Ahmad, OON, who has had a distinguished experience in public and financial institutions including the National Pension Commission and the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, Board Director of FBN Holdings Plc with rich intellectual background as a valuable asset.
    Oxford, Harvard, IMD and INSEAD are some of the global institutions he had attended. He is also an author of the book titled “The Extent and Effectiveness of Bank Supervision in Nigeria. The second is Group Managing Director, Mr Adetokunbo M Abiru has also had extensive experience in banking including with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and First Bank and for two years was Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State. He is also a Harvard alumnus. Between them the Chairman and the GMD have close to 75 years experience and a formidable and immeasurable network of potential clients.

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