The story of a man’s life becomes more defined when there is clarity in purpose, ambition, drive, determination and resilience. Most often than not, standing at the shores of life and looking starkly at the prospects beneath the waves and tide can be frightening, especially when going back to the dullness of life is not an option. But most often, this is what proves a man’s also an assessment of his passion to ensure the fruition of his desires.
Filled with stories of his formative years, Dominic Kwame Adu’s (DKA) personality is one of humility, diligence, discipline and endurance. The onerous decision of fulfilling his dreams led on a path by mapping out and actualizing them. Invariably, the sea of opportunities trapped in the treasures of banking, indeed led him to carve and leave an indelibly entrenched success mark in not just the financial sector, but across the various disciplines of life and business.
Success indeed is for the strong-willed and the throne of leadership is a reward for hard work and dedication to one’s work, dreams and service to people. In other words, leadership by service though it may seem at odds at first sight, has been a prominent feature in the life of Mr. Adu, who earnestly believes in leadership not just by example but by service.
Like fine wine, he remains ageless in his stoic pursuit and fulfillment of his dreams.
The sweet and sourness of wine captures leadership at various levels of industries. Typically, the lows and highs of leaders, like a rollercoaster ride, can jolt some adrenaline of excitement, experience, lessons, chagrin and growth. However, in the furnace of adversity there is always that tendency of leadership qualities to be refined and attain some perfection. The reflection of one’s leadership style as expressed by Mr. Adu is better delivered by those being led which justifies his openness, discipline and motivation to deliver set tasks, with dislike for laxity in work ethics.
Being a leader comes with a trove of experience and as a business front liner, one is exposed to a real life situation where learned experiences become a medal worthy of keeping you ahead and in a leading position to deliver. For Mr. Adu, the new leadership position at First National Bank gives him the opportunity to implement these experiences and lesson learned in his former portfolio. Undoubtedly, being with likeminded colleagues to chart this course in the banking industry with focus on providing unrivalled financial solutions to clients can only yield optimum results.
Leadership and performance are joined at the hip of continuity and excellent delivery of stated objectives. When these plans are projected and strategically implemented, what it births after its gestation period is nothing short of solid! Five years of swift rise to the upper echelons of success is the tale of First National Bank (FNB). Being a subsidiary of First National Bank of South Africa, and with its acquisition of license to operate in Ghana in 2015, there is indeed nothing premature about FNB’s performance especially with its merger with GHL, of which Mr. Adu was a co-founder.
Five years of existence in Ghana, FNB is definitely not ‘a hundred years too early’ as it has stuck to its objective of being a people-centered bank, COVID and all. Determination gains a whole new definition with the bank through their steady growth rate via incorporating digital banking to offer convenience not just to clients and staff through remote servicing, but it has given a much more time-saving convenience and comfort any individual will crave in this period. It is safe to say that FNB is a banking sensation with their massive success and their enviable laurel of exceeding projected performance.
Being in sync with the changing scenes of a transforming financial landscape and the proliferation of digitization in the operations within the banking hall is no doubt an admirable feat. This, further sandwiched in a trusted and reliable customer experience of the same medium, has led to the overall success of the First National Bank within this short but impact-driven span and it is by every means nothing short of a success story in an otherwise unfavorable pandemic situation.
As the world is practically at a standstill due to the pandemic, the chain reaction hasn’t grounded the terrain that will board you on the journey of this distinguished CEO, Dominic Kwame Adu. However, your baggage of open-mindedness, excitement and expectation strapped to the seat of total enthrallment and intrigues in the unfolding story is a requisite in the final destination of achieving your own ultimate in life. Enjoy the read.
TVM: The advent of COVID has changed the narrations of various industries, the banking industry not in exception. How has Ghana’s banking industry, in particular, been impacted by this phenomenon?
DKA: As a financial intermediary of the economy, we are naturally affected by its negative impact on individuals, businesses and government. The financial positions of all economic agents have been adversely impacted. The banking industry has, however, responded by having a sympathetic ear and put in arrangements to ensure we do not contribute to worsening the situation. Inevitably, this has led to lower than planned earnings. Indeed, five out of the eight listed banks have experienced a fall in their share prices, out of which three experienced a fall of 10% or more for the most part of April.
TVM: How is the banking industry in Ghana responding to this new occurrence?
DKA: Players in the banking industry have widely used the mix of digital banking solutions, supports towards the fight against the pandemic, financial reliefs for existing customers and constant updates on safety protocols to stay relevant in these times. Fortunately, most banks already had a digital strategy. These have merely been accelerated by the Covid-19.
TVM: What are some of the lessons that have been learned through COVID by industry players?
DKA: The need to create a technology infrastructure to support remote operations by our staff and for the remote access services by our clients.
TVM: Retail banks, like most companies, face an urgent imperative to reinventing themselves, with COVID-19, accelerating consumer behavior shifts. Which areas of the retail banking should players reinvent their operations to ensure sustainability and growth of the industry?
DKA: Customers have fully demonstrated that they are comfortable dealing with us using a digital platform outside of the branches. We should, therefore, consider ways of providing a one-stop shop and remote banking services to our clients. Beyond this, our staff and platforms should be equipped to seamlessly serve the needs of our customers, whether in the office or at home– that is banking on the go.
TVM: In the wake of the pandemic, we have seen the central bank introduce some policy measures to support banks. How have these measures helped banks in this period?
DKA: The policies introduced were mainly around changes in the reserves ratio, and loan provisioning rules. These combined, have increased the risk appetite and lending capabilities of banks to especially the key sectors fighting the pandemic and to help our customers keep their lives and businesses in equilibrium.
TVM: In the recent past, a banking reform resulted in some banks folding up and others merging. How have these reforms helped banks to withstand the COVID-19 shocks?
DKA: The reforms, now considered timely, led to institutions being able to finance larger and more capital-intensive projects and increased Bank’s ability to withstand shocks such as the pandemic. In fact, a new report by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) has indicated that the banking sector’s performance remains strong, but there are emerging signs of the impact of COVID-19 on the industry’s performance as evidenced by the 2020 first-quarter trend owing to the general economic outplay in the Country.
TVM: The emergence of the pandemic has spiralled into action the growing application of technology within the operations of the banking industry. How will investment in the technological sphere drive efficiency, manage risks and offer scalable growth with the banking sector?
DKA: The banking industry has realized the wave of the pandemic and what interventions required to ensure the business stays afloat and continues to offer services. The investment in technology to drive efficiency, manage evolving risks and benefit from growth opportunities has been critical. The innovation and technology to build scalable, digitally enabled capabilities would provide a significant boost in the sector. Thankfully, there are a lot of Fintechs independently developing such systems all around the world. Consequently, a bank must be up to date with what is available on the market and agile enough to be the first to adopt.
TVM: In reference to ‘Bank of the future’, where banks will be using the latest technologies to make the lives of customers and clients easier and more productive. How prepared is Ghana’s banking industry, considering the technology divide we have in the country?
DKA: Studies have shown that when it comes to AI application, security and risk applications are the most popular, with personalization and communication applications coming in second. This is the path we would like to see the industry thread to ensure that as much as possible our customer experience is unmatched. As consumers become more and more familiar with AI in other industries, they are going to expect the same kind of experience from banks. By keeping an open mind and using it to improve existing processes, we will be able to provide the great service we are known through application of the technology consumers expect. Digitization is the way to go, and we will not digress knowing the value it adds to our customers and by extension, our business.
FUTURE IS OPTIMISTIC, GAINING THE RIGHT LEVERAGE WITH GOOD BUSINESS DECISIONS WITH THE OPPORTUNITIES OF TODAY.
TVM: It’s been 5years since First National Bank Ghana Ltd. hit the shores of Ghana. Can you kindly walk us through the journey? How will you describe the growth performance of the bank in the last 5years?
DKA: First National Bank Ghana celebrated its 5th anniversary only last month. Our aim was to build a solid world class banking franchise. We achieved that a couple of years ago and since then have experienced steady growth. The journey has been very interesting if one looks at the fact that in those 5 years, the industry went through major changes through reforms. Nonetheless, we believe we have attained market acceptance due to our expanded channels and digital footprint. We have easily exceeded our projected expectations/performance.
My focus is to lead First National Bank Ghana into first Tier banks in Ghana as quickly as possible, as that is where we belong.
TVM: Recently, we heard the 100% acquisition of the GHL Bank (formerly Ghana Home Loans) by the First National Bank Ghana. Currently the two banks are undergoing full integration. What will be the overall scope of operation of the bank after the full integration?
DKA: We are operationally and legally fully integrated already. All customers are accessing our services from all our service points. The scope remains creating a one-stop banking experience for all products in a unified service across various customer segments, while creating a seamless access to our services across the continent of Africa and beyond for clients.
TVM: How has COVID-19 affected the operations of First National Bank Ghana Ltd. in both positive and negative ways?
DKA: It’s changed the working environment for our staff and the way we work to satisfy our clients. We are finding new ways to keep delivering the best, albeit, the pandemic has become the biggest disruptor to all businesses including ours.
The use of digital banking has been truly helpful to our customers even before and much more significantly in the wake of the pandemic. Before the announcement of the lockdown in March when the initial cases of COVID-19 were recorded, we launched an internal campaign to ensure that all our customers sign up for our digital banking platform. We also expedited the development of a USSD code and launched it to enable our customers to access our services without physical contact to our branches or internet connectivity. We realized an immediate spike in Retail transaction volumes on digital and self-service channels from 93.73% in March to 95.20% in April, indicating an increase in digital transactions during the lockdown period...this has been progressive and quite positive from our perspective. We loved meeting and visiting our customers to better understand their financial needs. Unfortunately, this could only be done remotely.
TVM: Organizational culture is vital to the sustainability and growth of the organization. Your role as the CEO is to create a working culture that will result in growth and sustainability. How is this panning out since your resumption to the big office?
DKA: In a considerably short period of time; It has been educational, exciting, and optimistic. As a result of the merger with GHL Bank, we had to rapidly fuse the 2 cultures. Fortunately, the cultural gap between the 2 institutions and values were negligible. This has made the process relatively easy, even under COVID-19 conditions.
TVM: What is your key focus in making the bank one of the leading banking institutions in the country?
DKA: My focus is to lead First National Bank Ghana into first Tier banks in Ghana as quickly as possible, as that is where we belong. A core part of our business remains helping our customers by offering them all the financial solutions in our portfolio and more through alliances. The newly formed and strengthened entity will offer a complete portfolio of financial solutions for retail, corporate and investment banking transactions to the market. Mortgages continue to be a central part of the merged entity as we do not want to surrender our leadership in that product.
TVM: COVID-19 is re-positioning customers to the fore of business operations. Therefore, what are some of the measures being implemented by the First National Bank Ghana to support clients who have been affected by the pandemic?
DKA: In April, we introduced a relief package to help minimise the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on its individual and corporate customers under the name #RealHelp. This was in line with the Regulator’s call to offer at least a two per cent interest rate cut on loans to all existing customers from April 1, 2020 for the tenure of all Ghana-cedi denominated loan facilities. Customers were also given an option to apply for repayment holidays, where a temporary moratorium would be placed on the loan repayments for up to six months. This was expected to give customers some leeway to re-organise their finances which may be negatively affected by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
TVM: Technology is currently disrupting all sectors of the economy including the financial sector, which the banking industry belongs to. How has your digitization journey been like as an organization?
DKA: When we launched First National Bank, we took the approach of driving digital banking with emphasis on a mobile first strategy. Digital banking for us is not optional, it is the way to bank. We understood that customers own and use mobile devices, so we had to give them access to banking on these devices, thereby placing customer convenience first. This fits in perfectly with the bank’s overall strategy of being first and foremost a transactional bank, offering the most convenient medium for customers to execute their financial transactions, and then providing financial intermediation for those customers who are in need. Using digital rather than traditional banking to do this, offers customers a whole new world of convenience. Importantly, customers have complete control over their accounts and have real time, online information about their accounts at their fingertips, 24 hours a day. This has been a big differentiator for First National Bank.
TVM: The bank plans to grow organically, with emphasis on digital applications. What are some of the digital solutions implemented by the bank to improve its offerings?
DKA: Our free-to-access digital banking platforms have always been made to make banking easier for our customers. Our self-service approach to banking enables our customers become their own bank managers. Our digital banking tools i.e. Online Banking APP, USSD and Online Banking Enterprise platforms have been designed to enable customers run their own account without visiting the branch including sending Forex abroad. We make available all the digital banking tools to customers as part of our product offering to ensure they can transact at all times at their convenience. For us at First National Bank Ghana, digital banking is the way to bank.
TVM: What does the future hold for FNB Ghana in the wake of continuous changes in the market?
DKA: The future is optimistic, gaining the right leverage with good business decisions with the opportunities of today.
TVM: You are the first Ghanaian to be appointed as the MD/ CEO of First National Bank Ghana Ltd. How does this make you feel?
DKA: All I can say is, I’m happy to be here, to be part of greatness and to lead a high performing team to make things happen.
TVM: When your name is mentioned, what comes to mind quickly is your brainchild, GHLB, but beyond this, many would want to know more. As such, can you tell us about yourself and growing up?
DKA: I grew in the Northern part of Ghana– specifically Tamale but born in a small town called Sampah in the then Brong Ahafo region. My mum and dad were relatively well off, so I escaped poverty and spent most of my years growing up in the household of my sister and her husband, who was in the military. My childhood was a very interesting one. I loved school and travel so shuffled between Tamale, Kumasi, Accra and the Ivory coast where I had a family. Basic education was in Ghana but the rest abroad, specifically UK.
TVM: What is your fondest childhood memory?
DKA: Watching paratroopers in Tamale– was always a site to behold!
TVM: Your appointment comes in the wake of one of the most difficult periods for businesses including banks. How are you weathering this tough times?
DKA: Indeed, going through a merger in such a time is not fun but see how well we have pulled this through. I have inherited a phenomenal team of two great brands, and we are soldering on quite impressively. I’m loving it!
TVM: You come in with enormous experience from the mortgage financing market to take up the position as the head of a commercial bank. How do you intend to navigate through the waters of the commercial banking system?
DKA: Ultimately, it’s above service irrespective of the product we are selling. And don’t forget I have inherited a well-trained and professional cadre of managers. All I have to do is to provide them good leadership. The rest follows naturally.
TVM: “I have inherited two strong combined brands…,” you averred during your takeover. What is the new direction FNB Ghana Ltd. will be charting under your leadership?
DKA: We have a great platform comprising our brand, an excellent team, market leading products and services and finally a strong balance sheet. We cannot be all things to all people but to those we shall be, they will have an amazing experience banking with us.
Indeed, going through a merger in such a time is not fun but see how well we have pulled this through. I have inherited a phenomenal team of two great brands, and we are soldering on quite impressively. I’m loving it!
TVM: Your wealth of experience in domestic and international finance, private equity, entrepreneurship and leadership, are key to charting the new course for the bank. What are your strategies for the bank in the medium term?
DKA: My ambition is to combine all of these experiences and working with my colleagues to introduce a new type of bank in the industry, focused on providing unrivalled financial solutions to our clients.
TVM: You have served in various leadership capacities both locally and globally. How will you describe your leadership style?
DKA: The best people to describe one’s leadership style are those who are led! I can hazard a guess though. I create an open-door environment where respect is not demanded but earned. I totally dislike the exercise of discretion in resolving issues but believe that my key role is to motivate my colleagues to execute our business aspiration in a disciplined way.
TVM: How would you describe your management philosophy?
DKA: Continuously learning and improving the ways in which we resolve the myriad of issues faced in our business.
TVM: Did you or do you have any mentor(s) that influenced your thinking in life, business, etc.?
DKA: Unfortunately, never had a mentor. Just people I admired because I worked with them or read about them in a book and wanting to emulate them.
TVM: What do you do in your leisure time?
DKA: I have a passion for art, so I visit Galleries a lot. I also love dining out and spending the most part of every weekend in a serene environment up the Akwapim Mountains.
TVM: What kinds of books do you read? Is there any particular book(s) that has significantly shaped or influenced your life?
DKA: I love books about history, biographies, the origin of man as well as the history of religions. Naturally, all of these can only but influence my world view but a fiction by Jeffrey Archer– Kane and Able– aroused my interest in finance and real estate and I have pursued a career in those industries since.
TVM: If you had the opportunity to right a wrong. What would it be?
The most wrongs in my life have turned out to be the most rights, with hindsight. So, until I’m on my death-bed I cannot answer this question.
TVM: Throughout your formative years to the man you currently are, who was and is your role model? And why?
DKA: They have varied at every stage of my life. Like most children the earliest role models were my parents– calm and reverent. Then, I moved on to the Parish Priest, Karl Marx, Kwame Nkrumah at the radical in me and rapidly to successful buccaneers like Sir James Goldsmith, Tiny Roland, Lord Hanson etc. I am fascinated by charisma.
TVM: What’s your favorite delicacy and wine?
DKA: I’m terribly indecisive about what to eat. It’s more about the atmosphere and who I’m eating with else anything goes. As to wine I have a penchant for red wines from South Africa.
TVM: What genre of music do you love and listen to the most?
DKA: I’m not very much into music. The closest is the old local music by the likes of Nana Ampadu, Wulomei, Ramblers. More for nostalgic reasons.
TVM: What advice do you have for other players in the industry in this ‘new norm’?
DKA: Beware of Fintechs!!
TVM: What is your advice to the banking public and customers?
DKA: Please continue to trust banks, especially First National Bank. We are here because of you, and that is why we always ask…How can we help you?
TVM: What is your advice to the youth who see you as their mentor?
DKA: Have a clear dream as early as possible in your life, persist and you will attain it.