A journey from the bar to the bank and the boardroom – Nairametrics


Bola Adesola is not the name you think of when trying to remember your favorite Nigerian lawyers. On the contrary, she is more like an Amazon in the banking sector, not only in Nigeria but across the African continent. With around three decades of experience in the banking industry, there was no question as to how Adesola deserved her recent appointment as the first female chair of the board of Ecobank Nigeria. However, this may be a professional reality that even she never imagined when she began her legal career in 1985.

Bola was born and raised in Lagos, in a united family of parents and two daughters. She recalls in an interview that she was quite close to her father; “In a way, I’ve always been the son my father never had.”

Although she loves her lawyer father whom she describes as her hero across the board, she started high school more science-inclined and even did biology, chemistry, and math on the exam. baccalaureate. She always reoriented herself towards law and eventually obtained a law degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, in 1984. She returned to Nigeria and was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1985, before being admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1985. start practicing law while working with his father in Lagos.

A blank canvas and life guided by a goal

“My parents’ advice was to get a college degree and see it as a blank canvas to paint my life and aspirations on and then live that life. I practiced law for four years, however, I was still in pursuit of my goal ”, she said.

Shortly after this period, in the late 1980s, Nigeria’s banking sector began to open up with new banks receiving licenses from regulators and seeking new talent to recruit into their teams. As Adesola was still looking for an area where she would feel at home, she decided to give banking a try. She took the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School to introduce her to the basics of accounting and computer science, and immersed herself in it. She applied and got a job in a bank. According to Adesola, this was the only time she had to apply or be interviewed for a bank-related job. As she progressed in her career, she then completed a Managing Director program at Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University.

She spent less than a year there before CitiBank recruited her in 1990. She worked at Citibank for nine years in managerial positions in Nigeria and Tanzania. She was Country Treasurer for a time, then Assistant Vice President, Corporate Finance and Product Development.

Soon she was recruited to serve as the Managing Director / CEO of a securities trading company – Kakawa Discount House Limited – one of eight banks run by the First Bank of Nigeria. In 2005, she was appointed Executive Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc (now FBN Holdings Plc) in charge of corporate banking services. She also oversaw retail and commercial banking activities in Lagos.

After five years, Bola Adesola resigned as CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited in March 2011. She became CEO for Nigeria and West Africa in 2015, with oversight of West African subsidiaries. of the bank, notably Ghana, Côte D ‘Ivoire, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Cameroon. She was also Chairman of the Board of Standard Chartered Bank Mauritius and Director of Standard Chartered, Ghana. In 2019, she was promoted to Senior-Vice Chairman, Africa of the Standard Chartered Bank group.

Ms. Adesola retired from Standard Chartered Bank as Senior Vice President for Africa. She was recently appointed Chairman of the Board of Ecobank Nigeria, making her the first female Chairman of the Board of Directors of the banking group. She succeeded Mr. John Aboh, whose term recently ended.

Honors and other interests

Bola Adesola was honored as the Most Outstanding Businesswoman in 2013 at the Africa Business Awards. Bola Adesola was also named CEO of the Year 2014 by the British Nigerian Chamber of Commerce.

She holds and has held several mandates and functions both locally and internationally. She is an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Nigeria (CIBN). She also previously served on the Boards of Directors of FMDQ and Nigerian Interbank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) Plc. Adesola chairs the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Bankers Subcommittee on Economic Development, Sustainability and Gender.

She is a Trustee and Board Member of the Financial Markets Dealers Association. Adesola has served as Vice President of the Lagos Business School Alumni Association (LBSAA), Board Member of the Fate Foundation, and Executive Member of the Nigeria National Competitiveness Council, among others. She was appointed to the United Nations Global Compact Board of Directors by the United Nations Secretary-General in 2015 and elevated to the rank of Co-Vice-Chair of the Board in 2018. She is also a member of the Women Corporate Directors Foundation.

In 2001 and with 11 other women and a man, she co-founded WIMBIZ to create a network of women and raise the profile of women in management and business. It then expanded to include women in the public service and other sectors. The founders now sit as directors and WIMBIZ continues to have more impact.

She considers one of her greatest accomplishments to have nurtured and coached men and women who have an impact on the paths they have chosen. “I would say my greatest achievement is watching them grow and develop and flourish and become full leaders. I consider it a success when I have had a positive impact in the lives of others.

Outside of work, she is passionate about art and a collector. Bola also likes to travel.


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