With suave looks and varied interests in food, travel, photography, and startups, it is not surprising to see why Uzoma Dozie and Diamond Bank are celebrated for their exploits in the Retail market. Our Managing Editor had the opportunity to have a brief chat with the visioneer just before the Knowledge Sharing Session organized by The Spark’s team to discuss the merger with young entrepreneurs
By Oge Modebelu
Uzoma is one of the few C-Level executives in Nigeria with an active Instagram account, connecting with the young populace who hold him in high esteem as a role model. While acknowledging the attention and expectations that come with it, he said that his principle on life revolves around trying to be oneself and building on one’s strength.
“Success comes from helping people and focusing on what you are good at.”
His foray into the core business of banking began in 2006 with building a personal banking division at a time when technology started playing a big role in the industry.
“Banking became more than just providing a current and savings account and basic banking services. Technology made us do so much more and create more products and services than we could ever do.”
This season heralded pivotal changes in the way Diamond Bank approached marketing to people. By the time he became the MD of Diamond Bank, they knew exactly what they had to do. The institution became mobile-driven and technology-based. They immediately leveraged how technology helped small businesses carry out many of their operations with ease. This not only encouraged these SMEs to bank with Diamond, but provided access to finance and access to the market. In addition to this changes in technology and business solutions was a focus on understanding and relating with the customers at their own level.
“We also started doing a lot to change organization culture, going beyond banking and redefining what banking means and customers’ perception to it.”
The result of this has made Diamond a belle in the retail service provision in the country. This came through with its own attending challenges. One of these was the people factor and the resistance to innovation.
“Change is always difficult. We have the largest mobile app base in Nigeria and it was not so in the beginning. Trying to convince people that this was the future was not easy. Especially with mobile banking. This is a mainstream business so finding ways to convince people by showing them the benefit has been the hardest challenge”
One key strategy deployed during this onboarding period was going into the underserved middle market consisting of small businesses in the open markets. As bankers from several other Nigerian banks would confess, their efforts to sign on spare parts sellers and the market women were quite often met with ‘Na Diamond I dey use”.
“It was in our DNA to go to places no other bank was going to and thanks to technology this was doable. We used the integrated banking system which enabled the customer to deposit money and collect from another branch, another state, anywhere, those were things that were not being promoted at that time.”
In order to boost their efforts, the Bank partnered with several organizations like the Lagos Business School to initiate the BET (Building Entrepreneurs Today) program. The project has been on for over seven years now, with hundreds of entrepreneurs passing through the six-months intensive training annually. About 20 of these have also received seed capital of N3,000,000 each to boost their business for success.
With these robust projects to assist entrepreneurs either start or scale their businesses, the institution focused more on the stories behind each business as against just their potential for cash flow.
“Everything is about stories, we look out for common interests and aspirations, and people that share our ideologies. We believe in inclusiveness. We believe in gender diversity. We believe in the youth.”
He went on to highlight some of the challenges these businesses encounter, noting that getting access to advise and business consulting early on in business is hard, yet very pertinent. In addition to this is the difficulty with getting the right advice on marketing, access to the market, taxation, and business growth.
“There are not enough organizations in Nigeria offering business support to small businesses. There isn’t the ease of doing business in Nigeria; everybody suffers for that, but with advice, the early pangs are averted.”
He notes that the desire to reach and help more entrepreneurs is one of the reasons for the merger between Diamond Bank and Access Bank. Under the new combined entity, the bank will be one of the largest retail platforms in Africa and globally. They already have footprints in Asia and Europe and are the biggest African bank in the United Kingdom which in the commercial hub of Europe.
“Our customer now has access to over three thousand Automated Teller Machines, the cost of doing business becomes smaller. With our shared platform we can do so much more for women and youth, and for FinTech, a lot of value will be added. For our staff, with over twenty-nine million customers, we have the best people on the job, and with this marriage, there will be a lot of shared learning experiences. They are excited about this.” He nodded with satisfaction.
Addressing the concern of profitability being the soul of the partnership, Uzoma explained that the merged entity will also concern itself with sustainability and corporate social responsibility, saying,
“I do not know a lot of people that have made money without helping people. If you look at Bill Gates, for example, he provided an operating system for nearly every computer in the world.”
Closing out on the serious banking issues, we wanted to know how he spends the first hour of his day.
“I wake up, browse through the newspaper, get to the office, talk with people, which comprises most of what I do during the day at the office and then do the paperwork at night”
We also wanted to know what his staff admired about him that he agreed with one hundred percent.
“What you see is what you get”
Sharon has about a decade of experience in content marketing, editorial and communications roles with experience in developing compelling content that easily sells across multiple media platforms. She develops and implements successful communication strategies that employ traditional and digital channels to engage stakeholders, meet business objectives and improve business performance.