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No doubt, the Nigerian banking industry has recorded several exciting developments in recent times – its resilience amid domestic and global headwinds – reflected in the consistent industry profitability. But perhaps, the most intriguing trend is the unprecedented traction towards gender inclusion, in an industry where the male dominated the board and management positions, writes James Emejo

It can be argued that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) efforts towards the inclusion of women in top positions in the industry are beginning to yield positive results.

The bank had issued a policy that required a minimum of 30 per cent of female representation on boards and 40 per cent at the top management level in the banking spectrum

Today, the rise of female chief executives in Nigerian banks underscores the growing recognition of women’s potential and contribution to the country’s economic development, and reflects a progressive shift towards gender equality and inclusivity in corporate governance, signaling a departure from traditional patriarchal structures towards a more equitable and diverse leadership paradigm.

Today, 11 female bankers have been elevated to assume the roles of managing directors and chief executives of banks, a development deemed as positive for the sector and the country in general.

 Incoming GMD/CEO, Zenith Bank Plc, Adaora Umeoji


Earlier this week, Zenith Bank Plc announced the appointment of Dr. Adaora Umeoji, as its Group Managing Director/Chief Executive with effect from June 1, 2024. The appointment which is however subject to approval by the CBN, makes her the first female GMD/CEO since the inception of the bank.

She takes over from Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, whose five-year term expires on May 31, 2024, after a successful tenure. Umeoji’s appointment was said to be “consistent with the bank’s executive transition tradition, succession plan, and strategy of grooming leaders from within.”


Prior to the appointment, Umeoji had been the Deputy Managing Director of the bank since October 28, 2016 and has close to 30 years cognate banking experience of which 26 years has been with Zenith Bank.

She is an alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School where she attended the Advanced Management Program (AMP) and an alumnus of Columbia Business School with a Certificate in the Global Banking Program. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Jos, a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a first-class honors in Law from Baze University, Abuja.


 She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Calabar, and also has a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA.

She holds a Certificate in Economics for Business from the prestigious MIT Sloan School of Management, USA, and has attended various management programmes in renowned Universities around the world including the strategic thinking and Management programme at Wharton Business School, USA.

 Bolaji Agbede, Acting GMD/CEO, Access Holdings Plc

Access Holdings Plc recently appointed Bolaji Agbede as its Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, after the unexpected passing of its former Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Herbert Wigwe. Agbede, until the appointment, was the most senior founding Executive Director in charge of Business Support within the company. With an impressive professional background that spans nearly three decades, Agbede’s career trajectory in banking and business consultancy services equipped her with a rich blend of expertise and strategic acumen.


Her journey began in 1992 at Guaranty Trust Bank where she steadily climbed the ranks to managerial positions by 2001 and eventually took on the role of Chief Executive Officer at JKG Limited, a business consulting firm, in 2003.

Her association with Access Bank Plc commenced in 2003 as an Assistant General Manager responsible for managing the bank’s portfolio of chemical trading companies. Her leadership qualities and strategic insight led her to assume the position of the Bank’s Head, Group Human Resources between 2010 and 2022. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Lagos (1990) and a Master of Business Administration Degree from Cranfield University UK in 2002. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management UK and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria.


Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank, Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe

Dr. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, was appointed Managing Director/Chief Executive of Fidelity Bank Plc in January 2021, becoming the first female staff to be so elevated in the bank’s history. Her tenure was recently extended to 2026.

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She joined Fidelity Bank as an Executive Director in 2015.  Onyeali-Ikpe holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from King’s College, London.

A visionary leader with a strong track record in IT and customer service, she has transformed the bank into a digital frontrunner and committed to leveraging technology to democratise access to financial services for all Nigerians.


Managing Director/CEO, FCMB, Yemisi Edun,

The Board of Directors of FCMB Group Plc announced the appointment of Yemisi Edun as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of its largest subsidiary, First City Monument Bank Limited (the Bank) effective May 1, 2021 following the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).


She was the first female chief executive of the bank.

Prior to her appointment, Edun was the Executive Director/Chief Financial Officer of the bank and previously served as the acting Managing Director. With a work experience spanning nearly 35 years, Yemisi Edun holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife and a Master’s degree in International Accounting and Finance from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Certified Financial Analyst, CFA Charter holder. She is also an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers; an Associate Member of the Institute of Taxation of Nigeria; a Member of Information Systems Audit and Control, U.S.A; and a Certified Information Systems Auditor.

Managing Director/CEO, Guaranty Trust Bank Miriam Olusanya


In July 2021, Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO) appointed Miriam Olusanya as the new Managing Director/CEO of GTBank, its banking subsidiary.

Olusanya, who until her appointment was an executive director at the bank, will be the bank’s first female MD since it was established in 1990.

She has over 23 years of banking experience across various units, including transaction services, asset and liability management, financial markets, corporate finance and investor relations.

She joined GTbank as an executive trainee and rose to the position of general manager until she was appointed executive director in 2018.

Miriam is the first female MD in the bank’s history and holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from the University of Ibadan and a Master of Business Administration (MBA), majoring in finance and accounting, from the University of Liverpool.

 Managing Director/CEO, Citibank Nigeria, Ireti Samuel-Ogbu

In August 2020, Citigroup Inc. appointed Ireti Samuel-Ogbu as Managing Director/CEO of Citibank Nigeria.

She was the first woman to be appointed to the institutions top position after 36 years of operating in the country.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Finance from Middlesex University, UK, and an MBA from the University of Bradford, UK.

With extensive experience in international banking, Ireti brings a global perspective to the Nigerian market. Under her leadership, Citibank is focusing on providing innovative financial solutions and leveraging technology to enhance customer experience.

 Managing Director/ CEO, SunTrust Bank, Halima Buba

In January 2020, SunTrust Bank Limited announced the appointed Mrs. Halima Buba as its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer following the CBN approval.

Her appointment was premised on her years of experience as a financial expert and a seasoned banker with over 20 years of experience in both the private and public sector with recognizable and impressive strides.

Buba who hails from Adamawa is a co-founder of TAJ consortium, a group of young dynamic technocrats.

She is currently sitting on the board of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as a non-executive director and participate amongst other key stakeholders in making critical decisions to ensure that the nation’s wealth is being channeled to optimum use for the future generations of Nigerian.

Managing Director/CEO, Lotus Bank, Kafilat Araoye

Lotus Bank appointed Kafilat Araoye as Managing Director/Chief Executive in 2022.

She holds a first degree in History from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, and an M.Sc. in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from the University of Lagos.

With over 30 years in banking, Kafilat’s dedication to ethical banking and social responsibility is evident in her work at Lotus Bank. She champions sustainable financial practices and promotes investment in community development projects.

She started her career in 1988 at National Oil and Chemicals Marketing Company Plc (now Conoil Nigeria Plc), and moved in 1990 to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, as the pioneer head of Human Resources. She was part of the GTBank team that went to Jordan for the implementation of its core banking application amongst other critical assignments executed for the Bank. She left with accolades in 2015 as General Manager but continued to consult for banks and other sectors through her consulting outfit until 2018 when she was appointed as the MD Designate for LOTUS Bank then in formation.

Managing Director/CEO, Unity Bank Plc, Oluwatomi Somefun

The CBN confirmed the appointment of Mrs. Tomi Somefun as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Unity Bank Plc on August 10, 2015.

Her appointment followed the departure of Henry J. Semenitari, who had resigned his appointment with the Bank. Somefun is an experienced professional with a depth of experience and knowledge of the finance Industry, with over three decades of cognate experience of which 26 years were in the Banking Sector. She started her career in Accounting and Financial Consulting with Peat Marwick & Co, and subsequently Arthur Andersen & Co (now KPMG). Prior to joining Unity Bank, she had a distinguished career with United Bank for Africa where she managed and sat on the board of several subsidiaries, including being the maiden CEO of UBA Pensions Custodian which she managed for eight years, as well supervising the South-West Region of the Bank.

Managing Director/CEO, Union Bank, Yetunde Bolanle Oni

In January 2024, Yetunde Bolanle Oni assumed the top position of Managing Director/CEO of Union Bank, marking a significant milestone in the bank’s leadership. With degrees in Economics and Business Administration, including executive training at Oxford University, her appointment is poised to shape Union Bank’s strategic direction.

Yetunde holds a degree in Economics from the University of Ibadan, Executive Training at Oxford University, and an MBA in Business Administration from Bangor University.

 CEO, FSDH Merchant Bank, Bukola Smith

Bukola Smith was appointed Managing Director/Chief Executive of FSDH Merchant Bank in April 2021.

She brings 29 years of progressive experience in the banking industry with a track record of strategic execution and leadership.

Before her appointment as Managing Director, she was the Executive Director, Business Development at First City Monument Bank and held several other leadership positions since joining in 2006. She was responsible for the banks over 200 branches across the country, Public Sector, Business Banking, Agriculture and Transaction Banking Divisions. Under her leadership, the bank’s SME focused team in 3 years moved from 5th position in the industry to 1st position in 2019 (KPMG Customer Service Report 2020).

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Nigeria (ICAN) and Honorary Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers. She holds an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester U.K, and a B.Sc. Economics from the University of Lagos.

She currently sits on the board of Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR), the Toyin Oni Foundation (NGO for cancer awareness) and serves as mentor to several young women within and outside these networks.


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