An Address by Dr. Alex Otti at The Official Opening of Signature Bank Ltd and Unveiling of the Head Office at 31b Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja FCT on November 21, 2022
I want to thank all our distinguished guests for being here with us today, for the official opening of Signature Bank Ltd and the unveiling of our Head Office. We are very pleased to be able to welcome those of you that have been with us all through the journey of actualizing this vision of a different type of bank, those who are joining us to celebrate the opening today, and those who will join us as we chart an audacious path to the future.
The late Martin Luther King Jr once said, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”. This aptly describes the Signature Bank journey.
The journey began in 2017, driven by a yawning gap we identified, a vacuum created by repeated unresolved complaints, poor responsiveness, and unsavory customer experience encountered regularly from the banks we did business with. It came from a yearning for simplicity and ease of doing business and a less than adequate attention to the dynamic needs of the customer, not just within Nigeria, but across continents. For example, paying your child’s school fees, trading with partners overseas, settling bills without leaving the comfort of your home and making payments seamlessly. Interestingly, even as banks’ strategies, products and service offerings multiplied, the changing demographics and dynamics had customers increasingly yearning for more and demanding simpler and more flexible digital solutions. Welcome to the brand new world of artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D Printing! In fact, welcome to the world of Innovation, Convergence and 4th Industrial Revolution!
In all these, what customers demand is not far-fetched. What they expect from their bank is not too tall an order. What customers across different business segments are looking for is a bank that fits their aspirations, their personal stories and their lifestyles. In other words, customers want a bank that puts them first. So, we set out to build a bank to challenge the status quo, that is future-forward, embraces change and impacts the lives of the people we serve. Building on the learning points and successes of taking the erstwhile Diamond Bank from a loss position in 2011 to becoming one of the 8 Systemically Important Banks (SIBs) in Nigeria, a retail trailblazer and pioneer in mobile/digital banking, we set about to envision a new way of banking. A bank that leaves no one behind. A bank that is borderless and caters to the unbanked and underbanked. A bank that will deliver solutions to everyone’s doorstep through digital channels and a focus on service excellence and customer centricity. According to the NIBSS, there were just about 55m accounts in the country as at May 2022. Statistics has it that more than 42m people in Nigeria have no access to financial services. We see a big opportunity here.
At Signature, we believe that the individuality and uniqueness of every customer should be celebrated, just like our signatures are unique to each one of us, a commitment, a symbol of who we are. And this is the essence and promise of Signature Bank.
It has not been an easy journey. In 2017, we sought to buy an existing bank and remodel it to fit our vision, but after preliminary due diligence, we decided to jettison that approach. We then decided to set up a brand new commercial bank and applied to CBN for a fresh banking license. In December 2021, we received an approval-in-principle from the Central Bank of Nigeria and immediately set out to redefine the industry by building a sophisticated bank that will operate without borders, driven by cutting-edge technology and a highly motivated workforce, offering personalized products and services that are tailored to our customers’ needs.
In August 2022, the Central Bank of Nigeria approved the issuance of an operating license to our bank. This was after a very rigorous process of verification of the sources of our Capital, inspection of our systems, processes and documentation that lasted close to 9 months.
Today, the Bank is already working to open several locations across Nigeria, including Port-Harcourt, Aba, Sokoto, Owerri, Onitsha, Kano Enugu and in other metropolitan cities around the country. We have put in place robust, disruptive technology and digital banking channels to ensure that our customers can access all our services from the comfort of their homes, offices, or at leisure. Our express intention is to deliver a hybrid financial and lifestyle package that has all the hallmarks and capabilities of the traditional big banks interspersed with the agility and creativity of the new wave of digital-minded banks. Above all, we have assembled a team of some of the best hands in the banking space today to champion and deliver on our promise.
As Signature Bank opens today, our resolve to do things differently, to equip and enable our customers to make their mark in the world around them through seamless access to financial services and banking products, tailor-made to the needs of modern life and commerce, is stronger. Our experience assures us that this approach will trigger sustained financial success and returns to our shareholders while empowering our customers to make their mark in their different endeavours. Your presence here has emboldened us and reassured us that we are on the right path.
Make no mistakes about it, we will be the Bank that walks with our customers through every day, every transaction and every engagement. We want to support and partner with them to impact lives, their communities, to make their mark and realize their dreams. The customer journey is at the heart of our offering.
We have always championed financial inclusion and believe that the over 40 million Nigerians who have no access to financial services need to be brought into the banking services net. Serving them requires a different kind of mindset which Signature proudly has.
Ladies and gentlemen, we see you and see your potential. We believe in you and will be there for every chapter of your story, big or small. Today, is the start of the manifestation of our vision, ‘to be the leader in providing innovative financial solutions while creating exceptional customer experience in our chosen markets.’
Let us rewrite history together.
Permit me to use this opportunity to clarify some concerns agitating the minds of some people. A few people have wondered if I was going to run the bank. Just like a one time President had asked when he was being persuaded to run for the office, a second time and he asked ‘how many Presidents do you want to make out of me?’ To those who would rather that I ran the bank, I dare ask ‘how many MDs do you want to make out of me’? I had done that over a decade ago and I believe in giving opportunities to the younger generation. The mark of a good leader is to have people he had mentored to take over from him. I’m proud to announce that I have an army of professionals who are my mentees. Some even though have moved on to other endeavours including to the Public sector are always available to render support. My role in Signature is to provide support, experience and contact. Beyond that, the very capable management is in charge. We also have in place a very experienced board led by the very brilliant former CEO of Shell Companies in Nigeria and current Chairman of Julius Berger, Dr. Mutiu Sunmonu, CON who has been my friend and brother for over 25 years. You can’t get any better than that.
I cannot end this short speech without paying tribute to the management of the central Bank which thoroughly took us through the approval process that lasted over 3 years. To my partners who had put down their money for years, we thank you for the belief and faith in us. To the pioneer directors, management and staff, we say thank you for the very hard work you have done so far, not forgetting that the reward for hard work is more work.
And most importantly, to the creator of the universe who enabled us to put all these together and blessed us with all these relationships, we return all the glory to Him.
Thank you all for your time and do enjoy the rest of today’s proceedings.
Dr. Alex Otti (OFR)