Leading Ladies: Meet 10 Female CEOs Shaping Nigeria’s Banking Sector

As the world celebrates women across the globe for their contributions in all spheres of life in March, it is pertinent to recognise some amazing female leaders in Nigeria’s banking sector.

In the banking sector, there are 10 female managing directors and chief executive officers, CEOs, calling the shots in the board rooms.

This article focuses on the amazing profiles of these women overseeing the affairs of commercial banks in Nigeria.

1. Tomi Somefun – Unity Bank

Tomi Somefun has assumed the role of the MD/CEO of Unity Bank Plc since August 2015. She is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

She holds a Bachelor of Education in English Language in 1981 from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. She is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School and the University of Columbia Business School, New York, USA.

Somefun began her professional career with Peat Marwick and Co. and later moved to Arthur Andersen (now KPMG).

With a deep understanding of over 35 years post-qualification experience, 26 of which were in the banking sector spanning key segments such as treasury and investment banking, corporate banking, rural banking, and financial inclusion, Somefun is passionate about promoting financial literacy and economic empowerment across Nigeria.

2. Kafilat Araoye – Lotus Bank

Kafilat Araoye emerged as the MD/CEO of Lotus Bank in 2020. She holds a first degree in History from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University in 1985, and an M.Sc. in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from the University of Lagos in 1987.

She has attended various executive management courses at the Cranfield School of Management (UK), Lagos Business School, Institute of Management Development (Switzerland) and INSEAD (France), Ross Business School, University of Michigan (USA).

Araoye 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.

Having put over 30 years into banking, Araoye has expertise in virtually all areas of core banking, with emphasis on international and domestic operations; Business Development, Risk Management, Human Resources and Strategy, ethical banking and social responsibility which she uses in championing her roles at Lotus Bank.

3. Dr Adaora Umeoji – Zenith Bank

Dr Adaora Umeoji has been appointed as the new GMD/CEO of Zenith Bank according to a statement filed with the Nigerian Exchange Limited on Tuesday, 19 March 2024.

Umeoji’s appointment will take effect from June 1, 2024, following the expiration of office of the current GMD, Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, on May 31, 2024.

Before this appointment, Umeoji was the Deputy Managing Director of the bank since October 28, 2016, and with nearly 30 years of banking experience of which 26 years has been with Zenith Bank.

Umeoji is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, where she attended the Advanced Management Programme. She is 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 honours degree in law from Baze University, Abuja. She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration from the University of Calabar, and also has a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA. 

Umeoji also 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.

Umeoji boasts of close to 30 years of cognate banking experience of which 26 years have been with the Zenith Bank, to thrust the bank further into strategic innovations. 

4. Ireti Samuel-Ogbu – CitiBank

Ireti Samuel-Ogbu was named the MD/CEO of CitiBank in September 2020. She became the first female CEO of the bank in Nigeria. 

Before her appointment in 2020, she was the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Head, Payments and Receivables, Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) under Citi’s Institutional Clients Group (ICG) based in London, the United Kingdom.

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

Samuel-Ogbu has vast experience in international banking, bringing a global perspective to the Nigerian market, as she has served the banking needs at local and global since 1984, focussing her leadership on providing innovative financial solutions and leveraging technology to enhance customer experience.

5. Bukola Smith – FSDH Merchant Bank

Bukola Smith became the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Securities Discount House (Limited) Merchant Bank in April 2021. 

Smith holds an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK, and a B.Sc. Economics from the University of Lagos. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Nigeria (ICAN), Honourary Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and an Associate Member, Certified Institute of Pensions (Nigeria).

Before she was appointed 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, with her leadership roles and contributions in the Public Sector, Business Banking, Agriculture and Transaction Banking Divisions. 

Smith brings nearly 30 years of progressive experience in the banking industry with a track record of strategic execution and leadership, including investment banking and financial structuring that are instrumental in FSDH’s growth and success. She is an advocate for women in finance and actively mentors aspiring female leaders.

Miriam Olusanya assumed the office of the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, in July 2021 becoming the first woman to lead the bank in that position. 

She is a graduate of Pharmacy from the University of Ibadan and a Master of Business Administration (majoring in finance and accounting) from the University of Liverpool, UK.

Olusanya joined GTB as an executive trainee in 1998. Until she was appointed MD, she was an executive director at the bank.

She is the first female MD in the bank’s history. She 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.

Olusanya is a seasoned banker with 26 years of stellar experience, Olusanya is known for her strong leadership, strategic vision, and commitment to financial inclusion.

Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe – Fidelity Bank

Dr. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe became the GMD/CEO of Fidelity Bank Plc in January 2021, becoming the first female to assume the position in the bank’s history.

Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe holds a Bachelor of Law from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a Master of Law from Kings College, London. She has attended executive training programs at various institutions including Harvard Business School, The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania, and London Business School, among other prestigious educational institutions.

She holds an honorary doctorate degree in Business Administration from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

Onyeali-Ikpe began working in banking industry as a legal officer for the now-defunct African Continental Bank in 1990, and subsequently worked as a treasury officer for the First African Trust Bank. She later joined Zenith Bank and Standard Chartered Bank respectively.

She joined Fidelity Bank as an executive director in January 2015 and has been passionate about innovation and technology spearheading initiatives such as PayGate Plus, an online payment platform, and the Fidelity International Trade & Creative Connect (FITCC) aimed at supporting Small and Medium Enterprise.

Under her leadership, Fidelity Bank has continued to witness significant growth, increasing its Profit Before Tax (PBT) from N25.22bn in FY 2021 to N122bn in FY 2023.

8. Yemisi Edun – FCMB

Yemisi Edun was appointed the MD/CEO of First City Monument Bank in July 2021, and the first female to ever hold the position.

Edun graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). She proceeded to the University of Liverpool, where she graduated with a master’s degree in international accounting and finance.

Prior to her appointment as Managing Director, she was the chief financial officer of the bank and the acting chief executive officer. Edun is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a CFA holder. 

She is also an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Stock Brokers, an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, and a member of the Information Systems Audit and Control

Edun has sterling years of banking experience with an impressive track record in risk management and corporate governance. She is also the first woman to lead the financial institution FCMB.

Under her leadership, FCMB has witnessed significant growth and diversification, solidifying its position as a leading player in the Nigerian banking sector.

9. Halima Buba – SunTrust Bank

Halima Buba is a businesswoman and astute female banker, who also became the MD/CEO of Sun Trust Bank in January 2021 after serving as the deputy general manager of Ecobank Nigeria.

Buba graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and MBA from the University of Maiduguri. She is an alumnus of the Lagos Business School and Honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants.

She has a passion for entrepreneurship and SME development shines through in her work at SunTrust Bank. She champions financial support for small businesses ’SME Flash’, recognising their crucial role in driving Nigeria’s economic growth.

Yetunde Oni – Union Bank

Yetunde Oni was appointed as the first female MD/CEO of Union Bank in January 2024.

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

Before her recent appointment at the Union Bank, Oni was also the MD/CEO of the Standard Chartered Bank, Sierra Leone, from January 2021, spearheading leadership, strategy setting and performance management.

Her appointment by the Central Bank of Nigeria as the Union Bank’s CEO marked a significant development in the bank’s leadership, merging her extensive experience with quality qualifications to play a crucial role in the bank’s strategic direction.

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