I walked into the Awolowo Road branch of Sterling to effect a transfer. The Director for my new Play Ufok Ibaan was off to Uyo and I had to send funds urgently.
Now I have blood ties with Sterling Bank having worked in two of the legacy Banks- Nal and Magnum- so this accounts for my deep interest in them.
This morning I was not in a good mood as I was N1.4m off target for my new play.
As I walked across the counter, they asked me to go do a BVN verification. I reluctantly agreed and was met by a beautiful young lady.
She smiled at me and asked me to sit down. She opened the system and my thumb refused to register. She wasn’t irritated, as she calmly asked for another finger which was also not registering.
By this time, my irritation had come to the fore. I had started being almost abusive. I was impatient and queried the lady’s competence.
As a young starter in banking, she was no match for me as I bullied her due to no fault of hers but as a result of my funding gap.
She maintained a very thin line not being overtly friendly but warm enough to calm me down. Mr. Edgar, she said, this must be a difficult morning, it happens to the best of us. No matter what is bothering you, do not worry it will be ok by end of the day.
I looked at the girl. This one cannot be more than 22. Where is such wisdom coming from? I began to calm down and relax and she worked her machine and I got myself sorted.
As I walked out I sent my driver with my book Annonymous Nipples to her in gratitude and then I did something I never do.
I sent a text to my brother Abu Suleiman the MD. I said, ‘ kindly commend your staff in the Awolowo Road Branch for the professional way she handled my wahala’
Then the Abu revolution which has made Sterling Bank a point of recognition in the evolving market space began to happen.
Two days after, I went to the bank again and the young lady jumped at me. Sir did you send a text to my MD.
I proudly answered. Your MD and ED Tunde are my friends, I boasted. I know everybody in your bank even your corporate Coms people who are presently annoying me.
She said thank you so much, sir. I got a commendation from the Country Head of Customer Service and the ED has stepped in and they are telling me things that are making me very happy. Thank you so much, Sir, my mother wants to greet you she enthused.
I said, not to worry you deserve much more than this. You really did well’
Now, why am I not surprised at this magical movement. Its because Abu has leveraged on his brilliant simplicity to build a system that is not only personalized to the customer but also personalized to its people giving it a unique identity that has eased market penetration
I once sat with Tunde Adeola the very brilliant Executive Director and he opened my head to the incisive initiatives going on in the Bank
Edgar do you know that in Sterling, we allow you to work one day for yourself. We encourage your side hustle as long as you open the account with us,, he told me over a glass of wine and sweet marinated chicken
I said it’s a lie. Does Nigerian employee support side hustle?. He said we even give them start-up loans and other kinds of technical support. I was weak.
You can even walk into any branch as head office staff to work from avoiding the mad Lagos Traffic and boosting productivity while enhancing work-life balance for their people and this is why according to Tunde the performance indices bust their targets bank-wide even during the lockdown
Prior to Abu at Sterling, I just used to watch the Bank struggle to find its identity. It wasn’t sure what it wanted to be in the market. At times it positioned itself as Lagos State Government Bank, Yoruba Bank, or just come and bank with us until we find ourselves.
Them Abu and Tunde came on Board and began to pilot a uniquely different pathway. Carving an identity leveraging on the growing market space deepened by technology and a millennial craze to grow wealth and influence out of a maddening stymied economy
Its branding changed. It moved towards the millennial enclave while still retaining the serious outlook aimed at keeping its huge corporate and HNI clientele.
This dynamic sophistication has pushed it into its own space where it really doesn’t have any competition
And this is why Abu is very pertinent about his legacy.
‘Abu, I screamed your corporate communications people are funny. They said they had approval, ask for an invoice, came to make changes at my venue, received VIP tickets worth millions, and simply faded with nobody taking my calls till this moment I am talking to you.
I wonder why they should treat me like this, I ended in frustration.
It was as if Abu was waiting for this moment. He calmly engaged me. Talked about human capital responsiveness, talked about the structures for engagement that have been put in place. Gave no excuses, didn’t offer me money as a shortcut but took the blame and promised to engage his processes seeing this as a process glitch.
I was hooked. I said Abu tell. me more about this process glitch as it concerns this Corporate Communications person.
He took me thru a deep and very robust module of market engagement which is being implemented. From initiation to engagement, to input cultivation, and then responsiveness. I was impressed.
He didn’t give excuses or any justification. He took his time to explain while rendering the subtle apology as he continued to engage me.
Today, I have about N8m in the bank from non-financial sponsors of Ufok Ibaan despite the fact that they are not sponsoring, as a result of that engagement with Abu.
Abu has built a Bank after his image. He has built a humble and self-effacing bank. A Bank that does not throw its weight around the place while effectively and subtly carving out an influential piece of the market for itself.
This has pulled not only me but millions within its circle of influence and its no wonder as Abu walks towards me at the Glover Hall after seeing Awo or was it Aremu I almost didn’t recognize him
No airs, no arrogance, warm and friendly always with that gentle ‘egbon’ visage making you feel protected just like his Bank, Abu and his team have really built a brand that is quite engaging and reflective.
Strong members of the new Nigerian Narrative – Abu, his Team and their Bank
Editor in Chief