Usman Isiaka: We’ve widened our financial inclusion in Sierra Leone


Usman Isiaka is the current MD/CEO of UBA Sierra Leone. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and a consummate banker with over two decades banking experience at the senior management level cutting across Internal Control, Audit, Compliance, Risk Management, Operations, Marketing, and Business Development functions.  He joined UBA Group in 2000 and has since served in various roles starting with Internal Control and Audit functions as Group Head, Internal Control; Director, Audit & Control UBA Africa, and Deputy Group Chief Inspector with a working experience across 21 out of the 23 UBA groups. Before taking up duty as UBA Sierra Leone’s current MD/CEO, Usman has also served as the Deputy Managing Director of UBA Ghana, Regional Bank Head in Lagos (Nigeria), and MD/CEO UBA Tanzania. Usman holds a Bachelor Degree in Accounting, a Master Degree in Business Administration, and Fellowship of Accounting Profession (FCA). He has attended various local and foreign courses, workshop and seminars. In this interview with Abubakar Hashim, MD UBA spoke elequently on the bank’s present development stride

Since you assumed office few months ago, what are your achievements and challenges so far?

I resumed work at UBA SL at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in September 2020. So the immediate challenge was how to take over and build on the good-performing record of the subsidiary inherited from my predecessor amidst the uncertainties associated with Covid-19.

However, I am happy to state that with the full support that I enjoy from the generality of staff, board and management of the bank, we were able to record remarkable successes across various financial and non-financial Key Performance Indicators as follows:

  1.   Double digits’ growth in annual Audited Profit Before Tax (PBT) of the bank in both 2020 and 2021 financial years. Specifically, our PBT grew from SLL75.2billion in 2019 financial year ended 31st December to SLL123.7billion in 2020 and went up further to SLL158.7billion for the 2021 Financial Year end which places UBA Sierra Leone  as the most Profitable Bank  in the industry as at year ended 31st December 2021.
  2.   The customer deposit position of the bank was almost tripled from SLL472.5billion as at financial year ended 31st December 2019 to SLL1.3 Trillion as at December 2021 representing a market share of over 10%. This  makes the bank to attain the status of a Systemically Important Bank (SIB) by our Group standards and places it among the Top 3 Banks in Sierra Leone in terms of deposit base.
  3.   The loan portfolio of the bank almost doubled from SLL82.3 billion as at end of 2019 financial year to SLL160.5billion as at December 2021 with an impressive Non Performing Loan (NPL) ratio of 0.23% against our Group and Regulatory Limits of 3% and 10% respectively.
  4.   As part of the drive to increase the choices available to our customers and improve customers experience in the bank, we introduced into the market 7 new Retail Liability products between 2020 and 2021 (the UBA Sharp-Sharp Savings Account, UBA Next Level, UBA Kiddies, UBA Nextgen among others). This enabled the bank to double the total number of accounts from inception of the subsidiary in 2008 to December 2020 in the year 2021 alone.
  5.   We increased our service outlets with the opening of 2 new branches and 2 Cash/ATM Centres.
  6.   We revamped our Mobile App and our Artificial Intelligent Virtual banker, Leo which is now available on Facebook, WhatsApp and iMessage among others.
  7.   Also to enhance  staff productivity and happiness within the bank for the seamless realization of our vison and drive to be the undisputed leading and dominant financial service institution in Sierra Leone, we improved our employees’ welfare through impressive salary review across all cadres of our work force, promoted a significant number of our staff and carried out physical improvement/brand facelift for our business offices for a more work and business friendly operating environment.
  8.   We won The Bankers Magazine Best Bank of the Year in Sierra Leone back to back in 3 consecutive years; 2019, 2020 and 2021. We also won the Concord Times’ Best Innovative Bank in Sierra Leone Award for 2021 as well as the NASSIT Compliance Award as a regulatory compliant bank.

UBA is an international financial institution, with presence in virtually all African Countries, some parts of Europe, Asia and the Americas. Give us an insight into UBA’s global operations

UBA is a PAN African bank with presence in 20 African countries and 3 global financial service centres, New York, London and Paris. The Group has also recently obtained Approval from the Regulatory Authority in United Arab Emirates (UAE) to open our Dubai office. At UBA Sierra Leone, we deliver competitive banking solutions to our customers, leveraging our expert knowledge, capacity and unique position as part of an international banking institution, the UBA Group, Africa’s Global Bank

Our capabilities are derived from our Group’s robust financial strength, proven competence, strategic alliances and commitment, which we combine to professionally drive the benchmark for exceptional value delivery to our customers.

Within this short stint in office, you were awarded series of award in Sierra Leone. What is behind this positive development?

The main reason for this is the determined focus of the bank on excellent service delivery to our customers. In UBA, Customers remain the cornerstone of our strategy compelling us to constantly seek for new and innovative ways to deliver exceptional service as well as meet their dynamic needs in line with our Customer 1st operating philosophy.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the bank, I demonstrate this in all my engagements with customers and have been able to encourage the general staff to imbibe similar culture. By these acts, it is our customers who now serve as our brand ambassadors – telling others about our very efficient and swift service delivery further casting their votes in the bank’s favor on various award initiatives.

The bank was also able to widen its scale of financial inclusion in the country through our innovative retail and digital banking products which are friendly within the banking community.

In line with the bank’s principle of giving back and positively impacting the societies where we operate, we also embarked on various corporate social responsibility initiatives in our four CRS pillar areas of education, environment, economic- empowerment and special projects. For instance, at the advent of Covid-19 in 2020, UBA Group donated a total sum of $14m to the governments of all the 20 African countries where we operate to support the fight against the spread of the pandemic. Also for the first time in Sierra Leone in 2020, we launched the UBA Foundation National Essay Competition among senior secondary school students where the Top 3 Winners received the cumulative grant of $10,000 as scholarship for their University educations while the 12 Finalists got a brand new laptop each.

These and several other initiatives in the bank have positively impacted on our brand equity and given us a competitive advantage which manifested in the various awards and national recognition the bank has so far earned for itself.

The Finance Ministry applauded UBA’s financial expansion in the midst of Covid-19. Can you explain the reason behind this development?

As the bank is developing and introducing various digital banking products into the market to drive financial inclusion, we believe that it is still important to take bank to the doorsteps of Sierra Leoneans right across the country by extending our physical presence through branches adopting the new UBA branch prototypes beautifully designed to give our staff and customers maximum comfort and convenience as they conduct their transactions.

Thus, last year alone, we opened 2 new branches and 2 cash centres while we also plan to open 2 more branches this year to increase the number of our service outlets to 12 branches and 4 cash/ATM centres.

This article was first published in: TheNEWS