PATIENCE REWARDED

Barclays Bank Ghana is making waves in the African financial services sector with Patience Akyianu at the helm, taking the institution to new heights through dedication, hard work and innovation

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Africa today is seen as the continent of opportunity with the latest technology transforming, connecting and equipping a new generation to embrace the future head on. The banking sector, in particular, is seeing an encouraging shift in incorporating these trends for a state-of-the-art, user-friendly experience.

Barclays Bank Ghana is one of the leading banks in this regard. With its diverse range of offerings now catering to local markets embedded within a wider international arena, it has been working towards ensuring an optimal fit in terms of the local relevance and inclusiveness of its offerings. At the head of the organisation, we find Managing Director, Patience Akyianu who has been steering it to new heights, both locally and internationally, and ensuring the services provided cater to a dynamic and tech-savvy new generation of Africans.

Akyianu, who has over 23 years’ in-depth experience in the banking and finance industry, was initially appointed to the role of Finance Director at Barclays Bank Ghana in 2008 and, subsequently, to the Board in March 2010. She was then appointed to the role of Managing Director in October 2013. Akyianu’s previous roles that led up to her current position include Chief Financial Officer of Standard Chartered Bank South Africa and she eventually joined their Ghana team in senior roles in both the Finance Corporate Banking departments.

Furthermore, she holds an MBA (Finance) and a BSc in Business Administration (Accounting Option, First class Honours), both from the University of Ghana Business School, and is a certified professional accountant and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana and has been described as a “very experienced and well-rounded business leader with strong commercial acumen”.

Akyianu is lauded for putting a high performing, diverse leadership team in place while her passion for excellence in customer service delivery has intensified the customer focus across the bank, resulting in a greater focus on innovation. It is no surprise to find that, under her strong business leadership, the performance of Barclays Bank Ghana has “consistently exceeded targets, resulting in the business regaining the top three revenue positions in the local industry, achieving a higher return on equity and making it one of the top performing businesses in the group. The marked progress seen on her watch has led to employee engagement being at its highest”, according to the Bank.

According to Akyianu, Barclays Bank Africa serves their customers in three different ways including retail customers (individuals), business customers like SMEs, and corporate customers. She says they have incorporated various innovative ways to serve their retail clients including the likes of Internet banking and mobile banking, particularly seeing that in Ghana, there is a high percentage of the population that makes use of mobile phones. “We usually say that 110% of the population has mobile phones meaning that people usually have more than two. Any service that does not take mobile phones into account will be deficient.

“For our retail customers, we have our branch network of about 56 branches and other service outlets. In addition to that, we have about 165 ATMs that are intelligent like our cash-accepting ATMs. We learned that there were no ATMs that receive cash in the local market so we decided to introduce it and since then, we’ve also introduced other features like cash send where you can actually send cash to people who do not have accounts at Barclays—all you need to do is have a code and withdraw from an ATM, including a feature where you can send cash from your mobile phone. Under her watch, Barclays Bank Ghana has also decided to make access to credit card facilities easier to obtain, seeing as how a large portion of the population deals with issues related to proper identification documents and national identification numbers. To address this need, they have decided to accommodate prospective customers by allowing the use of their passport or even driver’s license. Akyianu says she feels they have taken the lead in rolling out credit cards to their market and, today, they also have another popular offering called the Ultimate Account, which is similar to a current account with embedded insurance. This, she says, is covered by a standard fee, which gives you access to a number of features and benefits including loan benefits.

For their business banking customers, Barclays Bank Ghana launched their SME proposition three years ago. Akyianu says they are currently intensifying this initiative in 2017 by adding value to small businesses and making them more attractive in the market. This is done by getting them into shape, as she calls it, and they have rolled out projects to assist with the proper management of their affairs. She points out that in the informal sector, challenges to SMEs often include a lack of proper record keeping and good governance.

To assist with this need, they have rolled out interventions aimed at making them more stringent when it comes to financial management practices like financial literacy and book keeping. “That is the kind of value we bring through our SME proposition and through that, we are creating a stronger SME community and helping them to access credit for business growth,” she says.

When it comes to corporate customers, Akyianu says they are currently supporting them with a number of cash management products. “We have a collection platform where they can collect cash when needed. We also have proper salaries for our corporate customers as well as loan facilities and trade facilities. Then, in addition to that, we have our markets business where they can buy and sell Forex to us, we trade in bonds and we help our customers with risk management solutions as well. When it comes to Forex trading, we have one of the best platforms, actually world-class platforms, so we’ve got a range of solutions in terms of both products and services for our customers here in Ghana,” she says.

Akyianu has received various awards in recognition of her personal contribution to the industry and society; namely the Nobles International Award (2013), Africa Female Economic Champion-Banking (Centre for Economic & Leadership Development (CELD)-2014), Induction into Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame (CELD- 2014) and Woman of Excellence in Finance (Ghana CFO Awards 2015). She was named among the Top 50 Rising Stars in Africa (Euromoney Article, May 2014 edition). Akyianu was also named Second Most Reputable Banking and Finance CEO in Ghana – 2017 and is among the Top 50 most influential Corporate Women in Ghana.

When asked what the experiences have been like being a female in a typically male-dominated industry in Africa, Akyianu takes the surprising angle of not allowing the label to define her. In her experience, being a woman has not hindered her success and, up until today, she does not think of herself as being in a category.

On the topic of what leadership means to her, Akyianu highlights that a successful leader is one who can rally everyone to achieve a particular objective. This, she says, can include tough decisions where you must be firm but she adds that if you can achieve this success in a tough environment without leaving bruises, people will feel in high spirits, inspired and engaged.

”A leader is deemed to have succeeded when he or she is able to develop many other leaders and is able to quietly leave the scene without creating a leadership gap.

I am currently reading an interesting book written by Marshall Goldsmith titled ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ and I am really inspired to keep striving to acquire attributes that will make me a truly transformational leader.

Leadership is a journey, so we must keep raising the bar in order to become the world-class leaders Africa so desperately needs,” she concludes.

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