Mrs. Ngover Ihyembe-Nwankwo, a banker and chairperson of the Executive Council of Women in Management, Business & Public Service (WIMBIZ), a women-focused NGO, reinforces women’s growing dominance in Nigeria’s business and investment landscape. AMBROSE NNAJI reports.
The understands corporate and investment banking like no other. This is perhaps, why as Head, Coverage, Rand Merchant Bank Nigeria Limited (RMBN), Mrs. Ngover Ihyembe-Nwankwo has her eyes on helping to propel RMBN, a member of the First Rand Group, to the coveted position as Nigeria’s undisputed corporate and investment bank of choice.
With over 20 years’ experience in financial services, across a wide range of functions, including corporate relationship management, sales, credit, transaction banking, remedial account management and risk, the United Kingdom (UK)-trained corporate and institutional banking executive clearly has her fingers rapped around the best approaches to achieving the feat.
“The approach has been to entrench ourselves within the universe of our clients to achieve growth and build a lasting franchise for Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), by creating sustainable value and evolution, building economic returns for our clients and stakeholders. We have very strong relationship with key market leading corporates,” she told The Nation.
The bank’s robust relationship with its corporate clients, for whom it partly hopes to become the corporate and investment bank of choice, started blossoming from February 2019 when Ngover became the Head, Coverage. As the leader of the coverage team, she is the custodian of the bank’s client relationships, responsible for the development and implementation of its client service strategy.
In that same capacity, Ngover, a Master’s degree holder in International Management from the University of Exeter, wjth a Bachelor’s Degree in Combined Social Sciences (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) from the University of Durham, both in the UK, is also saddled with originating relationships and business opportunities for the bank. She also identifies opportunities to cross-sell for the bank and the broader FirstRand Group in line with the bank’s strategic objectives.
Giving more insights into the role of the team under her charge, Ngover said: “As coverage team, we are the relationship managers; we manage everything relationships; we call it coverage, essentially we cover our clients and deliver the bank’s services to our clients. So, we are the ones at the first point of call of our clients and then we provide the clients with full range of our products and services.”
But it wasn’t Ngover’s first time of leading such team and delivering outstanding results to the delight of her employers. For instance, prior to joining RMB, she was an Executive Principal with Standard Chartered Bank, Nigeria, between January 2018 and December 2018. She was, in that capacity, responsible for anchoring the bank’s international corporate portfolio. She was also previously responsible for structuring and implementing working capital and securities services solutions for corporate finance & capital markets clients across Standard Chartered Bank’s Africa footprint.
Also, between October 2009 and December 2013, Ngover was Senior Relationship Manager & Head, Network Clients for Standard Chartered Bank, Nigeria. She was responsible for the management and revenue origination of the global corporate portfolio, delivering full-year revenues of $55 million in 2013.
Before then, she had worked at Afribank Nigeria Limited (now rested) and Citibank Nigeria Limited as Cash Management Manager and Cash Management Product Officer, respectively. At Afribank, she worked within the corporate banking group to develop, market and implement cash management products, while at Citibank, she worked within the cash management and e-solutions group.
Although RMB Nigeria is only six years in the market, it has establish itself as a formidable player in the Nigerian banking industry. Already, the bank, drawing sufficient strength from Ngover’s intimidating resume and track record of performance, is looking to expand its operations from Lagos to Abuja by next year.
“This is our 6th year in the market. We are only in Lagos. RMB is a merchant bank with location in Lagos, and we are looking to expand and probably we will be in Abuja by next year,” the seasoned banker said, attributing the bank’s successes so far to “Our ability to communicate effectively with our clients and staying close to our clients despite the one channel that we have in Lagos.”
Indeed, RMB Nigeria prides itself on its ability to think outside the box and be creative in its services offering. The bank partners with all its corporate clients to provide top-notch solutions and tailor-made products to them because it is a merchant bank, not a retail bank.
“We normally support them through structuring products, corporate banking products, investment banking, and acquisition etc. We also do a lot of stock leadership; we work with the government looking at things they will be able to do, providing our ideas, direction and guidance on the best way that we can achieve shared objective,” Ngover said.
Her passion to grow the real sector
In her over 20 years of a hugely rewarding career in banking, Ngover’s soft spot for the real sector of Nigeria’s economy is evident. “I’m a Nigerian dedicated to investing in the real sector of the economy, we are so focused because we want to see the sector translate into a sustainable one,” she declared.
She said incidentally, her desire to see the emergence of a viable and sustainable real sector resonates with what the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is doing to help stimulate the real sector putting in place a number of policies, particularly this year, to stimulate investments in the real sector of the Nigerian economy. “There is a lot of intervention funds coming from various government organisations to the real sector. We had intervention funds across virtually all the sectors.
“We have also seen concerted efforts to increase the amount of funding that banks push to companies. The CBN has monitored what those funding is used for. I think that policy stand of the CBN has forced banks to relook at how we lend and who we lend to and think of creative ways to increase that kind of funding, Ngover said.
For those wishing to invest in sectors that have prospect for bountiful return on investment, Ngover said: “the approach I would like to take is where are the areas that I see growth, either through the data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) or those globally, we know the areas where there are potential for growth so those areas should be infrastructure and technology.”
According to her, given the huge infrastructure deficit in the country, there’s a lot to be done through investments to bridge the gap. She also said apart from technology, agriculture is another viable area because by moving from subsistence agriculture to large scale agriculture, it means a huge opportunity exists there.
“By virtue of our population, healthcare and education are also big green areas where the current service provision is not at par with the demand. So, clearly there’s a gap and there’s opportunity in those areas. Of course, you can’t leave behind oil and gas, which is the economy’s mainstay,” she added.
Empowering women entrepreneurs
Ngover’s giant strides in the banking industry are no doubt, a testimony to the rising influence and resilience of women in business. Yet, the interesting thing about her exploits in the business world is perhaps, her resolve to carry other women along and ensure they hold their own in a seemingly male dominated environment.
Through WIMBIZ, which she oversees as Chairperson of its Executive Council, she has been pushing the frontiers of her advocacy for gender parity and supporting women to achieve their full potential. She has been riding on the back of WIMBIZ to deepen and re-enforce the status and influence of women and their contribution to nation building.
As Ngover explained, “The mission of WIMBIZ is to inspire and empower women with high potential to attain leadership position in managing business and public services with thriving inclusion in the economy.”
According to her, the NGO has four pillars that underpin how it achieves its mission, one of which is advocacy, through which it adds to the strong voice for gender parity and for recognition of women and their achievements across business and public services.
“We also have a political advocacy group, we have advocacy for women on board. We also have women on board programme as well where we equip and train women to make them effective board members when we do get to the board. We also do a lot of empowerment to build a platform that enlighten and empowers women to achieve carrier and business leadership,” she stated.
WIMBIZ has its conference yearly. The one it had in November last year attracted over 1,900 women. It was a two-day event that took participants through a range of topics relevant to inspiring women to do amazing things. “We motivate and inspire our women to achieve their ambition through our programmes, events and various initiatives,” Ngover said.
But as exciting as their exploits are, it has not been a walk in the park for women entrepreneurs. Challenges, both cultural and legal, exist. For instance, there is the challenge around perception, as women are, by certain cultures, not allowed to engage or lead in certain businesses.
It is also very difficult for women to access finance. Education is also a problem, as women are not educated the same level men are. Ngover listed other challenges women in business face in Nigeria to include multiple taxation, insufficient electricity and inadequate human capital.
She, however, said there is need to approach the challenges facing women in business in Nigeria the right way. “We need the right laws, we need laws that are not discriminatory, the laws that empower every citizen of Nigeria to achieve his/her full potential irrespective of gender.
“There shouldn’t be laws that are discriminatory to either men or women, we should all operate on the same level of status, we need the enabling environment for businesses and for women, we need education, infrastructure, we need people to come together to understand that we need vibrant economy for us to operate on the world scale,” she recommended.0