" ITREALMS: Phillips Oduoza: Inspirational Giant of Banking Industry - ITREALMS

Monday, June 28, 2021

Phillips Oduoza: Inspirational Giant of Banking Industry - ITREALMS

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Phillips Oduoza, founder and chairman, NOVA Merchant Bank Limited is inspired by Nigeria’s future, which he believes holds potential waiting to be harnessed.
NOVA Merchant Bank offers an integrated suite of financial solutions covering Wholesale Banking, Investment Banking, Asset Management, Wealth Management, Trade Services, Transaction Banking, Cash Management and Digital Banking.

Phillips, also former group managing director (GMD), United Bank for Africa (UBA), is gifted, a deep thinker, selfless with a knack for seeing what others couldn’t see and making the seemingly impossible possible in addition to great leadership skills.

In this article, we will look at his new bank, banking career, his leadership skills and background.

NOVA Merchant Bank

NOVA Merchant Bank founded by Phillips is a licensed merchant bank with a focus on wholesale and investment banking.

The bank which began operation in 2018- became an instant success and broke-even in the first year of operations.

Recall at the time of commencement of operations by NOVA Merchant Bank, the economic environment was quite challenging, because the country just exited from recession.

Secondly, there was still turbulence in the industry resulting from interventions in some banks by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

But the new bank’s growth trajectory has also continued as it reported a profit after tax of N3.49bn for the financial year ended December 31, 2020.

This represents a 112% increase when compared to N1.65bn in 2019.

All the key financial parameters recorded major improvement over the prior year performance; Gross Earnings showed a quantum leap of 130% growth over 2019 and Profit Before Tax at N3.52bn recorded a 135% growth over the 2019 figure of N1.5bn.

The bank achieved such growth amidst the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting macro-economic headwinds.

Also, the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) recently admitted the bank’s N10 billion bond on its platform.

The bank made history as the youngest merchant bank to issue a bond in Nigeria which also oversubscribed by 300 per cent

The success of the bond is an indication of the level of investor confidence in the bank’s reputation, brand and corporate performance.

Banking Career

Phillips started his banking career in 1989 with Citibank as the first set of Executive Trainees where he trained in every aspect of banking after a brief stint with International Merchant Bank (IMB) as a Credit Officer in 1987.

Within the three years at Citibank, he was equipped with knowledge of banking operations, relationship management, credit/marketing, efficient implementation of technology, risk management and lean banking methods.

He moved from Citibank to Diamond bank in 1991, as one of the pioneer staff who built the bank to become a strong and notable brand in the industry.

Phillips rose through the ranks to become an Executive Director, serving as ED, Operations and Technology (1999-2002) the period where most banks had to do the IT transformation to meet up with global standards and practices.

He was also Executive Director, Commercial/Retail Banking from 2002 to 2004.

His next stop was at the Reliance Bank Limited where he had a blinking stint as Deputy Managing Director for 4 months before moving on to join the Management and Board of Standard Trust Bank PLC in December 2004.

He was with STB at the time of the merger with UBA and became a key player in the new UBA, rising through the ranks to serve two terms as MD/CEO before his retirement in 2016.

He was succeeded by Kennedy Uzoka.

Leadership Skills

Phillips is a consummate banker with limitless energy who believes in team work.

He is hard worker who avoids shortcuts and do not jump leadership ladder.

He possess the Midas touch, everything he touches turns into gold

Phillips has mentored and is mentoring crops of young bankers and entrepreneurs.

He is also my benefactor.

Tony O. Elumelu, chairman, United Bank for Africa (UBA), described Philips as “a man with a very cerebral mind, very diligent, loyal and astute”

He is man who loves and encourages progress and a man who always works for the best of everything.

Elumelu said that the performance of UBA today, both financial and brand management are all attributable to Philips and all the team he worked with.

Alex Otti, former CEO of Diamond Bank Plc, praised Philips for his extra-ordinary talent and management skills and leaving the banking industry with his integrity intact.

Philips has won several awards and is one of the most popular bankers in the continent of Africa.

In 2013 and in 2015, he emerged as the Africa investor (Ai) Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) 30 CEO of the year.

He currently serves on the boards of Veritas University Abuja, Lagos State Security Trust Fund, and the Development Bank of Nigeria.

Philips has also served on several boards including Interswitch Plc (representing UBA), Valuecard Plc (Unified Payment Services Plc), Nigeria Interbank Settlement System, Nigeria Economic Summit Group, Financial Markets, and Dealers Quotations (FMDQ).


Phillips was born into a large family in Owerri, Imo state Nigeria.

He attended St. Kelvins Primary School, Owerri, and Government College, Owerri before moving down to Lagos state for his university education.

He bagged a Civil Engineering degree (with First class honours) from the University of Lagos.

He was intelligent and excelled in his studies.

According to Phillips, he never considered banking or accounting in his first degree because he did not want a sedentary career.

Instead, he wanted a career in civil engineering where he felt he would be more actively engaged.

“As a student, I was very proficient in science subjects,” he recalled, “and I could have studied Medicine or any other such course. However, I wanted a profession that is involved in physical activities, as against research. That was why I chose to study engineering because it has physical applications. As a civil engineer, you are involved in building roads, bridges, houses and so many diverse things.”

However, in the course of his engineering study, he took a couple of courses that were business-related and his interest was piqued.

After school, he considered several career options before eventually settling for banking, and this became the epicentre of his entire career.

He went back to UNILAG and obtained an MBA in finance to guide his new career path.

Since then, he has attended numerous banking, management and leadership courses including the Advanced Management Programme of the Harvard Business School.

He is an honorary fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.

*Contributed by By Ken Nwogbo

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