As is the case all over the world, there are few women heading top executive positions in Nigeria’s corporate space. While this is something to worry about, it becomes even more worrisome when those few women who manage to climb to the top of the corporate ladder, find themselves caught up in some unfortunate circumstances which tend to overshadow their competence and accomplishments.
This is the story of Mrs. Tomi Somefun, the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s troubled Unity Bank Plc and our corporate personality of the week. Get to know her.
About Mrs. Oluwatomi Ayodele Somefun: her academic background
Mrs. Somefun was a student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, graduating in 1981 with a Bachelor of Education in English language. Although she was never a trained accountant nor economist, she went on to acquire other important professional certifications after her university days. Today, she is a prominent Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
Having undergone graduate studies at both the Harvard Business School and University of Columbia Business School, Mrs. Somefun is an alumnus of both prestigious American institutions of study. In the same vein, she has participated in quite a number of local and international training programmes which are specific to her banking profession. An example of such is the INSEAD Fontainebleau, in France.
She currently belongs to different professional bodies, including the Bank Directors Association of Nigeria (BDAN), the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), the Institute of Directors (IOD), among others.
Building a career as a professional
Mrs. Somefun is a modern Nigerian woman who has successfully maintained a professional career spanning at least thirty-three years. Note that while most of these years of experience have been in the financial sector, she also has experiences cutting across other sectors.
In her early days, she started out working at KPMG as a Senior Audit Assistant between 1982 and 1986. From there, she went on to work at Arthur Andersen in 1986 as a Senior Auditor. She has also been employed at Ventures & Trusts Limited, between 1989 and 1992, as an Associate.
Prior to her current appointment, Mrs. Somefun worked at Credit Bank Limited and UBA Plc. She was also the MD/CEO of UBA Capital & Trustee Limited and the Founding Managing Director of UBA Pension Custodian Limited: two of UBA Group’s major subsidiaries.
Mrs. Somefun also served as a Non-Executive Director on the boards of directors of UBA Foundations, UBA Trustees, UBA Nominees and UBA Registrars.
In the course of her career with Unity Bank Plc, she has served as an Executive Director in charge of Lagos and the South-West region of Nigeria until August, 2015.
As though to cement her long-standing career in treasury, investment and commercial banking, Mrs. Tomi Somefun, on August 12th, 2015, assumed her new role as the Chief Executive Officer of Unity Bank Plc. She took over from the bank’s former CEO, Mr. Henry James Semenitari, as the first woman ever appointed to that position in the history of the retail bank. She is also one of the few women holding CEO positions in Nigeria’s many banks.
Awards and recognitions
Meanwhile, as an attestation to her accomplished banking career, Mrs. Somefun, in 2016, was named as one of the top 25 most distinguished Chief Executive Officers of quoted Nigerian companies for the 2015 financial year.
Associating her name with the troubles in Unity Bank Plc
For a while now, there have been several indications of Unity Bank’s financial troubles. The problem boils down to some factors, including an overall low capitalisation at the bank as well as high volume of non-performing loans borrowed mostly by some former and current members of the bank’s board of directors.
In early 2018, Unity Bank Plc was somehow involved in the scandalous Milost Global Inc drama. Recall that Milost had proposed to invest as much as $1 billion in the bank. The deal never sailed through, even as it left behind trails of scandal and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Recently, the Nigerian Stock Exchange sanctioned Unity Bank Plc by suspending the trading of its stock. This was due to the tier 2 bank’s failure to release its 2017 financial report on time. Note that the report, which was expected as at December 31st, 2017, never made it to the public domain until recently.
As the troubles in the bank persist, it can only be hoped that Mrs. Somefun and her team are doing everything possible to proffer much-needed solutions. This is important because Unity Bank Plc cannot afford to go down, at least not under her watch.