United Bank for Africa UBA in Sierra Leone has set an unprecedented record with the appointment of a Sierra Leonean as the first Managing Director. Mohamed Alhajie Samoura is the first MD of not only UBA, but also the first MD of a Nigerian-originated bank in Sierra Leone. This positive development is an encouragement to other Sierra Leoneans to work harder to pave way for prospective and promising talents. Until his appointment as MD, he was the Executive Director, of Business Development at UBA SL. In this interview with TheNEWS magazine, Mohamed spoke on his appointment and other development issues of the bank
How would you describe your appointment as the first Sierra Leonean to head a foreign Bank in the country?
I am humbled and proud of this appointment as the first Sierra Leonean to attain such a position in the bank. My appointment has demonstrated the bank’s commitment to empowering young people and Sierra Leoneans in top positions. This appointment has shown that UBA has a fair approach when it comes to appointments across the Group. This is a motivation to Sierra Leoneans working in UBA that anyone can head the bank. I also feel that other foreign banks in the country would change their perspective that Sierra Leone has competent people to manage their businesses.
Kindly share your experience within the banking sector in Sierra Leone
I can best describe myself as a seasoned corporate banker with close to two decades of working experience in Sierra Leone banking industry. Until my appointment as the Acting Managing Director /Chief Executive Officer of UBA Sierra Leone, I was the Executive Director, Business Development in the bank. I am passionate about banking and have a strong drive to create an impact in the business and financial arena. I was working at Ecobank as Corporate Banker and I managed one of their branches in Makeni. During my work at Ecobank Sierra Leone, I transformed a loss-making branch into a profit-making branch. I have several accolades and was most recently named among the 100 Most Outstanding Executives in Sierra Leone by the Sierra Ovation Awards. I can swiftly say, I am bringing on board a wealth of experience and understanding of the country’s corporate and institutional banking landscape to further strengthen UBA’s strategic place in the market.
How do you hope to work with your competitors being that Sierra Leone is a small economy?
The beauty of Sierra Leone’s banking industry, we have 14 commercial banks, and we all compete in a healthy way to drive financial inclusion in line with the Central Bank’s objective to ensure that every Sierra Leonean has access to financial services. UBA Sierra Leone is a member of the Sierra Leone Association of Commercial Banks (SLACB), this association provides a professional forum for its member banks to work together on a cooperative basis. My approach is to work with colleagues in the industry that will improve the financial service sector in the country.
You worked with the former MD/CEO for almost two years, how would you describe his style of leadership?
I want to start by appreciating my predecessor Mr Usman for the confidence he reposed in me to step into his big shoes. I regard him as my mentor in the UBA Family. His passion for excellence and results-oriented in the business and the UBA Brand is unmatched. Me, I have resolved on following his footsteps to make sure that the Project Alpha Initiative he instituted in 2020 becomes a reality by attending industry leadership in all sectors:
Become No. 1 bank in Profitability.
Become No. 1 bank in Deposit Base
Become Top 3 Bank in Risk Assets Portfolio
Become No. 1 bank in Customer Base
Be the Best Bank in Digital Banking products reliability.
Become No. 1 bank in Customer Service Standard Ranking
Become No. 1 bank in Brand Equity/Top of mind Awareness.
Be the Industry Role Model Bank in Corporate Governance
UBA is one of the leading banks in the country, do you feel overwhelmed in maintaining the sterling records of the bank?
One thing I am happy about is that the team on the ground is not new to me, they are my colleagues, and I have been working with them for years. I am confident I to sustain and improved on the gains from my processor.
I know I am not only representing myself in this role but also Sierra Leone, and if I succeed, it will open doors for other Sierra Leoneans.
UBA Sierra Leone remains very liquid and adequately capitalized, with a capital adequacy ratio of 112.5% (2020: 112.7%) which is well above the regulatory minimum of 15%. As a global bank, we remain well-capacitated and determined to successfully drive financial inclusion on the continent through our innovative products and vast network. Our capital buffer remains strong to support our business growth and branch expansion plan, particularly as we are also leveraging internally generated capital through a prudent and pragmatic high levels of earnings retention over the years.
Let me quickly add that, despite the highly competitive operating environment, we leveraged our franchise and deepened our market share across our key focus sectors by increasing our share of existing customers’ wallets while also onboarding new customers. I am particularly pleased with the growth in our retail and corporate deposits which is a testament to our investment in service channels, digital banking offerings and a renewed focus on superior customer experience across all our contact points.
How do you hope to work with the media industry in Sierra Leone
The media remains one of the strongest stakeholders of the bank. The good news is, my predecessor was a friend of the media, I am a son of the development of the media landscape in Sierra Leone. I would ensure to work and support the media industry in Sierra Leone.