Access Interview: Abiodun Adetunji, Chief Risk Officer at AB Microfinance Bank Nigeria
By Ivana Mitrovic
Abiodun Adetunji is the Chief Risk Officer and member of the Senior Management Team (SMT) of AB Microfinance Bank Nigeria (ABN). She is a Certified Microfinance Practitioner by Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and Certified Expert in Risk Management by Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
I would attribute this [success] to staff commitment: everyone was motivated, especially with Management response to COVID-19 Lockdown in 2020. (…) this motivated us to do our best in saving our bank. Even at the end of 2020, we ended better than anticipated after the lockdown in May. In 2021, we challenged ourselves to do more.
Abiodun, you have been with the AB Microfinance Bank from its inception, so can you take us 14 years back and describe your beginning and then your career development?
I started with ABN as Loan Officer in November 2008. I was among the 1st generation of four Local Credit Group Leaders selected in July 2009. From February 2010 to April 2011, I worked as a Branch Manager, and then I started ABN Risk Department and worked as a Risk Officer. Before being selected as Risk Officer, I applied as Micro Credit Coordinator but was encouraged by the then Chief Credit Officer to go for Risk Management. I was promoted to Operational Risk Manager in 2018 and appointed as the Chief Risk Officer and a member of the Senior Management Team in July 2019.
As the bank’s Chief Risk Officer, how do you shape the risk policy – does it focus more on internal rather than external threats and treat risk management as a discrete event rather than a continuous process?
ABN Risk Policy focuses on Enterprise Risk Management, considers internal and external threats, and defines risk management as a continuous process. There is a New Risk Assessment for every new product, process or innovation. We perform constant monitoring of ongoing concerns like Credit Portfolio Monitoring, regular risk assessment to update the Risk Register, and assessment of counterparties, to mention only a few.
As a confirmation of your great risk management job, ABN received the Governance Risk Compliance (GRC) and Financial Crime Prevention award for Microfinance Banks last year. At the same time, you were the Chief Risk Officer of the 2021 Year Award winner. Congratulations! Can you tell us more about the award and what preceded it?
The award was in recognition of AB Microfinance efforts, my leadership in implementing effective Governance Risk Compliance, Financial Crime Prevention/Anti-Money Laundering bases, and complying with statutory laws, regulations and standards in ABN.
It took me by surprise, but I am grateful for our Institution’s acknowledgement.
The bank finished 2021 with exceptional results – you managed to grow the portfolio by 50% and at the same time keep the portfolio at Risk (PAR) >30 at the level of 3%. Well done! Can you share with us how the bank achieved this?
I would attribute this to staff commitment: everyone was motivated, especially with Management response to COVID-19 Lockdown in 2020. Despite the challenging situations in 2020 and disruption in October 2020 due to the nationwide protest, an aftermath effect of the C19 lockdown was no closing down of the branches and no reductions in salaries. All of this motivated us to do our best in saving our Bank. Even at the end of 2020, we ended better than anticipated after the lockdown in May. In 2021, we challenged ourselves to do more.
How does it feel being the only female member of the Management Board of the bank? What steps is the bank making towards a more inclusive environment for the female managers?
Additionally, do you have any advice for women over the globe on how to advance their careers?
I started with the bank, and I understand to a great extent how it works, so I don’t feel bothered or marginalized.
Microfinancing involves fieldwork mostly done by Loan Officers who form half of our entire workforce. We find more male counterparts interested in the position during the recruitment process. Further, since managerial positions in the bank like Credit Group Leaders, Branch Managers, or Credit Coordinators in Head Office are dominated by those who start as Loan Officers, more male counterparts are in those positions.
Being a woman is not a limitation – a woman can be whatever she desires.
Women can multitask, and in my opinion, this we can use as our most significant advantage in becoming successful in our careers. We cannot allow work and home management to stop us; we need to challenge ourselves constantly. Set goals and stay focused on achieving them: focus on one thing but still keep track of others.
What were the most valuable lessons you have learnt in the past, and what made you the professional you are today?
Discovering my strengths and weaknesses, and then leveraging my strengths (I like numbers, prefer writing over talking, can be both introvert and extrovert) and converting my weakness, in this case, stubbornness, into determination.
I identified myself, and now I make the greatest use of it.