By: Promise Oshewa

The business of banking has a lot to do with integrity; the stewardship of money and the power of credit creation reside in the realm of conservatism and discipline.

Pascal Dozie is one man whose career in banking has been strictly guided by these principles. He has become a banking diamond that will certainly last forever.

Playing within the defined rules of the game hasn’t been that easy to enforce in the Nigerian banking industry but Dozie seems to have toed the path of self regulation in his own style of corporate governance and understated lifestyle.

He is that has always been ruled by diligence and driven by tenacity in his quest to accomplish a great purpose. This foundation formed the strong backbone that has given his most well-recognised business, Diamond the track record that has kept in at the top for decades.

Born on April 9, 1939, Dozie grew up in a typical village setting in Egbu, Owerri when the enforcement of discipline in children’s upbringing was a shared duty in society irrespective of whom the child belongs.

Besides, his father was a devout Catholic Church Catechist and a Court Interpreter. He therefore imbibed the culture of discipline that shaped him up for the great accomplishments later in life.

He had his primary and secondary education in Imo Stated before heading to the famous London School of Economics, where he earned a degree in Economics and then proceeded to City University in London where he obtained Masters in Administrative Science, specialising in Econometrics and Industrial Engineering. He also attended University of Seattle in the United States.

He worked as an Economist in the United Kingdom and also taught part time at North Western Polytechnic, London. He has expertise in project preparation, coordination and management which took him to several countries in Africa and Europe.

After his education, he was keen to return home but that was when the civil way really raged. His two brothers had joined the Army so he went instead to Uganda.

According to him, “It was a very traumatic period for us. Bombs were going off everywhere and you didn’t know what was the truth. People were being shunted from one place to another and at times I didn’t even know where my own mother was,”

He was in Uganda between 1970 and 1971 where he served as a consultant at the African States Consulting Organisation in East Africa and returned to Nigeria in September 1971 when the war ended.

Pascal Dozie then set up his own consultancy, the African Development Consulting Group in Lagos, Nigeria.

He was very fortunate to gather a lot of consultancy contracts from big companies including Nestle and Pfizer. He later founded and is a Non-Executive Partner at African Capital Alliance.

Diamond Bank idea came to Pascal, when as a careful observer, he identified the problem that Igbo businessmen were facing at the time.

In the 1980s, traders from the Eastern part of Nigeria were carrying huge sums of money in cash to Lagos to buy goods and transact other forms of businesses.

This of course exposed them to risks of attacks by robbers and in deed some lost their lives in the process.

Dozie then thought of mechanism of collecting the cash in the East and by electronic transfer pay them in Lagos. That was the seed that led to the establishment of Diamond Bank.

Therefore, Diamond bank was conceived as a solution provider to an identified problem from inception unlike many banks that emerged simply because entry restrictions into the industry were reduced.

Dozie saw an opportunity there and explored it as an entry niche into banking and wove a financial service around it. It was a simple idea, according to him but it opened up the road to riches. “I wanted to establish a technology-driven bank where the staff knew they are there to provide efficient, courteous service. I wanted a bank that would be creative and I think we succeeded”, he said.

Even the establishment of the bank was also a testament to his tenacity and belief.

While the bank began operations in 1991, it had been in the pipeline since 1985 when Dozie applied for a banking licence. “Here I was, somebody who did not have money, yet wanting to establish a bank”, he recalled. It was the will to accomplish that eventually made the way. At the time he applied for a banking licence, the minimum capital requirement was N10 million. Before he could raise the money from intending shareholders, the capital requirement was raised to N20 million.

While Dozie was looking for additional people to approach to raise the additional N10 million, some of the initial subscribers began to withdraw. That delayed the licensing of the bank for about five years.

When the bank began operations, it was from the 3rd floor apartment of his office in Victoria Island with 20 people and $5million. His disciplined approach in managing Diamond Bank, appears to have been shaped by his role as a director of the Central Bank. He grew the bank from the scratch when most companies would not deal with a bank less than three years old. The Diamond Bank’s team then went to town to persuade the unwilling as to why the bank should have their deposits.

Despite the high competition in the banking industry of the early 1990s, the industry then was underdeveloped. Telecommunications services were poor and that posed a major hindrance to improving service delivery efficiency in banking halls. The underdevelopment itself was an opportunity, as Dozie saw it. “The question was how to improve and add value to the banking sector. The problem was obvious, and a solution was needed”, he said.

Dozie’s strategy paper found that solution to the indentified problem lay in the realm of technology and that made it shift into the electronic banking field as the way for the future.

“We had to improve the system of fund transfers and reduce transaction times for businesses, which is what we did. We introduced electronic fund transfers and the first debit cards. Now we have full mobile services, from transferring money to checking a balance”. Dozie positioned Diamond Bank in the forefront of technological innovation, he spurred ICT-centred banking that has now transformed the business beyond recognition. Forbes once described him as, “Rolling Stone that’s never at loss.”

At the time that Dozie stepped down as Chief Executive Officer in 2006, the bank had grown into one of Nigeria’s major banks in the post consolidated banking operations.

A year before that in 2005, he nearly lost it all when the Central Bank of Nigeria mandated that all banks must hold a minimum of N25 Billion in share capital and Diamond Bank at the time had N6.4 billion.

The Dozie family had to list its shares of the bank to raise the needed capital which meant he lost a large stake of the business.

In terms of treading difficult paths, Dozie had his dose. One of such was the entry of MTN to Nigeria.

When he was approached by MTN from South Africa to raise 40 per cent funds needed to set up its subsidiary in Nigeria, many of his friends were skeptical and rebuffed him.

Dozie noted that it was very disappointing because “You have a good project and you are turned down. You start to question yourself and start to question your head”

He was able to raise enough for a 20 per cent stake and that turned out to be a very wise decision with the success of MTN in Nigeria.

Though the Dozie family will get two access bank shares for every shares they own, no doubt that when the history of the new Access Bank in written, the name Pascal Dozie who joined the octogenarian club this year will feature very prominently.

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