By: Michael Effiong
Ten years ago, a new non-bank financial institution, UT Financial Services Limited berthed in Nigeria.
The company which had earlier operated in Ghana wanted to extend its track record of excellence to Nigeria and it has been an exciting journey so far according to MD/CEO, Mr Ade Adebajo.
According to him, the journey so far has been very tremendous and good, “we’ve had lot of victories. As with everything in life, you have the good and bad times, we have had recession times in this country but all through, UT financial was able to navigate the tide and still standing where others fell”.
He continued “There was a transition of management just about 2 years ago, even at the time, I was in the United Kingdom, I had my own company Crusader Financial services but we decided to come and buy into UT. We have become stronger as a brand, when we combine our efforts with those of the people of Ghana and the ethics that were laid down, that transition was very smooth and very excellent.
He noted that the founder, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, is a man of very strong ethics, principled, a visionary leader, adding that having built a built a strong brand, they met a strong foundation on ground.
Adebajo revealed that the environment of the company is friendly and that “our culture and has helped in impacting a lot on the staff and clients.
He continued “We are a company that cares, that is how we are seen, how we have trained our staff and the way we operate at UT. We make sure to always be customer focused.
As expected, the company rolled out the drums to mark this momentous occasion. It was days later that we had this interview with Mr Adebajo over drinks at Raddison Blu Hotel, GRA, Ikeja.
Congratulations on your 10th anniversary, how has the journey so far been?
UT financial started 10 years ago in Nigeria, it came originally from Ghana, they wanted to have a branch of their bank here but it came as a non-bank financial institution; so, they ran it well and developed it with good culture, the ethics was good as well.
But at a point in time, they felt they needed Nigerian partners to move things forward, you know you get to a certain level and especially it is not your own place, you need local participation to move things forward.
I was in UK as a Nigerian running a successful firm; so, they approached me and I decided to buy into the company and I looked at the books and everything was good, and this was just about 3 years ago.
When we bought into the company, of course we became partners but I took over management having taken the majority share of the company since then it has been a very smooth sailing.
What really helped was that I met good things on ground, the staff were good, the culture I met on ground was very strong, there was professionalism among the staff and even the books were good.
We have moved on now steadily, we have started a branch in Abuja, opened another in Victoria Island, there was a branch in Yaba. And then, we have expanded in terms size and staff.
So, UT has really grown over these years and we have been able to recover a lot of loans that were outstanding prior to our takeover. Thank God that the journey has been very good so far.
What will you say were the challenges that you faced when you took over?
There are always challenges, over the past few years in Nigeria, Nigeria went through a period of recession, a lot of finance houses closed down but what we did at that time was we actually worked on our expenditure and our cost.
We reduced it, we downsized a lot of things, we had to adapt to the situation of things that we found our self; so, once we did that, we were in a comfortable position and then we began to look outside for other avenues to make revenue apart from what UT was normally used to. And that gave birth to UT Homes and a few other things; so we have UT and we expanded our income streams.
We looked at small and medium enterprises that we could support and helped them which turned out in our favour.
Ok, you talked about a lot of financial houses that went under, so what would you say is unique about UT?
What is very unique about UT? First and foremost, our products are very good, very competitive but products alone cannot sustain a company but culture of a company with professionalism of its staff on how to treat your clients because remember that in all, the client is key,
When the clients are happy with you, you will flourish. For example, in the recession period, we went to some of our clients and told them that we have to vary the rates we offered and explained that if we continue with this rate we will go under, they understood.
That was able to happen because we have built trust in our client.
But if we had shown panic and they saw we cannot survive, they would have left us.
Our strength is that we do not joke with customer service. They know that we care. That is the unique thing about us.
You must build good relationship with your clients, we had a caring relationship, most of our clients even after they had finished servicing their loans and whatever transactions, we go on our own and ask after their welfare to know if there is anything we can do again, that is one of the things that distinguishes this company.
You mentioned your products 2weso what are the different products that you offer?
We have various products tailored to different desires, School Fees for those who are saving towards their children school fees, we have a product for that, we have for people with small businesses looking to start a business, we have a saving plan that is geared towards getting a house, we look at your whole investment and then from that we determine which product can be affordable, we also launched another product on our 10th anniversary which is the Unique Investment Plus, it comes with an amount of money 500,000 minimum, we have lower ones but this particular one is 500,000 minimum and then we give you an extra on top of our usual interest, there is a bonus of 2%, this is just for the 10th anniversary and it will last for 3 months and I will advise that people take up this opportunity while it still there.
The offer is one of the best in the market in terms of rates. We used it to celebrate how good God has been to UT.
We also have other products for people who are set towards enjoying a holiday.
Our rate like I keep saying is the best in the market and it is the reason why people come to us.
I am interested in the future of UT, where do you see UT going at 15?
In the next five years, I see UT as a major non-banking financial institution in Nigeria, and I am saying this because we are planning towards it, already we are climbing towards there and we are introducing new products, and we are also looking at our products and improve them for the Nigeria public, we are spending a lot on technology so that people can invest and also we are developing an app so that people can also use and push UT further.
In the next five years, we hope to increase investor’s confidence. If we have investor confidence, a lot of things can be achieved.
We are 10 years today and nobody can say he knocked at our doorway and we did not pay them their money, it is a good testimony, by the time we now add all this new things with the level of training that we are giving our staff now, in the next five years I see UT as a major force in Nigeria and Africa, and when we say 10 years, I’m looking at a bank in Nigeria.