The Birth of GT Bank

Fashion home!
I just came across this piece on a friend’s Facebook page (Chukwudi Iwuchukwu) and found it very captivating. Not just for the fact that it was related to a bank and should catch my interest but also for the underlying lessons in the story. @gtbank is one bank I’ve always loved though lately they seem to have become overwhelmed. However, they still can boast of being one of Nigeria’s topmost banks. The story you are about to read should inspire you to believing that EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE. 

Picture: GTB Founders - Credit Facebookpage (Chukwudi Iwuchukwu)

Here is the story.

Fola Adeola who was the pioneer MD and his friend Tayo Aderinokun, also an Accountant, who was the pioneer DMD.

Do you know that when Fola Adeola, and his friend Tayo Aderinokun were setting up the bank in 1990, they could not raise the required funding for take-off? No   investor was willing to touch them. Young entrepreneurs also turned down their offer to be part of the dream. They were all scared of investing in this 2 young men and their dreams. Most of  them didn’t quite think the idea would work, despite the fact that the banking boom was in full bloom then. It was with considerable difficulty that they raised the required N20 million to float the bank.

You don’t blame the investors that did not take them serious. Tayo and Fola were  relatively young but, they were bold and ambitious, their young age notwithstanding. 

Tayo was 36 while Fola was 37 when GTB opened their shop in August 1 1990. 

27 years after, the story is different. Today, many of them are regretting it as other shareholders are smiling to the bank. 

It is a tribute to their efforts that an idea which started with an initial capital of N25 million, was transformed into a N5 billion within three accounting years.

Tayo is now late and died in 2011. 

Reproduce below is the tribute Fola Adeola wrote for his partner and friend Tayo when he was buried  in 2011.

Let’s read Fola. 

I had moved to Ikoyi in 1986, having joined the wonderful team of young men and women that made up Continental Merchant Bank. My teenage friend, Tayo Aderinokun, was one of them.

One of the challenges posed by living in Ikoyi in 1986 was that there were no barbers anywhere near-by! One, therefore, had to go to the Mainland for a simple haircut any time one was required. I was on one of these barber trips one Sunday when I saw a ghastly accident on Eko Bridge.

The only thing that came to my mind was whether the victim of that accident was also on his way to the barbers! I decided we would put barbers in Ikoyi. The only person I knew that would entertain such a fanciful thought was Tayo Aderinokun. We both dipped into our pockets, and thus Finishing Touches Barbing Salon was born. The salon has remained in business up till now, even though we no longer owned it.

Banking licence

In 1990, after we had obtained a banking licence, Tayo suggested to me that we sold the company. As far as he was concerned, we should no longer be barbers having become bankers. As an aside, one of the terms of the sale was that Tayo, myself, and all our male children, would cut our hair for free, forever! As if he knew!

Tayo was an entrepreneur at heart. Someone who could take risks and pursue what others may consider an off-the-wall idea. In that way we were often kindred spirits. Tayo ran the Kano Branch of Continental. He had observed that that there was no public gym in Kano.

During one of my trips to Kano to visit with him, he had discussed the idea of our establishing a members-only gym in that city. I’d agreed. He set about the project by renting a property we would re-model for our purpose. After about two weeks of taking the hammer to this building, including removing the roof, the landlord could not recognize his property anymore!

This landlord was a big Kano Alhaji. Instantly, he reached out to Col. Sani Bello, the bank’s chairman, who, in turn, reached out to Dr. Ayagi, the bank’s managing director. All hell broke loose. Tayo and I had to look for money to restore the building to its original state.

That was not all; the stage had been prepared for Tayo’s return to Lagos, and the chain of events that would culminate in him joining me to establish Guaranty Trust Bank.

For me, the idea of a commercial bank never died. I revisited it with Tayo, and told him I was now prepared to go ahead, as I felt the window of opportunity for a licence was narrowing. This was in January 1989. Fortunately, he agreed, and the rest is now history.

That extra-ordinary organization that Tayo would serve diligently for 21 out of his 56 years on earth, was born. It is important to mention three friends of mine, who believed in my ability to run a bank and encouraged me greatly; Akin Akintoye, Gbolade Osibodu, and Moses Ochu. I will always reserve for myself the credit for partnering with Tayo.

In 1990, specifically August 2, I had the privilege to collect, from the Federal Ministry of Finance, banking licence No. 58, dated August 1, 1990, and signed by the Federal Minister for Finance, Chief Olu Falae, for Guaranty Trust Bank Limited. Tayo was by my side. And so the journey had begun. Suffice it to say that in my entire experience, I know of no other person, who could execute as efficiently as Tayo!