A seeming boardroom crisis that may rock troubled Heritage Bank to its foundation is currently brewing in the bank, THE WITNESS exclusively reports.
Competent sources within the bank told THE WITNESS that the imbroglio involves the current managing director and chief executive of the bank, Mr. Akinola George-Taylor and some board members.
Less than one year after assuming office as bank’s head honcho, the new bank chief may have plunged the distressed bank into further boardroom crisis, compounding the lender’s many challenges.
George-Taylor, who joined Heritage Bank as acting managing director/chief executive officer on September 12, 2022, succeeded Ifie Sekibo, the bank’s founder and pioneer managing director who served out his 10-year tenure in September 2022. George-Taylor was, however, confirmed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the substantive managing director of the lender in April 2023.
But while the bank’s shareholders may have been expecting that the new helmsman would change its fortunes and drive growth, sources say he has instead, allegedly, instigated internal crisis, in an attempt to rid the bank of those suspected to be loyalists of some board members, and employ his own people. The move, sources disclosed were unconnected with the new bank chief’s plan to oust some board members who are said to be at loggerheads with him, from the bank.
The bank’s chief is said to be enjoying the support of a top shareholder of the bank whom sources say is allegedly determined to solely take over the bank and get rid of the owners.
Top sources in the bank, which has been struggling to stay afloat in recent months, informed THE WITNESS that not less than 70 senior staff members have been sacked, while a number of others were asked to resign. Besides those who were forced to leave, sources say that some resigned voluntarily over poor working conditions, while the once active branches of the bank are as quiet as graveyards. THE WITNESS further gathered that the affected staff were disengaged without paying them their accrued entitlements and allowances.
This development comes despite an order by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) barring deposit money banks from mass sack of their workers.
“I can tell you that there is war at Heritage Bank as we speak. Over 70 persons have been asked to go, while some were asked to resign. Mind you, those who were asked to go have not been paid any compensation,” said a management staff who preferred anonymity.
“The mission of the new managing director is to ease out those who are loyal to some board members whom the managing director is not in tune with, so he could employ his own people,” one of the sources said.
The latest crisis comes amid persisting financial distress in the bank.
THE WITNESS gathered that the bank has been struggling to pay workers’ salaries for some time now, even as depositors have not been able to access their funds.
The apex bank, it would be recalled, had come under pressure to withdraw the bank’s license over its alleged bankruptcy issues, and inability to meet obligations to depositors.
Many had wondered why the Nigeria’s banking regulator had not wielded its hammer on the bank despite its troubled and distressed state.
Further investigations by THE WITNESS however revealed that apart from the issues of “Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) and the Liquidity Ratio (LR), the commercial bank is also grappling with many other crises that tend to threaten its survival.
One of them is its poor services which are staring its customers in the face. Already, most of its branches are awash with complaints of unsatisfied customers whose singsong is their plans to close their accounts due to long hours they experience to get services from Heritage Bank staff.
In our fact-finding mission, THE WITNESS contacted Ozenna Utulu, the head of Corporate Communications of Heritage Bank for the bank’s angle.
In her response, Utulu said: “These things are not true, there is no boardroom crisis at the bank. Of course, organizations everywhere restructure from time to time.”