With the unveiling of a new brand identity and profitable earnings driven by people and technology, Union Bank is poised to re-establish itself as Nigeria’s premier bank, writes
In July 2012, Citibank’s topshot, Emeka Emuwa was recruited to head one of Nigeria’s most established and trusted financial institution, Union Bank. Emuwa was to replace Funke Osibodu, who was renowned for her efforts to get the bank through one of its darkest moments. Emuwa’s mandate was to build on Osibodu’s lofty achievements, and build a bigger and better bank. It was never going to be easy.
In late 2012, a new Board of Directors and Executive Management team were appointed, and in 2014, Union Bank began executing a Transformation Programme to re-establish it as a highly respected provider of quality financial services, after the 2009 debacle.
“The board gave us a mandate in 2012 to map out a transformational strategy for the future,” Emuwa says. “And that’s what we did.”
The Emuwa-led team went on to define the critical pillars necessary for this renaissance. They focused on two major ingredients: people and technology. With the right team, Emuwa believes, nothing is impossible. And it’s a no-brainer to mention that technology has changed the structure of modern banking. But, in creating the transformation strategy, there was a third ingredient.
On October 27, 2015, at the Onikan Stadium in Lagos, the Union Bank chief, Emuwa, is standing behind a lectern on a raised platform, facing a sea of people under cyan canopies. It is drizzling, but he strikes a magnificent pose. Behind him is a huge structure draped in black. He is telling a story.
“My father paid my school-fees through this bank,” he says. “This is an iconic institution. There is virtually nobody across the country who has not in some fashion interacted with the brand.”
He is right. Established in 1917 and listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1971, Union Bank is a household name and one of Nigeria’s long standing and most respected financial institutions. With an extensive network of over 300 branches across the country, the bank is a trusted and recognisable brand.
But something is about to change. Emuwa invites the Chairman of the bank’s Board of Directors, Sen. Udo Udoma on stage. Udoma is to unveil the third ingredient – which is a new brand identity.
After a countdown from nine to zero, the massive structure behind the platform is revealed to be a mammoth replica of the bank’s iconic white stallion, in a different form that suggests increased smartness and agility. “Building a simpler, smarter bank” is the new tagline that sits where “Big, Strong and Reliable” used to be.
“We believe that the critical milestones we have achieved in the past three years have laid a solid foundation for us as a bank,” Emuwa says. “The launch of this refreshed identity signals a new phase in Union Bank's transformation as we set our sights on attracting a new base of customers while remaining focused on providing simple and smart banking solutions to all our customers.”
Since 2012, under the leadership of Emuwa, Union Bank began rebuilding its banking business, by redefining its business model, rebuilding its technology, physical infrastructure and re-engineering its work force. During this period, the bank has rolled out a new banking platform, Oracle FlexcubeUBS 12.0, and launched Smarter Banking Centres targeted at technology savvy customers looking for convenient banking service. The bank has also built a state-of-the-art data centre, and a new Central Processing Centre to streamline its branch operations and enhance customer service.
“Union Bank has been a trusted name for Nigerians for nearly a century, and we will continue to leverage our heritage as we embrace a rapidly changing world,” Emuwa notes.
Udoma was enthusiastic about the bank’s refreshed identity, commending the present team for their industry over the years.
“I am very proud of the strides the bank has made during my time as Chairman, and I commend the Board, Management and Staff on their hard work over the years, and I am sure the Bank will continue to succeed as it embarks on a new phase with a refreshed brand identity,” he says.
Speaking with journalists after the fireworks of the launch, Udoma shares his thoughts about what the new identity means.
“We want the brand to show and demonstrate what Union Bank is about. Union Bank is a customer-focused bank. It’s a bank that addresses all the needs of all our customers. It’s a bank which is very responsive. We want a simple, accessible banking service that anybody can be able to access. And we want it to be smart. That means we anticipate your needs and meet them. That’s why it’s a simpler, smarter bank,” he points out.
“What we’ve said is that we are building a simpler, smarter bank,” Emuwa explains. “The simplicity is for our customers. The smarter means that every day, we look at doing things better and smarter than we did yesterday, so that it can be easier for our customers. So, it’s a continuum. We continue to evolve. Now, for the bank’s future, it means that we have leveraged on a strong culture to continue to meet the needs of our customers. We will continue to evolve to meet the needs of a newer generation.
“We are also leveraging on technology. If you look at some of the banks that we’ve renovated, you will find that a better environment has been provided to serve customers. So, products, service, a better environment, and technology are some of the things we are using to serve our customers better. Union Bank is a trusted brand. We will continue to build on that trust and ensure that when you bank with Union Bank, you can rely on us. That will continue.”
The bank’s Head, Corporate Affairs and Corporate Communications, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, broke down the thought-processes that went into recreating the brand identity
She notes: “Union Bank is one of the longest standing financial institutions in Nigeria and our new identity pays homage to our past, and carries with it our proposition for the future. In developing the new identity, remaining true to our brand proposition of simplicity was foremost in our minds. Our iconic white stallion, which represents strength and passion, is now in motion, cantering forward with energy and dynamism. We have introduced a modern typeface and updated our colour to a fresher and more vibrant blue. Finally, we have included patterns to infuse a contemporary feel to the overall identity.”
Meanwhile, there are already significant indications that the transformation strategy is working. When the bank released its unaudited report for the third quarter on October 26, there were indications of appreciable growths in gross and net earnings. Key highlights of the interim report and accounts of the lender for the nine-month period ended September 30, 2015 showed that its gross earnings and profit before tax grew by 11 per cent each as the commercial bank grew its total assets by 10.3 per cent to N1.02 trillion. Gross earnings rose to N86.4 billion in third quarter 2015. Net interest income grew by four per cent from N37.2 billion in third quarter 2014 to N38.8 billion in 2015. Profit before tax rose to N13.17 billion as against N11.89 billion record