International Women’s Day was globally celebrated recently so we thought of putting the spotlight on a woman trailblazer for this edition of the newsletter. Mrs. Chinwe Iloghalu has been a banker for 25 years. She is a wife, mother and is currently a General Manager at Fidelity Bank Plc. She was happy to share with us her values and experiences which has kept her on top.
1. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Chinwe Iloghalu. The third of four children and the only girl born to the family of Mr. Felix (Deceased) and Mrs. Dorothy Anazodo. I’m married to Prince Ike Iloghalu and I have three (3) children; two boys and a girl who are turning 20, 18, and 16 (so you have an idea of how old I am!)
I attended to K.Kotun Memorial School, Lagos. After that, I went to a Unity School, Federal Government Girls’ College, New Bussa (formerly Kwara State now in present-day Niger State). I had my tertiary education at the University of Benin, Edo State where I studied Industrial Chemistry. I have a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Science (MSc) in Media and Communications from the Pan-Atlantic University. I have attended a great number of courses in Leadership, Negotiations, Branding, and Digital Marketing here in Lagos, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America including Harvard Business School, London Business School, London School of Business and Finance, Colombia Business School, Lagos Business School, TEXEM Business School, etc.
I started my career in Banking at the Equitorial Trust Bank, Dugbe, Ibadan as a Youth Corper, following the mandatory NYSC National Service in 1996. I then joined Ecobank Nig Plc at entry-level, working at the Head Office, Ikoyi Branch, and Apapa Branch for 4 years. I left and joined Zenith Bank for 17 years working at the Energy Group, Commercial Banking Group, Ikoyi Zone, and Akin Adesola Zone for a total of 17 years. I am currently at Fidelity Bank as a General Manager supervising the Victoria Island and Lekki Region as the Regional Bank Head.
Outside my family and career life, I try in my little way to offer up my time as a Lector (Lay Reader) at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Victoria Island, Lagos. The Catholic Faith teaches that we have all been endowed with various talents and our call is to discover, multiply and give back these gifts through our vocations. I also serve in various societies and committees including Harvest and Fundraising, which I chaired in 2014, the Catholic Women Organization (CWO), which I presided over for 6 years at the parish level, and the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC), where I currently serve. I also Headed the Media and Communications Team for 2020 Unusual Praise, a Catholic Evangelization Music Concert, organized by the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki. I’m currently training to be a facilitator for the Leading for Mission (LFM) initiative for the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos. In all of this, and by the special grace of God, I make sure these activities are carefully scheduled so that there are no clashes with my official assignments and family responsibilities.
2. Tell us about your career path and how you rose to become a General Manager in the banking industry.
Like I mentioned in my biography previously, I was thrust into the world of Banking, straight out of University, from my NYSC service year in 1996. Despite my educational background in the Sciences (Industrial Chemistry), I soon realized that this was the career I was called to, especially as it allowed me to meet people and from diverse backgrounds and tap into the experience of other sectors, as I moved from various units; Cash and Teller to Customer Service to Funds Transfer and then Sales and Marketing. I have often testified to young professionals that Banking provides a unique platform that affords career professionals a chance to increase their circle of influence amongst business and industry leaders in various sectors of the economy. I have been most fortunate and privileged to be a beneficiary.
My journey through the ranks to General Manager has been a testimony of God’s grace and favor. His steadfast love and faithfulness to me have seen me through the years and the vagaries and vicissitudes of life. As much as there have been successes and wins, there have also been challenges and happenstances, but with His guidance, they have become experienced and signposts to enable me to chart a course for myself as I journey through my career. I still have a good distance ahead of me and I can only pray that He remains with me all through the miles ahead.
3. How would you describe your leadership style?
In this instance, I am compelled to quote from a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article written by Daniel Goleman that “ Leadership like parenthood, will never be an exact science, but neither should it be a complete mystery to those who practice it.
The existence of different personality types (personas) in the workplace demands flexibility in the style of leadership one employs. In making decisions that affect the entirety of my team, I employ the democratic style of leadership where everyone contributes their ideas and suggestions towards problem-solving. I allow my direct reports to exercise their judgment and initiative in problem-solving by brainstorming and applying creativity to sticky issues. The Coaching style helps in building new relationships and strengthening existing ones and also in providing assistance and support when a team member seems overwhelmed or burdened. As much as I would like to keep the Authoritative Style at bay, it comes forth in handling disciplinary issues and instilling a good sense of responsibility in a team member who has gone against procedures and policies. The Banking Industry is fast-paced and performance-driven so it’s important that as a Leader you ensure that you lead by example and walk the talk always as Authenticity is the only way you can get your team to rise up to the expectations placed on them.
4. What has been the most significant barrier in your career?
Stereotyping and Labeling. These are issues faced by women all over the world. I feel that the Female Business/Career Leader stereotype has been over perpetuated. I’ll share from a meme I came across recently which practically sums up these labels; Women are labelled Aggressive when they try to be Assertive, Bossy when Leading, Difficult when trying to be objective, Too much when they try to take up space, Awkward when they ask hard questions. When a woman expresses herself and is true to her emotions, she is termed as lacking Emotional Intelligence.
Another barrier I had climbing up the corporate ladder in my younger days was the storylines that women don’t get along with other women. This conditioning had always put me on my guard much earlier in my career when assigned to a female supervisor. I feel now in hindsight that this stopped me from forging the much-needed mentorship I required from a female perspective. This was an unconscious mistake that could have sabotaged my career if I hadn’t quickly adjusted my thinking. It soon became clear that if one did not display the right work ethics or align with organizational goals and guidelines, there would be friction, regardless of your gender. Fortunately, I have been fortunate to work with a larger share of female supervisors, and I can boldly say that each of them has been most impactful, and has continued to shape the course of my career over the years. I also keep this in mind as I try to mentor and coach the female members of my team and others at work. As women, we do have our vulnerabilities but more importantly, we need to recognize our own unique strengths and focus on harnessing and developing them for our good and in leadership.
I must say, however, that I would like to see more mentorship and sponsorship of female professionals and business persons going on across various institutions and organizations. There needs to be a better hand-holding process to guide the younger ones along and prepare them for the challenges ahead. Every woman in a position of authority should make a conscious effort to look out for others in a position of vulnerability by encouraging them, guiding them, and positioning them when they can. A simple way can be encouraging the viewpoint of females in a meeting, acknowledging and complimenting their contributions, giving due credit to their work, and generally creating a positive atmosphere they can thrive.
5. What is the most challenging part of your job? What is your favorite part of your job?
I would say dealing with irate customers. When a customer loses their temper or becomes incommunicable over an issue, it becomes extremely difficult to make or take decisions that would be in the best interest of both sides. I have come to realize over the years that making difficult business decisions, as much as they are normalcy in life, can be quite challenging when there is an absence of a mutual understanding of the issues at hand. I’ve often found that ‘two heads are better than one, so I often find solace in sharing with my supervisor or teammates. Fortunately, more than often, the outcomes have been positive and a deeper relationship developed. Another challenge would be a lack or total absence of communication lines. I find it most distasteful when information flow is distorted or deliberately held back for selfish purposes or any reason that would be inimical to team success. The
information must be freely shared across all hierarchical structures; vertically and horizontally to ensure that organizational goals are achieved and in turn build and develop a good team spirit.
My favorite part would be problem-solving and value creation. I truly enjoy structuring business transactions and putting them in a mutually beneficial state for both the bank and the customer. That is to say, the win-win style of negotiations always works best. Everybody comes out happy and satisfied. One of my guiding quotes ‘Negotiations are not completed in a day has been helpful in structuring transactions. You can always pick up where you left off and on an even more positive note.
6. Do you see a possible reversal of the CBN’s ban on cryptocurrency transactions in Nigeria considering all of the backlashes from stakeholders?
The CBN is the apex regulatory body over financial systems and institutions in the country. There have always existed various channels for dialogue and deliberations between the policymakers at CBN and stakeholders and the general public for as long as possible. They have set up both the Freedom of Information Office and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to take up complaints and feedback over monetary policy issues. I believe time will tell as the CBN has always acted in the best interests of the populace and the nation at large.
7. Who inspired you and why?
My late father, Mr. Felix C. Anazodo, set great standards for me to follow on Professionalism and Excellence. My father was professional par excellence and a well-schooled and experienced Pharmacist who displayed a rare quality of professionalism and commitment to his career which culminated in him being appointed an Executive Director to the Board of a multi-national Pharmaceutical company by the age of 40. This achievement had set the tone for me in my career to be the best. Also, a huge source of inspiration comes from my husband, Prince Ike Iloghalu, always pushing me to take on much more than I could ever imagine. I also look up to a good number of strong influencers who possess model qualities that inspire such as resilience, courage, empathy, decisiveness, humility, diplomacy, and charisma.
8. What are you known for?
May I rephrase the question to read “what would you like to be known for”. I would like to be known as a woman who has a Passion for Excellence, Uncommon Commitment to Duty and Responsibility, and an unrivaled Passion for Performance. I see my job as an altar of service to God. One of my favorite quotes on work is from Saint Jose Maria Escriva; ‘ The work that we offer must be without blemish and it must be done as carefully as possible, even in its smallest details, for God will not accept shoddy workmanship”. I want to be known for somebody who was committed to the building up of the Body of Christ on earth. Perhaps, if I daresay, a modern-day Saint? God help me. Amen.
9. How do you balance work and family responsibilities?
A healthy work-life balance cannot be over-emphasized. I have been able to achieve this because of the strong support system I built very early around me. My husband, brothers, and my mum have always been available to fill in the gap for me especially in the early days whilst the children were growing up. Activities such as school run, PTA meetings, Inter-house Sports Meets, and other extra-curricular activities were always well-represented by Daddy, Grandma, Aunties, and Uncles. There was never any gap or a lack of presence of a key family figure. The children always had someone to cheer them on such occasions. Even trips to the hospitals for the usual vaccination shots and other minor ailments were also well taken care of. I truly feel grateful for the massive amount of support and love I received from my family all through the early stages of my career life. So it was easy to be present and available for work assignments and delegated duties and responsibilities. I rarely presented home issues as an excuse not to perform or live up to the expectation required of me back then.
I remember that even when the children had to go through the Holy Communion classes and Altar Server practice over the weekends, I also drew on the support system of having reliable domestic staff including housekeepers and my driver, who incidentally has been with us for over 16 years! The children never got to miss a Cathechism class nor practice for once. We thank God for all these little miracles which we often overlooked back then.
Indeed, “Family is everything”. Now that the children are in their teens, we eat out often, catch up on our favorite TV series and movies on NETFLIX and engage in a little retail therapy from time to time as you know teenagers like to shop! We also enjoy valuable time out at family gatherings with my inlaws, cousins, nephews, and nieces from my extended family when we get a chance to meet up at holiday celebrations at Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, and Wedding Anniversaries as we look forward to opportunities to share quality family time and commune over a good meal and happy conversations and intellectual arguments over prevailing issues in the country and the world at large.
10. What are the qualities you look for in emerging leaders in your bank?
People who are visionary, committed to both personal and corporate goal setting and achievements, and highly disciplined. Besides, I would also add that creativity and innovation rank very high, along with excellent communication skills, a good measure of social and emotional intelligence, and high-performance-driven individuals.
Fidelity Bank is on a highly accelerated growth phase currently and we always place a premium on the identification and development of Next Generation Leadership in the bank. We have the Vision to be NO.1 in every market we serve and every branded product we offer and to make financial services easy and accessible to our customers. Our core people strategy remains one of creating a culture and environment where our staff are encouraged to imbibe the Bank’s shared values which incidentally has an acronym called CREST (Customer First, Respect, Excellence, Shared Ambition, and Tenacity)
11. What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Oh, I have a good number of wisdom nuggets I share with the young females in my circle. As women, we have our vulnerabilities but more importantly, we need to recognize our unique strengths and focus on harnessing and developing them for our good and in leadership. Some of them are listed below;
On Excellence: Be the best you can ever be. Excellence is a watchword. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit”-Aristotle. Aim High. Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
On Self-Development: Develop yourselves. Acquire Skills and Expertise in your chosen field or career to give you a competitive edge over your peers. Read far and wide. Self-development is key to your future. Think Global. Act Local. Fill the gaps and make yourself a useful resource person. Innovate and Create. Stay foolish. Ask Questions. Remain Curious. Stay Hungry for knowledge. Read often. Readers are Leaders. You are what you read. Develop a reading culture.
On Building relationships: Network and Connect. Scene and Be Seen. Always put your best foot forward at all times. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
On Financial Independence: Save. Create wealth. Find the gaps. Create a niche. Learn to read the signs. Listen. Observe. Learn from the Masters. Actively seek mentorships.
Over the years, I also keep this in mind as I try to mentor and coach the female members of my team and others at work.
12. What three books would we find on your bookshelf at home?
I definitely have more than 3 books on my bookshelf; from Self-Development books by authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Jim Collins, Robin Sharma, to selected biographies and auto-biographies of notable historical figures in the world such as Nelson Mandela, Lee Kwan Yew, Richard Branson, and Queen Elizabeth II. I’m also inspired by the writings of great Saints such as Ignatius of Loyola, Alphonsus Di Ligouri, Augustine of Hippo, and Henri Nouwen. I also read a good number of news articles on blogs and the internet to keep abreast of recent happening around the world. On my bedside table, I also have a stack of current reads I reach out to including 2 versions of The Holy Bible, A Book Of Psalms, and a Treasury of Novenas.
I keep these books all around me to help me keep up the reading culture. I believe in the quote that “We are all creatures of habit” by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Our minds are our greatest assets. Once we can train our minds to imbibe certain positive attributes, we can achieve most of the things we set out for ourselves.
I’ll leave you with another one of my favorite quotes “When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” by Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist). This helps me focus on the Power of Positivity.