I remember that the 419 fraudulent schemes really gained momentum around the time I started IBTC but I think that the fraudsters quickly learnt that calling IBTC was a waste of time because I would quickly reject their proposals.”
Atedo Peterside, founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur. He earned a B. Sc. in Economics in 1976 from The City University, London. He then obtained an M.Sc. in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science the following year. In February 1989, at 33 years old, he founded the Investment Banking & Trust Company Limited (IBTC) which he ran as Chief Executive Officer until 2007 when the bank merged with Stanbic Bank Nigeria Limited to form Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc. Mr. Peterside has served as Director or Chairman on the Board of many companies, including Standard Bank of South Africa Limited, Standard Bank Group Limited, Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Nigerian Breweries, Unilever Nigeria etc. He has increasingly devoted his time to charitable causes, especially ANAP Foundation which he founded to promote economic policy reforms and good governance. ANAP under his leadership is now concentrating on anti-Covid-19 interventions. Mr. Peterside is on the African Advisory Board of the Prince’s Trust International, a youth charity founded by the Prince of Wales. He is also the Chairman of ART X Collective Limited, organisers of West Africa’s premier international art fair, Art X Lagos and Endeavor High Impact Entrepreneurship Ltd/Gte, a non-profit organisation that provides mentorship and support to scale up companies.
University, Science or Arts?
As a 10 year old, I was admitted into Kings College, Lagos and after my secondary school education, I transited to the United Kingdom. During my A levels, I was studying science courses and I got the impression that the only profession that I could consider with that background was to be an engineer. However, I was sure what I wanted to do in life was to build and manage a business. In those days, it was very rare to study business as a first degree and so I found economics as the next best thing to study.
What was the biggest lesson from your experience in University?
At the London School of Economics (LSE), we were simply given a list of materials to read. Some of my classmates at the time felt that it was a rip off to pay so much for an education at such a prestigious institution that simply gave us a list a materials to read. However, I did not see it that way. I saw it more like the product of the effort of the faculty to do the research and then present to us the best materials on the subject. In the process, I appreciated the value of research. I think I learnt how to learn and this culture stayed with me. For example, some of my assistants are surprised at the rate I am able to learn how to use gadgets and other things. I have simply imbibed a culture of learning things methodically.
Talk about your first job and the main thing you learnt as young employee.
I came back to Nigeria with the intention to go into Investment Banking. I got a job at the former NAL Merchant Bank, which was arguably the premier investment bank at the time. My intention was to spend 10 years at an investment bank because that was the minimum number of years of experience required for a person to qualify to be a bank CEO. I had an entrepreneurial mindset from the get go and thankfully, things worked out just as I had envisioned.
Two or three things you have learnt in your career that they don’t teach on MBA programmes?
I think I have learned how to hire people. The key is to understand how to hire good people that stay with you for a very long time. I learnt this the hard way but over time, I think I have learnt the art of hiring people who share your vision and are happy to stay the course.
The second thing that I have learnt is not to make the same mistake twice as an entrepreneur. I think that the person that repeats mistakes doesn’t stand a good chance of succeeding in the business world. The successful ones are those that learn quickly from their mistakes. I can make another mistake next year, but it would not be the mistake I made this year.
Who was the greater influence? Mom or dad?
They influenced me in different ways and that was a blessing. I feel it is a great advantage when you have both parents as part of your life when growing up. I got my values from my mother in terms of integrity, helping people etc. From my dad, I learnt how to ask questions. This has helped me throughout my career. My father trained me to disbelieve first and question the message anyone was giving me and only proceed if the proposal makes sense to me. I think this character served me well in my career and is a reason why I never fell prey to fraudsters. I remember that the 419 fraudulent schemes really gained momentum around the time I started IBTC but I think that the fraudsters quickly learnt that calling IBTC was a waste of time because I would quickly reject their proposals.
What type of music do you like?
My taste is wide. I even appreciate Hip hop. I like jazz but I will get bored if I listened to jazz for 7 hours. I need to change things up when I am listening to music.
Who are your favourite authors?;
I think I appreciate non-fictional authors but most of them are really good for one book. Everything that follows is a bit of a fraud. For example, I think Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a great book that I recommend highly to anyone starting a business. However, I think everything that followed in the series of related books were a bit of an anticlimax.
So what are you reading now?
I am reading again a book titled The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo, and Karen Dillon. I think it has a message that is relevant to Nigeria today. It makes a case for building the economies of nations around a few home grown investors.
Who’s your best boss ever and why?
Late Chief Wole Adeosun, the former Managing Director of NAL Merchant Bank. He allowed me to rise relatively quickly in the firm. He gave me lots of responsibility and that gave me the confidence that I could run a bank. The exposure he provided to me as a banking executive was extremely valuable to me.
The economic impact of Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of philanthropy in Nigeria? What’s your view on helping the less fortunate?
I have always been driven to do what I can to help the less fortunate. For me public policy should be about the greater good for the greater number. That is why I am upset when we implement policies that cater for the rich.
What should be the biggest lesson for all from the Covid-19 outbreak?
I am hoping that as a nation that we learn several lessons. We have a bloated public sector and this is something we need to address as this has diverted resources away from education, healthcare and other critical sectors. We can point to similar weaknesses in the way we are running the economy.
As individuals, it is a time to realise the mistakes that we made and ensure that we do not make the same mistakes twice. For example, concerning the people that we voted for at all levels, we need to learn from our mistakes. Nigeria is gifted with good leaders and we have to take steps to ensure that we put our best forward. I think the only area that we agree as a nation to always put our best team forward is in football. We need to imbibe a culture of meritocracy in our society.
On the role of business in society – what should be the focus of businesses apart from making money?
For me, the most important thing that businesses should do is to create jobs. If you are a businessman, in the process of growing a business and paying taxes, you need to also create jobs. That should be a priority as a vital contribution to society.
Do you think Covid-19 will significantly change attitudes to working from home?
I hope and pray so. It is about time we realised that we don’t have to travel for meetings that we can hold virtually. Needless travel has made local travel a lot more chaotic than necessary. I hope we can use new tools to connect efficiently.
Two things you value the most in a candidate when hiring?
I will mention three things because they are all vital. Energy, intellect and character (integrity). If a candidate has only two, you should not hire the person.
On ideology, do you think leftist ideas have hampered Nigeria’s growth?
I think that an absence of social safety nets for the most vulnerable is one reason we have groups like Boko Haram. I think that as you create winners in society, those winners must also make plans for those at the wrong end of the stick. Safety nets like education and healthcare should be addressed.
What’s your favourite place to go in Nigeria and abroad?
At the risk of sounding boring, I will say, in Nigeria, it is Lagos and, abroad, it is London. It is Lagos because it is a business hub and offers a greater variety of activities than anywhere else in the country. I think London is also similar in this regard. Also, London and Lagos are melting pots for people from different cultures and I like that.
Your favourite Nigerian Brand?
I would say IBTC for obvious reasons. I think it is a “rags to riches” story. It began with an investment of N6 million and a group of very young people (at 33 years old, I was the oldest employee at the time). I think it is a story that motivates young people.
What have you learnt about advising various governments without running for an elected office?
I think governments appreciate people that speak with conviction and a consistent message. When you say the same thing to their face as you say in the media, they respect your message even if they don’t always take your advice.
Any interest in sports?
I am a Chelsea fan but I use to play Polo very actively across the country and even abroad.
Best use of money ever for you.
My 20 percent equity stake in IBTC when we founded the bank. It has grown astronomically and has opened up new opportunities for giving and other things. You’ve got to create wealth first before you can give it.
Who will you like to spend a holiday with?
My wife and children.
If you found Buhari sitting next to you at a restaurant what would be your biggest policy ask?
I would appeal to him to rid our economy of rogue regulators. They are really holding us back. I think there are so many such regulators now and they are holding back businesses, especially young entrepreneurs.
Do you think Nigeria should be modelled after India or China?
Neither. However, Nigeria is a democratic society and anything that is too authoritarian will be resisted. I think whatever we do should harness market forces and the entrepreneurship of Nigerians.
The Lunch Hour was over a zoom meeting because of the restrictions on public gatherings due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Nigeria.