Rose Okwechime: a woman who founded and sustained a 3-decade-old Nigerian bank
Very few women of her time made their mark in Nigerian banking like she did. Beautiful, smart, vibrant and still energetic in her 70s, Rose Okwechime stands out even after retiring from banking.
Okwechime began her banking career in 1971 at the Bank of England where she spent almost a decade. In the space of 9 years, she evolved within the Economic Intelligence Unit, the Compensation Unit, Banking and Accounting Services and finally held the position of Cost Analyst. These positions gave him a varied but rich experience in strategic planning, systems development and problem solving within the bank.
She returned to Nigeria in 1980 and took over Bank of Credit and Commerce International Nigeria Limited (later known as African Int’l Bank Plc or AIB) in 1981. Given her experience, he did not it didn’t take much to bring Okwechime to leadership positions. and for the next 10 years she had the opportunity to flex her administrative and management muscles. She held the positions of assistant manager, operations manager, senior manager and became head of the bank’s corporate banking unit.
Startup of Abbey Mortgage Bank
In 1992, she left AIB to set up her bank. Talking about the decision, Okwechime said in an interview; “I believe it was meant for me. With all the hard work I put into working in the financial industry, God has big plans for me. I am truly passionate about what I do. Passion takes you higher and faster. I was super motivated and had a lot of energy. Sometimes I worked long hours. My clients at AIB were my inspiration. I loved providing a great customer experience and they appreciated my hard work and effort. They wanted to invest in me and encouraged me to start a bank.
At first, Mrs. Okwechime was not sure what kind of bank she was going to start. She applied for two banking licenses, one for a mortgage bank called Abbey Mortgage Bank and another for a commercial bank called Pearl Bank. She decided that the first approved license would be the indication of where God wanted her to go. Before long, the first license was released for Abbey Mortgage Bank.
It started as a building society and over time morphed into a full-fledged mortgage bank. Predictably, Rose Okwechime became the pioneering Managing Director/CEO. With his wealth of experience in the banking industry, who else could have been a better fit for this role?
The vision was to make Abbey Mortgage Bank a mortgage industry leader and one-stop financial solutions company in Nigeria. The mortgage banking sector was lagging far behind the commercial sector and faced many challenges, so there was a lot of work for Okwechime to do. She injected the same energy and passion that she had used in her previous experiences to grow the bank and expand its services across the country, one step at a time. Abbey Mortgage Bank has several branches across the country and employs hundreds of people.
Abbey Mortgage Bank has also invested significantly in its corporate social responsibilities, making donations for children in hospital, physically disabled children and orphans. The bank also sponsored children’s events on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), from the early 1990s when it was just getting started.
She retired from Abbey Mortgage Bank in 2020 but remains convinced that the directors can drive the vision forward as the organization was imbued with a ‘build to last’ mindset. “The institution will outlive my leadership. I am indeed very happy and confident in the new directors to realize the company’s vision and increase value for all stakeholders. Since my retirement, the new management has recorded a commendable stage of development and transformation, which provides further reassurance that Abbey is on a path of further growth,” she pointed out.
Other positions held and interests
She holds an MBA in Banking and Finance and participated in the OWP Executive Leadership Training Program at the Institute of Management Development LouSanne, Switzerland. Ms. Rose Okwechime holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Baze. She is an affiliate member of the Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria; and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in London.
Okwechime serves on the board of directors of Rosabon Financial Services Ltd, a company she co-founded in 1991. Thanks to her competence and experience, Okwechime has been invited to serve on several boards of directors of banks and institutions. finances in the past. She served on the board of directors of Platinum Bank Ltd from 2002 to 2005, Standard Trust Bank Ltd from 2005 to 2007 and United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) from 2007 to 2010. She was again appointed to the board of Board of UBA in June 2012 and has also served on the UBA Board in Ghana and the UK on several occasions.
“UBA allowed me to see things from different perspectives, which was an important skill for me. Understanding the work ethic, values and communication approaches of the people we interact with. I also got to see my giant Tony Elumelu flying high!” she told.
Since 2000, Okwechime has served as a director on the board of Madonna Ashib Enterprises, a family business with extensive investments in real estate, and other publicly traded businesses. She was Chief Financial Officer of Deltic Energy Limited from 2011 and Executive Board Member of African for Housing Finance.
She also became the owner of the private school. It may seem like an unusual path for someone who founded and built a mortgage bank to come back as a school owner, but Okwechime says it’s community service for her.
Now 70, Ms. Rose Okwechime does not hide her penchant for philanthropy. In many ways, she has shown her support for people with physical disabilities and has supported causes such as Down Syndrome, Pacelli Schools and Wesley Schools for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria and orphanages. It also extended to scholarships and provided assistance with medical treatment. It’s a miracle it doesn’t have a foundation yet.