Leadership

Good Night Uncle T, Sun re o!

Prior to my joining Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) as a staff I have only read about Tayo Aderinokun and saw his pictures in different dailies. Even though I wasn’t particularly interested in Banking and Financial Services owing to my medical backgrounds while in College I was still fascinated by the story the bank especially during the re-branding era. Looking back now I realised that attraction to GTBank then was because a few of my cousins and family friends were working in Guaranty Trust Bank and they all spoke well of the Bank.

The story of my working in GTBank is divine and now I realise that for me to have passed through such a laudable organisation God had a purpose for my life. My first major surprise about GTBank was in June 2005 during one of my interview stages that I asked my interviewers (I’ll leave their names out) how long they had worked in the bank and was told 11years each by both of them. I wondered then that how can people be waking up every morning to go to the same place of work? But I would soon find out why.

On a very cool Wednesday afternoon of August 31, 2005 along with the rest of my team, Team Galacticos, I was seated in the presentation room at the head office of GTBank when someone from Human Resource Department announced that the Managing Director was on his way down to meet with. It was my very first day in Head Office building even though I had been to the reception of the building the previous year to drop my CV just like every other job seeker. After about 5 minutes wait, this fine looking gentleman came into the room. I can remember very well that I sat in seat very close to where he was standing so I can see and hear him very well. He wore a neatly ironed blue shirt with a red tie. He had on his wrist a black leather strap watch by Vacheron Constantini. I can also remember he wore a grey trouser with a black belt and a black shoe to match.

He welcomed us into the bank and shared some jokes. One of the things I remember very vividly was that he said “welcome to the GTBank family. I am sure you’ll have wonderful time here”. I can conveniently say that we did have a wonderful time over the course of our careers as employee of the Bank. I didn’t have any personal encounter with Uncle T until when we finished training school and we were all posted to our different post even though I saw him at different time within the bank.

Lesson 1: In March 2006, I remember then as Executive Trainee who wasn’t known in the bank I followed my boss to the Management Credit Committee (MCC), a meeting that is always chaired by Tayo whenever he is around. In his absence his deputy takes charge. It’s a culture in the bank to have this meeting every Thursdays. Another culture of Uncle T was that he always comes to these meetings with boxes of chocolate in his hands. I was surprised to see that from the topmost person in the bank. It happened that the chocolate didn’t go round he asked “who didn’t get chocolate?” A few other persons and I signified we hadn’t got. Looking back now I remember none of us was a senior level staff. To my utter surprise Uncle T stood up and went to his office to bring more chocolates. He could have sent someone but he didn’t. I learnt that we should treat everyone equally irrespective of their level or status and that I should make sure that everyone is seen to have been catered for.

Lesson 2: A few months later in the year we had a customer who owed the bank (the loan has been past due for a couple of years) and had requested to meet with Uncle T. I drafted a call memo to my Divisional Head and also sent a copy to Uncle T. The meeting held at Uncle T’s office and to my greatest surprise instead of Tayo getting angry that someone owing his bank – by extension owing himself – he told the man to choose out of several gifts he brought out of his cabinet. I can remember that the man was given an expensive wrist watch. Don’t ask how much it cost because I don’t know how you expect a bloody ET like me then to know. Not that I’ll still know now anyway. I remember being given a portable camera for being part of the meeting as well. The lesson I learnt that day was that I should always be patient with people irrespective of what they owe me.

Lesson 3: After I had stayed in the bank for about 18 months I got my first promotion I was faced with a situation where I was to present a credit facility for one of my customers at MCC. It was the norm then that if your credit wasn’t listed you would not be heard so one would have to wait till the following week to make his presentation. I was not listed to present but I went to Plural House as the GTBank’s Head office is known with the intention of gate-crashing the meeting (one was allowed to observe only that you can’t present unless your credit was listed). I got to the meeting and towards the end of the meeting one of the Executive Directors asked Uncle T to allow a credit to be presented because of the customer involved even though it wasn’t listed. I decided to take the advantage so I wrote a small note to him requesting for my credit to be presented.

I remembered he turned around and said who sent this note even though I appended my name to it (who bloody knows my name anyway).  Deep within me I told myself “Bisi, you’ve gone too far this time around. This is the end of your career in this bank”. I raised my hand and stood up but he only said “what’s your story?” I struggled and stammered to state my case but to my greatest surprise and possibly others in the meeting Uncle T said “okay we will take your credit”. Let me tell you something more interesting he went further to ask if there was any other person with Credits that had passed through the necessary approval process but wasn’t listed. We ended up taking six additional presentations dragging a meeting that was supposed to have ended by 5pm an hour longer. I learnt a great lesson that no matter how highly or lowly placed anyone is whatever is good for goose is also good for the ganders.

Lesson 4: I can’t seem to remember the date precisely but it was on a Thursday afternoon in the month of June of the year 2008. I was at Plural as usual on most Thursday because of MCC. I went into the staff Lunch Room to eat. That fateful afternoon the room was full so I sat on the last available table with just two seats (one was vacant). Uncle T came down to the Lunch room to eat so I stood up so that he could use the table but I was really dazed when he said we should share the table instead of me leaving it for him. You can only imagine the kind of state I would be then. I couldn’t eat well as I had to rush the meal so I can easily get out of the place. I can unequivocally say that never in my life have I seen some so wealthy yet so humble. I learnt that humility is a virtue one must always strive to achieve even when you are the boss as in “Oga pata pata” (overall boss).

Lesson 5: Before I left the service of the bank for Post-Graduate studies at the Cranfield School of Management, UK I had another encounter with Uncle T in May 2009. I had a big ticket transaction which required management and board approval. That transaction was enough to make me meet my target for the year. Tayo as the chairman of MCC had bounced me before but I went to some of my superiors that we should meet with Uncle T to further intimate him of the latest information on the transaction. That fateful Wednesday afternoon we went to his office without prior appointment or notice. We met his secretary and he ushered us into his office (he door was never locked so you can work in unannounced). I was expecting him to tell us to leave since he had told us that we shouldn’t come back with the credit. He said “ehn ehn what can I do for you guys?” I guys he was tired then and my Group Head stammering said “we have come to seek your indulgence to represent the credit you rejected last week because we have new information that can help our position”. He told us to seat and in less than a minute he left what he was doing and came over to the table where we were seated to hear us out. I couldn’t believe that a successful Managing Director such as Tayo could be that simple. I learnt a great deal of lesson from his simplicity and his great ability to always listen. He was never too busy to listen.

I got to Cranfield and the story of GTBank never stopped even though I knew that the University is almost a second home to staff of GTBank as there is no year that passes without at least a staff of the Bank attending a course there. I met a Strategic Marketing Lecturer, Prof. Simon Knox and I can vividly remember his word to me concerning Tayo. He said “Did you work with GTBank?” and I answered “Yes I was there for about 5 years”. He went further to ask if I knew Tayo which I answered in the affirmative. He said “I have not seen any boss that is so loved by his staff and people around. He is such a wealthy person that I cannot imagine with all his wealth and riches could be this simple and humble”.

I thought I was going return to the bank and walk into your office to intimate you of my return as I had initially told you in October 2010 at the annual Cranfield School of Management Leadership lecture where you were the main speaker that I shall be returning to the bank after my graduation but I came to hear of your illness and eventual death. I must say that 30 minutes before the news of your death broke out I was joined by a friend to pray for your recovery. Alas it wasn’t meant to be.

Even though you’re no more Uncle T you built a legacy – a factory of budding leaders. You were such a cheerful giver and everyone was important to you. You were a great leader, you taught us to be honest and that integrity is imperative to a successful life. You were a great listener and you had a good heart that you forgave people easily. I remember one of the senior management staff once said that he made four different mistakes in a day and you forgave him on all occasions. Many would have sacked such a person given the circumstance. Your contributions in this world are there for all to see and they speak volume of your person.

Olutayo Adeleye Aderinokun (May 8, 1955 – June 14, 2011) May you continue to rest in eternal peace!

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