Turn-around or Die - The Vista Bank Imperative

Turn-around or Die - The Vista Bank Imperative

After a really tough 2019 performance review, the EXCO at Vista Bank spent another three days sequestered in a strategy planning session that was to be a make or break for the Management. The Bank’s Board was clear about the turn-around required and the significant changes that the Bank had to make if it was going to stay afloat, and if the Management Team will “retain their shirts”.

Vista Bank is a mid-sized Commercial Bank with its headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria and with a healthy branch network spread across all the States and particularly the commercial hubs around the country. It was one of the “bridge” banks that required capital injection from the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) during the last banking crises and after a couple of ownership changes, the current management of the Bank had finally steered the Bank out of troubled waters a few years ago.

The EXCO session were brutally honest and truthful, and the Bank’s CEO, Tunde Alonge did not “spare the rod” in challenging his direct reports to deliver better results. Although there was “blood” everywhere on the dance floor, the meeting was constructive enough to come out with clear action plans and initiatives across a number of key areas of the Bank to ensure the turn-around was successful.

On her way back home in the early hours of the morning after the final days’ sessions, Asabe Ojo, the Bank’s Chief Human Resources Officer kept thinking about the final words from Tunde at the Retreat which were directed at her - “HR, all of this rests on your ability to get our people aligned to deliver and deliver they must”. Tunde was right she thought to herself, the only way these turn-around initiatives will work was if she and the EXCO were able to carry the entire workforce along - it was clearly a “Change Management” challenge, and Asabe was just the “gal” for the job.

Asabe caught the best night’s sleep since after Christmas that Saturday in late January, and headed straight to the office, after summoning her Human Resources (HR) EXCO Team (Heads of the various divisions that reported to her) for a brunch session with her at the office. She ensured everyone’s favourite finger foods were available, and in between the meal, her crack team discussed the challenge at hand and started to build a Change Management Plan. They dug deep into their books and library - Asabe was the “business academia” type - she believed in and enjoyed the benefits of applied research.

Working together, they build a Change Management Plan - the idea was that in addition to the Strategy Project Plan that the Chief Strategy Officer and his Team had presented on the last day of the Retreat to the Country EXCO, there was a need to build a Change Management Plan that will run parallel to the Project Plan and ensure that the “people-side” of the change initiatives were managed. Tunde was right, and everything they learned from John Kotter and Jeffrey Hiatt that afternoon showed in clear terms how important managing the people side was, and how certain their failure will be if they did not.

The team came up with clear metrics for measuring the impact of the Change Management intervention and created sub-plans for the various Country EXCO Members who were ‘Theme” champions for various aspects of the turn-around Strategy.

Within a week, Tunde had reviewed and approved the plans, and was addressing an emergency EXCO session after Asabe had made her presentation to her EXCO colleagues on the plan and the various roles they all had to play. In his closing remarks, Tunde said “I am confident that if we implement only 30% of this plan from HR we will not only meet our strategy goals, but we will create a new culture of effective and impactful leadership at Vista Bank. Thanks HR, and my people - the ball is now in your court”, as he pointed round to the EXCO members around the table.

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