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Life Has Taught Me That Nothing Is impossible, Says GTBank CEO Segun Agbaje

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Segun Agbaje is Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, which organises the annual GTB Fashion Weekend. Hear Mr. Agbaje as he talks to Sunday Sun about this increasingly popular gathering of leading playmakers in the attires, cosmetics and allied businesses.

Question: What’s the relationship between banking and fashion?
Answer: What we are trying to do is building  SMEs. If you look at the rest of the world, if you look at a country like Italy, SMEs are truly controlling their economies. Even in  Nigeria, truly, the biggest businesses are SMEs. I’m sure if am to ask you, your brothers, your sisters, your spouse, most people have SMEs. So,  we’ve chosen to pick some industries to support, which we think are very popular, and in which a lot of Nigerians are partakers. We first looked at the food industry. Lots of  young Nigerians are into  agriculture, food processing and  fast food business, so, we decided to support them, and we’ll continue to, not  just in creating a platform for them to excel , we would also support them with loans when we understand their cash flows. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is  to  facilitate infrastructure which is where we are going.

We would like to facilitate infrastructure for them where they can  enjoy same economies of scale like big companies. The  second industry we focused on  and  that is very popular is fashion. In the fashion business, there  are  retailers who deal in  shoes, fabrics like aso-oke, adire,  as well as cosmetics which is huge. What we are doing here is  giving them a platform that’s  hopefully as good as  anywhere in the world.

We are  hosting master classes  where  they can learn from peoples experiences and also a platform for them to sell . All these were organized  at no cost to them. Don’t look at it as food or fashion, look at it as building SMEs up, but  we have chosen to concentrate on food and fashion. We have other things we can concentrate on but the truth is, I have learnt in my life that if you try to do too many things, you will do nothing. So, we’re focused on these two and we’ll   see how far we can go.

Question: This is really a nice one. If you weren’t a banker, what could you have been?
Answer: A banker (laughs). My father was a banker. I have always wanted to be a banker all my life, but I think my definition of bankers has changed after doing this for 26 years. I really think what Guaranty Trust Bank  is today, is a platform for enriching lives. We have to give people a platform to excel at whatever  they do.

Nigerians are so talented  and I really don’t see myself anymore as just a banker but  now as the CEO of a business enterprise. Other firms  are competing with banks right now whether it’s apple pay, pay pal etc. Even, we must start  to see ourselves as more of traditional banks and that’s what we are migrating to.

Question: What do you like about your job?
Answer: I love everything about my job. I love the fact that I’m talking to you here, I love the fact that we are hosting this fair, I love the fact that we have good participants, I love the fact that we have 60-70 young millennials who are working so hard, who are so passionate , whose lives we’re touching. I can’t pick up any other thing around me  than doing this.

Question: How fashionable are you?
Answer: I’m not very fashionable. Bankers are very boring people. My wife  is an interior decorator and  more fashionable than I am. If you’ve noticed, I’m not so out there a lot,  I’m in my office a lot  and I live a little bit of a  private life.

Question: Between  now  and  the next edition of the fashion show, in what ways do you hope to further enrich this sector?
Answer: First of all, we are going to place their names on our market hub. As you know, the market hub is free, just like this is free, we don’t charge you for being here.
We’ll help you and  for those whose business  we understand, we are going to support them with loans. I also pray and hope  we can  form alliances  with developmental agencies because in the world today, there are so many developmental agencies that have products targeted  at fashion. If we can help them access them, hopefully we’ll do it. Our country is very challenging but hopefully we will get there.

Question: What has life taught you?
Answer:  Life has taught me to be very humble, to trust completely in God  and to know that nothing is  impossible if you work hard, pray hard  and you are surrounded by the right people.

Question: You speak with a foreign accent; did you grow up in Nigeria?
Answer:  I  attended St Gregory’s College, Obalende here in Lagos and subsequently  schooled abroad.

Credit: Sunday Sun

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