In 2018, the Central Bank of Nigeria took over Skye bank while it was on the brink of collapse, rebranding it as Polaris Bank. Four years later, in October 2022, the CBN sold it. Instead of applause, it triggered a wave of allegations: lawmakers, trade unions, and other opponents of the deal all cried foul.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) announced the sale of 100 per cent of the equity in Polaris Bank to Strategic Capital Investment Limited (SCIL). SCIL paid an upfront consideration of N50 Billion (approximately US$115 million to acquire 100 per cent of the equity of Polaris Bank. They also agreed to pay N1.305 trillion (approx. US$3 billion) in bonds that CBN and AMCON had injected into Polaris. As a result of this transaction, CBN and AMCON recovered all the capital that had been injected into Polaris since 2018.
Polaris Bank, is one of Nigeria’s leading digital retail banks, with large financial service in West Africa and Central Africa, that was hit by change of ownership many times. As of September 2010, the bank’s total assets were valued in excess of US$3.9 billion (NGN:611.5 billion), with shareholders’ equity of approximately US$630 million (NGN:98.4 billion). Polaris Bank as at today, has more than 250 branches spread across the country. It is steadily consolidating its position within the cadre of commercial banks in Nigeria.
Eminently qualified as one of Nigeria’s oldest banks, Polaris traces its origins back to 1989 when Prudent Bank Plc., when it was incorporated as a limited liability company. In 1990, the bank was issued a license as a merchant Bank. That same year, it re-branded as Prudent Merchant Bank Limited. In 2006, Prudent Merchant Bank Limited merged with four other Banks to form Skye Bank Plc.
Polaris is a bridge bank licensed in September 2018, to take over the assets and liabilities of the defunct Skye Bank, when the Central Bank of Nigeria intervened to revoke the licence of the former Skye Bank Plc and established Polaris Bank to assume its assets and certain liabilities. As part of the CBN intervention, consideration bonds with a face value of N898 billion (future value of N1.305 trillion) were injected into the bridge bank through AMCON, to be repaid over a 25-year period. These actions were taken to prevent the imminent collapse of the bank, enable its stabilisation and recovery, protect depositors’ funds, prevent job losses and preserve systemic financial stability.
Polaris Bank, despite its challenges, operates with the best standard and corporate governance you could imagine.
Change and Innovation are often frowned upon, but the truth is that Polaris Bank is witnessing its best years in a very long time with this new management, they are trying and will do better. It is those who have been exploiting the Bank and have now found out that their channels of exploitation are being threatened that are causing trouble where there is none. Perhaps, this could be so because of the Adekunle Sonola led-management team at the bank. Since the constitution of the Bank’s new board, Polaris has hit the ground running, enthroning a new work culture and improving its earnings. It has also been celebrated with several awards, including the ‘MSME Bank of the Year 2022’ in the BusinessDay’s Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards, Best Digital Bank: VULTe by Nigeria Fintech Award, and African Digital Bank of the Year presented by African Leadership Award.
In May 2021, the bank introduced VULTe, its Digital Banking platform, offering Internet banking and mobile banking. In 2014, the bank acquired Mainstreet Bank Limited.
Despite the different transformations the bank has undergone, POLARIS Bank Limited, has recorded relative calm and seamless services with customers.
The new investor, Strategic Capital Investment Limited; Ponglomerape Limited is a diversified conglomerate with massive investments in the real estate, Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Consulting sectors. The company was established to identify and implement the completion of a strategic investment in the Nigerian financial services sector, as the first step in an investment strategy focused on building a strong and robust growth platform within the Nigerian financial services sector.
Shareholders’ funds and customers’ deposits have never been tampered with and have been 100% safe, under the Adekunle Sonola led-Management.
The bank’s board led by M.K Ahmad who is continuing in his role as Chairman Polaris, have helped the bank stay afloat.
Adekunle Sonola is a proven and experienced veteran of the banking industry, with decades of experience in executive and managerial positions in corporate banking, investment banking, and commercial banking, across several banks and multiple countries. Under his management, the bank is poised to take banking services to the next level, as he brings to bear his wealth of experience in various areas of banking to take Polaris to the next level in delivering banking services to customers and partners.
Under his leadership, Polaris Bank trained recent graduates from an institution of higher learning in its Graduate Intensive Trainee Program. It is specifically trained persons who built a career in Nigeria’s financial services industry. Its graduate trainee program not only trains them on the rudiments of working in a contemporary bank; they also find out what it takes to be a part of the building up of a relatively recently established financial institution.
Olamide Adeniji is a member of the editorial team of TheScript Newspapers