Fola Adeola, OFR

Fola Adeola, OFR

December 30
09:16 2020

the Special Investiture Ceremony for the Conferment of Honorary Fellowship on Mr. Fola Adeola, OFR, FCIB

Fola Adeola, OFR, the poster boy of the new generation set of Nigerian Banks in the early 1990s, is a quiet achiever. Just how much impact his FATE Foundation has had on the economy of Nigeria, by giving tens of thousands of direct beneficiaries and countless more indirect beneficiaries hope, is not known to many. This same heart to better the lot of fellow Nigerians in 2011, drove him to dabble into politics, when he and the former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Czar, Mr Nuhu Ribadu, ran for the elections to become Vice President and President of Nigeria respectively. An accountant and a consumate banker, Guarantee Trust Bank, which he cofounded with his friend, the late Tayo Aderinokun completely revolutionalized the Nigerian banking in Nigeria and the sector has not been the same since.

Tajudeen Afolabi Adeola, an Ogun State indigene, was born on January 1, 1954 into a very large family. With so many mouths to feed and limited income, his background was far from privileged. He began school at St Paul’s, Breadfruit street before processing to Methodist Boys High School in Lagos for his secondary school education. He then attended Yaba College of Technology where he graduated with a Diploma in Accounting in 1975.

While receiving his on the job training at Deloitte, Haskins and Sells and then at D.O. Dafinone & Company, both prominent Chartered Accounting firms, he passed his ICAN exams and became a Chartered Accountant in 1980. Further professional studies during the course of his career took him to some of the most prestigious business institutions in the world such as Harvard Business School in the US, INSEAD in France and the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland.

At D.O Dafinone & Co. he was the Senior Auditor and from there he moved to NAL Merchant Bank in 1982, where he was offered the post of Manager. In 1986, he moved yet again to Continental Merchant Bank where he became Deputy General Manager and the Head of Financial Services. To live closer to his work place, he then decided to move to Ikoyi with his old time friend and colleague, Adetayo Aderinokun. This was what led to the very first business they established together. To their amazement, they struggled to find a barbing salon in Ikoyi which meant taking regular trips to the mainland just to cut their hair. Apart from the inconvenience of travelling for miles just to cut their hair, it was an obvious business opportunity so they partnered in opening up their own salon. They called it Finishing Touches Barbing Salon.

In 1988, Fola and his friend and business partner decided to pursue an idea they had both toyed with for some time. The opportunity emerged for them to apply for a banking licence and so they applied in 1988. Having succeeded in convincing about 40 of their friends and close acquaintances to invest in their project, they applied in 1988. It would take another two years for the license to finally come through, but come through it did. On August 2, 1990, they received the banking licence No. 58. Guarantee Trust Bank Ltd then began operations with it’s first branch in Victoria Island, Lagos. Fola Adeola, Managing Director of the new bank was just thirty six years old while Tayo Aderinokun, his deputy, was thirty five.


Mr Adeola led the bank from 1990 to July 2002, when he stepped down for his deputy to take over. Mr Adeola’s voluntary retirement came as a surprise to a market and indeed a country where leaders and especially owners of commercial concerns, rarely want to step down. This set a great precedence at the bank which has continued since then. The bank has also been given credit for setting a precedence of having a clear line of succession and this has contributed immensely to making GTBank PLC one of the most stable financial institutions in Nigeria. A clear benefit of this is high shareholders confidence. All these factors worked for the Bank during the banking crisis when there was a run of several banks. GTBank PLC remained rock solid. Increase is depositor’s confidence was visible with the dramatic increase in the bank’s depositors during the crisis and ever since then.

Renowned for it’s preference to grow organically, GTBank PLC has grown to having 231 branches, 17 Cash Centres, 18 e-branches, 41 GTExpress locations and over 1165 ATMs in the country. Spreading it’s wings to offer it’s innovative services in other world markets it has established several subsidiaries abroad. GTBank PLC now operates in: Gambia, Ghana, Côte d’ivoir, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and in the United Kingdom.

After retiring from the management team of the bank he cofounded and in preparation for his next phase in life, Mr Adeola enrolled at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru in Jos, where he undertook a research on economic development and job creation policies. Coupled with knowledge gained from experience he put the knowledge acquired from this course to good use by establishing his now famous, FATE Foundation, a non profit organization in March 2000. FATE was set up with the goal of reducing the country’s unemployment rate, by raising entrepreneurs through training and mentorship backed with financial support loans. The foundation has since inception empowered over 35,000 Nigerians and 65% of them have established ongoing businesses that on average have four members of staff.

Mr Adeola, also succeeded in striking a partnership between his foundation and the Centre of Design Research at Stanford University to establish the Institute for Venture Design in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The focus of this centre is to offer entrepreneurial courses with particular attention paid to engineering, technology and innovation.

As should be expected of a man who has attained his level of success, Fola has attracted the attention of disparate organizations who look to tap from his wealth of experience and knowledge. Some of them are humanitarian bodies. For four years, Fola served as a member of the Global Advisory Committee on Philanthropy of the World Economic Forum. He was given an invitation to join the Aspen Institute ISIB Annual Business Leaders Dialogue in 2001. In May, 2004, the then Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair appointed him a Commissioner on the Commission for Africa.

Corporate bodies of course have sought to have him on their boards too. Some of the positions he has held are: Chairman of UTC

UTC, Chairman of ARM Holdings, Chairman of Lotus Capital,  Chairman of Eterna Oil, Chairman of Cardinalstone Partners Limited, Chairman of Tafsan Breweries, Chairman of Credit Registry Services, Chairman of Main One Cable Company Limited, Chairman of the National Pension Commission and Chairman of the Governing Council of Lagos State University.

Other positions held are: member of the Solid Minerals Committee, Chairman of Ogun State Development Trust Fund Committee and  Council Member of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State.

Many honours have been bestowed upon this eminent entrepreneur and some of these are: Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Federal Government in 2002; Banker of the Decade by Vanguard Newspaper in 2009; Distinguished Famous Alumni, Yaba Tech; Zik Leadership Award in 2003; Change Makers in Social Entrepreneurship by Thisday Newspaper in 2011.

Mr Fola Adeola, no doubt is a man whose stellar qualities have catapulted him to the very top in life’s known endeavours but one noticeable quality this Lagos Legend possesses in abundance that cannot be measured in numbers, is a penchant to serve. Perhaps a quote credited to this outstanding leader may do greater justice in summing him up: “I believe that just like a man can serve his God without being a clergy, so can a man serve his state without being the governor.” Nothing captures his essence better than this.

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December 2020