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Bisi Onasanya Wins GENESIS Magazine CEO of the Year 2015

The GENESIS INTERNATIONAL Magazine CEO of the Year Award program was founded to identify and recognize outstanding leadership and achievement by a Nigerian Chief Executive Officer. This highly respected award honors an executive in Nigerian business who exemplifies integrity, insists upon excellence, earns the trust of others, and has built a globally competitive organization. The honoree is selected by a distinguished advisory board comprised of eminent business leaders based on the following criteria: Corporate Performance, Vision and Leadership, Global Competitiveness, Innovation, and Social Responsibility.

2015 has sure been a very trying year particularly with the transition in government and the dwindling oil prices and its effects resonating on all other spheres of business in Nigeria. Despite these challenges, however, some businesses still posted huge successes as a result of their dynamic leadership. Our team came up with a list of three most outstanding CEOs in Nigeria for 2015 from a list of over 30 contenders, and we presented them to our reading audience to vote for their preferred choice to become the first winner of our annual CEO OF THE YEAR Award. After One month of voting exercise on our website,, the overwhelming favorite is Mr. Bisi Onasanya, Group Managing Director of First Bank Plc.

Mr. Bisi Onasanya is so credited because he has been able to make a difference in highly competitive markets. He has demonstrated effective management capabilities through hard work, resilience, research, an understanding of the Nigeria business climate, thus moving First Bank as a group to the next level and positioning it favorably for the future. He has been able to stabilize and modernize the expanding FirstBank brand since his appointment in 2009, thus reinforcing the confidence of the bank’s diverse stakeholders.

Reputed as a seasoned banker and chartered accountant, Onasanya is a highly respected and personable executive who has established a reputation at FirstBank for solid performance and sound judgment. He succeeded Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (now the Emir of Kano) as Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer upon the appointment of the latter as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria in 2009. He is widely reputed as the architect of the modern FirstBank, associated with various innovative and creative achievements. He was the Project Coordinator of Century 2 the new frontier, FirstBank’s far-reaching enterprise transformation project at the turn of the century, as well as the Coordinator of the FirstBank Corporate Transformation project which has seen the bank accentuating its foothold on modernization. Mr. Onasanya also superintended the latest composite Corporate Identity/Brand Refresh of the FirstBank Group, a bold step heralding the international expansion of the FirstBank brand which under his leadership now boasts of subsidiaries with operations across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Relentlessly, he not only pursued the corporate rebranding of the First Bank Group, Mr. Onasanya also invested heavily in the human capital of the company culminating in the transformation of the bank’s training center into First Academy, a best in class corporate university that recently clinched the 2015 Global Council of Corporate Universities Award for best impact by a corporate university on the implementation of business strategies. The bank has also received the highly coveted Best Place to Work award under his management.

His penchant for innovation, excellence, and creativity knows no bound. At an award ceremony recently, he stressed the plans of the bank stating “As a group we plan to grow in priority segments, especially the retail and emerging corporates. We also intend to continue strengthening our service proposition, including optimizing our distribution mix.” A man of his words, First Bank under his watch recently opened its 700th branch nationwide creating employment opportunities for the youth.

One of the cornerstones of his repositioning drive was to be the driving force and partner of first choice in facilitating the growth and building of the future of the nation. And in keeping with the ‘You First’ promise to Nigerians, FirstBank supports the entirety of the agriculture value chain, from food production to transportation, retailing, and consumption. This also culminated in their partnership with Eventful on Fiesta on Flavors recently bringing together hundreds of food and beverage enterprises.

First Bank, under his watch also inaugurated the mobile payment service which he aptly captured at the inauguration thus, “with the inauguration of this service, the stage is now set for the banks customers and anyone in Nigeria with a mobile phone to enjoy financial services, using their mobile phones to send money, pay bills, top up their phone airtime, do shopping, deposit and withdraw cash, without the need to visit a bank branch.” The idea of firstmonie was conceptualized and unveiled in 2012 by FirstBank of Nigeria.

This award comes on the heel of the announcement of his retirement as the Group CEO of First Bank and it could only be described as a fitting cap to a sterling career after over three decades of diverse management and operational experience, 21 years of which he has spent with FirstBank, serving meritoriously in the last six years as Group Managing Director/CEO. He was before this appointment the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Pension Custodian, and began his career with Arthur Young, an American audit firm. A chartered accountant, Bisi is credited with pioneering initiatives in Nigeria’s nascent pension custody industry that helped define best industry practices.

Born in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Mr. Onasanya hails from the Onasanya Family in Ijebu Land, Ogun State. Bisi grew up in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, where he attended St Paul’s Anglican Primary School (Mushin), Eko Boys High School (Mushin), and the then Lagos State College of Science and Technology. Bisi is the eldest of four children from his mother, and the third of his father’s children.

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