EXCLUSIVE: Boardroom crises at Heritage Bank as MD begins mass firings in effort to remove owners

The struggling Heritage Bank appears to be in the midst of a boardroom crisis that could shake the institution to its core, according to an exclusive investigation by Platinum Times.

The imbroglio involves Mr. Akinola George-Taylor, the bank’s current managing director and chief executive, as well as several board members, according to reliable individuals within the institution who spoke to Platinum Times.

Less than a year after taking over as the bank’s top executive, the new bank boss may have exacerbated the struggling firm’s already difficult boardroom situation.

George-Taylor followed Ifie Sekibo, the bank’s founder and first managing director, who completed his ten-year term in September 2022 and joined Heritage Bank as interim managing director/chief executive officer. However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) acknowledged George-Taylor as the lender’s legitimate managing director in April 2023.

While the bank’s shareholders may have anticipated that the new leader would transform the organization’s fortunes and spur growth, sources claim that instead, he has allegedly instigated an internal crisis in an effort to fire employees who were thought to be board members’ loyalists and hire his own people. According to reports, the action had nothing to do with the new bank chief’s intention to remove several board members who were rumored to be at odds with him.

A prominent shareholder of the bank, who sources claim is determined to solely take over the bank and get rid of the owners, is claimed to be supporting the bank’s CEO.

Not less than 60 senior employees have been fired from the bank, which has been battling to stay afloat in recent months, according to top sources who spoke to Platinum Times. In addition, some additional employees have been requested to resign. In addition to people who were forced to leave, sources claim that some left the company voluntarily due to bad working conditions, and the bank’s once-busy branches are now as quiet as cemeteries. Platinum Times further learned that the impacted employees were let go without receiving their accrued benefits and allowances.

This occurrence occurs despite a directive from Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) prohibiting deposit money banks from mass-firing their staff.

“I can confirm that there is conflict going on right now at Heritage Bank. More than 60 people have been asked to leave, and others have also been asked to quit. Keep in mind that employees who were ordered to leave did not receive any compensation, according to a management staff member who wished to remain anonymous.

According to one of the individuals, “the new managing director’s mission is to ease out those who are loyal to some board members with whom he is not in tune, so he can employ his own people.”

The most recent problem coincides with the bank’s ongoing financial difficulty.

Platinum Times learned that despite depositors’ inability to access their money, the bank has been having trouble making payroll for some time.

It may be recalled that the apex bank had faced pressure to revoke the bank’s license due to its reported insolvency problems and failure to fulfill obligations to depositors.

Many have questioned why, despite the bank’s problematic and distressed situation, Nigeria’s financial authority had not used its hammer on the institution.

However, more research by Platinum Times showed that in addition to the problems with the “Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) and the Liquidity Ratio (LR), the commercial bank is also dealing with a number of other crises that tend to put its survival in jeopardy.

One of them is its subpar services, which are plainly visible to clients. Most of its branches are already flooded with complaints from disgruntled clients who sing the song of their intentions to shut their accounts as a result of the lengthy wait times they must endure to receive services from Heritage Bank employees.

The head of Heritage Bank’s corporate communications, Ozenna Utulu, was approached by Platinum Times on our fact-finding mission to get the bank’s perspective.

“These things are not true, there is no boardroom crisis at the bank,” Utulu responded. Of course, corporations restructure occasionally all over the world.

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