Foremost African financial institution, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) debuted GTBank Fashion Weekend which held on Saturday, November 12, 2016, and Sunday, November 13, 2016, at the GT Centre, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos.
GTBank ventured into fashion in other to promote enterprise in the SME sector of the industry. Having sponsored two of the country’s leading fashion events, The Arise Fashion Week and The Lagos Fashion and Design Week for five years, the bank has also contributed significantly to raising the international profile of the African fashion through collaborations which includes the Ndani Installation of Selfridges and the Double Club collaboration of PRADA. Hence, the GTBank Fashion Weekend is an extension of the bank’s long tradition of supporting local fashion industry and African fashion in general.
The core of the weekend fashion master classes was where entrepreneurs had the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from global fashion industry leaders. Retail exhibitions also showcased the wares of dozens of SMEs within the fashion industry for patronage from guests.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with the Managing Director of the bank, Mr. Segun Agbaje, who let us on why GTBank is supporting the fashion industry. We also took him on sundry issues…
Tell us about the inspiration behind GTBank Fashion Weekend?
I will look at it differently. What we are trying to do here is to build an SME business. If you look at the rest of the world, SME (Small Medium-sized Enterprises) is really controlling the economy. If you look at Nigeria truly, the biggest businesses are the SMEs. I am sure if I am to ask all of you, your spouses, brothers and sisters have SME. However, SME is a very general thing. We choose to pick some industries to support which we think are very popular and have some Nigerians in it.
First one we identified was food. Whether it is agriculture, food processing, fast food, there are lots of young Nigerians in it. We would continue to support them, not just in creating a platform for them to excel, we would support them with loan and also create infrastructure which is where we are going. We would create infrastructure that would make them share and enjoy same economy as big companies.
The second industry is fashion which we are showcasing. I am learning. There are so many areas of fashion. There are some into retail, those who make shoes, cosmetics and so on. What we are doing here is to give them a platform which is free. It is as good as what they can find in the rest of the world. We are not charging for it. They can sell, build master classes so they can learn from people’s experience.
All these we are giving for free. Please, don’t look at it as food or fashion, look at it as a budding SME, it is just that we have chosen food and fashion. We have other things we can concentrate on but I have learnt in my life that if you concentrate on so many things you would end up doing nothing. Let us pick this tow and see how far it would go.
What is in it for you?
Ultimately, hopefully, those people would become my customers as we build their businesses, we are building SME for the future, just as we build retail. Having said that, I think we have a duty to build small businesses. We have been fortunate as a bank to be successful and I think when you are in a country like ours, if you are successful, you really need to give something back. So, even if there is nothing in it for us, I promise you, we would still do it.
There are a lot of businesses out there that have no names and are just starting, how do you intend reaching them?
You are right and not absolutely right. We put up everything on the website and we got a lot of applications. We reserved a certain portion for those who are on the website and we reserved a certain portion for people who are established.
We would continue to mix it and grow. This is not a one-off for us, this is going to be every year and hopefully, we would continue to reach the smaller businesses more. It is mixed, we have some established businesses here and we have some who are just starting.
Sir, if you weren’t a banker, what would you have been?
A banker. My father was a banker, I have always wanted to be a banker all my life. But I think my definition of banker has changed having done this for 26 years. I really think what GTBank is today and would be in the future is the platform for enriching lives and we have to continue to give people a platform to excel at whatever they do. We would put the platform and help people. Nigerians are so talented. If you give them the right platform, they would continue to do wonderful things. I see myself as the CEO of a business, I don’t see myself anymore as a banker.
What do you like about your job?
I love everything about my job. I love the fact that I am talking to you here. I love the fact that we do Food Fair. I love the fact that we have 70 young millionaires who are working so hard and we are touching their lives.
You look very fashionable, how fashionable are you?
No, I am not very fashionable. Bankers are very boring people. I have a wife who is an interior decorator. She is more fashionable than I am. I am in my office every day and I live a very private life.
Between now and the next edition, in what way is GTBank looking to further empower their market?
We would put more measures on our market hub which is free. We don’t charge. And for those who we understand their business, we would support them with loans and also pray and create for them allegiance with development agencies because there are so many development agencies products targeted at fashion and we can help them access it. Hopefully, we would do it. Like I said, the ultimate goal is creating infrastructure that those guys can share and that is the most difficult part. Our country is very challenging but hopefully we would land that path.
What has life taught you, sir?
Life has taught me to be very humble, to trust totally in God and to believe that absolutely nothing is impossible, if you work hard, play hard and you are surrounded by the right people.
- SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN