Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian entrepreneur and investor, is the major shareholder of Transcorp, a publicly traded Nigerian conglomerate with interests in hospitality, agriculture, oil production and power generation.
The Nigerian business mogul first came into the limelight in 1997 when he led a small group of investors to take over “a small, floundering commercial bank” in Lagos. He would grow the bank to become United Bank for Africa with branches across Africa, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Before starting his career in banking, he was a salesperson. “I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young and hungry, but still one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates all eager to succeed. My success has come from hard work, resilience and a long-term vision – and also luck.” Elumelu said.
His banking career started at Allstates Trust Bank. At the time, he had just completed his master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos and he saw a job ad by Allstates Trust Bank. Although he did not have the required qualification but he applied.
He wrote on his cover letter, “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more”
He was shortlisted and was hired by the bank after several interviews and tests. At Allstates Trust Bank, he started as an entry-level analyst. Within a year, he became the youngest branch manager at age 27 by being hardworking.
He said “I was hardworking, energetic, creative and prioritised getting things done, but it was also good fortune that my bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo noticed this, and believed in me,”.
“They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. They recognised in me the raw materials needed to make a good leader and were prepared to invest in me and my ability. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving.”
He had led a group of investors to take over Standard Trust Bank, a Lagos-based commercial bank in 1997. He turned the fortunes of the company around, in 2005 he merged it with the United Bank for Africa. The bank came to had over seven million customers while operating in 19 countries in Africa.
Forbes reported that Elumelu also owns extensive real estate across Nigeria and a minority stake in mobile telecom firm MTN Nigeria, among other assets. He is currently also a philanthropist and has over the years donated towards many charity causes.
He founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation to develop the next crop of African entrepreneurs. In 2016, he invested $100 million in emerging African entrepreneur.
He was named in the 2020 Time 100 Most Influential People in the World, recognized for his business leadership and economic empowerment of young Africans, he sits on a number of public and social sector boards including the World Economic Forum Community of Chairmen and the Global Board of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited