Rokel Commercial Bank: This ‘Gateway’ Bank Named After a River Knows How to Flow and Grow

Rokel Commercial Bank MD & CEO: Ekundayo Gilpin

MD & CEO: Ekundayo Gilpin

The Rokel Commercial Bank is a gateway to modern Sierra Leonean banking, the second-largest commercial bank in the country in terms of profit margins, depositors’ base and national coverage.

After a decade of turbulence, the bank was restructured, recapitalised and repositioned in 2014 to regain its place as a dominant force in the country’s banking industry. It is named after the River Rokel, the longest in Sierra Leone.

New management was appointed in 2017 to roll out the ambitious benchmarks set by the Bank of Sierra Leone as regulator and majority and minority shareholder.

Restructuring kicked off with an aggressive rebranding and marketing programme, with a new logo and innovations that ultimately heralded a paradigm shift in its policies and operations. Public response was remarkable.

Rokel is led by an astute and results-orientated managing director and CEO Ekundayo Gilpin. Gilpin is a renowned economist and banker who has worked in more than 38 countries in Africa, South America, the South Pacific, Caribbean, Europe, the US and Asia.

He is assisted by management team comprising of 36 senior members of staff. The bank’s board is headed by a chairman and supported by six non-executive directors. The board advises on policy matters and approves limits/expenditure outside management discretions.

With several branches across the country and booming performance, the bank now has 400 employees. It has come a long way in just a short time.

Back in 2016, it made a meagre profit if Le1.6bn ($1.64m). In 2017, after Gilpin took over with an aggressive marketing and rebranding strategy, profits soared to Le52bn ($6.7m). In 2018, the bank continued its upward motion, registering a Le66bn ($7.6m) profit after tax – a 30 percent increase over 2017. Customer deposits increased from Le770bn ($79m) in 2017 to Le873bn ($89.5m) in 2018.

Rokel has adhered to its corporate social responsibility, touching lives and making a difference in society. No financial institution has surpassed Rokel Commercial Bank in terms of recognition: it has won more than 30 awards from indigenous and international organisations over the past two years.

Rokel Commercial Bank has become a champion for financial inclusion in Sierra Leone. Revolutionary mobile-based products like the Rokel Simkorpor has taken banking to virtually every corner of the country, while its sponsored national debating competitions on financial literacy have invariably helped to broaden the financial knowledge base of a critical mass of young people.

The government holds 65 percent shares in Rokel, with 35 percent owned by private institutions and individuals. It provides about 25 percent of all banking activities in the country.

Originally Barclays Bank, it was established in 1917 and operated with 100 percent shares owned by the parent company – Barclays of England.

The name changed to Barclays Bank of Sierra Leone Limited in 1971 after it was incorporated with 25 percent shares owned by Sierra Leoneans and 75 percent Barclays Bank International. In 1999, Barclays transferred 100 percent ownership to the government and people of Sierra Leone, and Rokel.

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