Africa's rising stars: Patience Akyianu, managing director of Barclays
At Standard Chartered and then at Barclays, Patience Akyianu set the pace for change, applying international best practice to the banks she worked in. At Standard Chartered, she led the adoption of international financial reporting standards (IFRS) and then led the full implementation of the process while at Barclays. International best practice, transparency and discipline through Akyianu’s time at Barclays helped transform the bank in Ghana from a struggling institution suffering from losses in 2008 to one of the leading banks in Ghana today.
“Strong financial discipline is important for Ghanaian banks to play on the same level playing field with other international banks,” says Akyianu.
“Without applying the same standards of financial reporting throughout the country, comparison between like institutions is difficult and this is essential to create an even level of analysis – any banks with real regional or international ambitions will have to adapt international best practices. Luckily, as the banking sector in Ghana and elsewhere in the region becomes more sophisticated, banks are increasing standards and due diligence to follow this trend,” she says.
“The bank had undergone a period of massive expansion in Ghana at the time that I joined,” Akyianu says. “We introduced strong controls, closed loopholes and eventually put a stop to the fraud that impacted the industry at the time. I firmly believe that these measures prevented many millions of dollars in fraudulent activity and operational losses.” After working at Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), EY and as a business manager at an international school in Ghana, Akyianu moved over to the banking sector after taking a position at Standard Chartered as financial controller in Accra and then chief financial officer in Johannesburg.
Eager to return home and be part of the changing financial landscape in Ghana, Akyianu joined Barclays Bank in Accra as finance director in 2008, before being promoted to managing director in October 2013 – the first female Ghanaian managing director appointed to a banking role.
“While at Barclays, we have been able to leverage off of our regional and international ties, and we have also set the example for other banks to follow suit,” says Akyianu. “My goal is for Barclays Bank Ghana to become the go-to bank for our customers and the instinctive employer of choice for aspiring young talent. I would like to contribute more broadly to the socio-economic development of Ghana by championing some of the work required to develop the financial services industry as well as contribute to capacity building by continuing to provide coaching and mentoring support to young people.”