“It is said that there is no school for CEO’s to learn from, except the school of experience. I have learnt throughout my career to combine continuous learning and experience to lead an organisation such as EBID.”

Dr. George Nana Agyekum Donkor is a forward-thinking and result-oriented leader with over twenty-seven (27) years’ experience in senior management positions in various disciplines such as Finance, Strategic Management, Marketing, Legal, Compliance and Administration. Proactive and highly self-motivated in converting opportunities into success and driving profit and growth, Dr. Donkor possesses hands-on background in innovation, organisational design, development and improvement. He has strong oral and written skills which translate into outstanding policy and strategy formulation and is also adept at leading large diverse teams in a multicultural setting. He holds two doctorate degrees, two master’s degrees from reputable universities in Ghana and Europe. He is a lawyer by profession.

Dr. Donkor serves on the boards of many local and international bodies and personally supports several projects that benefit the youth and improve local communities. He is a Christian and a family man, married with four children: three biological and one adopted.

His personal philosophy is: perfection across the board. He leaves no stone unturned to achieve this cardinal principle, according the same level of importance to everything he works on. He also brings the principles of Christianity to bear in every aspect of his life, especially into his professional life, in order to bear impactful, life-transforming and sustainable fruits for the good of his immediate and extended communities in particular and the world at large. According to him, “This approach should govern every aspect of the life of a Christian, especially one in a corporate leadership position. Trusting in God and hard work are not mutually exclusive; they actually complement each other. I call it: leadership with conviction.”

Dr. Donkor employs discipline and orderliness to ensure a balance in his work life. He does not engage in pursuits or activities that do not add value to his life. On this, he opined, “Time is an asset of universal equality. Everyday comprises 24 hours which could be wasted or invested. I choose to belong to the latter category.”

Executives of international organisations have work schedules that demand more than 24 hours in a day. However, he manages the 24-hour limit by planning and anticipating needs in line with the plans. Dr. Donkor believes that time is a resource that has to be utilised intelligently and the passion for academic excellence, duty to family, support for community service and leisure all have their place on the time scale. In his own words, “Work-life balance strives for an equilibrium that guarantees the attention, care and rest that the person requires while focusing on attaining and delivering on their goals.”

For Dr. Donkor, dedication to the truth regardless of the circumstances has been the most challenging part of his career path. To accomplish this, he has remained courteous and fearless, speaking his mind without fear or favour. He shared some nuggets on this, based on his experience: “Speaking the truth sometimes comes with negative implications but the truth always prevails. This is not negotiable. I do not compromise the truth and my beliefs.”

One hallmark of his career path has been diversification and a wealth of experience without distraction. He trained as a lawyer, became a judge and applied that legal knowledge in an in-house corporate role. Then, he pursued an MBA programme, moved into development financing and to an executive position of an international organisation. Though it may sound out of place: studying marketing as a lawyer, he believes it was a move orchestrated by the hand of God. This made him ready when certain opportunities emerged for him.

His background experience as a judge, Head of Legal Services and his executive roles, have helped him see things from a variety of perspectives. These, in addition to his doctorate in Strategic Management (Leadership) have broadened his horizon and enabled him to proffer appropriate solutions to issues. On this subject, he said: “My skills backed by my faith, my training and my experiences at both personal and professional levels have taught me that help from God and hard work are imperative to succeed in the corporate world.

As a business leader, his preoccupation over the years has been to ensure excellent guidance in the diverse roles he played, in spite of the challenges. At EBID, they are achieving a lot notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, because “as much as we put in hard work, we also show faith in the staff-demonstrating our belief in the capabilities of our organisation. One cannot be a substitute for the other.”

Dr Donkor has been using a people-centred leadership style, or what may be referred to as the bottom-up approach. He believes it is critical for leaders to understand and manage competing demands and interests of internal and external stakeholder groups, as demands that conflict with business principles surface on a daily basis. One of his best exit strategies that helps him avoid coming across as autocratic, is to delegate power and refer issues to appropriate department(s) to enable informed decisions to be made. Even with this tactic, antagonisms may emanate towards the leader concerning a collective decision that is made.

Dr Donkor also believes that ethical standards must be the credo of a leader. From where he stands, ethics in business poses challenges for business leaders who aspire to excel in the competitive environment. Leaders are constantly faced with the issue of compromising themselves in order to succeed.

He further explained, “Ethical standards apart, I operate an open-door policy to promote constructive suggestions. I believe in motivating staff so they can give of their best; thus, I have no sympathy for mediocrity and laziness. This philosophy has determined my leadership style.”

Research conducted and published in the May–June 1996 edition of The Harvard Business Review shows that; there are five ways Chief Executive Officers lead. The Strategy Approach, the Human-asset Approach, the Expertise Approach, the Box Approach, and the Change Approach. These approaches determine Dr Donkor’s leadership style. He believes in the creation, testing, design, and implementation of long-term strategy, whilst imparting success-oriented values, behaviours and attitudes. In his view, there is also the need to acquire expertise and portray the positive attitudes and approach to work that should be representative of EBID.

As the President and Board Chairman of EBID, Dr Donkor has achieved a lot in the two years that he assumed the role. Notable of these include: growing the balance sheet by 28% in 2021 and reducing non-performing loans to 5.86% leading to a B2 (stable outlook) rating by Moody’s Investors Service. This credit rating is a remarkable and unprecedented feat in the history of the Bank especially in the context of COVID, where many corporate entities and financial institutions were folding up.

To overcome Human Resource Challenges at EBID, Dr Donkor put the right policies in place, geared towards enhancing the conditions of service and performance. For example, succession plans, remuneration policies, retirement etc. Even more, they have optimized the resources they have, and also recruited new staff to inject a new dynamism into the organisation.

The West African subregion is endowed with lot of resources including human capital. They have put in place a rigorous procedure for recruitment where suitable candidates are taken through a process that assesses their suitability for the job while relating to existing employees, with fairness. On this, Donkor shared: “Diversity in the workplace provides exposure to different cultures. This advantage to learn about different perspectives would not be possible in a monolithic setting. A corporate setting with stakeholders from diverse cultural backgrounds lends more depth to the appreciation of issues and perhaps a more informed decision for the team.”

Regarding impactful change in the financial sector in West Africa, we asked Dr Donkor what his plans are, and this is what he had to share: “We will continue to contribute by funding impactful development projects in the subregion. There is an infrastructure deficit of more than Six Billion US Dollars (US$6 Billion) within the West African region alone and to have any significant impact requires a paradigm shift in the way we have been operating.
There is the need to access concessional resources for on-lending to support the development agenda of Member States. We are also extending credit lines to commercial banks to enable them support Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). We aim to give resources to other financial institutions to enhance financial intermediation in the subregion. We are committed to securing investment rating in the next two years which will enable us to raise funds at competitive rates. We are not resting on our laurels. We have set our sights on attaining the best levels in all other aspects of our operations. However, it is important to note that change in the financial sector is shaped by the regulator and not by Development Finance Institutions like EBID.”

The HR Focus team is truly humbled to have had the opportunity to interview Dr. Donkor, and we are hopeful that HR will continue to impact the lives of those in his immediate and external communities.