How The Owner Of A Barbing Salon Built A Multi-Billion Dollar Bank In Nigeria

Biography Of Fola Adeola: Co-Founder Of Guaranty Trust Bank 
Biography & Success Story Of Fola Adeola: Co-Founder Of Guaranty Trust Bank

More often than not, great success stories revolve around harnessing the power of synergy. Two heads, they say, are better than one. And a partnership, coupled with a dream and the zeal to bring it to reality, is a great way to shoot for the stars.

Here’s the story of Fola Adeola, an accountant who co-founded GTBank with his friend, Tayo Aderinokun in the late ’80s. Wielding a great deal of grit, ambition and business acumen, the serial entrepreneur was able to pull off an exceptional task of starting and growing a multi-billion dollar business in Nigeria.

Here’s how he did it:

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Early Life And Education Of Fola Adeola

Fola Adeola was born in Nigeria on the 1st of January 1954. His father was a bank clerk earning a modest income, but not good enough to meet the necessities for 17 children. While his mother would send Fola and his siblings hawking to augment the family income. Though this wasn’t the childhood anyone would wish for, young Fola Adeola didn’t let this deter him from seizing the opportunity to develop his character, intellects, and entrepreneurial skills.

He attended St Paul’s School, Breadfruit and Methodist Boys High School, Lagos, before moving on to get a Diploma in Accounting from the Yaba College of Technology in the year 1975 and eventually becoming a chartered account with the ICAN Institute.


Service To The Government

After his training at the ICAN Institute, he worked for some time in the public sector where he eventually rose to the position of the first Chairman of the National Pension Commission in Nigeria. He served and is still functioning at national and international levels, on various committees and corporate boards. He has also served in the capacity as a member of the National Honors Committee, a member of the Solid Mineral Committee (both federally constituted), a board member of the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Accountants and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Committee on Philanthropy.

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The Start Of Guarantee Trust Bank

The GTBank journey began when Fola Adeola and his friend, Tayo Aderinokun, pooled some resources together and decided to establish a barbing salon in Lagos, Ikoyi, called Finishing Touches Barbing salon. Running the salon together made the duo discover that they had a similar knack for entrepreneurship and its risks.

A couple of years later, Fola and Tayo decided to sell the barbing salon so that they could start and focus on building a bank, which they called the Guaranty Trust Bank.

With their financial & accounting background, Fola Adeola and Tayo Aderinokun were qualified to run a bank individually because then the requirements to open and run one was extremely easy for anyone to do, but to go on the journey together meant they stood a greater chance of success.

At the time, Fola was 34 while Tayo was 33. And when they finally raised the required capital in 1988, they applied for a banking license which they got (licence 58) on the 2nd of August, 1990.

In no time, the bank began operations and was listed on the Nigerian stock exchange in 1996.


Guaranty Trust Bank Today

Guaranty Trust Bank has grown into one of the biggest and most profitable corporations in Nigeria. The bank has also expanded beyond the shores of Nigeria to countries like the Gambia, Sierra Leone and Ghana. The bank’s assets as of Q1 2020 was N4. 06 trillion (over $10 billion).

Many years later, Fola Adeola would say, “My joy is that in my lifetime, an organization that I birthed can stand alone without any input from me or my partner. That means that in a few decades, somebody could say, GT Bank since 1990, and 1990 would sound like 1550 sounds to us now.”

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Fola Adeola Today

Asides being the co-founder of GT bank, Adeola Tajudeen Afolabi is also the pioneer of FATE Foundation, a non-governmental organization that provides support to budding entrepreneurs.

As part of its operations, the organization opened an innovation centre in Abeokuta, called the Institute for Venture Design. It has since expanded to include an entrepreneurship program focused on engineering, technology and innovation. In the last two decades, the FATE foundation has served over 30,000 Nigerian youths with over 65% fully engaged in profitable enterprises to date.

One time vice presidential aspirant, he has worked on various development projects within and outside Nigeria and has served as an officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) in his capacity on the Blair Commission for Africa in 2002 as well as on the Board as Main Street Technologies Limited delegate.

Since he retired from active banking service, Fola Adeola has been a board member of several organisations ranging from but not limited to Arm Holdings, Eterna Oil, Cardinal Stone Partners Limited, UTC, Credit Registry Services and MainOne Cable Company Limited. He also served as a board member with Tafsan Breweries and is a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University.

He was also the Chairman of the Lagos State Disaster Relief Committee, a team formed as a result of the January 27, 2002, Lagos bomb blast, and he is also a member of the Solid Minerals Committee and the Chairman of the Ogun State Development Trust Fund Committee.

For four years Adeola worked as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Committee on Philanthropy. He was appointed as commissioner for the British prime minister Tony Blair in May 2004.

Fola Adeola is married to Hajara Fola Adeola and they are blessed with six children.

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Fola Adeola’s Awards And Recognitions

Fola Adeola’s numerous awards include the award of membership at the National Institute of Policy & Strategic Studies (MNI) in Kuru, Jos in 1999, after completing a one-year Sabbatical at the university. He was Nigerian Action Congress (ACN)’s vice-presidential running mate in the 2011 presidential elections alongside with running mate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

One of his most outstanding awards is the recognition of a distinguished officer of the Federal Republic (OFR).

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To Sum It Up

To grow a business and sustain its success over many decades, every entrepreneur must be willing to take risks, build key partnerships and connections, and continue to advance their knowledge. Fola Adeola’s story is a great example and one that should be emulated by every aspiring and existing entrepreneur.


What are your thoughts on this success story of Fola Adeola? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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