“Congratulations on your elevation [to serve at] Ecobank head office especially in the year of signs and wonders. Cedar Mountain Chapel, East Legon, Assemblies of God is proud of you”. That was how Rev. Steve Wengam, the immediate past Chairman of the Ghana Prison Service Council, took to Facebook to celebrate the lady who prefers to introduce herself this way: “Loretta Sarpong is my name and the L in my name stands for Loving – I like loving and to be loved”. It is for that reason I quiz: the Ecobank woman of love? Indeed, it is in that spirit of “Love” that I decided to celebrate this emerging corporate giant this month of February, the month of love.
Acing the Ice-Breaker
“Evans, where did you first meet her”? I hear you ask. It was at the Education Section of the America Embassy where the US Embassy Accra Gladiators Toastmasters used to hold our meetings (until the advent of COVID meant we had to meet virtually on Zoom). That was in 2019 but I still remember as though it was only yesterday. I remember I was the Toastmaster of the Day (the MC for the meeting) and Toastmaster Loretta Sarpong was one of the prepared speakers for the meeting. Specifically, it was a repeat of her famous ice-breaker speech “The Journey to the World Bank”. As is required of a Toastmasters Ice-breaker speech project, the purpose was for Loretta to introduce herself to her audience and demonstrate that she had learnt the basic structure of a public speech. And she did with and a touch of mastery.
Growing up, Loretta had three careers in mind: an air hostess, a TV announcer or a banker. Why? Mainly because she loved the one commonality all three careers had – the appearance. She simply loved the way dressing up was a significant part of these jobs. Well, even though she almost vehemently denies it, I still maintain Loretta passes as a fashionista. Please visit her Facebook page (Loretta Tandoh) and come back for an informed discussion.
She recounted, also in her speech: “I am the only girl among nine siblings but I’m not pampered, I rather pamper my boys! ‘The journey to the World Bank’ began at the age of 14 when we lost our mother. My brothers and I were devastated and broken. Being the only girl, I had not only lost a mother, but also a friend and sister. I had to take up the responsibility of ‘mothering’ my brothers and our father at that tender age. I took up the challenge and pressed on, shedding tears at the least opportunity and always singing when alone. In the process, I learnt that in life, screaming and crying are allowed but giving up is not an option. No!
There is more to Loretta’s compelling story of her youth years. At age 19, it became obvious her A-Level education from Yaa Asantewaa Girls Secondary School was probably the last level. Why? The prevailing socio-economic situation demanded an end to her schooling. What was next? Just settle for early marriage? No! Yet, gifted with natural beauty, it was only natural that many suitors made advances, as she confessed in her speech. But deep down inside her heart-of-hearts, Loretta knew she wanted much more from life.
With that burning desire, she defied all odds and gained admission to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to read BSc in Planning. It didn’t end there. Through a distance programme at the Paris Graduate School of Management, she got an MBA. Currently, she holds with pride, a PhD in Management from Texila American University, South America. And yes, it is important to highlight that she is also a Chartered Economist, Administrator and a Management Consultant as well as an ardent and committed advocate of women’s developmental issues.
In her own voice, “I am strong today because I have been weak. I am fearless because I have been afraid. And I am wise because I have been foolish! I believe everyone is gifted, but some people never open their package.” Then she added, “I want to open mine so I keep learning and exploring. I’m really keen in identifying me and realizing my full potential before I exit here on earth. I’m here in Toastmasters not to learn how to toast bread; but to learn how to toast with words! I am here to boost my confidence level, be a better coach and a leader and a great public speaker!” When I thought that was the end, then she signed off with this inspiration: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become, and this is my story; this is my song…praising my Saviour…all the day long”. Wow! What a resplendent way to ace an ice-breaker speech!
I have always held this view. That as much we can, the best time to write a tribute for a loved one (family or friend) is when they are alive. In fact, that idea informed the title of the fifth chapter of my book, ‘A Toast to Fatherhood’, which reads ‘Read His Tribute While He Lives’. Especially for individuals like Dr. Loretta Sarpong, who, as in the words of John C. Maxwell, have been blessed to achieve so much, so fast.
To say it least, I cannot fully recount what she has been able to accomplish for herself, and within the Ghana Toastmasters community. That said, I make a special mention of her role in getting the Ecobank Toastmaster club chartered, in what seems like record time. Inspired, as I observed her progress from a distance, I reached out to her so I could learn at her feet. Her ability to combine speed with quality was worth emulating. I am excited to state that with Dr. Loretta Sarpong as my Pathways mentor, I have been able to complete my Effective Coaching path over a 16-week period (November 2020 to February 2021). Certainly, the limitation of publishing space would not permit me to delve into the details. Perhaps, except to share with you, albeit briefly, what some other Toastmasters had to tell in praise of her.
I start with that of her mentor: “Dr Loretta Abena Sarpong is a continuous learner. She is humble in identifying her personal and professional gaps. She puts in the time to learn and practice…I am proud to have Abena as my mentee; working together to perfect our public speaking and leadership skills. Keep making me proud,” testified Dr. Suzy Aku Puplampu, CEO of OctaneDC Limited.
Then I go to the Club President Toastmaster Helena Asantewaa Setsofia: “Dr. Loretta is a goal-oriented person who puts her heart into anything she commits to do. She won't rest until she sees the goal achieved. I love her can-do spirit and extravagant commitment. For instance, as Treasurer of Tema Flourish Toastmasters, she introduced EcobankPay to members as she instituted a payment scheme that allows members to pay their dues in instalment. The results? Our Club was able to renew the dues of about 80% of members before the deadline during the last renewal season. That is, certainly, significant an achievement.”
To bring balance to the gender scheme, (oh yes, I read your mind) I called my mentees-turned-brothers, Toastmasters Emmanuel Ebo Hayfron and Emmanuel Buabeng. “Emma, how would you describe Dr Loretta Sarpong as you have known her in Toastmasters circles? Here’s a summary of the WhatsApp responses of the two Emmanuels: “Dr Loretta Sarpong is an action minded and results-oriented leader interested in the well-being of her team members. She is an affable person and uniquely warm, a leader worth working with”.
Until her new appointment as the Ag. Head of Women’s Desk (Commercial Banking), Dr Loretta Sarpong was the Branch Business Head of Tema Main Branch of Ecobank. Prior to that, she had held similar branch leadership positions in Kumasi – Stadium, Adum and Tema Hospital Road branches – all with commendable results. Loretta joined Ecobank in July 2005, as a Relationship Officer with in-depth experiences in sales and marketing, managing various portfolios in Consumer, Commercial and Corporate Banking. She was appointed as Senior Relationship Officer for the Northern sector, driving business in Kumasi and Tamale as well as developing young sales offices, before moving into branch management.
Her dedicated service earned her many personal and team awards, including the Top 10 Mobile App Onboarding Staff (2017) and Best Branch (Profitability and Compliance, 2017) whilst at the Hospital Road branch. This feat culminated in her increased assignment to manage a larger branch, with an increased business portfolio.
In 2018, she was adjudged the 1st Runner-Up for the Personality of the Year Award, whilst the Tema Main Branch won the Best Performing Branch (Zone 2). Under her leadership, Tema Main Branch experienced immense year-on-year growth of over 73% in PBT and 268% in Deposits.
This ‘Lovely’ Note
Sincerely, I believe it shall be utterly out of place to end this ‘lovely’ introductory note without making this disclosure. Yet, maybe, just maybe, it does lie on my tongue to express it. So please find it in her own words: “I’m married, with three kids -- a boy and two girls and after waiting for these kids for three years after marriage, the first two share the same birth date; that shows the supremacy of the God we serve. My husband is a banker as well, but we do not do banking at home, we marry!” The last line got my attention. Honestly, I have had the privilege of meeting, Mr Sarpong on about two occasions. However, I must admit I never had the courage to ask what that statement means…LOL.
My dear friend, it has been my pleasure of introducing her to you. Her name is Loretta Abena Sarpong, and the L in her name stands for Love. One love!
The writer, Evans Adu-Gyamfi, is a social researcher and communication practitioner with interest in brand strategy