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How John Obaro plans to build a global brand in SystemSpecs

John Obaro is championing a vision at SystemSpecs, an indigenous software company most famous for the Remita e-payment solution, known for powering the services of most of the country’s top lenders and Nigeria’s Treasury Single Account policy.

Obaro is one man who has successfully weathered the highs and lows of business ownership to not only build but sustain the success of the fintech powerhouse known today as SystemSpecs for over twenty-six years. 

For him, entrepreneurship has proven to be a worthwhile journey, notwithstanding the days of humble beginnings when efforts did not meet commensurate applause.

Founded about 28 years ago, SystemSpecs is translating the African technology dream into reality by providing innovative technology solutions and services to organisations and individuals on the continent.

Since the inception of its data referencing service in 2017, SystemSpecs has become well-known as a key enabler in the ecosystem by providing insight on credit, streamlining lender’s risk decisions and facilitating the lending of over N35 billion to individuals and SMEs.

Obaro’s entrepreneurship story is that which remains a source of inspiration for upcoming entrepreneurs. With the intrigues of uncertainty, Obaro took a plunge, resigning as a young and privileged banker at the International Merchant Bank (IMB) to establish his own technology firm, SystemSpecs.

In time, the firm grew from a five-man Partner Agent of Systems Union, UK in 1992 to become a leading provider of the most widely deployed indigenous human capital software solution (HumanManager) and the most innovative and acceptable financial remittance solutions not only in Nigeria but also within the West African sub-regional market (Remita).

For SystemSpecs, Nigerian and African origins remain a driving force as veritable sources of innovative technology that can rival any from other parts of the world which is why the company is developing and will unveil in quick succession various financial solutions to promote the Federal Government’s financial inclusion drive.

The fintech expert noted that having done significantly well in the public sector through the adoption of the firm’s solutions by governments across Africa, and oversees the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) by Remita in about 22 states nationwide, SystemSpecs wants to expand to the private sector.

Under the leadership of John Obaro, the company recently unveiled a new corporate identity which includes a new logo, new headquarters and the launch of Paylink by Remita, a product that allows individuals optimise social media as a one-stop-shop to receive payments by sharing a link.

John Obaro said the firm’s values of ethics, diligence and integrity in business and friendship with customers remain the same.

“Easily recognisable for the development and provision of top-class software technology solutions and services, we desire that our name resonates with all our stakeholders—customers, partners, investors, talent, aggregators, regulators, among others—anywhere on the globe as the home of inspired people, innovative solutions, excellent customer service and integrity,” he said at a recent event at the company’s headquarters.

Obaro, added that while SystemSpecs’ corporate brand identity would be refreshed to advantageously position the brand to harness the limitless opportunities of the future, the firm’s, “values of ethics and integrity in business, true friendship with our customers, open family-based relationships at work, respect for our neighbourhood and our people, and diligence in our work that we may stand before kings,” would remain the same.

In order to maximise its potentials as Africa’s leading financial technology and human capital management firm, Obaro said the company’s new structure of operation reinforces its commitment to better serve its customers across different spectra, improve its visibility and cross-industry prominence, and free up its people for business and career growth.

In affirmation of its new strategy business direction, SystemSpecs also recently restructured its new business operation into four strategic business units (SBU), namely Infrastructure and Payment Gateway; Application and Vertical Markets; Human Capital Solutions and Services; and Public Sector and Special Projects.

It said the infrastructure and payment gateway business unit will provide a technology backbone to banks, payment processors, aggregators, and other service providers while the applications and vertical markets units will be responsible for all retail and corporate customer-focused financial products and services.

Human capital solutions and services unit, it said, will manage all payroll and human resources-focused products and services.

The company said its public sector and special projects unit will be in charge of the adoption of the firm’s solutions by governments across Africa and would oversee the federal government’s treasury single account (TSA) and its business in about 22 states nationwide.

He disclosed that despite all the controversies surrounding the platform, the company processes about N20trillion yearly on TSA, and had saved the government about N450million monthly with IPPIS at the pilot stage, before it was awarded to a different contractor.

On how the business has managed to stay afloat, despite not listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Obaro noted that SystemSpecs is mainly driven by organic growth which was built over the years.

“Our payments solution, Remita is what many people know us for now. But our depth is more in Human Management. In fact, we originally built Remita to augment Human Manager. But then it has taken a life of its own, especially after we got into the federal government TSA programme which gave us some good or bad visibility, whichever way you want to see it,” Obaro said.

On how SystemSpecs has fared outside of Nigeria, Obaro said countries across the continent are often impressed at the features and capabilities of its products and regularly express interest in exploring how our solutions can make their work and life better.

“Our human capital management solution, Human Manager, has performed admirably outside the shores of Nigeria. It is tested and trusted by many multinationals with operations in a number of African countries. Our major focus was to ensure Remita becomes a major force to reckon with here in Nigeria and then begin to explore taking it out to other African countries,” Obaro said.

Before Obaro started the company in 1992, the computer science graduate and MBA holder had built a decade-long successful career as a software developer and IT executive. He was among the team, at the now-defunct International Merchant Bank (IMB), that built Nigeria’s first-ever online banking platform.

Obaro graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science in 1979. He proceeded to earn an MBA from the University of Lagos in 1982 and was a member of one of the earliest sets of the distinguished Chief Executive Program of Lagos Business School at the Pan‐African University, Lagos.

Overtime, one of the major hindrance to the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is the lack of access to funds as a result of stringent measures such as lengthy, torturous approval processes as well as convoluted requests for collaterals.

Experts have said a virile finance and credit system is a key enabler to the realisation of a number of sustainable development goals, particularly in reducing poverty and raising peoples’ social status, a development SystemSpecs under the leadership of John Obaro remains committed to most especially in empowering the delivery of digital lending to individuals, SMEs and larger organisations to enable them meet their financial needs.

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