• Monday, May 27, 2024
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Folakemi Fatogbe, risk and strategy guru with a flair for fashion, photography

Folakemi Fatogbe, risk and strategy guru with a flair for fashion, photography

Folakemi Fatogbe is an accomplished banker and risk management professional with well-honed leadership skills derived from over thirty years of professional experience in central, development and commercial banking, corporate governance, consulting and entrepreneurship.

Prior to setting up as a double entrepreneur, Fatogbe served as Special Adviser to CBN Governor Lamido Sanusi on Risk Management and Banking Reforms. She was also the bank’s pioneer director of Risk Management. Her sound strategy and risk management skills were instrumental to the considerable work that was done at the bank to avert a banking crisis in Nigeria during and in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis. Notably, `Folakemi led an international multi-functional team of 70+ forensic accountants, bankers, lawyers and regulators to review and assess the books of Nigerian banks as part of that work. Before joining the CBN, Folakemi’s career antecedents included senior roles in several international organisations including: The Bank of England/ FSA, The NatWest Group, (where she was a corporate banker, and she received a special commendation from the then MD of Corporate Banking for her ‘superior strategic insights’), Lloyds TSB Financial Markets (as a Basel II Risk Consultant), NCR Teradata (as a Programme Director), where she was able to successfully marry her banking experience to technology to create successful new products and generate new revenue streams for the business. Folakemi is a member of several boards and Founder/Creative Director of Oyaato.

She holds an MBA in Finance & International Business from Cardiff Business School and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from the University of Ibadan.

With your extensive experience in central, development, and commercial banking, how have you seen the banking industry evolve over the past three decades? What are some of the key changes or trends you have observed?

I started my mainstream banking career at the NatWest group and at the time, I remember in strategy things we used to talk about including digital wallets, cashless banking and so on. It has certainly been interesting to see how that has all come to pass.

Over the last few decades, the banking industry has undergone a profound transformation, driven by technology, regulation, globalisation, and changing consumer expectations. Some of the key changes and trends that I have observed include:

1. Digital Transformation: The rise of technology has revolutionised banking, with the adoption of online banking, mobile banking, and fintech innovations reshaping how customers interact with banks.

2. Regulatory Changes: Regulatory reforms, particularly after the global financial crisis of 2008, have led to increased scrutiny and compliance requirements for banks, impacting their operations and risk management practices.

3. Globalisation: Banks have expanded their global reach, with multinational banks operating across borders and engaging in international markets, leading to increased competition and interconnectedness.

4. Customer Experience Focus: Banks have prioritised enhancing customer experience, offering personalised services, streamlined processes, and 24/7 accessibility to meet evolving customer expectations.

5. Fintech Disruption: The emergence of fintech startups has disrupted traditional banking models, offering alternative financial services such as peer-to-peer lending, robo-advisors, and digital payments, forcing traditional banks to innovate and collaborate.

6. Cybersecurity Challenges: The digitalisation of banking has also brought about cybersecurity risks, with banks investing heavily in cybersecurity measures to protect customer data and prevent fraud.

7. Sustainability and ESG: There is a growing emphasis on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations within the banking industry, with banks incorporating sustainability principles into their operations and investment decisions.

As a risk management professional, how have you seen risk management evolve over the years and what are some of the major challenges and opportunities you have encountered in implementing effective risk management strategies in the banking sector?

Over the course of my career in risk management and banking, the challenges and opportunities have varied over time and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

When I set out in risk management, there was no such thing as a chief risk officer (CRO). Risk management typically operated under the CFO and certainly did not have a seat at the table. I believe that it was the event of the Basel II, Bank of International Settlement regulations that were primarily responsible for elevating risk management from being seen as some sort of ‘had-to-have’ compliance type overhead cost function to a value-adding business beneficial middle office function. Why? Because Basel ll incentivised effective risk management by linking it to capital. Hence, Basel Il went a long way in changing perceptions about risk management and the need for it. This led to the emergence of the role of the independent Chief Risk Officer with a direct line into the board of directors. We also saw the separation of risk management from audit and the emergence of board risk committees.

After the elevation, all the challenges didn’t necessarily go away though. Some of the battleground challenges that risk professionals still face include:

1. Fighting to be heard and not just being a lone voice crying in the wilderness like a John the Baptist.

2. ⁠Keeping ahead and in compliance with constantly changing regulatory requirements across multiple jurisdictions.

3. Dealing with the increasing sophistication of cyber threats.

4. Combating money laundering, fraud, and other financial crimes.

5. Dealing with the risks associated with market fluctuations, interest rate changes, and geopolitical events.

Opportunities:

1. Leveraging data analytics and machine learning to enhance risk identification, modeling, and decision-making processes to improve performance.

2. Embracing digitalisation to streamline processes, enhance transparency, and improve risk monitoring.

3. Collaboration opportunities with fintechs, PSPs and so on.

4. ESG Integration and compliance opportunities.

5. Extending the practice and integration of risk management into other industries as a means of facilitating and hopefully fast tracking economic development.

Can you share some insights into the importance of corporate governance in the banking industry? How have you contributed to improving corporate governance practices throughout your career, and what impact have you seen as a result?

Corporate governance plays a crucial role in the banking industry for several reasons, and at the cornerstone of good corporate governance is effective risk management. Risk management assists corporate governance by enhancing the following for an enterprise:

1. Accountability: Effective corporate governance structures ensure that banks are accountable to their stakeholders, including shareholders, customers, regulators, and the wider community, promoting transparency and trust.

2. Risk Management: Strong corporate governance frameworks help banks identify, assess, and manage risks effectively, safeguarding the interests of depositors and investors.

3. Compliance: Corporate governance ensures that banks comply with legal and regulatory requirements, reducing the likelihood of regulatory violations and associated penalties.

4. Ethical Conduct: Good corporate governance promotes ethical behaviour and integrity within banks, fostering a culture of responsible decision-making and fair treatment of all stakeholders.

5. Long-Term Sustainability: By promoting sound risk management practices, ethical conduct, and accountability, corporate governance contributes to the long-term sustainability and success of banks.

Throughout my career, I have contributed to improving corporate governance practices in the banking industry through various means:

1. Policy Development: I have been involved in developing and implementing corporate governance policies and guidelines tailored to the specific needs and regulatory requirements of the banks I’ve worked with.

2. Board Effectiveness: I have supported board evaluations and governance assessments to enhance the effectiveness of board oversight and decision-making processes.

3. Risk Management Integration: I have advocated for the integration of risk management considerations into corporate governance frameworks, emphasizing the importance of aligning governance practices with risk appetite and strategy.

4. Stakeholder Engagement: I have facilitated dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders, including board members, management, regulators, and investors, to promote a shared understanding of governance expectations and responsibilities.

5. Training and Education: I have provided training and awareness programs on corporate governance principles and best practices to board members, senior management, and staff, empowering them to fulfill their governance duties effectively.

The impact of these efforts has been tangible, with improvements observed in areas such as board effectiveness, risk management practices, regulatory compliance, and stakeholder confidence. By enhancing corporate governance practices, banks can better navigate challenges, mitigate risks, and create value for their stakeholders in the long term.

What inspired you to transition into entrepreneurship after a successful career in banking and risk management? Can you tell us more about your entrepreneurial ventures and how your banking expertise has helped in your entrepreneurial journey?

My sources of inspiration for this transition, or should we call it my pivoting into entrepreneurship are many, and they did not all come at the same time. Initially, it started with my coming from a line of women that have been interested in fashion albeit that neither my mother nor my maternal grandmother took it up as a business. The second intro was at Nigeria’s premier university, the one and only, University of Ibadan, where l led a sorority called R’Avis (coined from the Latin, Rara Avis, which means ‘rare and elegant person or bird’ person.) The ‘gist’ or should l say, the folklore spread about us then was that, if you wanted to pass our selection interview, you had to be a ‘happening chic’, capable of ‘365’, with a thrice a year stamped passport and so on. All made up. At the university, l used to design ball gowns for friends, at zero cost, imagine that? A friend that l hadn’t seen in three decades was visiting from Canada and popped into the studio with her husband. She was more mindful of running up a bill than her husband, who just kept on encouraging her to try on more pieces as he loved them. He could not get over the creativity of the pieces given my banking antecedents. My friend said that she wasn’t surprised as l had been designing things for herself and other friends from university days. Another key stage in my entrepreneurial journey was during my MBA, when I sold clothes that l had designed to augment my living expenses. During my UK banking career, l dabbled in property development and trading. I loved scouring property auctions for properties that l would buy and subsequently sell again at auction. High octane risk management.

My latest move into entrepreneurship is inspired by my desire to (a) die empty, having deployed all my God-given talents (b) to create a cross-generational African business with my daughter, she is also gifted creative (c) to put my money and industry where my mouth is regarding the urgent and compelling need for Nigeria to create jobs and increase her non-oil exports.

My current entrepreneurial activities play to both sides of my brain. My creative right side has birthed a luxury clothing accessories brand called Oyaato which we launched in December 2022.

My pivot into fashion entrepreneurship through Oyaato was a huge eye-opener into the ease of the business in Nigeria. Sometimes, you actually feel like tearing your hair out or just screaming, but you know it’s very easy to quit, but I’ve never been a quitter, I’m here for the long haul. We are in the process of introducing another brand to the markets, something that we hope to do soon. It will be a unisex brand and will cater to a segment of the market where we have identified a very strong need.

I went into Oyaato because for the first time ever, I’m actually turning a long-held passion into something that we hope to make economically viable and impactful.

Rewarding because there’s nothing like hearing heartfelt feedback from happy customers in an area that is new to you and somewhat closed.

The feedback we get from our clients has been nothing short of incredible and extra. I remember when one of our very first clients wore one of our first ‘Ara’ dresses, now one of our iconic bestsellers, we were as excited as she was and we were literally moved to tears when she sent me a message describing how she felt like a million dollars as she sashayed into the event.

I have also set up the De-Risking Lab. Through the De-Risking Lab, we provide de-risking advisory and training to businesses. l find it incredibly rewarding when we’re able to successfully de-risk a business and save it from shut down.

In your professional career, were there specific challenges or achievements you remember and want to share?

In my career business and life’s journey, I’ve come to accept challenges as inevitable for growth and the accomplishment of destiny.

My most poignant challenges and achievement remain the ones that happened very early on in my career because I guess they were the most impactful in terms of setting the tone for the way I would handle challenges and be inspired to achieve subsequently in my career. Right out of business school, l joined a rather elite team of corporate bankers at one of U.K.’s largest bank in the City of London’s financial square mile. At the time, I had this particular boss who was shockingly old school, hence, he was extremely sexist and sadly also terribly racist. l came in, young, black and female, and just out of business school. He was dismissive of literally every single piece of work that I produced.

They were two things that happened to me in that team whilst working under that particular boss that would shape the way I would approach the rest of my career.

The first was in the form of an achievement. In corporate banking strategy, one of the things that we focused on was on how the market was shaping, our competitors and so on. I remember spending an inordinate number of hours analysing competitor activity, right down to individual product levels, share and more. The bank was particularly obsessed with another large UK bank, who we seemed to be neck and neck with on a number of fronts.

Everything we did was about that particular bank, on my own steam, I decided to cast the net further and bring into our immediate purview a number of other much smaller UK banks. The analyses comprised of a single page on each UK bank in which I analysed their market share, financial, share and customer ratings performance, competitive threat posed and likely next steps. I concluded by saying that we needed to shift our strategic focus to the threats posed by the much smaller Scottish banks given their superior slate performance and costumer ratings in particular. My immediate boss was very dismissive, but that didn’t stop me from sharing it with my head of business, who unbeknownst to me sent it right up to the MD of corporate banking without making any changes to it. I remember being both shocked and excited when I received the summons that the MD of corporate banking wanted to meet the brain that was capable of producing the strategic analyses that he described as being ‘strategically insightful and rare in its originality and boldness.’

I received a special commendation for that work. A really huge achievement for me at the time.

In that same team, working for the same boss, I also went through my first major challenge in my career. As a fresh graduate out of business school, we were encouraged to seek placements in other areas of the group’s business. I secured a three month placement in Group Market Intelligence. At the end of the placements, my boss asked me whether we should ask for a report on my performance, l rather naively told him that l didn’t think it was necessary, but if he wanted to, l had nothing against his asking for one.

Apparently he did – l only knew this because the Head of Market Intelligence sent me a copy. I remember being really pleased to see just how good it was.

However, when it came to performance review and bonus time, I remember being told that l would receive a really good bonus that year. But guess what? At bonus time, two twin things happened that would shape my immediate career trajectory.

As part of the annual performance reviews, we were allowed to review our files. l noticed that the report from market intelligence was not in my file. My boss said it wasn’t there because we hadn’t asked for one. I told him that l didn’t have the same recollection given that l was sent a copy too. To my immense shock, right in front of me, he pulled it out of his drawer, where he had hidden it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He said that he had forgotten that he had asked for one.

A week or two after that, I stumbled upon the bonus spreadsheet for the whole department that someone had forgotten on the printer. l was shocked to see myself at the bottom of the bonus pile alongside the only other black member of the team and a colleague, who though at the same assistant manager level as us, only had to bother herself with arranging pub drinking events. That was the baptism of fire that made me realise that it was time for me to leave that particular table.

You mentioned how these two experiences were very impactful on your career journey, in what way? What were your key takeaways from them?

Impactful because they both happened early on in my career by opening my eyes to some of the good, the bad and the ugly of the business world that were not taught in university.

From the MD corporate banking, my key takeaways centred around having the virtues of hard work, diligence, self-belief, thinking outside the box, backed by facts and figures and having the courage of my own convictions regardless.

From the bonus episode, my key takeaway was to have the confidence to get up from the table when respect was no longer being served. In having the courage to leave that particular table at that time, I was able to nearly double my salary and work for an organisation that remains extremely well regarded the world over to this day.

In your opinion, what are the key factors that contribute to a bank’s success and stability?

Several key factors contribute to a bank’s success and stability:

Strong Capitalisation: A well-capitalised bank with sufficient reserves and capital buffers is better positioned to withstand financial shocks, manage risks, and meet regulatory requirements, enhancing its stability and resilience.

Sound Risk Management: Effective risk management practices, including robust risk identification, assessment, mitigation, and monitoring processes, are essential for managing credit, market, operational, and other risks, ensuring the bank’s long-term viability and sustainability.

Strong Liquidity Management: Adequate liquidity management is critical for ensuring the bank’s ability to meet its short-term obligations and fund its operations, safeguarding against liquidity crises and funding disruptions.

Asset Quality: Maintaining a high-quality loan portfolio with low levels of non-performing loans (NPLs) and credit losses is essential for preserving a bank’s asset quality, profitability, and financial stability.

Sustainable profitability is crucial for a bank’s long-term success, as it provides the necessary capital for growth, investment, and risk management activities, while also attracting investors and stakeholders.

Strong Corporate Governance and Controls: Strong corporate governance structures, effective internal controls, and adherence to regulatory requirements are fundamental for promoting accountability, transparency, and integrity within the bank, fostering trust and confidence among stakeholders.

Solid Customer Relationship Management From understanding their needs, and delivering value-added products and services are essential for driving customer loyalty, retention, and satisfaction,

Innovation and Adaptability: Embracing innovation, technology, and digitalisation allows banks to improve efficiency, enhance customer experience, and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving market landscape, fostering agility and resilience in the face of change.

Overall, a combination of these factors, along with effective leadership, strategic planning, and execution, is critical for ensuring a bank’s success and stability in today’s dynamic and challenging banking environment.

How can banks navigate economic downturns or financial crises effectively?

Banks can navigate economic downturns or financial crises effectively by implementing several key strategies:

1. By strengthening their capital and liquidity buffers. To withstand economic shocks and funding disruptions. This may involve maintaining higher levels of capitalisation, diversifying funding sources, and establishing contingency funding plans.

2. Enhance Risk Management Practices: Banks should enhance their risk management practices to identify, assess, and mitigate risks effectively during periods of economic uncertainty. This includes stress testing portfolios, revising risk models, and closely monitoring credit, market, and liquidity risks.

3. Support Customers: Banks should work closely with customers facing financial difficulties during economic downturns, offering forbearance measures, loan restructuring options, and financial counseling to help them weather the storm and maintain their viability.

4. Preserve Asset Quality: Banks should focus on preserving asset quality by actively managing their loan portfolios, identifying and addressing potential credit impairments, and maintaining prudent underwriting standards to minimise losses and NPLs.

5. Monitor and Adapt to Market Conditions: Banks should closely monitor macroeconomic indicators, market trends, and regulatory developments to anticipate and adapt to changing market conditions effectively. This may involve adjusting business strategies, product offerings, and risk appetites to mitigate emerging risks and capitalize on opportunities.

6. Communicate Transparently: Transparent communication with stakeholders, including investors, regulators, customers, and employees, is crucial during times of crisis. Banks should provide regular updates on their financial health, risk exposures, and mitigation strategies to foster trust and confidence in their ability to navigate challenges effectively.

7. Collaborate and Learn from Peers: Collaboration with industry peers, regulators, and other stakeholders can provide valuable insights, resources, and support during times of crisis. Banks can learn from best practices, share information, and collaborate on solutions to common challenges, enhancing their resilience and collective response to crises.

8. Plan for Recovery: While navigating the immediate challenges of a crisis, banks should also plan for recovery and position themselves for long-term success. This may involve investing in strategic initiatives, strengthening core capabilities, and capitalising on emerging opportunities as the economy stabilises and rebounds.

By implementing these strategies and maintaining a focus on resilience, agility, and customer-centricity, banks can navigate economic downturns or financial crises effectively, safeguarding their stability and sustainability in the face of adversity.

As a consultant in corporate governance, how have you advised and assisted organisations in improving their governance structures across various areas?

I have done so through the following:

1. Board Effectiveness: I have conducted board evaluations and governance assessments to identify areas for improvement in board composition, structure, processes, and dynamics. This may involve recommending changes to board composition to enhance diversity and expertise, implementing board committees to oversee specific areas of governance, and establishing clear roles and responsibilities for board members.

2. Governance Policies and Procedures: I have helped organisations develop and implement governance policies, procedures, and codes of conduct to formalise governance practices, promote transparency, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and best practices. This may include drafting governance charters, codes of ethics, whistleblower policies, and conflict of interest policies.

3. Risk Management Integration: I have assisted organisations in integrating risk management considerations into their governance frameworks to enhance risk oversight, accountability, and decision-making. This may involve establishing risk governance structures, defining risk appetite and tolerance levels, and embedding risk management practices into strategic planning and performance management processes.

4. Compliance and Regulatory Alignment: I have helped organisations ensure alignment with regulatory requirements and industry standards by conducting governance gap assessments, identifying compliance risks, and implementing remediation plans. This may involve reviewing governance practices against regulatory guidelines, updating policies and procedures to address compliance deficiencies, and providing training and education on regulatory requirements. The impact of my work on these organisations varies and invariably tends to depend on their specific issues and circumstances.

In today’s ever-changing and complex financial landscape, what are some of the emerging risks that banks and financial institutions need to be aware of? How can they proactively manage and mitigate these risks?

In today’s ever-changing and complex financial landscape, banks and financial institutions need to be risk-aware in order to adopt proactive measures to manage and mitigate them effectively.

Some of these emerging risks include:

Heightened geo-political risks amid the continued escalations in Gaza, Ukraine, Ukraine, Israel, Iran, and so on. Furthermore, 2024 is the election year in which an unprecedented number of countries, 63 in total, would have gone into elections by the end of this year – including some of the most dominant countries politically, economically and by population for example, this includes eight of the world’s ten most populous nations (Bangladesh, Brazil, India, United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and Mexico). The outcome of these elections could impact not only global geo-political risks but also market and climate risks among others.

With increasing digitisation of financial services and commerce, banks and indeed the rest of us have become increasingly more vulnerable to cyberattacks, data breaches, ransom ware attacks and so on, financial institutions therefore need to invest in robust cybersecurity measures, such as encryption, multi-factor authentication, and continuous monitoring, to protect customer data, prevent unauthorised access, and safeguard their systems and networks.

Fintech Disruption: The rise of fintech startups and digital platforms is disrupting traditional banking models and challenging the dominance of incumbent financial institutions. Banks need to embrace innovation, collaborate with fintech firms, and invest in technology-driven solutions to enhance customer experience, streamline operations, and remain competitive in the digital age.

Increased Regulatory and Compliance Risks: Regulatory requirements are constantly evolving, with new regulations being introduced to address emerging risks and market developments. Banks need to stay abreast of regulatory changes, ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and establish robust governance and compliance frameworks to mitigate regulatory risks and avoid penalties or sanctions.

Non ignorable climate change and the increasing need to intentionally manage ESG Risks, moreso with the increasing global market funding shift towards sustainable finance.

Operational Resilience will need to be fortified with effective business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Banks need to enhance their operational resilience by investing in robust infrastructure, implementing backup systems and redundancy measures, and conducting regular testing and drills to ensure business continuity in the face of disruptions.

To proactively manage and mitigate these emerging risks, banks and financial institutions can adopt the following measures:

Conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify and assess emerging risks relevant to their business activities and risk appetite.

Develop and implement robust risk management frameworks, policies, and procedures to mitigate identified risks and enhance resilience.

Invest in advanced analytics, data-driven insights, and predictive modeling techniques to anticipate and proactively manage emerging risks.

Foster a culture of risk awareness, accountability, and continuous improvement throughout the organization, with regular training and awareness programmes for employees.

Enhance collaboration and information-sharing with industry peers, regulators, and stakeholders to address common challenges and best practices in managing emerging risks.

By adopting proactive risk management strategies and staying vigilant in monitoring and addressing emerging risks, banks and financial institutions can strengthen their resilience, protect their stakeholders’ interests, and thrive in today’s dynamic and uncertain financial landscape.

What advice do you have for aspiring professionals in the banking and risk management field? Are there any particular skills or knowledge areas that you believe are crucial for success in this industry?

For those aspiring to be sound professionals in banking and risk management, I would recommend that they build for themselves strong analytical skills and a good understanding of the financial markets and basic accounting. They will also need to develop a passion for continuous learning and self-development, including early familiarisation with different regulatory and risk management frameworks such as Basel III, COSO, and ISO 31000.

Sound communication skills will also help fastrack their banking/risk management careers.

They should develop an ability to clearly articulate complex concepts to different stakeholders, including senior management, regulators, and clients. I would also add to that integrity and courage.

Tell us about being Special Adviser to former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi on Risk Management and Banking Reforms

I returned to Nigeria with great encouragement from my friends in Nigeria particularly from a dear Gambian friend of mine who l had gone to business school and who worked as a partner at Deloitte.

I joined the CBN at the height of the global financial crisis, so it was a very interesting time to join. Most of the work at that time centred around financial system stability and the urgent need to take quick and effective action to stave off runs on our banks, with the paramount objective of ensuring that no depositor lost their funds. We worked assiduously to reassure governments, domestic and international banks, other regulators (both domestic and foreign) and so on, that we have the situation under control reassuring them at every turn, that no depositor would lose their money.

Out of that near crisis in Nigeria, a number of positive policies and collaborations emerged, including the establishment of AMCON, the FSRCC and centralised bank-wide risk management function. I need to add that my work in leading of the setting up of AMCON, earned me the honorary title of “Mother of AMCON”

What legacy did you leave behind working at CBN?

The colleagues that l worked with at CBN are actually in the best position to answer that question. My view of my legacy could be more wishful thinking than reality, you never know.

However, that said, your question did get me thinking and l decided to ask some members of my former team. Their views on what constitutes my legacy are:

1. Assembling a formidable team of organic talent that l moulded into leaders that have the confidence and respect of their colleagues, the courage of their own convictions and the ability to run the bank at any level.

2. ⁠ A legacy of courage and fearlessly speaking truth to power despite the personal cost.

3. ⁠ A legacy of breaking down silos to build a strong bank-wide risk culture.

4. ⁠The elevation of risk management both across the industry and within the Bank.

5. ⁠Leading the Risk Management Association of Nigeria through to its successful achievement of charter status.

I think the most compelling legacy that I may have left would be that of leadership by leading from the front on matters that were unpopular to voice, even when speaking truth to power came at great personal cost.

Tell us about being CBN’s pioneer director of risk management

Any pioneering effort is never walk in the park. Being the bank’s pioneer director of risk management was an exhilarating journey. I had the unique opportunity to put a team together and shape the bank’s risk management framework from scratch. This involved establishing policies and procedures tailored to the bank’s mandate, specific needs and risk appetite, while also fostering a culture of risk awareness and controls throughout the Bank. I worked closely with various departments to identify and mitigate potential threats to our ability to achieve our mandate with regards to price ability, financial stability, and payment system efficiency whilst ensuring that the bank’s objective of being a model central bank remained on course. As a pioneer director of risk management, this meant that we had to build a number of things from scratch, including the building of robust risk identification, monitoring and reporting mechanisms, policies and frameworks. It was a challenging yet rewarding role that required strong leadership skills, especially in the area of courage and the ability to speak truth to power and rally the troops. The role required extensive stakeholder management skills, and a collaborative mindset to safeguard the bank’s long-term success and in doing so, the interests and well-being of the good people of Nigeria.

As a pioneer director, l had to negotiate for staff transfers, a budget and access to different systems, information and meetings. Having a former Chief Risk officer as Governor, in the person of the then Governor Sanusi was invaluable. The team of deputy governors that l met on ground in the persons of Sarah Alade, Tunde Barau, Suleiman Barau and Kingsley Moghalu were formidable allies that understood the value of effective management and hence they fully supported our work.

I also set up the industry-wide Chief Risk Officers (CRO) forum. Having CBN Governor Sanusi chair our first meeting was a strong signal that for risk management, it was no longer business as usual.

Another thing that helped I believe was the fact that I never preached just risk management. It was always about risk and opportunity management as a route to economic development. So, in the majority of our reports, we didn’t only focus on risks, we also highlighted opportunities and how the management of risk could lead to opportunity maximisation and therefore ultimately the achievement of our mandate and economic development.

Tell us about oyaato, when and why it was birthed, journey so far and projections

Before l left CBN, l had conducted market research and testing of the concept of Oyaato to establish whether or not it would work. The best majority of the feelers suggested that it would. So, in December 2022, we launched. Why?

1. I am a firm believer in the viability and power of entrepreneurship as a means of creating cross generational wealth and a strong national economy. By birthing and running Oyaato, I am putting my money exactly where my mouth is. I have been a strong advocate of the need for government to support the non-oil sector of the economy given the huge opportunities that are abound there which sadly, have remained largely untapped and unsupported

2. ⁠ I also wanted to create a cross generation on business because I noticed that my daughter is also very talented in design and photography. My decision to cofound Oyaato fashion business with my daughter has the benefits including a strong succession plan from day one.

The journey so far has been quite interesting. The way of fashion is certainly not the way of banking, and being on your own as an entrepreneur responsible for everything from your power to your admin into everything has been a bit of a baptism of fire, especially with regards to staffing where no matter how good you are to our people, they seek to defraud you or are just totally dishonest with no loyalty. So, it’s been a very different kettle of fish in that regard.

In terms of customer feedback and sales, we’re not doing too badly at all. It has actually been quite rewarding, and we’re also very encouraged by the difficulties too. Nevertheless, we have been able to hire staff that are committed, loyal and honest.

What makes us different is when our clients tell us that we are different, even indirect clients and by that I mean the husbands of our clients, who tell us that we are refreshing and different, and that we live out our name. It has been great to hear that feedback. It’s a vindication of design and how we source for fabrics that we use. We are not trying to win on price, we try to win on quality and authenticity of our designs. So far so good, we’re quite pleased but then, we’re also quite ambitious and not resting on our laurels.

How did you discover your other passion, Photography? What does it mean to you and how are you thriving in it?

I guess I’ve always been drawn to good photography, particularly vintage black-and-white ones. I would post photographs of my various travels on Facebook, and my friends would comment, and with many suggesting that I do an exhibition that the pictures were really good. However, l only started describing myself as an amateur photographer of sorts with my full chest in the middle of the Covid19 crisis, when both myself and my lens became fascinated by the near deserted streets of Lagos under Covid lockdown, and the shocking blueness of both the skies above it and the waters around it. I remember later Sir Remi Omotoso, a keen photographer himself, describing the photo that l took of the Cathedral Church of Lagos as the best that he had ever seen. I could not believe my dear ears. Sir Remi was one of the many that have encouraged me to share that talent with others through an exhibition. I still intend to, it’s on my bucket list.

Photography, to me, is a beautiful art, an art that allows for beautiful capture. It’s about capturing beautiful nature, beautiful moments, the beauty and purity of life, and the emotions that we respond to it with. I can photograph absolutely anything. In pursuance of pure and beautiful capture, a real photographer will do literally anything to capture that perfect shot. I don’t think that the terribly narcissistic and self-conscious can be good photographers. I say that because to be a good photographer, you have to get over yourself, you the photographer is in the background. The focus is not on you. Sometimes, you have to get into the most awkward positions to get that perfect capture. I remember once being in Dubai in front of the Dubai mall, and I was with some friends who spoke of how it was literally impossible to get a full capture of the Burj Khalifa from where I was standing, so what did I do? I literally laid down on the pavement to get the pictures and I got it. Nothing else mattered, because I got my photograph.

What is the greatest lesson life has taught you?

Life has taught me many lessons and I will continue to pick them up as I journey through life. Two of the key lessons l have learnt over time are articulated in the following quotes: “To put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order, to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.” –Confucius.

This guides my leadership ethos of leading by example in my quest for the common good.

Second one is: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” -Henry David Thoreau.

This quote by Thoreau has consistently fuelled my ability to dream big and executing with confidence.

The third is: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt.

This famous ‘In the Arena quote’ by Theodore Roosevelt has reassured and encouraged me in times of great adversity, criticism and opposition.

Another lesson that life has taught me in these latter years is that kindness is underrated.