Olufunmilayo Olaniyi, currently an associate director, Business Development and Strategic Partnership at Andersen, Nigeria, in this interview with Oba Michael Soyebo, spoke on her life trajectory, beginning from her childhood stage to where she is at the moment. She disclosed that the values she acquired and developed early in her life prepared her for today’s assignments and accomplishments. She also touched on many other areas of her career, the up and down moments, among others. Excerpts:
Would you say your growing up prepared you in becoming a fine corporate amazon?
As a child born in the 1980’s when cultural heritage and values were not an issue for debate but sacrosanct, I come from a family that places high premium on education and morals, both of my parents were bankers who were guided by strict ethics of family values. I take pride in being raised by parents who understands and enforces values. The values which were inculcated at home, including schools and communities amongst friends and relatives formed the bedrock upon which my present life, be it corporate or personal, were built. The tenets of hard work, honesty, integrity, punctuality, perseverance and respect for authority are my watchword in my professional engagement. These tenets have continued to enhance my family and professional growth. Without mincing words, I can boldly attest to it that my growing up prepared me for the life in corporate world. My family background and early years played a significant role in determining the person I have become today. My early life started at Federal Government College Ogbomosho, where I graduated and was awarded the price of ‘Most Intelligent Student’. Thereafter, I proceeded to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) where I read Mass Communication as my first degree and second degree and graduated as the ‘Most Outstanding Graduating Female Student in Mass Communication’ and ‘Best Graduating Student in Journalism in 2008’. After my first degree in Mass Communication, I worked at Contact Solutions as the HR and later at Strategic Outcomes as client service representative. However, these jobs didn’t give me the satisfaction I desired, hence I had to look towards accounting and management services. I must confess that the work of my parent in the bank made me develop interest in a career in finance/accounting industry. Consequently, I subjected myself to the rigours of reading for ICAN exams and eventually qualified as a Chartered Accountant. And I must say, life as a Chartered Accountant has been both challenging and rewarding. My role as a tax/accounting consultant has exposed me to so many challenges which include but not limited to Tax Strategy and planning, Tax Policy and Advocacy, Tax Assessment and Compliance, Business Development, as well as Cross Functional Collaboration amongst others.
How would you describe your life as a successful career lady?
I must admit that working career for a mother of three lovely kids has not been a bed of roses, it comes with a lot of challenges that one most overcome to have a balanced life. I am also a big-dreamer, an entrepreneur and propagator of the words of God. These personalities, in addition to my career, requires my time and attention too. However, I have been able to effectively manage my career with the other responsibilities. Furthermore, I strive to commit all efforts and dedication in achieving whatever target I set for myself. I started my career at the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service (LIRS), where I worked for 3 years. The work at LIRS as public servant was quite demanding and stereotyped, although it gave us opportunities to express our ideas and improve the revenue collection of Lagos State, I still felt the need to explore other challenges in other areas. However, typical of my person that always set high standards to achieve, I did not feel too fulfilled in the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service. Subsequently, I secured employment at KPMG Professional Services, one of the big four accounting and consulting firms in Nigeria. My hardwork at KPMG earned me the award of ‘Most Exceptional Service & Dedication in Professional Services for 2 consecutive years (2016-2017). However, as I mentioned earlier, I am a person that always set higher objectives for myself, within the short period, I felt the need to leave KPMG and as faith would have it for me, I found myself working with Andersen Nigeria, another top-notch accounting and consulting firm in Nigeria. At Andersen, I started as the Manager in the Private Clients and Family Wealth units and I transited to being responsible for Business development and Strategic Partnership of the firm. I must say that these responsibilities are quite challenging especially for a lady with other competing demands, but with the right training and the right background, with a focused mind-set, one is bound to succeed in whatever she sets her eyes on. In the midst of career challenges, I make sure I create time for my family. My parents taught me that family time must not be compromised at any cost, hence my high commitment for creating time for my family. To succeed as a career lady, you must balance your time equitably for both career and family requirements.
What are the bottlenecks you had on your path to success?
In life, they say challenges give you experience and experiences make you succeed. There have been times of unmet expectations that tends to wear down the spirit and body. I have had a few challenges in my career, but it did not deter me from achieving my objectives, like I said earlier, I started-off as Mass Communication graduate and now I am an Accounting, Tax and Management Consultant. I must add that I am still on the way to success by God’s Grace, but it is safe to say the path gets better with every new task/challenge.
A few years ago, it was almost impossible for a lady of my status and background to make in-road in my profession, but these days, the environment is opening up and allowing ladies the opportunities to achieve their potentials. I must say that the bottlenecks are becoming less and less herculean by the day.
You have consistently set the pace with numerous achievements in accounting and management, how did you cut your teeth in those worlds?
As explained earlier, I hold some tenets sacred in my work life which has helped me progress steadily in my profession. I have also told you how I developed interest in tax and accounting due to my family background. However, I forgot to mention that after secondary school, while waiting for JAMB result, my dad sent me to work with my uncle, who had a school called Anifa Preparatory Centre. My uncle made me the cashier of the centre and I guess that was my first official role as an accountant or cashier as you may call it and I have never looked back since then. Additionally, I taught some subjects in the school, which equally exposed me to the love for teaching and impacting knowledge. That is why even now at Andersen, aside from accounting and consultancy services, I deliver seminar and webinar to clients, schools and associates as required. Additionally, I have consistently taken advantage of capacity building programmes which have earned me a number of certifications in my profession. Some of these certifications include: Advanced Tax Computation and Review for Seniors; Harvard Manage Mentor e-training on Feedback Essentials; International Tax Fundamentals, KPMG Amsterdam, Netherland 2015; Transfer Pricing Fundamentals; Conducting Tax Review for Audit Purposes and Supervisory Skills Development Training amongst others. Furthermore, it is a known secret that consulting firms gives you the opportunity of job ownership and a reasonable degree of independence to achieve your deliverables. You can make decisions, set and achieve personal goals and also pursue personal and corporate development simultaneously. Having learnt and got mentored under the tutelage of the best in the profession, I leveraged the lessons learnt coupled with my innate and developed qualities and set out on a mission to achieve all I set out to do in the most honourable and ethical ways, so the breakthrough came with time and perseverance.
What are your other private business roles?
Aside from my work at Andersen, I am also an entrepreneur who runs a beauty company. I have a passion for the beauty industry, which grew out of the need to further empower the girl child, especially in the area of beauty aesthetics, self-expression and confidence-building, ultimately enabling them to embrace their unique individuality and flourish in a world that celebrates diversity. This amongst others motivated me to establish Phummy Finesse, Unisex Salon which has grown to have two main outlets in Lagos State, with an all-inclusive and expanded services that aligns with modern day beauty care.
Let me also add that the essence of the beauty Company is to create employment opportunities and take some of these young people out of the street and help them make a decent living. My beauty industry is supported by two firms in the United States and one in India. I must state that being an entrepreneur has not been quite easy but it is a challenge I have taken up and I must succeed, no matter the odds.
How would you describe the current administration’s policy for taxation and how has the policies affected your sector?
I am in the Consulting Sector where we advocate and help our clients in many roles of which tax advisory is one of such roles. These clients range from individual to corporate (indigenous and multi-nationals) as well as Governments (Ministries, Departments and Agencies). Therefore, the impact of these current administration’s policy on taxation as it affects my Sector is multi-dimensional. The person heading the tax reform team, Mr Taiwo Oyedele FCA is a respected senior professional colleague and a mentor. The committee just submitted its interim report to Mr. President and it is safe for me to say that most of the recommendations so far, are commendable and holds a lot of promise for Nigeria if well implemented. The Sector will be better off and will help bring decorum and global best practices to the Nigerian Fiscal Policy and by extension practice of Taxation in Nigeria.
What are your admonitions for budding accounting and management folks looking up to your expertise?
It’s going to be a long and tedious journey; it can burn you out. Expertise cannot be gained from only theory. You need mentorship, patience, perseverance and the right mentality to navigate the path. While having money and lots of it, is good, it is also important that you prioritize your goal as you deem it suitable. You can’t graduate today and start aiming for the role of Chief Financial Officer or expecting the salary of a Partner. Everything takes time. However, ensure that you don’t under-price yourself. Set out to add value while getting remunerated for the service you are offering in accordance to industry standard relative to your years of experience.
How do you relax?
I spend time with my husband and kids. I also love going to the beach as much as I can. Looking at the Sea with the wind hitting my face, this gives me a relaxed mood and has a therapeutic effect. I live close to a beach. I equally read a lot, especially books on management sciences and gospel.
What are the major award you’ve bagged?
Answer: I have been privileged to be recognised while doing my best in all my endeavors. Some of the few awards I have received in recent times include the following: 150 Eko Aspire Women Recognition Award 2023 by Lagos State Government
Most Outstanding Employee, Andersen Nigeria (2019, 2021 & 2022)
Recognition Award for Exceptional Service & Dedication, KPMG Professional Services (2017)
Recognition Award for Exceptional Service & Dedication, KPMG Professional Services (2016)
Most Outstanding Graduating Female Student in Mass Communication, UNILAG (2008)
Best Graduating Student in Journalism, UNILAG (2008)
Best Graduating Broadcast Student, UNILAG (2008)
Vice President: Sparklers, 2008
Graduating Class of Mass Communication Dept, UNILAG
Editor-in-Chief: Press Club, Federal Government College, Ogbomosho
(1998-1999). The Most Intelligent Student, FGC, Ogbomosho
Where’s your favourite holiday destination?
I love going to Paris and the USA. My parents and two siblings live in the USA, hence I take my family there at every opportunity.
Her short profile
The name Olufunmilayo Olaniyi might not immediately ring a bell in an everyday setting but she is definitely an authority in the world of tax and advisory services. When it comes to delivering highest-value combined with best in-class practices, Olaniyi is second to none. She is good at what she does. And that’s why she mingles in high-profile circles. Her profile is impressive and she has been able to carry grace with humility. Call her a total package and you won’t be wrong. Described as everything a woman of substance stands for, Olaniyi is blessed with a first class brain. She has excelled in her calling. She has become a symbol of inspiration to many young girls aspiring for greatness both in career and private life. Olaniyi is currently an associate director, Business Development and Strategic Partnership at Andersen in Nigeria. She boasts over 15 years of valuable professional experience in various tax compliance and advisory services. Described as an asset to any organiation, she has functioned in the capacity of a tax adviser to a number of multinational companies and many other reputable organizations operating in diverse industries and sectors of the economy, delivering highest-value expected with best-in-class practices.
And epitome of beauty and brain, Olaniyi leverages on her experience working with various tax regulatory bodies to assist clients in the closure of tax reviews and investigation exercises. Known for her long list of accolades, she has varied experience advising multinational and national clients on Nigerian taxes and has proactively provided them with practical advice on how to manage any potential advice on how to manage any potential impact on their Nigerian operations. Olaniyi was part of the team that liaised with regulatory officials during the Bank Holdco Industry lobbying with FIRS for tax waivers as CBN initiated the Bank Holdco structure.
Also, the brilliant woman had an oversight on the entire tax and accounting activities for Nigeria, Angola, Sierra Leone and Ghana, assisting with review of WHT, VAT, PIT, Stamp Duty, Urban Property Tax and CIT returns. She has monthly payroll and social security knowledge of other African countries like Chad, Niger, Congo and Ghana.