BusinessDay

“Social Media has encouraged many young women to become entrepreneurs”

Ms. Amaka Nsofor, ED,Debt Capital Markets, Standard Chartered Bank

Amaka is one of the leading debt capital markets professionals in Africa with global experience spanning Africa, Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East and she has executed numerous transactions for clients across several countries, sectors and currencies.

In particular, she has contributed significantly to the development of the capital markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, through various groundbreaking initiatives, working with regulators in various countries to develop their domestic capital markets and most importantly, facilitating access to the international capital markets for several African countries and corporate institutions, in order to unlock capital that will drive development on the continent.

She is also at the forefront of driving sustainable growth in Africa, having led the First-Tier II Sustainability Notes Issuance in Africa by a financial institution. She has also established debut sustainability framework for several African issuers, as well as other social and climate bond initiatives. She is currently an Executive Principal, Debt Capital Markets at Standard Chartered and prior to this, she worked as Vice President in Barclays and Standard Bank Group debt capital markets division, respectively.

Amaka is very passionate about societal and industry transformation. In addition to her role as a debt capital markets executive, she is also the Director of Finance for Association of Issuing Houses of Nigeria, where she works with regulators and trade groups to build the Nigerian investment banking industry. She is also the founder of Female Scholars Foundation, a non-for-profit organization set up to provide tertiary education, guidance and mentorship to young women in rural areas, in order to adequately equip them to integrate into the modern society and obtain reputable jobs across the globe.

Amaka is an accounting graduate from University of Lagos. She is also a member of Columbia Business School New York, London Business School, Chartered Financial Analyst Institute (CFA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

As the Executive Principal, Debt Capital Markets, Africa, Standard Chartered Bank, can you tell us some of your responsibilities?
As Executive Director, Debt Capital Markets at Standard Chartered Bank, I am responsible for bond origination and execution across Africa both in hard currency (“Eurobond”) and local currency for financial institutions, corporates and sovereigns. Debt Capital Markets is an arm of investment banking that primarily involves raising debt funding for companies and governments from international and/or domestic investors, in the form of listed or unlisted debt security. In addition, I also advise clients on social, climate and other thematic bond initiatives in line with the Bank’s strategic priority of driving sustainable growth, pioneer conversations with clients on innovative funding solutions, support clients with liability management options as well as provide credit ratings advisory to debut issuers.

What would you describe as the greatest passion that has brought you this far in your career?
I believe that God has blessed me with skills and abilities and my passion is to continuously use those to make a positive impact on my family, my community, my country, my continent and the world at large. Underpinning this is my strong habit of excellence and continuous desire for self-improvement and that has kept me in an upward trajectory in my career, as passion alone in most instances cannot get you to where you want to be. I often tell young people that excellence is a lifestyle and even though I am passionate about what I do, I apply the same habit of excellence and grit to every other area of my life, and it is that tenacity and passion to continue to move forward and be the best authentic version of myself, that has led me this far.

Can you assess the inclusion of women at different leadership positions both in the public and private sector, would you say the women are being marginalized by their male-counterparts?
Nigeria is actually one of the countries in Africa making progress with regards to having women in top leadership positions. Looking at the public sector, we have had several women hold ministerial positions and also lead government agencies. Similarly, in the banking sector and other industries, we have several female executives at different levels of management.

However, the fact that we can still count the number of women in these leadership positions, shows that we are still massively under-represented. Whilst we are taking the steps in the right direction, there is still a lot to be done and we need to get to the point where the value that women bring in leadership is recognized and seen as a norm, as opposed to a tick box exercise to demonstrate diversity and inclusion. With regards to marginalization, I believe it’s fair to say that globally gender bias still exists and that comes in many forms in the workplace, particularly in the area of pay inequality, role stereotype, objectification amongst others.

Again, there is a lot of awareness on gender bias and more women are increasingly speaking up and asking for what they deserve.

Research has shown that the impact of social media has heavily affected the girl-child negatively and the society generally, what is your take on this?
In general, I will say that social media has had both positive and negative effects. We cannot underestimate the impact that social media has had on businesses, both from the standpoint of creating new businesses and income sources to the ease of direct marketing and promotion to end users.

Looking at young women in particular, social media has encouraged many young women to become entrepreneurs as they can simply advertise their goods on Instagram or Facebook and run a fully online business, thus reducing the need for a high fixed cost base. It has also created global connectivity and awareness which has inspired a lot of young women. That being said, social media particularly the image-based platforms have also created identity crisis for many young women, due to self-comparison and this has led to loss of authenticity, lack of self-confidence and poor mental health. Overall, there is a need for a healthy balance, greater awareness and support to help people manage the negative impact of social media.

With the various top positions mostly dominated by the men, what qualities or ways do you think are required or needed for a woman to be at the top?
One of the key qualities that a woman needs to have to make it to the top is tenacity. The reality is that leadership is still dominated by men and women in most instances need to prove themselves to be given a seat at the table. Whilst we are working to change the narrative, a woman seeking to make it to the top needs to remain determined and persistent in achieving their goals and vision, no matter the challenges or biases they face. In addition, every aspiring female leader needs to be dynamic to get to the top. We are in a world that is constantly changing, with several emerging trends and industry shifts. Therefore, there is need to constantly adapt and be innovative in order to achieve new milestones and remain relevant. It is also important to be very intentional about building relationships. It is not enough to be hardworking, relationships open up opportunities, relationships ensure that the right people have visibility to what you do and what you can deliver, and relationships build trust which is needed for people to trust you in turn with a position or resources. Women seeking to get to the top also need to speak up and ask for what they want.

For instance, for women working in corporate organizations, it is not enough to be good and wait to be recognized, women need to learn to ask for the right opportunities, the right exposure, promotion and whatever they need to advance to the next level. Finally, it is important for a female leader to remain authentic.

There are many attributes that women have that makes them successful leaders, so it is important for a woman to remain true to herself and her values. So, know who you are, know what your strengths are and leverage them accordingly to advance to the top.

What advise do you have for young girls aspiring to be like you and other successful women in the society?
I would like to encourage them to “Dare to Dream”. Set your personal career objectives, determine what tools and skills you need to get there and continuously work towards it, no matter how high or inconceivable they may appear to others.