Remi Duyile, the distinguished Professor, banker and entrepreneur, shattering the glass ceiling globally
It’s no secret that Professor Duyile has come a long way from the small Nigerian town of Ondo where she was born and raised. Over the course of less than 18 years, Duyile immigrated to the United States and managed to climb the corporate ladder of one of the nation’s most revered banking institutions, Bank of America. It was here that she shattered glass ceilings when she was appointed Vice President of Retail, Premier, and Mortgage Banking. Duyile served in this role managing over 600 financial portfolios of high net-worth clients for 17 years, until she decided that it was time to step into her true calling of helping others as a serial entrepreneur.
Having achieved so much within her own life, Remi recognises the power in breaking one’s own self limitations. With this in mind, she has made it her life’s purpose to empower others in recognising their own strength and abilities. Duyile has since validated her status as a speaker, gaining numerous certifications with The John Maxwell Group, Jim Rohn, and under the mentorship of renowned motivational influencer Les Brown.
As a certified speaker, trainer, and entrepreneur, she has made others the focus of her life and business. In the years since leaving corporate America, she has established various foundations and in support of this vision including: her own mortgage company ( Premier Mortgage Solutions), an International consulting firm (Image Consulting Group), as well as a non-profit providing mentorship and financial literacy for women and girls (Legacy Premier Foundation). Under the umbrella of her companies she has become an empowerment mentor, community mobilizer, certified trainer, as well as an international keynote speaker.
Remi served for five years in Akure, Nigeria as Senior Adviser and International Relations Liason for Diaspora Affairs to the Ondo State Governor. Duyile has attended many high-profile events such as dinners at the White House with former US President Barack Obama and congressional events for the community in support of the legislatures. Remi Duyile’s knowledge and leadership, is sought after and well respected. Given her savoir-faire, the Professor of Finance has become a liaison working with various global agencies to connect the continent of Africa with the world. She has spoken throughout Africa, Europe, and extensively within North America (Canada and the US) teaching financial literacy, offering entrepreneurial development, and encouraging millennials to engage in the Diaspora, among other things.
In integrity with her commitment to inspire others, in 2016, she added the title of author to her ever-expanding list of accomplishments. Her book, Perseverance: Winning Key To Destiny was published in the US and is sold internationally.
While it is quite evident that Remi Duyile wears many hats, the one that she wears most proudly is that of being a devoted wife, and mother to three awesome children.
She credits all of her success to God, and the support of her best friend and loving husband of 28 years.
The journey of my life started in Nigeria as a baby like everyone else. I was born into the Ayodeji Family, of the Ondo Kingdom. My father was an amazing man that loved me to bits. So, I grew up in the arms of a father who was so well connected with the community, but the love he had for me was so real that I started my life in a nursery school in Ondo. That was the first nursery school, when public school was the in-thing. But my dad decided that I will start at Comfort Nursery School. So, I tell people that the strength of my life is in the early stages. I only spent six to seven years of my life with my father, but I remember him so well that every time I talk about my father, I just get excited. How do you forget a man who loves all of his children and still has time for his baby of the family? He would come and pick me up from school, a high chief, and take me to the only grocery store in our home town to get my candy. Then he would take me home.
If I’m doing my hair my father is there, I will not cry. If anybody is doing my hair and he’s not there, if I wink, he would say bring her. So, I say all of these to say that my life started beautifully, with a father, and of course, my mother was just the best. She can get along with everybody. So, love was what I was embraced in and when my father passed on, he handed me over to my sisters and brothers who are role models. I did not have to look outside for amazon women.
One of the ones I would mention was the late madam Oladapo. If anybody is in Lagos, they would know about Hope Children School. Somebody who started a legacy of education after she had left her own career path of being a health a professional; and my sister Labake Sadepe. All of these people are the people I surrounded myself with. In my home, I have brothers who are well-read. I just have it like that to the glory of God. We have love. We don’t have all the money, but what we have is beyond everything.
My father taught me the power of confidence, the power of knowledge. Just because you are a woman doesn’t make you less than a man. He educated everybody equally. So, that is the strength that I carried to the United States to be who God is calling me to be now. I came in the quest for education and got my MBA because of the foundation that was planted in me growing up, I didn’t have to get distracted.
My assignment was straight and clear and I focused on it, got here in the arms of my brother and his loving family who nurtured me so I didn’t have to lack love or anything. That is the love I carry that makes me fearless and of course the love of God. I will forever be thankful for all my family members. We would do anything for each other. So, we didn’t have to look outside to get supported or validation. We just need to know that if you work hard, that’s all you need to do. Show up, work hard all the time. Don’t depend on past glory. Every day is a new day. So, hard work has always been the hallmark of my family.
Comparing family values in your time and now, what you would say has changed when compared with what obtains today?
I know we think we are doing it big and doing the best. Every day I look at how we invested in raising our children, me, and my husband, and I think back to how I was nurtured with a father who was educated and a mother who wasn’t but still got the best; I always question: “Am I even doing enough?” Even though we did all of that for our children, I just feel that they did more. They just focused on their priorities and they knew that love was all of it, and they gave the best and wanted you to be the best. They showed it every day.
So, I would say that in the past, the value system was all we lived for. Family names were crucial, there was an urge that ‘you can’t mess up my name’, that ‘pride’ was there, and they didn’t just say it, they showed it and they made you work it. They didn’t have to do it in a forceful way. Your environment is what defines who you are, so, at that time, your environment was structured in such a way that it was surrounded by positivity. I think that family value is the drawing board because charity begins at home. If you have unconditional love taught to you, shown to you, when you are growing up in your home, when you get out to the workforce, the world, you don’t get distracted by the haters because you know you got love. When people come with their shenanigans and try to distract you, how can they distract someone like me when all I can remember was the love my father showed me, the extra miles he went. The family values are so critical and it’s not about having too much, but it’s about letting what you have to go around for that season and knowing that tomorrow will be better if you work hard.
So, family values, love, and just being content with what you have.
Coming to America
The coming to America was that journey to get educated. I already had my older brother who was here. I had graduated and the zeal of wanting to go get an education was what I desired and my sister decided that would be a good move since my brother was here and I wouldn’t just come as a stranger. They still had that nurturing importance to whatever decision that was going to be made and because he’s here and doing all that he’s doing, they were comfortable in releasing me to that level of the journey. I was told he would be a mother, father, and he ‘wowed’ me. He was everything. He would take me to school, pick me up from school, take me to the library, and made everything the other girls my age would be distracted by possible. He just knew his assignment. So, with my brother doing all of that, it set me up to be able to focus on my education, get all that I needed to get and much more.
Just that foundational continuation went a long way. I came to America in quest of education and I got a fine education and always had in my mind that I’ve got to make my family proud. Making God proud is what we live for, but my family too was crucial to me. It was important that they know that this baby of the family will continue to keep the flag flying so if my dad is up there or my mother, they would say ‘yes, it was worth me taking my agbada and going to Comfort Nursery School, picking her up and spoiling her like there was no other human being. So, that’s what I live for.”
Bank of America
Bank of America’s journey was exciting. I graduated with my MBA from the University District of Columbia. Growing up in Nigeria, I’ve always wanted to be a banker because the bankers in my young days always dress professionally, always looking the part. When I would go to the bank with my sister, I would see how when they sit at the desk and attend to customers, and by the time they are leaving, if there is a problem they would sort it out. I also admired how they look all pretty. So, all of that got stuck in my mind and I said this looks like what I would do. I just had that in my mind.
So, doing my degree and having my MBA in Finance and Economics, I knew that was what I wanted to do and that I was going to go to school, get my education and also nursed the idea of graduating and coming back to Nigeria. During my school days, I didn’t have any experience. The only experience I had was babysitting because I was living with my brother, I didn’t have to pay for anything, I got fed, clothed…everything, except I needed little change to augment my tuition, so I would babysit. My brother said babysitting was easier, and the family I babysat for, they just took me like their own family. They took me under their wings and allowed me to study. While their babies were sleeping, I would be doing my homework and my brother would cometo pick me up to take me to school in the evening because I went to evening classes and did my babysitting during the day. So, no work experience but babysitting.
After I graduated, knowing I was still in America, I asked myself what was next? Then I was like, ‘wait a minute, I’ve always wanted to be a banker. Now I have my MBA, now I can go be a banker.”
However, it wasn’t that easy. So, I started my job hunting, going to a few banks. Then, Bank of America wasn’t called Bank of America. I think it was called Nation’s Bank and we’ve changed names a few times. Of course, teller work was where they thought a whole MBA holder could fit in. I don’t know the difference between anybody; I just knew I got a job in a Bank. And I got in and soon as I got into the bank, when I had got all the suits I could buy, within three to six months, they knew that I was unique.
My work was different with an MBA in America. For Tellers in America, you can have a high school or diploma; you don’t need all that knowledge. But I needed to get my foot into the door so I grow my way up since I didn’t have work experience. So, I got in with a vision and God helped my mission. I distinguished myself even when cameras were set, they knew I was Nigerian and I had an accent, they watched if their money will go. So, as they watched me, they discovered I was a material for growth. And I was doing the extra stuff.
The message is the ability to volunteer myself, serve my way to greatness. I allowed myself to serve even people who are higher than me within the branch. They didn’t know I had my MBA, I wasn’t wearing around and acting all puffed up. I know what I’m carrying but I didn’t have to throw it in people’s faces because that would shut you down. So, in the branch, I would be offering, ‘can I help you’, ‘do you need somebody to stay open?’ I was giving myself the permission to learn what they were doing. I’m asking to help you, so I’m also learning.
Eventually, they knew that I now do the Teller and the customer service side. So, I’m becoming a little bit more valuable than everybody else. If somebody calls sick, I can float around the two areas. With my mission of being what I want to be, there are opportunities, so I would be applying for an ‘up’. As God would have it, just one attempt, I got into the best management trainee programme—18 months then. I went for the training and got back and with that, everything just went up and the customers loved me to death.
After I got my management training, they said ‘now you can be in a branch’, I said ‘okay’. I again requested to be transfered and as soon as I applied, I got that job. They started calling my boss, ‘when can you release Remi to come.’
Kemi, there I am at Premiere Banking dealing with the 600 financial portfolios you mentioned. These were people who money was not their problem, professionalism was not their problem. Doctors, lawyers, they would have me come to games, communities and that opened my eyes and exposed me.
When you have a drive for something, just have your faith in God and be ready to work hard. I’m always thinking about the results. That’s how Bank of America started and went into mortgage. So, be careful with how you align yourself with things, go in all the way, rely on God and work the extras intentionally otherwise, a lot of opportunities will pass you by if you’re waiting for someone to do something.
Being Vice President of Bank Of America
Firstly, it was humbling. Career paths are very important and I had mastered the career paths in my corporation. I didn’t want to go into one bank, get more money, and come back. I believed I could be better than that. I could stay with this bank and maze my way up, I just got to show them and affect their bottom line and serve their clients and represent their community on their behalf. That’s all they need. So, why do I need to run and try to impress everybody?
So, for me, every next step was orchestrated by God and planned by man which is myself, looking at what I need to do here to get there. So, when you’re reviewing me this year, and you say you have been promoted to an officer of the bank, as you’re telling me that news, I’m like “what’s the next thing after consumer banking officer?” “Oh, Remi it is assistant vice president”. I then ask “So, what do I do to become an assistant vice president? (AVP)” and they are looking at me like, ‘you just got one.’ So, when I ask that question they would go and get it for me and the specific things I need to do. The sales goals and all the extra things I need to do. By the time I finished my part, they said Remi congratulations, AVP.
When I then heard that news of being the VP, it was an exciting feeling because I knew I worked at it but God’s directions and the support of my beautiful family, my husband, children, and loved ones who gave me the flexibility and support to do the extras that other people don’t like to do. That’s how all of these things happened.
So, by the time I was told I had become the VP, I knew it was coming. I saw it coming because I worked for it. I asked the right questions and it worked for me.
Walking into my new office as VP
The feeling of that is so huge when you think where you had started and then all of a sudden, you walk into this magnificent office with your nameplate ‘Remi Duyile, Vice President’ is already there, all the other stuff are there and your senior colleague comes to welcome you and integrate you, it’s so amazing. What is even more amazing is being in the meetings with your peers who are vice presidents and officers of the banks and you see discussions are transpiring and you are contributing now, not just sitting there and warming the bench. You can just say ‘God, take the glory’.
That is how my journey of life became possible. My mind has nothing called impossibility. I believe that there is hard work and that there will be frustrations, but God never gives you what you can’t handle but you’ve got to work. Success is a journey and not a destination so I don’t sit on any particular success to enjoy it, I recover, and then start. I just believe it’s a continual process.
Meeting your husband
Remember I told you I was living with my brother. So, my brother was protective of me and you wouldn’t see any Jack and Harry around me. But, I think my husband did his homework and knew where to find me. The best place to catch me was the library. That’s where he would come and we’ll talk. That was how all of that started, and it was blossoming. After I graduated with my MBA, there was really nothing stopping anyone from exploring friendship. So, that’s how we met. It started with engagement is the library, just talking and to the glory of God, we’ve been together for over 30 years. We got married in 1989 and we’re blessed with three adult children. They are all doing big to the glory of God. My baby is 24 our oldest is 30. So, God has been good.
The source of my strength in addition to God has always been my husband and my family. They have allowed me to be that busy bee with impact. I get busy a lot, but my busyness is not about negativity. I will never be part of anything that is destructive. I believe that what you have is what you can give. If you don’t have love in your home, if you can’t point at your children and have a bragging moment about them, how can you mentor other people’s children?
So, invest in yourself so that you can have something you have control over to give, which is love.
Serving in Nigeria
My service in Nigeria was a golden opportunity. It started as a call for a ministerial position that never transpired because “who knows Remi Duyile in Nigeria?” So, that didn’t work. The powers that be frustrated that process. So, the governor then, who called me, created an opportunity that I can stay in the state.
I was the senior special assistant to the governor on International Relations and Diaspora Affairs which is a position befitting of my knowledge, expertise, and so forth. So, on my experience in Nigeria, we were able to leverage the state to my state here as a sister state. We were able to bring the state to the Centre for Strategic and International studies for them to come and see what we did. So, that opportunity was creative. It allowed me to test my knowledge and all my network here to work in that form.
Nigeria was a ground that I couldn’t thread a lot in, and I say that cautiously because for someone who is knowledgeable enough, a mother, a doer, a community leader, and impactful, it was hard for me to function because, when you go back to somewhere where people technically might not really know your value because they don’t know who you are, it can be an issue.
I’ve never experienced a day in my country since I left at the age and time I did. So, going back was like going to another world. It was a rude awakening to see the orientation and I don’t fault anybody for that. So, I realised that after I had done what I needed to do, the Lord ministered to me that my assignment at that point was done and that it was time to reconnect with my family, and to also continue my journey here in America and when I came in immediately, they made me chair for the Democratic Community for African Affairs. And the bank of America called me back.
Within a year, I realised I had so much assignment to give to the world that if I go back to Nigeria and start playing that corporate game of trying to please people and do goal setting, that’s going to be unfair because that’s not my time anymore. My time is to impact lives. But it was so amazing, including the exposure Bank of America gave me and the foundation Nigeria put in me to come here and shatter everything.
Nobody can stop anybody, whether you are a man or a woman, nobody can stop you. Can you work? Do you want to work and pray that God aligns you with people who have the same heart as you? So, go and find work in your hands and point your finger and raise it to God and say God help me.
Addressing the issue of brain drain in Nigeria
We are the Nigeria, you and I. Until we first embrace ourselves and begin to dare to do the right things regardless of what is around you, we may have a long way to go. Let us start within. You have to embrace yourself and understand that integrity is required. You now can influence others. Women are their mothers. All of these people who end up going to wherever they go that they don’t do the right things that make our nation still be behind, are somebody’s daughters, sons, and all of that. They came from a home. Until we go back to those days where parents begin to see things that are not allowed: you see your child bring a car home or dressing in an expensive way and now go ahead to embrace it and not try to dig deep to find out what he does, that would be the first stage so that we can set stage inside the house. That’s for us as civilians.
All of us have that leadership ability and the government should create an enabling environment to encourage our businesses. An enabling environment should be intentionally aligned to people’s needs. It cannot be a one size fits all. We have to be intentional about creating a middle class and it has to start with creating resources, public private partnership. Are we going to be ready when your diasporas who have made Nigeria proud over here are ready to do things in Nigeria? or are we going to be in the business of frustrating that? The Indian diasporas liberated India. We have the best and brightest Nigerians all over the world. When do we begin to embrace ourselves? Us to us, private to private. Until we all begin to take responsibility and do things about what we know we can do, no matter what, until we begin to value people we would never go anywhere.
Nigeria will be great again but it’s going to take every one of us.
The Legacy Global Business Summit
The purpose of the Legacy Global Business Summit is to create a platform where business owners, international trade agencies, corporations, and governmental organisations in Africa, can gain access to global financial resources and capital. This idea was borne out of the need to influence and facilitate enterprise development between US and Africa.
The Summit also aims to promote business goals by leveraging strategic partnerships both locally and internationally.
The conference is on November 5th and 6th. It’s a virtual conference and you can go to www.legacyglobalsummit.org. It’s a two-day conference that will allow you to meet various people and what’s beautiful about the conference is that there is a pre-conference whereby it won’t just end on the day of the conference, and there is a post-conference. So, if there are things that you heard, saw or things that you want to hear more, we are going to have various zoom follow-ups. Our conference is not just another show and tell to get everybody together. We want to begin to have an impact, have people bring their problems, and see how we can create solutions. So, we’re looking forward to it. Come join us.
To the young leaders out there, I want you to see yourself in this world for a special purpose and assignment. There is a way you act when you know you have an assignment placed with you. Do not look at the challenges; there will always be obstacles around you, but dare to find your way through that in a positive way without doing anything that will negate your integrity. Go out there and be the best you can be. Have your faith in God and not on any man, but lean on God and your handwork. What work do you have in your hand? What do you do that makes an impact? If you can’t answer that question, there is a problem. It could be as simple as ‘I’m positive’, ‘I engage people’.
In your own status, what is that one thing that you do and people see it and are happy about it? Let’s all make this world a better place. It’s in your hands and it’s in my hands. We really can do it. I believe there are so many possibilities but we cannot be lazy about.
For women, we cannot be stopped. There is no such thing as gender. If you are intellectually savvy, bring it on. Our men, you have children who are girls, how would you like for them to be treated after you sent them to Harvard? After all of that, would you want somebody to undermine them? If your answer is ‘no way’, then embrace women, support us. We want to be able to be judged by our intellect and the content of our character not by any of the other shenanigans.