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Trustees embolden parties in financial transactions, says Funmi Ekundayo

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Funmi Ekundayo, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of STL Trustees Limited (STL) is also the immediate past President of the Association of Corporate Trustees of Nigeria.

Funmi Ekundayo is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of STL Trustees Limited, a company founded some 20 years ago to entrench trust, corporate governance in all dealings within the public and private sectors. She is also the immediate past president of Association of Corporate Trustees of Nigeria (ACT). In this interview with CLARKSON VOKE EBERU, she spoke on the company’s journey so far and a wide range of industry issues among others. Excerpts.

Your company emerged ‘Non-Interest Trustees of the Year 2017’ at the third African International Conference on Islamic Finance organised by The Metropolitan Skills Limited in conjunction with the Islamic Finance Council and the Islamic Finance Institute of Southern Africa. What is the secret behind the feat?

At STL Trustees, our core values are integrity, professionalism, commitment and innovation.

These values ensure that in dealing with clients, whether individual or corporate, we strive to always deliver innovative trust solutions that meet their needs satisfactorily.

STL Trustees is a Delegate Trustee to the first Sukuk issuance in Nigeria, the Osun Sukuk Al-Ijara issued to finance the construction of modern elementary, middle and high schools in the state.

We are also a delegate trustee to the first sovereign Sukuk to be issued in Nigeria, the N100 billion FGN Road Sukuk 1, which was floated by the Federal Government to fund the construction and rehabilitation of some roads across the six geo-political zones of the country.

Essentially, our ability to anticipate, meet and surpass the needs of our clients is one of the factors that helped us to win the award.

What are the contributions of trustees to nation’s economic development?

Trustees play critical roles in business transactions. What every investor requires is peace of mind. Anyone that is parting with value – whether you are a bank that wants to lend to a corporate entity for any reason whatsoever – wants to be sure that the money will be repaid with interest as agreed.

So, I would say that we are the gate watchers. We protect investors. We create comfort for all parties on commercial transactions.

Most credit transactions with banks are not complete without a trustee because the trustee provides the requisite comfort for both the bank which is lending the money and the borrower that the terms of their agreement will be fully complied with. And who monitors the terms?

It is the trustee. So with that, a financial provider in a transaction feels secured with the fact that a trustee will monitor all the obligations and ensure that all the terms of the obligations are complied with from the beginning to the end. So it is a win-win situation.

And what makes an economy grow? Trade; ability to invest; and conducive environment.

So if you want to look at it from that perspective, trustees help to facilitate that.

Tell us the roles of corporate trustees in modern wealth and asset management?

Trustees help people to plan the future of their generations because when you have a trust in place, you will be able to easily and seamlessly transfer wealth from one generation to another.

And then, the issue of having family friction, bickering here and there is significantly reduced.

If you have a trustee, you would have given a very clear instruction on how your estate should be managed or transferred.

It is a wealth transfer process that helps to avoid your assets going into the wrong hands or mismanaged or misused.

You can even create a living trust for yourself which begins to run while you are around.

Our society is replete with stories of families fighting over property. That is why people shouldn’t allow their estates to go through such a mess.

When siblings, who ordinarily should be united, now become sworn enemies because of family inheritance, then it is a mess.

But once you have a trustee, you can go to sleep and rest assured that your estate will be fine and everything will be implemented in line with your instructions.

As former president of ACT what do you consider as the challenges facing the industry?

One of the challenges facing the industry is that of awareness.

ACT is, however, working hard to ensure that a layman on the street understands what the concept of trusteeship is all about and how it can be beneficial to him.

Also, in the area of regulation, we would want to see a complete overhaul of the major laws guiding the practice of trusteeship business in Nigeria, especially the Trustees Act and the Trustees Investment Act.

These laws are more than 50 years old and some of them still rely on common law and we think it’s about time that the National Assembly came up with some needful amendments to these statutes. The association will be happy to engage the legislature in this regard and contribute our quota.

In the area of private trust which involves wills and living trusts, our social-cultural belief is another challenge as a lot of people continue to view it with superstition.

No matter how religious some people may be, the need to have an estate plan in place frightens them and they keep procrastinating until it is too late to set up one.

However, in terms of the laws regulating our business, I would like to commend SEC’s efforts at creating rules as the need arises and updating them from time to time. This has been very helpful.


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