Celebrating Olabisi Onabanjo University at 40: The Guardian’s Special Focus on alumni with impactful contribution to national development
Since its establishment in July, 1982, the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), formerly known as Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye, has carved a niche for itself as one of the foremost institutions in Nigeria. OOU has lived up to the purpose for which it was established to “be a world-class University comparable to any other, engaged in imparting contemporary knowledge, using high-quality facilities and multi-disciplinary approaches, to men and women of all races, as well as generating new ideas and intellectual practices relevant to the needs of its immediate community, Nigeria and the world at large”.
With the motto, Excellentia Humana et Patriae Opus, that is, “The Flowering of Human Abilities and Service to the Fatherland”, OOU – the multi-campus university, has lived up to the vision of the founding fathers as a place where knowledge, skills and research are relentlessly pursued for the production of graduates that will be useful to themselves, their communities, and humanity, as a whole.
Thus, it is needlessly saying that this underpins the achievements of its alumni/alumnae in various fields of human endeavour, which remains quite impressive, so also the alumni/alumnae’s exploits in other fields.
Accordingly, Olabisi Onabanjo University has justified the essence of her existence having built a legacy of academic excellence as evident in her production of top range professionals and academia that have had tremendous impact on development in Nigeria, and even beyond.
In this publication, The Guardian showcases two of such exemplary alumni, viz: Adesunkanmi Balogun, Founder/CEO, Fewchore Finance Company Limited and Abayomi Michael Osho, Group Managing Director/CEO Asset & Equity Group
ADESUNKANMI BALOGUN: Result-Driven Financial Services Expert, Impacting LivesThroufgh SMEs
He is one of the professionals, whose achievementsin the financial financial sector cannot be ignored by many, who desire genuine success in their careers. A resourceful financial expert, astute business entrepreneur, and pragmatic innovator; He is an excelling alumnus of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), hitherto Ogun State University, who has continued to build his reputation with discipline, unalloyed professionalism, and integrity.
His name is Sunkanmi Balogun, the Chief Executive Officer, and Founder, Fewchore Finance Company Limited – an avant-garde and fast-rising financial services company, providing consumer and business loans, local and international trade financing, as well as other first-rate financial services to clients. Fewchore Finance is fast becoming a known name in the nation’s financial services industry.
Sunkanmi worked in a few financial institutions including, as a Relationship Officer in Fountain Trust Bank between 2001 and 2005, and Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), where he was responsible for the development of the National Oil Company’s Desk, from 2005 till 2016. At GTBank, Sunkanmi started the bank’s small National Oil Company team, which he later grew to a sizeable level before he left in 2016.
After leaving GTBank, he went for an Executive Management Program at Harvard Business School and was part of the GMP 21. Before that, he had a certification from London Business School in Corporate Finance. Sunkanmi is an alumnus of Lagos Business School where he got his MBA.
Having been recognized as one of the “Most Distinguished Alumni of the Ogun State University” and in response to a few questions from The Guardian, he spoke on what made him seek academic pursuit at the school, his career experience, the nation’s financial landscape,Fewchore Finance Company’s unique offerings, amongst sundry issues. Excerpts…
What informed your decision to attend OOU?
The truth is that my admission into OSU came by accident. This is why. While growing up in Ilorin, Kwara State (where my father worked), the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) was my choice and my father knew about it. Therefore, after my Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) examination with an impressive result, my father and I traveled to UNILORIN to seek admission in Accounting (my first choice).
Whilst coming back to Lagos where the family resides, my father drove us to Ago-Iwoye, my hometown (which incidentally is the host town for OSU), to spend a night at the family house, before returning to Lagos the next day. Then, one of my uncles who knew about our mission to Ilorin came in, and said “why do you want to go and put this boy in Ilorin when you are no longer there?” At that time, my father already relocated to Lagos. He told my uncle that Ogun State University was my second choice with Business Administration as the alternative course. There and then, my uncle collected my credentials and to our surprise, the University offered me admission, the next day! Lacking any tangible reason, my father was convinced; that was how I became a student of OOU, where I later finished top in my class as the Best Graduating Student in the Business Administration Department, in 1998.
Can you tell us how schooling at OOU and the experience thereof has helped in shaping your worldview and prepared you for organizational leadership and management?
Being a multi-campus institution and non-residential, there was a lot of struggle during my time at OOU. The main campus, Ago-Iwoye was a sleepy town and a bit primitive with little or non-existent exciting activities, students were the life of the town. Also, as the first set of students that moved to the permanent site campus, necessary infrastructures were unavailable which was a tough experience for us.
Nevertheless, that came with a lot of advantages because as a young boy living alone, l had to do a lot of things by myself. That status started gave me a belief in myself, and to an extent, an entrepreneurial mentality that I could do a lot of things by myself. These helped to shape who I am today. Besides, Business Administration, as a course made me read widely, even though the school did not have what we can call a standard library, at the time. We adapted to what I described as the hustling ability to be the best in that circumstance.
OOU was an environment that taught you what could be described as ‘do it yourself. I was a bookworm in school, and not very social, I had a few in my circle of friends. Everybody in school called me “Ade” and Ade was a bookworm. That was why at the 100 level, I was already on First Class and I eventually ended, with a 4.36 CGPA. My years at Ago-Iwoye made me independent and the zeal to succeed was planted in me while I was there. The environment prepared us to face the challenges of the real world. Today, I am proud to say that most people from my graduating set are doing well in Nigeria and overseas. Even after I graduated from the University, it was tough getting a job. I moved around the city (Victoria Island) to look for a job before I could get one in Fountain Trust Bank.
The experience gained also helped when I joined GT Bank as a young officer and was transferred to Benin City to manage a new desk. I wouldn’t know what my bosses saw in me at that time, they kept telling me “you can do it!” The businessman attitude helped to break some barriers, won and grow some relevant relationships for the bank in State Oil Company’s team. In Guaranty Trust Bank, where I could claim I had my major banking training, we had fun. I like to think that over the course of my time, I did well for the Bank. Therefore, OOU imbibed that independence and goal-getting ability which helped my career as a banker. After I left GTBank in 2016, I went for further studies at Harvard Business School. On our last day, I could remember what our Professor told us, “Go and shape the world”. He told us something very vital “work on your strength and surround yourself with those that can cover your weakness”. That was my takeaway and guide in my present role.
The financial sector is one of the pillars of any nation’s economy. As a stakeholder, how would you assess the policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and their impact on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)?
Honestly, the CBN has done a lot in terms of policies and support for SMEs through different intervention funds like the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF). SMEs are the backbone of any world economy but unfortunately in Nigeria, they are not well structured. Let me start from the structuring, in terms of financial planning and management, accounting and taxation, legal services, marketing, branding, etc. SMEs lack this small structure to prepare them for financing; to most of them, it’s just buying and selling, trades and services with little or no accountability. The adequate structure would have opened them up for appropriate financing options and government could make lots of revenue in terms of taxes. Fewchore Finance as part of our advisory services and, in conjunction with notable firms and consultants, is stepping in to provide some of these services, to take SMEs to the market and make them viable for finance.
Furthermore, another important thing is the need for credit policy review by the Central Bank to discourage borrowers from deliberately defaulting on their loans, and to become financially responsible; this can even be as an act of the Parliament. The Credit Bureau system should be enhanced and exceptionally functional to report all loans taken within the authorized financial space including the performance on these loans to enable Financial institutions to make informed decisions on loans and advances. What we have at the moment is not adequate and borrowers take advantage of the porous system to obtain loans from multiple financial institutions before it appears in credit bureau reports. I believe a borrower with a bad credit report should not be able to access loans from other financial institutions, and in a situation, this happens and is found out, the penalty should be 100% provisions until the loan is recovered. A bad creditor should be frozen out of the financial system, I believe this would force borrowers to be responsible.
As obtainable overseas, where the system is credit-based, point-based system, if a borrower misses repayment or does not perform on his loan, his credit rating drops, and won’t be able to approach any financial institution for help. And if any institution responds to him, the loan will be limited and expensive. Nigerian SMEs need the same level of responsibility for the sector to grow.
What do you think should be done to address this negative trend?
To me, the CBN should influence the parliament to enact a law criminalizing this act that has resulted in a lot of non-performing loans in the industry with a negative impact on the economy and equally affecting SMEs’ business. When I was in the bank, I did not deal with SMEs; but now, I am close to them and appreciate the problems banks are facing. Even finance firms such as ours have to cherry-pick because we have lost some money given to SMEs. So, if this policy can be strictly adhered to, we will have a very robust financial system and there will be an increase in the level of support for SMEs.
OOU has made a remarkable impact over the last four decades of its existence. What areas do you think the University should improve on to make more impact in today’s world?
First thing is that government should focus more attention on the educational sector, in terms of funding. The conditions of most of our public Universities are reprehensible with basic facilities overstretched and in a deplorable state. Similarly, our higher institutions should shift from theoretical-based to practical-based studies. OOU is a state government-owned institution, my take is that all the courses should be focused on producing problem-solvers and value-creators, rather than theorists.
Higher institutions in Nigeria must engage more in case-based studies reflecting real-life situations. This is what students are taught in advanced countries, for example at Harvard Business School, even in Lagos Business School, they teach you with real-life experiences from public and private institutions. Here, most organizations explain their problems, document them, and give them to these schools to solve for them. The schools turn them into case studies and present them to the class. Then, everybody comes up with different ideas on how to solve them.
I remember a time at Harvard, the Managing Director of Dell Technologies was actually in a class listening to his internal problem – none of the students knew he was there to get solutions to his company’s problem, until much later. It happened in LBS too. The answer to a problem today might be obsolete tomorrow if the situation changes. Therefore, we should move away from theory to practical-based teaching.
Furthermore, we need to improve the infrastructures and the learning condition. Since the government is the sole financier of public education in Nigeria, I advise that some alumni with resources should come in to render support in different forms.
Can you highlight the products and services of Fewchore Finance, and what makes the company unique?
Fewchore Finance Company Limited started in 2018 with an initial share capital of about N100 Million but as of today, we are in excess of N1 Billion in shareholders funds and boast a growing balance sheet of over N8 Billion. Why do you need to pitch your tent with us? The answer is very simple. In terms of service delivery, we are closer to our customers. As stated earlier, we are problem-solvers which reflects our vision and mission statements. We want to be a banker of choice where a financial solution is required. That is our focus, to assist several sectors of the economy.
At Fewchore, we offer Retail Loans, Oil & Gas, and Commercial Loans. We support vendors of Corporate Companies. We aim to ensure that you grow while we also grow – we are flexible with our innovative and technology-driven products and services. We fund businesses, give concessions when it is necessary, and work with you to improve your business. That is what makes us different. We do not plan for our customers and clients – we plan with them and cater to everyone!
ABAYOMI MICHAEL OSHO: Exceptional Business Strategist, Distinguished By An Unparalleled Drive For Excellence
Mr. Abayomi Michael Osho, the Group Managing Director and CEO of Asset and Equity Group is an astute entrepreneur, banker, coach, and strategy consultant, with over a decade of distinctive professional experience spanning auditing, credit management, regulatory consulting, foreign exchange and investment banking.
An accomplished financial expert whose finesse has earned him a reputation as a boardroom strategist, he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Ogun State University now Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. Thereafter, he attended Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, UK where he obtained a master’s degree in Strategic Planning.
As a young school leaver whose dream was to study Economics at the university, Osho sought to study his desired course at the University of Lagos and University of Ibadan, but he was met with a brick wall, however, an offer of admission to study Economics at OOU was the “saving grace” that gave him the platform to build a distinguished career.
According to him, OOU wasn’t his first choice of university due to some perceptions that turned out to be untrue about the school. “I heard stories about how the university is a glorified secondary school which made me think it wouldn’t be necessary to really study hard to pass exams and bagging a first-class would be easy, but I was wrong and I paid dearly for that mentality.
“By the second semester of 200 Level, my CGPA was in Third Class, and I had some friends who were on “Pass”. At that point, I knew I wasn’t moving with the right friends so I moved out of the area I lived to an area far away with a new set of reasonably focused friends and classmates. That was how my grades turned around for the better which I held well till graduation”, he added.
Since he left OOU, Osho’s career has been nothing short of excellence which goes to show the high level of training he received at the institution. He began his entrepreneurial quest in 2007 with the establishment of Olive Bureau de Change. In 2012, he founded Verite Microfinance Bank (now Trustbanc Microfinance Bank) and led the bank for nine years before exiting his investment in the bank to start Asset & Equity Group.
“By design, AEG was created to offer a basket of real investment opportunities to the discerning investing population within Nigeria and globally. Our business model is focused on competitive returns, security of investments, and reputation. Unlike many investment institutions who mostly provide investment products and services with underlying assets that are beyond their control and making it almost impossible for them to give foreseeable predictions about market directions, we strive to invest (both proprietarily and third-party) in key underlying assets so that we can be sure of the possibilities surrounding our investments and that of our clients”, he informed.
In its 15 years old of existence in the industry, AEG takes pride in the professionalism and youthfulness of its highly qualified management team and board with an average age of 40 and 42 respectively. “Not many financial institutions in Nigeria can boast of that”, he added.
With core values built on probity, finesse, and competence, AEG provides top-notch services which includes foreign exchange, private equity, asset management, technology, real estate and financial advisory across four subsidiaries in Nigeria with transactional partnerships in Ghana, Benin Republic, United Kingdom and the USA.
A registered professional with the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), he is also a Fellow of the Association of Enterprise Risk Management Professionals (AERMP), Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), and the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (ICEN).
Commenting on the impact of the capital market on Nigeria’s GDP, he explained that the capital market is a reflection of the state of an economy as it provides the metrics with which an economy can truly be measured in terms of productivity.
He said, “When the capital market contributes less than 20 percent of a country’s GDP which is about $500 billion, it means there is need to deepen the activities of CMOs such as the Exchanges, Asset Management firms, Banks, Stockbroking firms, and other investment institutions to build the required level of trust and flexibility to accommodate more businesses.”
“Another major effort will be to study the current dynamics of the technology space. That space is filled with youngsters, and they are attracting huge foreign capital. Some of those tech firms are less than ten years old, but they are already bigger than many Nigerian banks today. So, flexibility is very key here”, he advised.