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‘Non-adherence to acceptable corporate governance practices hinders financial services’

By Bertram Nwannekanma
24 April 2017   |   3:20 am
Two major challenges come to mind, the infrastructural deficiencies leading to very high operational cost and high level of loan delinquencies. Added to this will be lack of adherence to good and acceptable corporate governance practices in some of the institutions in the sector.

Segun Aina

Dr Segun Aina is the chairman, Fintech Associates Limited and past president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, who has distinctively held various leadership positions at very high levels with strong records of accomplishments. In this interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, he gives insights on the challenges of financial services in Nigeria and the impact that FinTech Forum 2017, which holds today in Lagos will have on the economy.

What do you consider as a major challenge to financial services sector in Nigeria?
Two major challenges come to mind, the infrastructural deficiencies leading to very high operational cost and high level of loan delinquencies. Added to this will be lack of adherence to good and acceptable corporate governance practices in some of the institutions in the sector.

Why is FinTech organising at this time of Nigeria’s economic life?
FinTech is the short form of Financial Technology and the term came to common usage globally in the last few years. It defines a growing sector driven by innovators and startups or what you may call Fintepreneurs that introduce creativity, convenience and cost effectiveness in the creation and provision of financial services- be it in banking, insurance, capital markets, investments and all that. It’s therefore considered auspicious to bring different stakeholders in the FinTech sector together to deliberate on issues of today and tomorrow as well as how the FinTech ecosystem can be beneficial to all concerned. With the downturn in our economy, one of the solutions to revival of the economy is to do things differently, be creative and make every sector of the economy to be more efficient. Fintech Associates of Nigeria, Digital Finance Institute of Canada and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria Centre for Financial Studies are jointly organizing the first National FinTech Conference in Lagos.

Are there specific gaps you intend to fill with the conference?
The conference is the first of its kind in Nigeria and is designed to bring all the stakeholders in the FinTech world together.
We want to create a forum for exchange of ideas, sharing of experiences by experts and executives from different parts of the world, create avenue for beneficial networking, partnership as well as investment opportunities.

What other ways could young entrepreneurs benefit from such conference?
Young entrepreneurs will benefit from some of the successful local and international companies by learning some of the things that have led to their success. They will also have opportunity to showcase their products and business ideas especially those that are participating in the Startup Challenge for which seven finalists out of many that showed interest have emerged.

Are there roles government should play in FinTech ecosystem?
Government surely has a role to play in enhancing the development of the Fin-Tech ecosystem. This will include providing the much talked about enabling environment that encourages and rewards creativity and innovation, provide necessary support programmes and facilities including grants and funding generally.

RegTech, Block chain and Financial Inclusion have become nomenclatures in financial services sector. What are their benefits to Nigerians?
We are looking at how these emerging technologies can be used as an enabler for the growth of financial services provided by the various institutions. RegTech is short form for regulatory technology and there are technologies available today that helps to streamline and reduce or remove regulatory compliance headaches as well as provide support and convenience for regulators in the financial service sectors. Block chain is increasing in usage and popularity worldwide including Nigeria and is set to revolutionalise the entire payment and currency system. These are also innovation initiatives around educational technology (Edtech), infrastructure (Infratech), insurance (Insurtech) and so on.

A large percentage of the Nigerian populace are financially excluded, about 60 per cent, according to Financial Index of the World Bank have no access to formal banking facilities and these people are generally low income earners and based in the remote rural areas. There are formal technology products that can ensure that more people are provided access to basic and convenient financial services.

Do you see any future for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
Perhaps due to shortage of white-collar job opportunities in Nigeria, we have seen in recent years a greater level of entrepreneurial initiatives among our Nigerian youths most especially in the creative arts industry and particularly in innovative technology solutions to address basic individual and organizational challenges. With various government schemes to develop and support entrepreneurship and the inclusion of Entrepreneur Studies in the curricula of our Universities, the future is getting brighter for Nigerian youths with great entrepreneurial spirit

Access to start-up finance has been a challenge for young and promising entrepreneurs. Are there sessions that could address this in the conference?
Many aspects of the conference will address and touch on funding for Startups with great and innovative product ideas. A member of private equity firms, angel investors, venture capitalist and individual investors will not only be speaking at the event to showcase the opportunities and mechanisms for funding business ideas, a lot of them will also be participants including staff of various banks-Deposit money banks, Microfinance banks as well as insurance companies. Besides, the Startup Challenge that gives opportunities for demonstration of great product ideas to the audience at the conference by the seven finalists. There are four experts to serve as judges to rate the products. This will expose those techies and products to the entire audience for partnership and funding. In addition to finance, FinTech incubators and accelerators provide mentoring and guidance to budding tech entrepreneurs.

Who are you expecting at the conference?
Speakers and delegates are expected from various countries of the world including some of the key participants in Nigeria for the 22nd World Conference of Banking Institutes as the program is designed to be a side event to the World Banking Conference. The Minister of Trade & industry, Dr Okey Enelamah will give the Keynote address while the Lagos State Commissioner for Technology, Mr. Femi Odubiyi is also speaking.

What informed the choice of the array of speakers you are assembling for the conference and what is the conference’s theme?
We deliberately did not choose a particular theme for the conference apart from the title. And this is because it is designed to comprehensively cover all or major aspects of the FinTech ecosystem. The speakers are carefully selected from the various stakeholder segment based on their expertise and relevance to the topics and subject matters. They are indeed top in class! I am sure you are aware Ecobank is the Founding Sponsor while Soft Alliance Resources Ltd, SystemSpecs Ltd, Courteville business solutions & a host of leading organizations are also sponsoring/supporting the conference. This is a testament to the strength of the conference and the attractions it offers.

Are you considering sustaining the conference? If yes, what mechanism are you putting in place to ensure the sustenance of such a conference?
As you are aware, this is the first National FinTech Conference and it is part of the designed FinTech Nigeria Forum, which will not only be for general conference and small group seminars but also organize sector specific and company specific knowledge events on a regular basis. For instance, the second National FinTech conference is already scheduled to hold in late January 2018. Besides, Fintech Associates is promoting the formation of a FinTech Association of Nigeria, which may eventually take over the organization of some or all of the knowledge events for the benefits of its members.

What are the derivables from such a conference in Nigeria?
A conference of this nature will necessarily come up with evaluation discussion suggestions, recommendations and resolutions that need to be passed on to stakeholders-both private and public sector stakeholders. We plan to particularly producing a detailed document with clear implementation plans for all the recommendations and it is expected that this will support the growth and development of FinTechs, technology generally, entrepreneurship and improved delivery of financial services in Nigeria

In a dire straits economy as ours, what do you consider as the major consideration in establishing business in Nigeria?
No matter what the situation of any economy is, life must still go on. In fact, challenging economies create more opportunities in different areas. Anyone intending to establish a business in Nigeria or anywhere must have focus, goal and understand the terrain as much as possible. There will definitely be challenges, which should necessitate a change in plan but not a change in focus or the goal.

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