Move Back To Nigeria: No Regrets! Finance Exec Emmanuel Fatusin is Taking Risks, Utilizing Opportunities & Making a Difference!Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2013 at 10:00 AM
By Titi Adanne Owoyemi
Move Back to Nigeria is a new series on BellaNaija. The aim is to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at MoveBackToNigeria.com, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap. The idea is to share their successes and their challenges as they made the decision.
A lot of Nigerians in the diaspora have questions about making a change at home in Nigeria. Many suggest really good ideas on how to make things better; others would like to contribute to making a difference back home but are just not sure where to begin.
This week, we interview Emmanuel Fatusin, a UK trained Banking professional who moved back to Nigeria for reasons above and beyond the usual career-related plans. His life long passion and keen interest in politics and development has seen him take up a role in the somewhat burgeoning mortgage/housing industry in Nigeria. Here, he discusses his take on the housing sector in Nigeria and how his company’s mission involves addressing these issues and more. His incisive yet frank opinions certainly make for interesting reading. We hope you enjoy the interview.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m a primarily a banker but really a multi-dimensional Nigerian entrepreneur at heart. I say multi-dimensional because it is difficult to describe me in one word as there are many other facets to who I am and what I do, with my interests ranging from politics, to traveling (adventure/mountain hiking), fitness (Muay Thai-Kickboxing), music and very importantly, adventure photography.
Tell us about your educational history and why you left Nigeria.
I had my secondary education at King’s College Lagos and then left Nigeria afterwards for my A-levels. After which I attended City University, London for my Bachelors in Computing and then Queen Mary (University of London) for a Masters in e-Commerce Engineering. I left Nigeria purely for academic pursuits and I can confidently say that leaving Nigeria when I did has made a tremendous impact on who I am today.
Can you give us some background information regarding your professional life?
I have always had an entrepreneurial bent which started to manifest during my undergraduate days when I became quite involved in organizing events & other functions mainly for profit. A group of us did this for a while and then as undergrad days ended and my professional life started, my focus shifted accordingly.
My banking career started around the turn of the millennium in investment banking at Citi where I specialized in Operational Risk, Outsourcing and Cost Reduction. I spent 2 years there and left on a good note, as I was commended for my work by the Executives of the bank. I then moved on to KPMG, where I headed the Citi portfolio in Information Risk Management. I stayed on for about 4 & half years and got to manage the big investment banks such as Commerz bank (former DrKW), JP Morgan and such like, with my specialization being in Risk Advisory, Regulatory and Information Risk.
Whilst my career was growing from strength to strength, a part of me wanted to go back into investment banking and a perfect opportunity presented itself in form of a job at Santander. I did some research and found it an exciting opportunity as it was a Spanish bank with large operations in South America, a banking structure quite similar to Nigeria and so I moved there and joined the Credit Risk department.
After a few years there, I started seeking new challenges and then came Barclays Capital which was a very aggressive investment bank that appealed to me on many levels and so I joined the Strategic Development team as Project Manager focusing on Credit and Market Risk. It was around this period I started thinking seriously about moving back to Nigeria and started looking for viable opportunities in Nigeria, which also coincided with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s banking consolidation exercise. I subsequently realized that there was no risk culture in Nigeria per se and my expertise could be meaningful there. This made me seek further knowledge in the field and so I moved to The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) which at the time, was undergoing its well documented crisis. I was keen to closely observe how they would turn their fortunes around and so I joined RBS in the area of stress testing. While still on the lookout for opportunities in Nigeria, I was eventually approached by a group of investors looking to set up a mortgage bank in Nigeria. Despite the role involving a massive pay cut, I was reassured by the fact that our views and aspirations were aligned which is very important to me. A major part of who I am lies in my passion for politics and development and I felt the housing industry in Nigeria is in desperate need of attention and a place I could contribute to its’ development, so I took on the role and that is what I currently do.
You mentioned your passion for politics and development. Is this what inspired your move back?
Somewhat but not entirely. Another reason was that after working in different big organizations, I wanted to work in a company where I was not just a number. Where my impact could be felt and I could build my own team and implement all I had learnt, without dealing with the massive red tape of big companies.
It’s always useful to know what one wants. So what does your current role entail?
I represent a group of investors interested in the acquisition and creation of mortgage banks in Africa, starting with Nigeria and I am the Chief Risk Officer (Group Head, Enterprise Risk Management). The mortgage industry in Nigeria can be classified as largely under-developed when compared with the developed markets. Our plan is to create a mortgage bank that stands out and impacts positively on the industry. As an ambition of mine is to try and make Nigeria a better place in any way I can, I want my current role to transcend that. There is a huge housing deficit today in Nigeria conservatively estimated at over 16 million units. Our goal is to influence the housing market to create more affordable homes focusing mainly on the middle class and low-income earners. We would also provide mortgages enabling the average Nigerian to get on the property ladder.
Some of challenges with mortgages in Nigeria are the interest rates and tenures available. I have been involved in approaching international organizations to get their support in helping us alleviate these issues. My role also involves travelling to pitch our ideas to our future international partners. A key goal for us is to be the first mortgage bank in Nigeria to offer a single digit interest rate on mortgages and also the longest tenure. Whilst some might be skeptical about us achieving our goals, I believe every great achievement usually looks impossible initially and this is just one of them.
Can you give us an idea of what the renumeration for such a role will be?
My circumstances are a bit unique and do not reflect what generally obtains due to my position as a Group CRO and my 12year experience. Depending on the sector of banking and also on skill-sets and levels of experience, a General Manager should command an annual sum of N20million and above. Money should not be the only focus as housing, car allowances and things like equity options can significantly increase the value of the package.
How are you finding the move so far? Any big lifestyle changes? Positives & Negatives?
There are quite a few positives. First, let me state that it’s good to be home, as you’re amongst your people and you don’t feel like a migrant although I also consider the UK to be my home. It is also useful that when one moves back home, you’re most times fortuitously placed in a somewhat ‘influential’ class bracket, which while maybe seeming shallow at first glance, is important to me because that’s how best one can make a difference in your immediate environment and to the society on a wider scale. I have been inspired and motivated by the amount of success stories back home especially with regards to enterprise and young people in middle to senior management. There are also a lot of business opportunities for people who are interested in being entrepreneurial.
The negatives for me are basically issues involving infrastructure, the system and the people. The infrastructural issues include things like erratic power supply, fundamental amenities and so on. You basically have to be the ‘government’ of your home, providing power, water, healthcare facilities and so on. There has been some progress in this regard particularly in Lagos State but there’s a whole lot more still to be done. By the system, I am referring to the endemic corruption and lack of accountability which is so well-documented I will not go into it here. Finally, the biggest issue for me is the people, especially knowing that if we re-orientate ourselves for the better, Nigeria will be an amazing place and the other issues such as the system and even the infrastructural challenges will be greatly improved. The existing mindset and so-called Nigerian factor are hugely responsible for our slow progress as a nation.
Having said all that, there is of course a massive difference in lifestyle and there are certain things I miss about the UK. For instance, as earlier stated, I enjoy working-out, mountain hiking etc and I cannot really indulge in these activities as easily and readily as I did back there. The point I want to make here is that people should come home with tempered expectations so they do not get disappointed or frustrated.
Nigeria really needs a lot of changes and not just with regards to running efficient organizations and so on, but in things that will transcend and flow into the social structure.
Interesting Perspective…Do you have any regrets moving back?
No, well at least none for now. I think it was the right move for me and also especially because of what I am involved in. I enjoy the fact that we are building this from the ground up and whilst it is not easy to do this (particularly in Nigeria), it is something that will make a difference in the life of the average Nigerian. Personally, being involved in this venture not only from a risk perspective, will totally change the financial services especially the mortgage industry in Nigeria is exciting & fulfilling. So definitely no regrets so far.
On a final note, do you have any words of wisdom for our readers and also those who may be considering moving back to Nigeria?
If you are considering a move back, it is always a good idea to come home more frequently and for longer stretches of time to observe proceedings in real time. People should also be aware that living in Nigeria is not about the glitz and glamour of Christmas time. Living and working full time in Nigeria is a totally different ball game and getting accustomed to this is key.
It is also important to understand that whilst you may not always get the kind of pay you seek, you can leverage on other things such as equity, accommodation, etc which can help to balance out your package.
Finally, once you have decided to make the move back and have found a good opportunity, just do it!
Thank you very much for your time and best wishes moving forward.
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