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Move Back To Nigeria: It’s All About Taking Chances, Building A Strong Network & Starting As Early As You Can – Private Equity Exec shares Story



Portrait of man standing on walkwayMove 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, 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, MBTN talks with a Nigerian professional who recently upped and moved back home from the UK to Nigeria to work in an investment firm. He had gone to the UK in pursuit of education and then stayed on to kick off his career in the finance sector. In this interview you will find out how he made the transition successfully, what his career in Nigeria entails and his advice to Nigerian professionals thinking of moving back home.

Can you please tell us who you are?
I’m a relatively young Nigerian professional who is passionate about and invested in the Nigerian cause. I attended secondary school in Nigeria and left to the UK for my A levels. After which I went to one of the top UK Universities for my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Engineering. During my undergrad years, I participated in a number of summer internships in investment banks because despite the fact that I was studying engineering, I was sure I did not want to be an engineer. This was principally because I found engineering very boring.

Why did you leave Nigeria when you did?
At the time, my parents were obviously the decision makers in my life and when they said it was time to leave for the UK to study, that’s exactly what I did. Studying engineering was also entirely their choice but to be fair because they had wanted me to study engineering from such a young age, somehow I had developed an aptitude in the science subjects. So, though I actually did not really like engineering, due to my abilities in the sciences honed from a young age, I could comfortably get into the most competitive schools for the course.

Interesting switch from engineering to investment banking. What prompted it?
At the risk of sounding insular, I think I was driven partly by the money. As an undergrad, I researched graduate salaries for engineers relative to those of finance and consulting companies and the disparity was significant. The choice to leave engineering was thus rather simple. I did not want to be stuck doing a job in a field I found boring for low pay

Fair enough. Tell us how your career took off.
After graduation, I decided to accept a job with Goldman Sachs doing M & A. After a few years there, the natural path for most analysts is to go do an MBA in the states or to move to a Hedge Fund or Private Equity firm. In my case, I was extremely sure I wanted to do a principal investment role with an African focus. Luckily, post my 3rd year at GS, I got a bunch of offers and then I decided to move to one of those African focused PE firms. It is a global energy focused private equity firm which was looking to establish a presence in Africa. I went through the tortuous typical Private Equity interview process which involved a lot of interviews rounds, case studies and the dreaded modelling test. Somehow I scaled through the process successfully. I did this for a further 2 years and then moved to another PE firm for another 2 years and after a short while decided it was time to make the move back to Nigeria. I had a few offers but accepted my current position because I thought it was perhaps the best platform for me as the organisation has a strong private sector philosophy on the one hand and on the other, being a government organisation, gives me the opportunity to interact with and broaden my network in the public sector

What did your job in investment banking entail?
I worked in M & A which is the same thing as corporate finance and essentially means you work as a middleman or advisor, advising companies on capital raising, acquisitions, mergers and the likes. I was specifically in the natural resources group. The hours were extremely long but as I said, the pay was very good and so I decided to keep at it at least whilst I still had the energy for it.

The big difference between private equity (PE) and investment banking is that as an investment banker you’re essentially an advisor but as a PE professional, you actually manage and invest a fund to yield above market risk adjusted returns. So whereas as an investment banker I’m looking for clients to ‘latch’ onto to work for them to get paid, as a PE professional, investments bankers are looking to ‘latch’ onto me, to work for me to get paid. The typical skill sets and job requirements for PE are basically financial modelling, valuation, in-depth research, working with the management teams of companies you’ve acquired in order to turn around operations and so on.

Sounds really interesting. What then inspired the move back to Nigeria?
Moving back is something I had always wanted to do but like most Nigerians who have studied or spent a considerable amount of time in the UK, I knew I wanted to leave but at the same time wanted to get the British passport before making the eventual move back home. I had spent 6 years studying and so the 5 years after my degree that it would take me to get my papers was enough of a sacrifice. A year or so prior to coming back, it is imperative that you do a significant amount of networking with the relevant people within the institutions you are looking to potentially come back to, ensuring that they are aware of your intentions, skills, capacity etc. Recruiting in Nigeria as you may know is a very informal process, there is often no streamlined headhunting. Basically people who have heard from people who can vouch for you as competent would make the introduction. In my experience it can take quite a bit of time to successfully effect this, so you want to start as early as possible. Whilst I had known already that post getting my passport I wanted to come back home, the issue was where to. I tried a host of oil companies as well as private equity firms and within the time frame I had, this was the one that appealed to me and so I took it.

Seems like it was a pretty straightforward process for you: Was it that easy in reality? Moving back and starting afresh so to speak
To be honest, it was pretty straightforward for me and this might have been due to the fact that since my early years in investment banking, I had known I wanted to do African focused private equity. So from that point on, I had really developed a very strong network within PE firms that are focused on Africa as well as African companies but obviously being Nigerian, my stronghold was the Nigerian market. Moving back home was just a case of stepping up conversations, becoming a bit more aggressive and looking for an endpoint. All in all, it took just under a year to achieve my objective, so I will say starting early was the key for me.

You’ve mentioned your keen interest in Africa-focused PE Firms. It may seem obvious but why this interest?  Is this because you are Nigerian?
At the end of the day I saw myself as a Nigerian in the UK, so for instance while everybody else I worked around was fluent in at least 3 or 4 international languages, I couldn’t speak any other languages apart from English, pidgin English and Yoruba. Clearly, I just did not have any competitive edge relative to my peers to pursue a career within mainstream investment banking.  I knew that in order for me to have an edge, I had to pursue a career within a jurisdiction that I had a competitive edge in and that I had a natural enthusiasm for learning more about over my peers. That, for me was in African focused PE. And of course, being Nigerian, it’s much easier to dominate in Nigeria than say, in the UK. In the UK, there are thousands of people exactly like you or better. In the Nigerian context for instance, you are one in a thousand so I had already made a strategic decision earlier on in my career to pursue this line and I stuck at it.

You obviously exhibited a lot of foresight in this regard, hence the seeming ease in your eventual decision. Moving on to your current job, what does it entail and how have you found it?
My work involves building my team from the bottom up and I’ve been extremely impressed with what I’ve seen so far. My superiors are incredibly driven, very well coordinated and vastly experienced and so they are able to set the tone and the pace for how they want our business processes run. My days are typically 12-hour days and start at about 8 am. They usually involve a lot of meetings with co-funders & consortium partners, also doing a lot of transaction origination work, charting execution courses for ongoing transactions and also capacity building within the organisation. The key here for me is that, it is up to me to determine the type of culture exemplified not just within my team but also within the organisation as a whole and also up to me to ensure things are built properly.

In terms of the pay, a lot depends on having options, which gives you audacity in negotiating as aggressively as possible. I’m currently earning between N30-40million annually which is a discount to what I was earning in the UK but it was easier to take, due to the fact that right now I get taxed 19% while I used to get taxed about 50% in the UK. I’m also getting benefits like a car and driver, relocation allowance, paid housing and the likes.

For me, this move makes a lot of sense because I get to be an investor and focus on getting high risk adjusted market returns on investments in a jurisdiction I find interesting and am passionate about.

Impressive package but 12-hour days? Definitely sounds grueling: On a different note however, how have you found the lifestyle changes you’re certain to have made and the existing infrastructural challenges?
I’m Nigerian, I was born and bred in Nigeria and even after I left, I always came home at least twice or thrice annually so I’m fundamentally Nigerian, nothing can surprise me here. No infrastructural issues or PHCN issues can ever faze or worry me. I’m deeply rooted in the country. So from that perspective, everything is normal. The only issue I have is that I find Abuja where I currently live extremely boring especially in comparison to Lagos which is where I grew up. There is not that much to do in Abuja and the ‘dryness’ of the town can be a bit annoying. Apart from that, I am very content to be back home.

On a final note, what would you say to anyone considering a move back to Nigeria? Any words of wisdom?
I think anyone considering a move should definitely do it as it makes a lot of sense, seeing as you give yourself the opportunity to take on responsibility, to see and do more, all bearing in mind your experience and skill set of course.  Getting good opportunities can be quite random so it’s all about taking chances, building a strong network of useful contacts and starting as early as you can.

The other point to consider is that sometimes the remuneration may not be what is expected but taking a pay-cut in my experience and those of others I know, is always worth it because whilst on ground you can always make up the difference. By moving back, you’re positioning yourself closer to the opportunities and you can make that transition much easier than you would have from abroad. Whenever you get a good opportunity, consider it carefully before taking the plunge. There is obviously risk involved but it often works out in the end if well thought out.

Any regrets?
None at all, I am loving it so far. The opportunity to be entrepreneurial, to be  back home and to understand where the opportunities lie, is all a lot more exciting and rewarding than what I was doing in the UK. It would potentially have taken another maybe 10 years for me to be doing what I am currently doing in the UK if I had stayed back. Mid to long term, I’m hoping to still be working in this sector, doing what I currently do, and becoming a key player in my sector.

Thanks a lot for your time and best wishes moving forward. 

Photo Credit: Black Enterprise

_____________________________________________________________________________________ is the fastest growing online community of Nigerian professionals living, studying and working in Diaspora. Our primary objective is to connect Nigerian professionals with various opportunities in Nigeria, ranging from recruitment drives to information & support regarding relocation processes and financial & tax advice. We also feature social interest topics such as what’s on, where to live, how-to survival tips and so on. We consistently engage with and feature young Nigerian professionals in our weekly interviews and also regularly publish social interest articles relevant to the general public. We welcome everyone to our online discussions & fora and also invite you to air your views & suggestions on topical and trending matters.’ For more information and further inquiries, please contact [email protected]

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  1. Rainbow

    June 7, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Bella Naija please continue with this post. You may not drum up enough responses like you would, were it a celebrity wedding but nevertheless, it is pertinent to our growth and development. On another note can you start celebrating development actors in Nigeria who have impacted positively and made sustainable change in Nigerian. All well and good to donate to and help some widows, but what has been to contribute towards the much needed change.

    • Ready

      June 7, 2013 at 11:09 am

      +1 on the keeping on despite comparatively low responses part.

      Lol @ the person asking for his name. Just lol.

  2. pynk

    June 7, 2013 at 10:15 am

    This is useful for encouraging people.

  3. Yinkz

    June 7, 2013 at 10:20 am

    What is ur name please?

    • Toke's accents

      June 7, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Kindanapper type question….why does it matter?

    • Yinkz

      June 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      Did it occur to you that I may have a reason for asking, hence the question! U really should not address my question as that of a kidnapper’s but hey, what do I know? It takes one to know one.

  4. Mz Socially Awkward...

    June 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Yup, dude kept it real and I appreciate his honesty about moving back because he saw there was a competitive edge he would have in Nigeria as opposed to working in the same industry in London. That’s the gospel truth behind a lot of moves, the secondary motivation is doing your bit to move Nigeria forward.

    Although, I had to whip out my calculator when I read this:- “I’m currently earning between N30-40million annually which is a discount to what I was earning in the UK but it was easier to take, due to the fact that right now I get taxed 19% while I used to get taxed about 50% in the UK.I’m also getting benefits like a car and driver, relocation allowance, paid housing and the likes.”

    Hmmmm… all I can say is that if only I understood the rewards available from working in finance, I would have filled my UME/Jamb form differently…. Carry on chopping, bro!! Nothing do you.

    • CynthiaA

      June 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Haha I whipped out my calculator as well… I can easily figure out who he is:).

      I love the post though..

  5. Someone

    June 7, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Nice one ,keep it coming.

  6. Quizine

    June 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Nice. Impressive.

  7. omoibo

    June 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Great post, Bella please post more articles like this! You do have some of readers in diaspora that enjoy a good read like this beyond the usual red carpet/ product launch stuff!

  8. natty

    June 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I understand the need to change from engineering, I’m an engineer as well, but mehn it can be boring, so I changed courses and I’m doing a masters in a business related course. I went for an interview recently, were I was offered 14k!! I was shocked to say the least, I had to reconfirm 40k or 14k ? I’m rounding up with a distinction from one of the top 5 in the Uk, and I am being offered 14k, I jejely said thanks but no thanks, my village people I bind and cast.
    Ehn!! back to topic, his story is inspiring, from engineering to finance , and young man if you are reading this, lemme not hear u say that your pay is a discount from GS, do you know what 30 million per annum is ? #ok bye

  9. slice

    June 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    wow he really took a pay cut. now this is the kind a girl can easily submit to. lol.

    • Idak

      June 7, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      and submission will disappear when the pay is gone?

  10. Scorpio

    June 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Hey Bella, im interested in moving back and working in Nigeria…Im a nurse and I was interested in some help in finding my way around the Health sector in Nigeria…..any tips/ideas will be greatly appreciated

    • Partyrider

      June 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      yes please feature someone in the health sector that moved back. thanks in advance.

  11. jcsgrl

    June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Na wa o…Why I no study Finance or Investment banking? And I’m good with numbers too. Chai! Who send me go study …?

  12. Dee-USA

    June 7, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    It’s good to read posts like this. Some of us struggle with the idea of moving back tremendously. I am one who’s a major opponent of it. Before I get slammed, to begin, I am a journalist and there aren’t a lot of quality opportunities for us in Nigeria. I usually get comments about how I can use my “Fone” effectively as a radio presenter. It seems the decent paying jobs are in the entertainment industry, and I don’t aspire to be on red carpets.

    I have a degree in communications that I can use in corporate communications or PR, which is another possibility. But to be honest, the ultimate decision holding me back is the idea that a single woman cannot be independent there. From what I hear often, we’re constantly sexually harassed or people assume we do certain things to get certain things. Not that I care what people think, but I left as a 16-year-old and have spent my entire adult life here. I don’t want to have to beg for help repeatedly to get things done because single women are not generally respected in Nigeria. I have unashamedly decided that the only reason I see myself coming back is if my eventual husband insists on doing so, at which point I’d embrace the inevitable and join him. Oh, one more thing, can I say I’m petrified at the thought of moving back with a loving, respectful husband, who eventually joins the masses of men (and now women) who disrespect their marriages openly.

    Someone please tell me these things we hear are an exaggeration?

    • lola

      June 7, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Biko. you are better off abroad.

    • zsa zsa

      June 8, 2013 at 7:01 am

      LOL, you are over thinking it. Try to connect/network with people in your field who are based in nigeria, you will get the info you need and may realize its not so bad.
      Regarding the disrespect in marriage….don’t worry your head about that. Not all men/women are like that, make sure your partner is strong willed and dances to his own tune and not what society dictates.
      I really like this series by BN. Hubby and i are talking about moving back in a couple of years, research is in progress and definitely keeping in touch. My main fear is the lack of security but i hope this improves eventually.

  13. KH

    June 7, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Liar!!!! how many people…blackkies or even Oyinbos dey earn even up to 50k pounds not to talk of 1 million for abroad? Does he think he is talking to fools? — Just with 5yrs experience sef … why do people — especially those wey dey naija dey like to believe all these things and why do people go giving false hopes? You can advice and motivate but not make exaggerated claims with these figures…come-on– nonsense…

    • m

      June 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      You my friend don’t know what private equity and investment banking is. Google private equity and read up. That guy is worth $500,000/pa with his experience.

    • slice

      June 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      o yes you can, especially if you jumped in during the hay days of investment banking. Now the entry pay is lower but you can still advance quite nicely. And when you follow his write up, you’ll see he has been at it for some time so he can command more. Also it’s not 30million pounds. he says he’s now making 30 to 4o million naira, which is really at most 160,000 pounds

    • natty

      June 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Ah mo gbe!! “in abroad” first before calling someone a liar improve on your english , 2 learn to read properly. 3. the millions he was referring to is in Nigerian Naira !

  14. justmii

    June 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    lol @ everyone wanting to study Finance or Investment banking. We know in Nigeria it is about getting the right position in the right organization. Most occupations are well paid if you have the right network. I am a Nigerian in dispora and in the science field, I know I am moving home, it is only a matter of when. But like he said it is all about your NETWORK!!!!. Networking is the game even in developed countries. Although I hope to branch into something else when i come home

  15. BelleNoir

    June 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Very well written article. Please keep it coming. I started the process to move back and was pleasantly surprised to get a strong job prospect only to be denied for not having done my NYSC. I was quite disappointed as I did not realize I (not having schooled in Nigeria) that I needed NYSC. Unfortunately for me the American company looking to hire me halted talks. What is more disappointing is trying to accomodate the sacrifice of doing NYSC while working abroad. To make matters worse since am a pharmacist (though not practicing) NYSC is requesting my Nigerian pharmacy license before I can register. In order to get a Nigerian Pharmacy license I need to go through a 6 week orientation period. The time sacrifice without pay is very daunting and a extrememly frustrating. I am optimistic about moving back but the upfront financial sacrifice of lost income ( 6wks pharmacy orientation + 3wks camp+ 1 yr service) makes me wonder if I can afford to move back. Advice for those who have not done NYSC, its worth looking into starting the process before moving.

    • Partyrider

      June 7, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      Pele..if only you did your research on time.
      the same applies for medicine

    • slice

      June 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      fortunately or unfortunately, you might just have about a 10 week sacrifice because cough cough most people who from here for the NYSC do not actually stay the full year. i never do NYSC so make una no come find me. just dey share info

    • zsa zsa

      June 8, 2013 at 7:10 am

      You need to pace yourself. Give yourself a timeframe to complete the requirements to be registered in Nigeria. Its understandable you cannot afford to loose income so spread the tasks out….maybe do the 6 week orientation first and take the next step the following yr. But as @slice implied, some people don’t do the entire service year physically…but you must know somborry/have connection to pull this off.
      All the best!

  16. jb

    June 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Fantastic write-up. Everything was well said and insightful! Thank you for doing this!

    +2 on keeping this type of post going. Far better than reading other irrelevant lifestyle type news that adds no value to my life. And like everyone that read or will read this later, (first reaction) I too whipped out the calculator and did the conversion immediately. That is some heavy change and not salary for the birds at all. lol

  17. Idak

    June 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    The boy dey fear to drop him name. Forget kidnappers,na Lagos Runz girls the boy dey fear. Those ones capture with no recourse to ransom. Sharp boy!!

  18. R

    June 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Another enlightening interview, thanks!

  19. momeez boi

    June 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    This is very enlightening. thanks dude.

  20. Low

    June 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Please do one that features a healthcare professional (Doctor, Pharmacist, nurse etc) A lot of us want to move back but it seems like the market there doesn’t favor most of us, especially in terms of pay. An insight from someone who has had success in the field would be very much appreciated.

  21. donfelix

    July 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    I live PE ‘ real growth strategy’, I love Great People, Great Nigeria.

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