How are you able to juxtapose your role as a woman and a mother, putting into consideration that you are in a male dominated space like Fintech Industry?
No doubt, Family and work life are two parallel lines, with demands that can be overwhelming especially for women. However, being a woman is no longer an excuse for failure to achieve our career aspirations, there are numerous role models both locally and globally who have done exceptionally well, the most recent example is the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice in America.
In summary, I think it is all about striking the right balance. What a woman has to offer intellectually, leadership skills, commitment and tenacity while also making the right choices and sacrifices at work and home, coupled with the right suport system.
Succinctly highlight your exploits and accomplishments in the industry?
Going down memory lane, I have worked in three different commercial Banks before I joined the Fintech industry. I joined banking in 2005 when transactions were predominantly cash based. Since then, I have been privileged to work on digital products which has drastically changed the way customers do business and manage personal finances. I had a first-hand experience with customers when the CBN introduced the cashless and financial inclusion policies. I have led the digitization of various large corporate, government parastatals, consumer products, cross border payments enablement for corporate and Fintechs. I have been involved in the evolution of digital payments and adoption in Nigeria right from the beginning of my career up to leadership positions. It is a great feeling of accomplishment to witness the uptake of various digital products serving different segments of the economy and to also experience the ease and convenience the products offers to businesses and individuals.
Your career has witnessed appreciable growth over the years, What are the factors responsible for your career growth.
I will say my career growth has been gradual and consistent. I was privileged to work with great leaders who consistently motivated me, gave me opportunities and higher responsibilities. It is a combination of many things: hardwork, consistency, the right network and most importantly, the Grace of God.
What would you consider the major challenges of working within the Fintech space?
Most Fintechs in Nigeria are below 5 years old. Invariably, they are start-ups and you cannot compare the structure which exists in banks with decades of operation and experiences. For Fintechs, being startups and a relatively new industry especially in Nigeria, I think Licensing by the regulators is one of the biggest challenges for Fintech. Funding is important for Fintech to scale, Resourcing the right skill set, developing the products, market acceptability and scalability. For the employee, depending on when you join the organisation, there may be need to start everything from the scratch, the product and process documentation, product development, product licencing discussions with regulators, Fund raising rounds with investors or even renting and equipping the office spaces. However, these also presents good learning experiences. Fintech gives you the opportunity to be part of building and owning a slice of something that has the potential to go global. It can be demanding but also highly rewarding.
Having spent years in the digital banking space before joining Fintech, what motivated your move?
For me, it is a relatively known terrain, when I was working in the banks’ digital space, we worked with a good number of Fintech because the Fintech industry cannot operate without banks. Fintechs must maintain banking relationship with banks for transactional and settlement purposes. In some cases, Commercial banks sponsors Fintech for product licensing with the CBN and the card schemes. Fintechs also leverage on some of the Commercial banks’ infrastructures and footprints for expansion beyond the shores of Nigeria. However there is a learning curve as the two industries operate with different focus, agility, structure, depth and strategies.
Recently, you featured at a Bank’s product launch where you spoke about partnership between banks and Fintech. What is your projection of Fintech’s future, putting into consideration speculations that Fintech are becoming a threat to Banks?
In my opinion, there is no direct threat because the opportunities for financial technology and financial inclusion for the Nigeria populace is huge. A recent EFInA report shows that only about 45% of Nigeria population is banked with about 36% of the Nigerian adult population still financially excluded. As I explained earlier, there is continuous need for Fintech to leverage on banks to be able to offer some of their products and services, that synergy would always be there. There were days of distrust or less synergy, however, I think more than ever before there is a better relationship between banks and Fintechs. Prior to now, maybe about a decade or less ago, you probably will not have banks and Fintechs coming together under a forum to deliberate and present a common front. There are now various organised fora where Fintech and Banks come together to brainstorm about a common problem and the way forward and jointly engage regulators to promote mutually beneficial objectives.
Tell our readers briefly about yourself.
My name is Iyabo Akeem-Onikoyi. I was born and raised in Ibadan, in a humble family of 9. Work and Marriage brought me to the hustle and bustle of Lagos. I am a wife and a mother of 3 beautiful children. I have almost 2 decades of experience combined in both digital banking and Fintech industry.
The world recently celebrated International women’s day which promoted sensitization against gender bias, what has been your experience as a girl child, a mother and a leader?
I am one of the oldest girls in a family of 6 girls and a boy so I was born into the fight against gender bias. Not only for myself, but also as a mentor to my younger sisters who needed me to lead and reassure them that their gender will not limit their greatness. I understood the job. As a mother, I continue to teach my children that intelligence, leadership, status, courtesy, class and most importantly house chores is not gender-specific. Most importantly, As a leader, I give my team members equal opportunities notwithstanding their gender, and I offer mentorship and counselling to young girls in various capacities.