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Abiola Adekoya is a financial expert with over 18 years’ experience working with leading financial service firms whose activities span across various continents. She is currently the MD/CEO of RMB Nigeria Stockbrokers, a subsidiary of the First Rand Group, a leading financial services group in Africa with footprints across the globe. RMBNS is focused on providing leading equity brokerage services (trading and research), to domestic and international investors, for the Nigerian equities market.
Her trajectory from her early years in financial services, 1999 – 2006 to where she is today has told her story of consistency, hard work and results. After graduating, with a B.Sc Economics from University of Lagos (1994 – 1998), she started her career with the then Chartered Bank Limited (now StanbicIBTC Plc) during her NYSC program.
Her strong sales skills proved valuable in her role as a Relationship Manager at Standard Trust Bank (now UBA Plc) where she was a pioneer staff in its most successful branch. As a Relationship Officer for corporate clients in Access Bank Plc, she sharpened her strong analytical, business writing and presentation skills.
To further improve her business management skills, she attended the prestigious Lagos Business School (2006-2007) for her MBA. She is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers of Nigeria.
Prior to this role, she was the MD of FBN Securities, a subsidiary of First Bank of Nigeria Holdings Plc, where she successfully repositioned the business to a top five stockbroking firm.
From 2006 to 2013 when she worked at CSL Stockbrokers Limited (CSL) and Renaissance Capital Limited (Rencap) – (both top 5 stockbroking firms in Nigeria), Abiola leveraged her knowledge and depth of the capital market, team building, sales trading and managerial skills to ensure the respective institutions made their mark in the market, from the establishment of a profitable sales team to executing large volume transactions.
She has considerable experience in equity capital market transactions and has been involved in several deals including initial public offers, rights issues, special placements and offer for sale which spans across various sectors including banking, construction and consumers.
Abiola grew up as the first child of 4 children and was brought up to see herself as a leader, most especially as a trailblazer for her siblings. At a very young age, her parents emphasised the importance of setting good examples for her younger ones in conduct and academically. Her family was her first point of exposure when it came to the development of her leadership skills. For her, leadership is not about serving herself; it’s more about serving others, so that they can buy into actualising the collective goals.
Early years in career
Her first banking experience was during NYSC as a bulk teller in a market branch. When she got to the branch, her first reaction was “get me out of here” with tears in her eyes. After she calmed down, walked around and met some amazing people, she decided to stay. It was one of the best decisions of her life. That decision further reinforced her resilience to succeed in the face of challenges. She never backs away from a challenging role or situation, she stays till the end or till she finds a solution that is workable. She also learnt the importance of managing your boss. “Usually, we expect our bosses to manage us but the best way to get a fantastic working relationship is to manage your boss. I call it managing up and when you do it successfully; your boss becomes your biggest cheerleader” she said.
Being MD, FBN Securities
First Bank is one of the leading and largest financial services firms in Nigeria and it was important to Abiola that it maintained that top position in the equities business. The business already had a strong presence in the equities market as a trading house and also as a broker for ECM transactions. However, it was important to consolidate the business by refocusing the business strategy to align with the overall vision of the firm and the changes in its operating environment. The most important task for Abiola was to review and assess the existing structure of the business. Engaging with team on ground was also key as she needed their support in this journey. She focused on fostering a better relationship within the team and organised team retreats to motivate and improve communication within the team.
Life as MD/CEO, RMB Nigeria Stockbrokers and experience so far
In her career in financial services, Abiola has had various roles, which included heading and setting up a high performance team and also restructuring and repositioning a business. Her various roles across board have impacted positively on her growth in the industry. RMB is a member of the First Rand Group, one of the largest financial services groups in Africa and when the chance came to work with them, Abiola saw this as a significant opportunity to build a business on the platform of an international brand that had the expertise of establishing successful financial services business across Africa and internationally. The opportunity to work with RMB Nigeria Stockbrokers was different from any other as it required her to build a business where she would be responsible for crafting the overall business strategy of the firm and also creating structures around People, Processes and Products.
Inspiring the millennials
“I love young people, their energy and enthusiasm is so infectious.” Abiola says. Young people for me are the salt of any institution, be it the family, the workplace or the society in general and they need to be carefully mentored and empowered. In her words, “I have a lot of young people in the family, children of family friends, young associates in various organisations and other young people who reach out to me regularly to provide guidance and support for them as they make major life decisions in career, education or even relationships.” What is important for Abiola is to understand the person, especially their skills, upbringing, societal and religious beliefs and finally habits. She encourages and pushes them to chase their goals, provide feedback and admonish where necessary, share her experiences where relevant and offer guidance based on her knowledge of the subject matter.
A female boss in a corporate world
As a young graduate, when Abiola was looking for a job, she was focused on the sectors and organisations she wanted to work for and looked for employment within those sectors. She also wrote a 5 year plan as a graduate of what she wanted to achieve within this period. She included the salary she wanted to earn, the level she would be at, what role or responsibility, what savings and even what type of company she would work for. For her, planning means a whole lot and it can help you to achieve or avoid mishaps. “My advice to others is, be humble period! Humility will open doors that pride will shut. Never be ashamed to admit that you don’t know it and always ask for help. There’s no leader that knows it all. Read and improve your knowledge about your industry and also take self-help courses.” Abiola advises.
Women need to take the lead
In the last few years, some organisations have taken active steps to increase female representation on their boards and data shows that women gained more board seats than men in 2017. Also, companies are increasing the number of seats to accommodate more women on their boards. These achievements are significant and are laudable but according to Abiola, there is still a gap in female representation on boards. “Women create a much needed balance and provide a diversified and objective perspective to business strategy that is invaluable to the success of a firm. I’m proud to be a woman in this time in history, as so many barriers were broken by those ahead of me that allowed me to strut in, in my heels with my superwoman cape and walk right through; to those women I remain eternally grateful.” Abiola said. According to her, there have been many glass ceilings broken, some making the headlines and others done by silent SHE-ROES, but unfortunately, new ceilings that continue to affect the advancement of women keep coming up and being created, they need to be broken. In Abiola’s words, “As a woman and for every other woman, whenever you see any glass ceiling or a barrier wherever you are, no matter how little, please don’t walk away or ignore it, please do your best to break that ceiling, so that the other women behind you can follow the path and pave the way just as you and I did”.