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RICHARD NYONG: BUILDING A LEGACY FROM OBSCURITY TO RELEVANCE

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Sometimes, life starts out in a way that makes it seem like being born without a silver spoon isn’t enough setback. While some seemingly have a head-start by being born into an already laid out plan, others have to wander, thread the thorny path, and figure things out on their own through the wilderness of life. However, in the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.” Inspiring stories aren’t fun for the subjects to live through, but coming out on top is what makes them motivational. This can be said of the inspiring story of Lagos-based billionaire CEO – Richard Nyong, who is the founder of the fastest-growing real estate company in Nigeria – Lekki Gardens Estates. The man who came from practically ground zero, to helping average investors build legacies in form of homes, while also building a timeless legacy for himself.

 

Richard’s entire world came to a quick halt when he lost his father at the tender age of 13 for several reasons. It was not only humiliating, but also inexplicable that they couldn’t get their hands on any of the properties his father had invested in before passing. He had started out life, squatting in a distant relative’s house and that had formed the foundation of his ideology – “No parent should die without leaving a home for their children to either live in or profit from.

 

Allanah Hunt once said “It is only when you take responsibility for your own life that you realize how strong you really are”. Richard had to take responsibility at a young age and despite his early life challenges, he was self-assured. He acquired a B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Port Harcourt for nearly nothing by demonstrating his ability via hard work and rigor. The foundation had been laid, even though the stage had not yet been prepared. He was adamant about finding his way.

 

A decade ago, the young and audacious real estate giant was still in total oblivion in the Nigerian real estate sector, but little did the sector know that a gamechanger would burst into the scene like a meteorite, and totally rewrite the narrative of the country’s multi-billion Naira property sector. Not only that, but also like a phoenix, pass through the flames to test his rite of passage and emerge on the other side to the adulation of many.

 

Richard Nyong’s story would easily remind any conversant real estate enthusiast of Sam Zell (Chairman, Equity International), the 79-year-old American real estate billionaire worth well over $4 billion. As a son of immigrant parents, Sam started out helping students secure accommodation, coming from the fact he had experienced homelessness himself, as a child. His Jewish immigrant parents hardly had anywhere to stay when they initially moved into the US.

 

When Richard started, even though he had nothing, all he wanted to do was to help people secure the best-landed property deals that afforded them the opportunity to maximize their profit. He raised N7 million in 2011 to this effect and was defrauded. He tried again and once more; he was defrauded. This experience was painful but as someone who had rewired his mind to see the opportunity in every problem, he saw a prevalent problem in the sector and decided to be the answer to an age-long question.

 

The constant increase in Nigeria’s population makes housing a very dicey conversation and has resulted in a surge in property demand and a corresponding rise in price. As a result, developers and agents were swiping the pockets of investors, and some were getting outrightly defrauded. The priority for Richard then became how to provide investors a fair chance to invest in real estate without palpitations and with almost any available budget, for their own and their children’s benefit – especially their children. This gave rise to the payout line – “luxury you can afford.” This is the backstory to the birth of Lekki Gardens Estates.

 

Richard’s brainchild, Lekki Gardens Estates, sold over 350 housing units in the first year which was way above the projections, and 2000 in the second, helping real estate investors save hundreds of millions of Naira on their investments. He opened the eyes of several investors to the hacks and tricks that had been labelled as “trade secrets” and pushed the option of a flexible payment plan to help investors own homes without going broke.

 

From setting up several affordable estates like Meridian Park in Ajah where one could become a homeowner with less than 9 million naira, to penetrating the billionaires’ hub – Banana Island with outfits like Foreshore Waters, where a property can be acquired for less than 100 million naira, bringing about a 30% drop in the prices that were previously labelled to the location. Little wonder his 28-Storey IME Heights is aptly described as “The Pride of Banana Island”.

 

Quite a number of things that Richard Nyong did as signs of goodwill, and in the best interest of investors, surely did not go down well with several selfish frontrunners in the sector. However, as someone working with a mindset of service to humanity and posterity, all the oppositions, challenges and hate didn’t only leave him unperturbed but became additional building blocks to the legacy he was building. In his words, “…with every new project, we ask ourselves – What will God like us to do? What is the best way to serve people and provide relevant solutions?”

 

Thousands of housing units and hundreds of happy investors later, Lekki Gardens Estates has successfully established itself as a major player in the Nigerian real estate sector. There is no such thing as a smooth entrepreneurial journey without its setbacks, and adversity would always be the true test of character. Richard understood this better than anyone, and handled it with grace and dexterity when they came. This solidified Lekki Gardens as a fantastic humane business, at the top of investor’s minds.

 

Across several locations like Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja, and so on, Lekki Gardens Estates has supplied over 14,000 affordable housing units to date and is still going strong, assisting real estate investors in the management of over 9 billion Naira in assets, while delivering happiness and financial security to over 3,000 families from around the world. Richard’s Lekki Gardens Estates has also created employment opportunities for thousands of young people, flattening the country’s unemployment curve.

 

For Richard, it’s not only about building residences for clients; it’s about allowing them to leave a legacy for their children. The purpose of resolving the real estate crisis has always been for parents to be able to leave their children a concrete legacy – literarily. It’s to give kids a leg up on one of life’s most pressing issues: housing.

 

Richard Nyong, with zeal and laser focus, did take up the housing challenge in Nigeria and did tackle it to magnificent revolutionary standards.

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UBA Announces Winners of the 7th Bumper Savings Account Promo  

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Pan African financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, has again rewarded its loyal customers in its Bumper Savings Promo in line with its unwavering commitment towards prioritizing its customers’ financial well-being as well as boosting savings culture in Nigeria.

 

Since the bank commenced the promo in 2020, over 200 winners have emerged from the initiative that continues to reward loyalty and encourage customers to cultivate a savings habit that helps to stay afloat especially during challenging times.

 

The promo is open to account holders of the bank from the six geographical zones in Nigeria, and customers only need to open a UBA Bumper account and save a minimum of N5000 in a month to qualify. The more multiples of N5000 they saved, the higher their chances of winning cash prizes and other juicy benefits.

The electronic raffle draw, which is the 7th since inception, was held at Kairo’s Hub on Wednesday, and was witnessed by relevant regulatory bodies including the National Lottery Regulatory Commission and Consumer Protection Council who were on ground to ensure transparency and accountability.

Winners who emerged from the draw, include Olunwa Osita Ambrose who smiled home with the star prize of a whooping N2m, while Saheed Adeshina Adediran won N1.2m rent for a year. Adewunmi Olaniyi Sobowale, another lucky winner got a 500k shopping allowance. 

 

Others who equally smiled home with N100,000 cash prizes were;  Bayode Peter Oluwaseun, Archibong Unyime Gift, Yakubu Fali, Alaegbu Promise Uchenna, Onyenwenyi Chidimma Confidence, Maria Obianuju Onyeneke, Emmanuel Kalu, Aramide Afolabi Temitope, Ijeoma Juliet Okika, Taiwo Micheal Odofin, Daina Ochekema Egbe, Ighodalo Thompson, Mercy Effiong, Alice Gabriel, Imrana Bello, Onyedika Promise Umeji, Uzoma Chibuike Timothy, Adewole James Idowu, Opeyemi John Kolawole and Israel Ojima Daniel.

L-R: Group Head, Customer Fulfilment Centre, United Bank for Africa(UBA), Prince Ayewoh; Winner of N100,000 cash prize in the UBA Bumper Savings Account Promo, Bayode Peter Oluwaseun; and Head of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Liability, Babatunde Ajayi, during the presentation of cash prizes to winners of the UBA Bumper Savings Account promo draw, held in Lagos, recently

Olunwa Osita Ambrose who won N2m could not hide his excitement when he was contacted over the phone. He screamed, “Thank You God” over and over and took time to appreciate UBA for the wonderful gesture saying; “This is indeed great. Thank you UBA. You people cannot understand the great impact you have made in my life with this reward. It will transform my life greatly. May God almighty bless this bank and all those who conceptualized the UBA Bumper Account Savings Promo,” Ambrose gushed excitedly. “I am committed to UBA for life,” he concluded.

 

UBA’s Head of Personal Banking, Ogechi Altraide, who presented gifts to some of the winners who were physically present at the event told customers that UBA places them at the very heart of its business which, according to her, is why the bank remains passionate about their overall success and added that this has consistently been proven in numerous ways which is why the bank has continually invested in cutting-edge technology to improve its service delivery and its overall aim of delighting customers.

 

She said, “With customer-centric promos like the UBA Bumper promo, we have created an ever-increasing list of millionaires who continue to join the UBA customer millionaire club. For this edition of the promo, we decided to pick the month of October, which is the month of independence commemoration so we can give more Nigerians reasons to cheer while celebrating the country’s independence anniversary”.

 

“We know that this promo will put lasting smiles on the faces of our customers and will also assure them that UBA truly values them’” Altraide said.

 

Head, Marketing, Diana Ubah also spoke of UBA’s passionate commitment to give back to its customers especially during these challenging economic periods, where people need all the support they can get to make life more meaningful.

 

“I have witnessed a lot of events like this and I must say the happiness and live to change moments that comes with a customer getting an unexpected reward is indeed a special one! To this end, I encourage those who are yet to join the winning team, should do so quickly. Without any iota of doubt, you always win with UBA” said Ubah.

 

United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading Pan-African financial institution, offering banking services to more than twenty-one million customers, across over 1,000 business offices and customer touchpoints, in 20 African countries.

 

With a presence in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France, UBA is connecting people and businesses across Africa through retail; commercial and corporate banking; innovative cross-border payments and remittances; trade finance and ancillary banking services

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FINTECH SUMMIT 5.0: FIRSTBANK TO HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPACT OF OPEN BANKING ON FINANCIAL INCLUSION  

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Dr. Adesola Adeduntan - FirstBank CEO

 

 

First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial inclusion services provider, has announced that the 2021 edition of its annual FINTECH Summit is scheduled to hold on Thursday, 7 October 2021 by 10:00 am. The virtual event is opened to everyone, but participants are required to register via the link  https://firstbanknigeria.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NmkYfeckQqu4vjTWy5lr5w

 

The 2021 edition of the summit which is the fifth in its series is themed; “Open Banking and its Derivative Opportunities for the Financial Ecosystem” and will be discussed by experts, policy influencers, regulatory officials as well as key and leading players in the Nigerian financial, banking and technology climate. 

 

Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe, the Lead Faculty of Tekedia Institute with a PhD in engineering from John Hopkins University, USA, will be leading the discussion as the Keynote speaker alongside other panelists; Ankit Sharma, Director at Strategy&, a part of the PwC network, based out of Mexico; Ope Adeoye, CEO (Chief Plumber) at One Pipe; Aminu Maida, Executive Director, Technology & Operations at Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS),  Musa Jimoh, Deputy Director, Payment Systems, CBN and Olayinka Situ, Head, Corporate Transformation, FirstBank.   

 

The need for Open Banking in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized as the importance goes beyond just convenience to its game-changing impact in transforming value creation, product conceptualization and closing the financially excluded gap.

 

Through standardized and accessible open API technologies, innovators and product developers alike are now availed a wealth of big data and attendant insights, with the potential to completely redefine standards for product conceptualization, customer satisfaction and service delivery across Africa’s largest economy. This is the focus of this year’s theme; exploring the depth and range of these derivative opportunities set to be triggered by the application of an Open Banking regime in the country. 

 

Building up conversations into the event, the Bank recently hosted several podcasts with speakers sharing insightful tips that will impact an end–to–end growth of financial technology in the country. The podcasts are enhanced with useful nuggets as there is new and useful information for everyone. 

 

Guests discussants in the podcasts include; Joshua Chibueze, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of PiggyVest, a Nigerian FinTech company committed to giving everyone the power to better manage their growth and finances; David Peterside, Chief Operating Officer of Okra, a fintech company committed to empowering companies and developers to build products with seamless access to inclusive financial data and secure payments. The podcasts which are opened to everyone are available on the Bank’s official Instagram handle – firstbanknigeria.

 

Speaking on the event, the Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Dr Adesola Adeduntan said, “our annual FinTech Summit in the past four years has been a platform of leading conversations and practices that have impacted the financial technology and electronic banking eco-system which has been integral to bridging the gap and digital divide of modern banking in today’s global village. Participants at our summits have been enlightened on ways to optimally carry out their digital transactions and business activities in safe and seamless ways.

 

Financial services have continually evolved in Nigeria and the world over and we intend as in previous years to use our FinTech summit this year to discuss different views on Open Banking and its associated opportunities with the goal of building on the successes achieved in the past’’.

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FINTECH 5.0: EVALUATING HOW FIRSTBANK STRENGTHENS COLLABORATION

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…To drive financial inclusion

 

It was Sir Isaac Newton, in his letter to Robert Hooke in 1675, who wrote the now-famous quote: “If I have seen further (than others), it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”The shoulders of giants Sir Newton referred to has to do with leverage provided by the discoveries and experiences of people who have gone before or walked that same path earlier, that pave the way for and enable other people and a new generation to take things to a totally new dimension.

The truth is, giants whose shoulders provide such leverage to the next generation can be found in various fields and various nations. In Nigeria, for example, such giants exist in various fields and they are known and recognised.

Take the fintech (financial technology) space in Nigeria, where one bank is known to have stood as a giant with very broad shoulders, having capacities that have been built up and accumulated over 127 continuous years. Every year since 2016 (apart from 2017 when it was implementing ideas from 2016, including a Digital Innovation Lab), this well-recognised bank has provided a platform for the most robust engagement of the fintech industry in Nigeria. Tagged Fintech Summit, the annual engagement has continued to help in catalysing the fintech sector to ever-higher levels from year to year.

Held in Lagos the commercial capital of Nigeria and arguably the fintech capital of Africa, given Nigeria’s status as the leading nation in the fintech space in Africa, the annual FirstBank Fintech Summit has attracted an average of a thousand participants, who are mostly fintech owners, workers and enthusiasts, yearly. Last year’s Summit, Fintech Summit 4.0 with the theme

“How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt Fintech in Nigeria”, however, drew an unprecedented number of participants – over 6,000 from across 52 different countries. It was the first virtual Summit due to the restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and it featured as keynote speaker Silicon Valley-based innovator of international repute, Chinedu Echeruo, who founded HopStop that was later sold to Apple for US$1 billion. Imagine the inspiration, dreams and aspirations young people soak up while listening to speakers with such a profile.

Far from being one-directional – with all the talk flowing from only the speaker to the audience – the yearly Summit is actually a platform for multidimensional engagement involving various stakeholders in the fintech industry – operators, regulators, investors, enthusiasts, fintech journalists and writers, bankers, et cetera.

It offers an unequalled opportunity for networking among fintech and other stakeholders, leading to opportunities for collaboration within the community. For small businesses and start-ups powered by FirstBank’s support, the annual Summit has been a veritable platform for showcasing them. The platform has also served for the announcement of policy initiatives coupled with pronouncements that provide clarifications to policy. This is due to invitations extended to regulators and the important role they are assigned in conversations facilitated during the Summit.

The Summit that preceded last year’s, i.e., the third edition of Fintech Summit 3.0 held in 2019, featured another heavyweight in Nigeria’s fintech industry, Victor Asemota, founder of Swifta Systems & Services, as keynote speaker. The theme “Banking + Tech = Solving Real Problems”, included panel sessions featuring experts with over two hundred combined years of experience in both the financial and technological industries.

They applied their knowledge, expertise and experience to address challenges in the technologically-driven business world, structured in terms of Solving Business Problems; Solving Regulatory, Security and Legal Problems; and Solving Lifestyle Problems. At the end of the Summit, participants must have felt that the Summit delivered on the confidence the Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Adesola Adeduntan, had expressed when he remarked in his welcome address, “I am optimistic that every organisation represented here will be empowered to provide services with greater speed and solve real societal problems to the advantage of the Nigerian populace through the insights that will be gained from this event.“

Fintech Summit 3.0 had built on the success of the second edition, Fintech Summit 2.0 held in 2018, which had “The Future of Banking – The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data” as a theme. Adia Sowho, the Managing Director of Mines in Nigeria, had, as the first keynote speaker, stressed the importance of collaboration between legacy banks and fintechs in the overall good of their shared financial services space. The Deputy Managing Director of FirstBank, Gbenga Shobo, had, in his welcome address, said that FirstBank was committed to finding the right balance in its approach in supporting the budding fintech industry. It is gratifying that the bank has since found that right balance and pushed ahead enthusiastically with the continual annual engagement that is its yearly Fintech Summit.

For those who like to bring up the argument that deposit money banks (DMBs) and fintech are rivals competing in the same space for the same customers and wonder why FirstBank, a leading deposit money bank, would itself be involved in efforts to catalyse the fintech industry, they need to wake up and smell the coffee. FirstBank is continuously evolving and staying on the cutting edge of technology in order to better serve its customers, who are themselves evolving and adapting to newer and more efficient and convenient technologies as they become available.

And FirstBank is on a journey to a future where it is happy, in the spirit of the African tradition of Ubuntu, to take all fintech along with it. In the words of another famous quote, “The sky is too big for two [or many] big birds flying in it to collide.” FirstBank believes there is ample room for all players – deposit money banks, fintech, et cetera – to fulfil their unique roles. Therefore, collaboration, not competition, is FirstBank’s watchword. And FirstBank considers fintech partners in progress in its avowed commitment to driving financial inclusion.

FirstBank’s own evolution and the transition is causing some people to question its continuous classification by the Central Bank as a deposit money bank (with a preponderance of bricks-and-mortar banking operations) rather than a digital bank. And the reasons for their argument cannot be easily waved aside. In 2020, for example, over 85 per cent of the banking transactions that were required by customers of FirstBank were performed on the bank’s self-service channels.

That means customers of the bank only needed the attention of the bank’s staff or branches for just 15 per cent of all the banking transactions they required in 2020. There are now as many as over 16 million customers between FirstBank’s digital channels of online banking (called FirstOnline), mobile banking (christened FirstMobile) and USSD banking (called *894# quick banking).

Between FirstOnline and FirstMobile, a growth of 21 per cent in the user base was experienced in 2020. Customers on both platforms conducted approximately 256 million transactions worth N15.7 trillion in the same year. FirstOnline, as of June 2021, had an impressive 597,466 customers on the service, a 17 per cent growth on the previous year and 578,292 transactions per month, averaging a value of N388 billion per month.

For FirstMobile, besides the impressive gain in numbers, it gained recognition as “Best Mobile Banking App” at the Global Finance Best Digital Bank Awards, for providing excellent self-service through its user-friendly app. FirstMobile had, as of June 2021, 4,596,203 users on the platform, which is a nine per cent growth on the previous year and an average of 27,730,830 transactions every month. While these numbers point to the giant statue of the bank, none of it excites FirstBank as much as Firstmonie, because of its invaluable role in driving financial inclusion at the grassroots level, one of FirstBank’s overriding commitments.

Firstmonie, the agent banking network of FirstBank, currently has over 130,000 agents across the country, making it the largest bank-led agent network anywhere in Africa. As the foremost financial inclusion service in the country, it has achieved over 750 million transactions worth N15 trillion (about US$30 billion) processed from inception to date.

Over 295 million of those transactions with a total value of N6.65 trillion were processed in 2020 alone – the same year COVID-19 caused widespread disruptions across the globe. Firstmonie agency banking scheme has empowered agents across all Local Government Areas in the country, providing employment to thousands of people.

FirstBank through the Firstmonie platform further supports the fintech industry via partnership collaborations with local and international fintechs. All these are geared towards expanding financial inclusion and providing a variety of services to customers of the bank with giant shoulders that customers and fintechs can stand on to see further.

As for Sir Isaac Newton, the giant of a scientist whose famous quote began this piece, if he could read us from the grave, he would feel very proud today to see that celebrated line from his 1675 letter being aptly used to represent the relationship that exists between the broad, energetic and dynamic shoulders of Nigeria’s banking behemoth, FirstBank, and the rapidly emerging beautiful bride of Nigeria’s economic sectors, the fintech industry. This relationship climaxes every year in the annual Fintech Summit and the forthcoming Fintech Summit 5.0 promises to take the relationship to a whole new dimension.

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