#Popoola: NGX Will Promote Wealth Creation, Financial Inclusion for Nigerians


The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Exchange Limited(NGX), Mr Temi Popoola, speaks on his background, career journey, strategic goals, and transformational plans for the exchange. Goddy Egene presents the excerpts:

Kindly tell us about yourself and career background?

Currently, I am the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX), with the core responsibilities of supervising the day-to-day management of the Exchange’s operations, providing administrative, strategic and business management oversight. My career spans over two decades, and I have been fortunate to have worked across several regions- I started as an asset managerin the United Kingdom(UK) where I researched and assessed publicly traded equity investment opportunities across Africa’s energy sector. After completing my master’s programme in Chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I joined the derivatives trading team at Bank of America Securities in New York. I returned to Nigeria at the peak of the global financial crisis in 2009 with my first stint at United Bank for Africa (UBA), where I was the Head of Structured Products and Investments.

I was responsible for growing revenues in a risk-controlled manner, by identifying and capitalising on new business lines within the capital markets. After my time at UBA, I worked as Head of Sales and Trading at CSL Stockbrokers, a subsidiary of First City Monument Bank (FCMB), and I was in that role for five years. In this position, I provided leadership of the securities business and facilitated the flow of foreign capital into the Nigerian economy through foreign direct and foreign portfolio investments. I was most recently the Chief Executive Officer(CEO), West Africa for Renaissance Capital, a Moscow headquartered, frontiers and emerging market-focused Investment Bank. In this role, I delivered strategic leadership of the West Africa business with direct accountability for leading teams dispersed across various countries such as Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, and the UK.

Being active in the major financial sector,what has impacted your career journey so far?

There have been a few factors that have impacted my career. Firstly, in the early 2000s, there was the resurgence of the “Africa Rising” story. The global appreciation of Africa’s massive potential as a critical economic driver because of our young population and growing technological opportunities. This positioned Nigeria in the flow of consciousness of global money managers and drove a wave of capital to Nigeria, opening up Eurobond markets to the Nigerian government and Nigerian corporates and a surge of technology transfer from developed markets to Nigeria. The second impact has been the increase in purchasing power and disposable incomes of a certain portion of the Nigerian middle class. This has led to steady growth in the number of Nigerians who have become more investment conscious- looking for viable avenues to put their money to work and save better.

What is a major milestone achievement for you,both personally and professionally?

I would have to say being part of the 2017 Fidelity Eurobond- supporting the bank as it tapped into the global market for capital inflow, which was the first for a tier 2 bank in Nigeria. And of course, my current role as the CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, having the remarkable opportunity to lead its affairs.

You started your career in the private sector. How has it been leading the NGX?

The opportunity to lead the NGX has been a remarkable journey so far. With the demutualisation, we are strategically positioning the NGX for sustainable growth. As we work towards creating a commercially agile and profit-driven institution responsible for building a resilient economy for the Nation, we have clear objectives to deepen the growth of the capital market and provide optimal returns for shareholders.I believe that these objectives are motivators and give real purpose to ensuring that the capital market is crucial in achieving financial inclusion and wealth creation for Nigerians.

Tell us about how your educational background prepared you for this role?

My educational background is one that I would describe as analytical and innovation-focused. These skills have been beneficial, especially in these uncertain times we live in, and my international exposure has been leveraged to connect global markets to ours.

So, talking about your experience, you have led successful roles in building a solid portfolio through out your time in investment banking. How has this impacted your role as the current CEO of NGX?

A vital skill that I have acquired during my experience building portfolios as an investment banker is understanding what drives capital- the different cycles and how that affects macroeconomics. I believe this part of my background has been critical in my role as the CEO of the NGX.

What are your strategic objectives for the NGX and your plan for driving the goals?

The NGX has a few objectives that focus on leveraging technology and innovation to drive and promote wealth creation for investors and financial inclusion for Nigeria. The first objective for NGX is to democratise finance and make it easy for Nigerians to gain exposure to investments, which will be done through technology. The second objective is also related to technology, this time, with a lens to find ways for the exchange to position itself in the middle of the capital formation currently going on within the technology sector. The companies of the future are technology-driven,and this will indeed drive the types of companies that will list in the future.

Broadly tied to this second objective is the need to increase the value proposition for listed corporates to drive the number of listings on the exchange. Thirdly, there is a need to diversify our product offerings to ensure that investors on the exchange have a bouquet of investible products. There are a few other objectives related to financial literacy, ensuring our corporates focus on sustainability and ensuring that our market controls and rules are enforced to ensure that investor confidence in the market remains high. Finally, we are responsible for ensuring that the Exchange is a great place to work and that we fulfill the duties placed on us by our stakeholders.

What are your plans for driving digital transformation in NGX?

As you are aware, the exchange is a business to business (B2B) which means that we will need to collaborate with various stakeholders to ensure a digital transformation of the markets which has a business to customers (B2C) part of it. We will also look to adopt technologies that have been proven to work locally, especially within the banking sector. The ultimate solution is one where individuals can gain access to the exchange’s products in a matter of minutes in a manner consistent with global standards. The NGX also plans to be an active part of the nation’s technology ecosystem and partner with key stakeholders to achieve and promote continuous digital transformation. We also can actively support advocating for policies to create more value positions leveraging technology for our existing listings.

So, what can the industry look forward to in terms of your short-term plans for the NGX?

In terms of short-term plans for the NGX, we have plans to bring a couple of listings to the exchange and announce the launch of a couple of secondary market-related transactions. We also look forward to launching the trading of derivatives. There will be a focus on solid partnerships, promoting financial literacy and advocating reforms for the capital markets.

How important is financial literacy in growing retail investors?

Financial literacy is critical in growing the number of retail investors,because if people misunderstand or have a misconception about a product, they either invest wrongly or not at all. So, we must educate our people on the products available in the capital market and their benefits. Considering the current population, which is made up of predominantly young demography, we have to properly introduce them to the opportunities the NGX offers to support achieving financial independence

Will the NGX drive this campaign? Or will it be done by collaborating with other organisations?

Well, the NGX has a few things planned in terms of collaborations and partnerships. For example, we are currently discussing higher learning institutions such as the University of Lagos to assess how we can assist the younger population we discussed earlier. Also, we have plans on working with the apex regulator- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to bolster efforts of increasing the provision of adequate financial literacy which serves the different segments of our Nation’s population

At the age of 40, your achievements are impressive. What drives you as a person?

I have been fortunate enough to have my personal goals and purpose align with the jobs I have pursued in my career so far. That alignment is a natural fuel for me. Our nation holds a lot of promise, and one way this will be achieved is through the capital markets. This belief, and the hope it brings, serves as a strong motivation for me.

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