Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Meet Femi Awoyemi, the economist guru top bankers run to for strategy + Why his Proshare portal is Number 1 in Nigerian Finance Sector

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Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, CEO, Proshare Nigeria
welcomes the GDA to his office in Lagos.
Femi Awoyemi, the lanky and brainy dude behind Proshare Nigeria, a leading financial communications firm and operator of the globally renowned economic solution portal  does not like the idea of granting press interviews at all.

In fact he is very difficult and almost evasive when the issue comes to talking to the press. His reason is simple; “men who solve money problems are not to be heard. They are to act and their results seen”. The role of his Proshare portal in the Nigerian economic sector is second to none as many adjudged the portal as a vehicle  used by majority of decision makers in the Nigerian economic sector towards evolving a strong economy in the area of confidence building in the banks recapitalization processes and the entire Nigerian capital market reform .  
Proshare is also a media agent to the renowned world richest men rating magazine, Forbes which from time to time had always consulted Proshare in the area of finding out results of wealthy Nigerians. FORBES’ editorial managers take pride in PROSHARE’s local content judgment.  During a recent celebration to make her 7 years of steady financial intelligence offerings to the Nigerian economic sector, Proshare went philanthropic by visiting places and sharing material gifts including a large amount of money to the motherless babies. The Proshare team visited the Modupe Cole Memorial Child Care and Treatment Home School  in Yaba, Lagos as part of her Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS), giving the children hope and care in order to guarantee a greater tomorrow for the less privileged kids. 
The Proshare boss, Awoyemi talks to the GDA
The MD/CEO of Proshare Nigeria, Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi (FCA), a seasoned finance expert was as usual in his element trying to make his work speak rather than his voice but after a continuous persuasion trough referrals and other forms of inducement, the London trained, Ogun state born Money-Minded financial guru agreed to open up to asabeafrika on the ground that we quote him verbatim, which we promised to honor. Awoyemi gave us 15 minutes off his busy schedule to enlighten us on the activities of Proshare in the last 7 years of establishment.
Awoyemi who is also an editorial board member of the Journal of Banking published by The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and chairman, Value Frontera Ltd spoke on the raging issue by stake holders in the Nigerian economic sector that major telecommunications companies and their oil counterparts should be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as a prerequisite for investing in the Nigerian economic sector and as a panacea to a troubled capital market which is just growing out of shock. The former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the House of Representatives also gave a voice to the arguments of Femi Awoyemi by showing political will to legislate it to law. Mr. Awoyemi spoke on why Nigeria needs such a law at this material time in our economic life. He granted asabeafrika the audience inside his Omole Phase 2, Lagos office some months ago. Enjoy the excerpts.
The Proshare Boss speaks with asabeafrika
Proshare and the Nigerian Economic sector in 7 years
We began by asking him how he feels with the Nigerian economic environment against the backdrop of his awareness interventionist project through Proshare and the Finance expert reacted thus “For somebody who has travelled across Africa and across Europe, I do not think that Nigeria is going through anything extra ordinary. If at all anything, Nigeria is in a much more structurally advantageous position than most countries in the world today. In fact some of the few things that they are doing around the world, Nigeria has done it two-three years ago. What we just need for ourselves as Nigerians is to be positive because we are such a peculiar people who desire a number of things to come our way and as such we believe that we can be anything; we can do much more. So, we demand of ourselves to do much more. If you go around, you find out that it is because we say bad things about ourselves that it seems more that everybody believes that we are so bad.
Mr and Mrs. Awoyemi with a top Director
Comparatively you will be shocked to find out that yes, things are tough because certain things are beginning to hit us which we did not plan for before. But the responses we have been giving suggest that we are more than capable of addressing most of these problems. So, rather than talking down and speaking bad about the country; and speaking bad about the people and the leadership that create fear in the minds of other people or give  bad value judgment , we should be positive and hopeful of our ability to create our own fortune and reshape our destiny.  Does that mean that everything is okay for an organization like ours? No, it is not. We have our own problems, our own challenges and our own difficulties in keeping staff happy, motivating them for maximum productivity.
The argument is clear; you can not bring in a briefcase and go with a suitcase. The Nigerian economy that we need for 20:20:20 requires you to come in with a briefcase and be going out often with a wallet every now and then. Let those who live in the country, who provide the money you make, let them also benefit in that money
But we also have something, which I think majority of Nigerians do have. But maybe, they forget too often to rely on it.  That if you are truly motivated to provide that service you are doing, you will find a reason everyday to get up and persevere and stay focused on it, think and ask yourself questions; maybe the market has moved away from us, maybe we are not doing things right. I will give you an example, if a client tells us that ‘sorry, we may no longer be able to give you a particular service or a particular patronage’, my first challenge is to ask ourselves; what was it that we were doing well that we are not doing again? What was it that we were doing or the client was doing that allowed him or her to patronize us? So if those things are changed, you might find out that the reason why it is not working lies in those things, then we have to find a way to remedy it. Sometimes we are able to discover these things, sometimes we are not able to. And so, that is part of the experience of organizations learning on how to improve better. These rare opportunities provide you a platform to access and re-strategize for maximum progress.
Some of Proshare's think-thank fans and some
 Directors pose with Mr. Awoyemi

How Proshare came about
The rebranded logo of the company
The CEO gave us the history of how he started the economic and finance portal and the measure of challenges faced so far “Seven years ago, a small group of us realized the potential harm that could be caused by something not well understood at that time when there was a market boom on the top of a delicate regulatory structure driven by a policy that was yet to be fully understood by the generality of our people. While no one could predict the impact it would have, we made it our mission to build the best possible service created for the market-investor-regulatory mix.
We decided to create a platform where the investor no matter how na├»ve he is can check on at the press of a button, knowing fully well that all the information that can aid his discretion for a valuable market judgment will be found there. We didn’t stop there; we also went ahead to stand in as a bridge between the market, the investor and the regulator or regulatory bodies. This remained Proshare’s mission till date. As a team of almost 20 staffers and advisors worldwide, we work daily to help make the business of investing in the Nigerian bourse, using the best in class digital information, a value driven experience. Over the last two years when the market turned south, we remained steadfast to the mission by continually delivering innovative solutions that were best suited for the way we use technology to serve our consumers.
Today as you can see technology has a greater role in the way the new market will evolve, as we seek a greater nexus between the economy and the market segments designated by the Nigeria Stock Exchange. While it is still neither good nor bad for the Nigerian bourse, our platform is used and will continue to be used to deliver credible, reliable and timely information for those that engage in the market. That is why on the occasion of our 7th anniversary, we remain committed to our vision and continue to seek new ways of engagement for the market that is set to turn around based on a global acceptable premise”.
The Proshare Team in the great spirit of 7
The Internet & Our Innovation
The Proshare CEO spoke on why his company’s innovation is the best thing that is happening to the finance sector. Hear him “Truth is we live in a time where the internet has enabled a level of collaboration never before possible. This has brought us to a new frontier. The possibility of a Proshare Online brokerage service as a solution for engendering a retail market, a more inclusive participation following a market crash; and a more engaging exchange that is willing and able to provide the products and services to meet a growing new pool of operators and stakeholders. We are rightly on course in the face of our subscribers, partners, clients, employees and everyone who has been a part of Proshare’s 7 years history”.

Me & Financial Standard Newspaper
In the days when Financial Standard Newspaper was still the paper to beat in the Nigerian business circle, Femi Awoyemi was one of the leading lights of that experiment. Then, it was rumored that Femi and his friend Ayo Arowolo had shares in the newspaper but today Femi Awoyemi is telling us a different tale; hear him “Let me say one thing; two corrections. One, I was not part of those who founded Financial Standard. I was lucky to have good relationship with Weneso Orogun and Ayo Arowolo. And it was indeed Ayo Arowolo who invited me into Financial Standard. After a while they gave me a column, after a while they got me into their editorial board and they just got me involved. And because I was involved with Ayo on a number of fronts, and we saw the opportunity as a generational responsibility to promote the company owned by Mrs. Eniola Fadayomi who I believed had given Ayo and co the opportunity to show their talent and skills in the organization then.
Around the same time while still working, I believe in the financial institution, I and Ayo came together and the idea came about. Of course we were so focused on personal finance. The challenge was that we were talking about straight forward finance and then other socio-economic variables. I believe the combination of my exposure in working for a mainstream financial newspaper and for birthing a personal finance medium helped in bringing us to where we are now. My exposure in terms of training at previous employments and the access I have to key persons in both within the financial community and within the media and our experimenting with online information dissemination platform with moneywise, it was something which I had wanted to do. It gave us a unique background to understand the dynamics of our profession.
Femi Awoyemi and the Proshare Team @ 7
But if there is anything that has enabled us to stay on because I do not know about success, if there is anything that has allowed us to stay till 7 years now, I think it is the quality of people we have within the (Proshare) system. These are people who were carefully brought in with the commitment to make sure that people who engage in the market have the benefit of professional expertise made available to them and for which they are not paying for. The service has run for 7 years without us charging money to use the service (Proshare portal) and that in it self with all sense of gratitude to God and to certain people who make sure that we get funding , means that we are doing a service to humanity. And for me it goes back to the concept where I told my personal story and said it is a personal commitment of mine to make sure we are able to support what those in charge of the market are doing. We are not seeking to replace the market but to provide some support and a bridge, some advocacy to push for certain things being done. Proshare has grown from a small concern to a big family of investment advocates, financial experts and market analysts of great value judgment. I think every single person in this company has a stake. There are about three people who are share holders and members of management but most importantly our corporate philosophy thrive on the ability to allow everyone to have his own independent opinion and make a brilliant analytical presentation. Mostly people here will tell you this is what I want to do on Proshare and they go ahead and do it on their own. They do not need to get to me. So, it is now a knowledge based environment where self developed opinion is allowed as long as you endeavor to be objective. It is a knowledge environment where we have partners; for example, when Forbes (Magazine) was going to do African richest list, they came to Proshare. That decision was taken entirely by Reshu ( Reshu Bagga is Proshare’s British investment expert and COO).
The decision (For Forbes to use our library and information support solution) was approved by Reshu and Reshu handled it and when they finished, Forbes recognized Reshu as CEO of Proshare. So nobody comes to talk to me before taking such a huge creative decision anymore. And that for me means that the analyst profession indeed, is now being well respected. People who also need to be regarded are now being given their desired esteem. The financial journalists are being separated from just anyhow journalists. And stock broking firms are able to raise their games and becoming much more interested and that is why you see Proshare is re-branding. Proshare continue to change rather than remain in one point. We do that every year and as we are talking now, we are working on Proshare 6.0 already for the kind of market we see coming forward”.
Awoyemi.....Proshare has changed the
face of Investment decision making in Nigeria
Why Telecoms & Oil Firms Must Sell Shares
Many weeks before we got the privilege to interview Femi Awoyemi, the economic analyst had made case for the need for top telecommunications firms like MTN and Glo should sell shares and enlist on the Nigerian stock exchange. He made same case for oil companies as well; but few days later, the immediate past CBN Governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi made echoed Awoyemi’s position before the federal house committee on capital markets followed suits two weeks later. But the whole issue actually started with Proshare and its head honcho, Awoyemi in form of a campaign; does that mean Femi Awoyemi’s position is carrying weight in the right circle? Hear him speak “Two quick corrections, one, page 66 of the Nigerian Capital Market Report issued by Proshare in February 2009 actually described this and if I can recall what it said. We said we have looked at the market and what we believe that is going to happen is that there are critical economic sectors in this country like the telecoms, the energy sector, the mining sector, the agricultural sector which all need to be brought into the market for it to be reflective and be used as a barometer for the Nigerian economy. And it is also critical that for us to restore market confidence, there is nothing faster that can help restore market confidence; not any policy of government, not any thing done by anybody except that we do the listing because if you immediately go through a sector like telecoms which is the fastest growing sector in the country since 2002 and you bring it into the market, you would have made a great change for the Nigerian capital market.
Nigerians know that every time they spend money on telephone, at the end of the day, they will be earning something back. That is the first correction. Second correction, I do not believe that the house (National Assembly) or the (Former) CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is echoing us. I believe it is an informed judgment, it is in our self enlightened interest to propose such an action and I believe that the (Former) CBN Governor is a very enlightened man who knows that the argument being made is so clear. It is not about anybody needing to force anybody. It is called an economic inclusive strategy whereby if you run a basket of activities within your economy and your capital market which is the source where people are able to generate funds to fund their companies only reflects one tenth of the size of the economy, that is ridiculous. We have six trillion Naira from an economy that is about thirty-three trillion naira economy. We are talking about one-fifth or one-sixth of the market. But if you bring in certain sectors, you might get up to like seventy percent of the economy reflected in your capital market. This is where money goes. So, the Central Bank Governor, captain of industries, the House of representative and The Senate are taking what I consider to be well informed and self enlightened position that has only one key objective at it, the public interest, the public good and the revitalization of the Nigerian economy”.
Proshare COO and British Analyst, Reshu Bagga with
Femi Awoyemi and other members of staff
Won’t It Scare Loose Investors Off The Shore?
Awoyemi has an answer for the aforementioned question and he wants everyone to see it from his perspective. Hear him “I think there are deliberate efforts to misinform majority. A situation whereby they said the idea is to compel them; my understanding is that they believe that they would hold conversation with players in that particular industry. There are about four of them, MTN, AIRTEL, ETISALAT and GLOBACOM which is a Nigerian owned business. We only need to present to them best practices available in other countries where they are existing and also tell them, that as an incentive for them to come into the market, there are certain things that would be done which I believe the NSE is working on to create incentives that would enable a win-win economic ambience for these telecoms players to come in.
Again, there would also be needs for discussion to understand that they have two means of going about all these. Are they going to list by introduction? That means they will list the Nigerian operations entirely or a percentage of it over a period of time so that you do not just put them in a difficult position or they do what we call a secondary listing or cross border listing. That means they take their parent company and come and list it in Nigeria. The argument is clear; you can not bring in a briefcase and go with a suitcase. The Nigerian economy that we need for 20:20:20 requires you to come in with a briefcase and be going out often with a wallet every now and then. Let those who live in the country, who provide the money you make, let them also benefit in that money. Let me give you an example, one of the telecoms company was required to put two hundred and fifty eight million dollars down to get a license.
The money was raised in Nigeria from our local banks. They bought the license and in about six month they made multiple profits and now used it to service debts in their own country where they are listed. If they argue that we did not tell them to list yes we agree, we did not have enough understanding then. Now, we have enough understanding. Show us the true partnership we are and we say look, it is not about your business, it is about the economy. If ninety three or more million Nigerians are using a product everyday, let them at a point in time have a stake in that business. It helps you to then know that as shareholders, we may require you to make investment in this country. We may require you to create employment in this country.
Mr. Awoyemi.....Telecommunications
companies must enlist on NSE
The role of the capital market has also changed from a place where you raise funds to being a place where you act as a catalyst for change, a source of infrastructural development for the country. We complain about corruption, we complain about governmental negligence but you see Nigeria requires such legislation. Now would it be passed without the consent of the key players? No. there is so many people involved. But we can make life easier for ourselves. The debate is welcome, the arguments however, are unnecessary.
The debate is welcome the argument unnecessary. The debate may just be a question of form and nature not as to the substance of it because that argument has been long overtaken by the economic realities. Kenya has it.  I do know of a telecoms company in Nigeria whose parent company has taken advisers and are considering listing on the capital market of a North African country and the same company operates in Nigeria. Why would such a company be arguing? Do not be surprised, however, in the next few days when the usual stream of media intervention starts coming out, people starts complaining. Yes, they have an unlimited purse. They can outspend anything but they can not defeat the validity of the fact that the Nigerian people require this piece of legislation.
The Nigerian people must demand for a stake in their own economic sphere of influence and that even if the House of Assembly people want to change their mind, they should put them to task. The House of Assembly must pass this legislation in such a manner that is fair to the Nigerian people but has a robust economic interest for Nigeria. They may come to you or to the public with the argument that it may stop foreign direct investment. But I ask you ‘what is the profit of the Foreign Direct Investment when they have no asset in your economy?’.
 What is the substance of investment when there is no physical investment? What is the essence of investment when there is no physical investment? Tell me which physical investment does MTN have in Nigeria? Most of it is rented properties? So, for those who are paying them; let them continue to pay them. I will be ready to take on the telecoms issue because we have devoted two years of research to it.
I will tell you one thing which they should know  and you should let this one go out; that the first company that lists would automatically become Nigeria’s most favorite telecoms company because you can therefore run a piece and say ‘For every naira you spend, you are getting something back’. “We do not only give you the chance to call, we gave you the chance to develop your own country”.  That is the message we need. How much business is in Ghana? Nothing. The whole of West Africa matched together is not as big as the Nigerian market. South Africa where MTN operates from, it has twenty one million subscribers.
In Nigeria, they have forty two million subscribers. So, there is much to be done and this Government is not saying ‘take it or leave it’. What they are saying is that ‘look, if you already have about twenty five percent in private hands why don’t you just make sure that these things are officially listed on the stock exchange?. We are not even compelling you to list hundred percent. So, like I said, the arguments are unnecessary. The debate is welcome. The debate is as to form and aid on ‘what we would do’ and not as to the substance, ‘if it should be done’. However, if Nigeria fails to pass this policy, you will be creating a challenge for us. Dangote went to South Africa and ended up listing. Oando is in South Africa, it is listed, Oando is still going to Ghana now and it will list. In Kenya most of all the companies came and everyone was asked to list.
Sometimes in 2006, the President of Kenya passed a law and made sure that these companies listed. In Nigeria we have always done business with a very robust sense of fairness to people. This National House of Representative and The Senate would be fair. Nobody is compelling somebody. And I am well aware, contacts are being made and discussions are ongoing to ensure that whatever that is presented as a bill already, has some common consensus before it even gets to the level of where it is getting to the public hearing. Permit me; the argument should be that the media should for once at this particular time play the role of leading for public interest, holding The House of Representative and The National Assembly accountable. Holding the Nigerian stock Exchange accountable and holding the telecoms companies accountable”.
Mrs. Alero Awoyemi, DMD, Sales & Advertising
giving out a gift to one of Proshare's Board member
A Word For Proshare Fans
 After dropping his passionate campaign that majority telecommunications companies should enlist on the stock exchange, Mr. Awoyemi had a parting word for his portal’s fans across the world. Hear him “Continue doing what you have been doing. Help us improve, give us the right information. I will give you an example; this key argument we have been making about telecoms started with some bright minds who read our opinion on the net in America. One of them is Dr. Chukwuma Biyosa in America who started raising the argument with me as far back as 2007. He is an ardent professor in a university there and a key member of advisory board of the same university who kept up discussing and exchanging debate on this matter. There are senior people in our regulatory frame work who are also subscribers of the Proshare portal. So, when they exchange information with us it improves the quality of the contribution we give out.

So, if I stand before you today and appearing a bit smart it is because these gentle men in high places have been able to share their perspectives with me and one has the opportunity of representing them very well and making them tall. So if you are not a member yet, go in there and join our knowledge group. And for those who keep supporting us with placements to stay through, thank you”.

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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