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Akinkugbe: My big moments, big innovations, big outcomes

By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor

Scion of the Ajumogobia lineage and a wife of the Akinkugbe, Mrs. Nimi Akingbube is a case study in innovativeness. With a sound parental background and quality education, she rose to the peak of the banking profession where she resigned as General Manager and Head of Private Client Services of Stanbic IBTC Plc. Akinkugbe was also a Director at Stanbic Asset Management Limited. She founded a system that promotes personal finance and wealth management among Nigerians. In her capacity as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bestman Games Ltd and Money Matters with Nimi, she is creating a generation of financially secure Nigerians. In December 2012, her company launched the City of Lagos Edition of Monopoly, the first African city edition of Hasbro’s world famous board game. This chat is not just about her craft but the choices she made and her triumphs.

You have been quite successful even after getting to the peak of your career in the banking sector. What are those things that make your name resonate more now?

Having been in what was then a relatively secure world of full-time employment in leading institutions, it was a significant move to step out into the world of entrepreneurship by embarking on something novel that hadn’t been done before. I truly admire those seasoned entrepreneurs, who keep solving problems through new and novel initiatives. I always say that all life experiences come together to prepare someone for the next step or what the person should be doing. My banking experience, the extraordinary people that I have met along the journey, the learning about how people behave with money have all equipped me for this phase of my life. Acquiring the African distributorship of Hasbro’s iconic Monopoly Board game was a venture that associated me with entrepreneurship. This is certainly one of the most exciting things that I have ever done. We launched the City of Lagos Edition of Monopoly, which is the first ever African edition of the world famous board game. It has been most gratifying to bring board-gaming back into our lives even in the midst of a digital revolution. We have been able to extract so much out of a game with powerful lessons in personal finance embedded in it. I was a banker for 23 years focusing on wealth and asset management. I grew to love my work, and being able to support clients regarding their financial lives. Even after banking, I am able to use that knowledge to educate and empower Nigerians regarding their personal finances. I find this most fulfilling.

Apart from the sound family background and quality education that facilitated your rise in the financial sector, what are those personal qualities that aided your growth?

Family values and a moral compass, integrity, and faith in God were underlying ingredients in our upbringing. I am very grateful to my parents. Being raised by two very effective teachers inevitably gives one a deep sense of self-discipline. I value that quality hugely.

I abhor indiscipline, laziness, lateness, and excuses. We really must dig ourselves out of the epic levels of mediocrity that have become acceptable in our society. I plan excessively for everything. Sometimes it makes me a little inflexible. I have come to realise that life should have some spontaneity. I have sought to develop a more flexible approach to my life. However, planning ahead is a critical factor for me. I am still a work in progress, but I have found these areas very helpful in my growth.

Special memories 

The wonderful memories of growing up in a very close-knit family with my parents and siblings are some that I cherish deeply. We spent several years in East Africa and regular family days out at the weekend to the beach and on family holidays were always enchanting. Visits to Ngorongoro Crater and Zanzibar were particularly special memories. The love for reading and appreciating music was embedded in our childhood and has remained a fundamental part of all our lives.

Quality family time is something that we must invest in as difficult as it might seem in our busy existence. In those days my father was able to come home for lunch most days when he was in the country. Sitting around that table, chatting about our days and experiences was a fantastic opportunity to learn and to bond. It also gave our parents an opportunity to ask questions and identify any issues. When parents focus on building a solid family life, it creates strong relationships. We feel very lucky to have each other and are there to support one another in both good times and bad times. I urge all our fathers to be intentional about creating time for these precious moments.

In the light of your experience with your brand, Money Matters With Nimi, what would you say about the attitude of Nigerians to personal finance? 

During my 23-year banking career, I witnessed first-hand financial habits of highly successful people and I also saw some of the dire consequences of a sad legacy when people live or die without a plan. I witnessed various scenarios such as the creation of significant wealth by one generation and the rapid depletion of that wealth by the next.

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I saw corporate executives receive staggering sums in retirement or severance packages and saw the windfalls disappear in the twinkling of an eye. I also saw significant wealth being totally decimated by one serious illness where there was no health insurance in place. I witnessed parents who stifled their children’s development and independence by smothering them with material possessions and leaving them totally unable to take responsibility for their own lives.

I saw that in spite of outward appearances of affluence, a shocking number of people are literally just a stone’s throw away from financial disaster. I also found that women appeared to be less able regarding their personal finances. These experiences had a significant impact on me.

Life’s big events

Achieving financial security ranks as a major source of concern for most Nigerian families. Naturally, Nigerians are very enthusiastic about improving their personal finances and are keen to create a better life for themselves and their families. Life’s big events, all come with financial consequences. But without the knowledge and the will to change your life, it is hard to achieve long term and sustainable financial security. We seek to fill that gap by empowering and motivating people to make the life-changing decision to become financially literate.

What kind of results are you achieving with Money Matters?

It is most gratifying when people come up to me to say they attended one of our seminars, read a piece I wrote or posted on social media that had a huge impact on them. Seeing young people in their 20s investing in mutual funds, starting to think about buying their first property, and monetising their talents are very exciting. The discourse about finance can be rather technical and not so easy to absorb. Most times it is purely the lack of knowledge or information that prevents people from taking deliberate steps to make progress in their financial lives. We try to break down the basic principles of personal finance into easy nuggets so that people can make this a way of life. It is about simplifying the messaging to make it easy to understand. We are very pleased with the feedback, but there is still an enormous amount of work to do.

Imagine an 80-year-old patriarch with significant investments and in a somewhat complicated family situation not having an estate plan in place. That is a recipe for disaster. The process of supporting him through the process of tidying up his affairs may have saved his family from decades of family feuding. With Money Matters with Nimi, we are creating greater awareness about financial responsibility in an easy to understand way.

Since board games like monopoly appeal to the enlightened ones in this society, one wonders the kind of patronage you may be getting given that this society is populated by less educated people?

Board games have been a staple in households for centuries, but naturally with modern life, one has to be more deliberate about investing in face-to-face time. Whilst we embrace technology wholeheartedly in all forms and acknowledge its profound impact, there is a place for the old fashioned board game that fosters family interaction and values. Games are proven to be a powerful learning tool. The concepts are so realistic that once explained to children and adults, they take to it easily. Monopoly is much more than a board game. It has so many intricate facets to it, which make for outstanding educational value. At its core, the game carries strong lessons in personal finance. Apart from highlighting the infrastructure in the state, our editions also deliver important social messages through customized twists included in the cards. For example in the Lagos edition, you are rewarded for planting a tree and penalised for dumping refuse, which is so important in preserving our environment as climate change and environmental pollution take their toll.

Your company, Bestman Games recently hosted a finance fair for children. What is the inspiration behind this? 

The family is the most important unit of society. Empowering families with financial knowledge is one of the most effective ways to secure the future economic well being of our families, our communities, and our country. As there is no financial instruction in our school curriculum, we must be proactive about enlightening both parents and their children by introducing financial concepts, products, and services as early as possible. This would give our families a better chance today to achieve a financially secure tomorrow.

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