Mrs. Tope Omojokun is Managing Director of Investment One Fund Management Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Investment One Financial Services Limited (formerly Guaranty Trust Asset Management Limited). In this interview with Bamidele Famoofo, Omojokun says now is the time for both retail and institutional investors to invest in Nigeria, as the macro-economic indicators are very positive. Excerpts:
What necessitated your transformation from Guaranty Trust Asset Management Limited to Investment One Financial Services Limited?
Our change of name from GTB Asset Management Limited to Investment One Financial Services Limited as a Group was necessitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s pronouncement that banks should divest from their non-core banking businesses. I think that happened around 2012 and Investment One came on board. I think to the extent that our values are still the same, if you notice, our logo and colour remains the same as that of Guaranty Trust Asset Management Limited. The way we do our business has remained the same and the change of name has had no negative impact on our operations.
Can you discuss some of your core values?
One of our core values is our deep market insight, which aids our professional expertise and management of investments. Because we have market insight, we have knowledge of the market. We counsel our clients to take informed decisions, as we provide our clients information across all markets (be it the fixed income, equity, real-estate based markets etc.). As you are aware, Investment One Group has several subsidiaries, which help our clients in making decisions that will help them make the best in their investment choices. So, at Investment One, we really value market research, which aids our clients in taking informed investment decisions. Also, on the part of our staff, knowledge is very vital for them to be able to guide our clients appropriately. Our staff have broad-based knowledge that transcends the traditional investment knowledge base. We achieve this by updating ourselves as often as possible as a Group. As a fund manager, if you don’t have market insight, it will be impossible for you to provide value for your clients. Besides having a deep market insight as a fund management company, provision of excellent service to our customers is another thing that stands us out even as a group. “I’m here to help our customers achieve their investment plan,” is the mission of all our staff. This has nothing to do with whether a staff is client-facing or not. Because we have that mission in mind, whatever happens, our customers must have that assurance that when they walk in here, somebody is watching their investment.
Let’s talk about your latest offers.
As you are aware, we have two funds that we are launching. They are the Equity Income Fund and Dollar Vantage Fund. We are duly licensed and have the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to float these two funds. The offers, which opened in April, will close sometime in June. This speaks to the fact that as fund managers, we have a deep market insight, which helps us to identify the needs of the investment public, and we create products to meet these needs. By these IPOs, we are expanding our offerings to the public, especially the retail end of the market.
How do you view the drive for financial inclusion by the financial authorities in Nigeria?
We are aware that SEC is very passionate about financial inclusion, trying to bring as many retail investors on board the financial market as soon as possible. The good thing about what we are doing, which falls in line with the financial inclusion agenda of government, is that retail investors can enter into any of the two new funds we are currently floating with as small as N50,000 and US$1,000. In addition, an investor will have the opportunity to engage professionals who have a good understanding of the markets to guide them. Besides that, the good thing about the Vantage Equity Income Fund (VEIF) is investing in a dividend paying and high quality instruments quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). These particular companies in which money from VEIT will be invested are those that have paid dividend consistently for five years. They are equities that have been screened by the various credit rating agencies and it takes a deep expertise of the market to be able to select such companies through screening, streamlining, analysing them to invest for our clients. The entry point is not high, and you enjoy good benefits that ordinarily are not available to ordinary investors. This is because the fund is a pool of investment being managed by the fund manager. For the Vantage Dollar Fund (VDF), the good thing about it is that an investor can invest with as low as a dollar per unit. So with a thousand dollar, you are good to go. What we want to achieve with this fund is to access the Eurobond space, which no individual investor can access with just a thousand dollar. The good thing with this Mutual Fund is that everyone in the pool benefits equally.
How would you assess the level of trust and acceptance you enjoy among the investing public?
The beauty of Investment One Fund Management Limited as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Investment One Financial Services Limited is that we are fund managers authorised by the SEC, and therefore the investment vehicles are those that are approved by SEC. There are various parties, which include and not limited to, trustees. These funds also have custodians. So, those monies are vested in two custodians, having custodian oversights. But more importantly, there is a trustee that ensures that all the interests of unit holders are protected. There is a document called the Trusted, also approved by the SEC, which more or less is a rule book for us. These parties are not related parties in any form and they are meant to guarantee the investors of the safety of their investments. So, the question about how safe is my investment here is already taken care of.
What are the major benefits that accrue to investors in your funds?
We believe that every investor needs to be enlightened to succeed as an investor. Investing in a mutual fund helps any investor to edge market volatility, as opposed to individual investors going to invest on their own in highly volatile equities in the capital market without being armed by the necessary information that will help him to succeed. But for mutual fund investors, the opposite is the case, as somebody is available to provide the professional expertise, reviewing those stocks from time to time, knowing whether or not to go into a particular stock at a time and when to exit. One of the benefits of investing in a mutual fund is the opportunity of diversification, not putting all the eggs in one basket.
What are your major investible assets?
Considering the Equity Income Fund (EIF), majority of the fund will be invested in equities. But the good thing about it is that there will some fixed income instruments to invest on, and then, a little in other instruments. But largely, we are looking at between 70-75 per cent investments in equities, as the name of the fund suggests. Also about five per cent cash will be retained to aid free exit for investors that are willing to pull out their investment before the maturity period.
On the other hand, the Vantage Dollar Fund (VDF) is targeted at Eurobonds, whether they are sovereign or corporate.
How would you evaluate the current investment climate in Nigeria?
In terms of the economic clime that we have, the interesting thing is that for the retail space, we’ve seen inflation trend down and as such, we would expect that it will have a positive impact on investment. The issue is now, how knowledgeable is the retail investor to sail through? But the upcoming election period in the country poses some kind of uncertainties, which may force some investors to slow down to speculate the likely outcome. But for mutual fund investors, the good thing is that free entry and exit window. In terms of the macro, there have been many improvements after the recession that lasted till second quarter 2017.
We’ve seen steady increases in oil prices, we hope the momentum will be sustained. So, the economic indicators are positive for the country in the medium to long term. All things been equal, we foresee that people will be willing to invest in the retail space. Of course, for the institutions, they can afford to hold the funds without investing but they are only going to be cautious in the kind of investments choice that they make. Back to the retail space, disposable income is likely to increase as inflation goes further down, and ability to invest is expected to go up.
What are your plans for the future?
In the next five years, we would love to be an investment partner to at least a person in every family in Africa. We are committed to making that happen. But, of course, we won’t let out our plans to our competitors for now.