In a series of informal, short conversations with Ayo Arowolo since last September when he was appointed the President of the National Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo seems to be suggesting that he is assuming the office at a time when skills and expertise alone may not be enough do the job but it would take a combination of wisdom and experience to lead the Exchange into new heights.

Ogunbanjo, the youngest of 5 children of Chief Christopher Ogunbanjo

OFR; CON and Late Chief Mrs Hilda Adunola Ogunbanjo, graduated from the American College of Switzerland with a BSc (Hons) inBusiness Administration with a focus in Economics in 1985 after which he

commenced his professional career in banking as a credit analyst with Chase

Manhattan Bank (Nigeria) Ltd, (later Continental Merchant Bank Limited) where he served meritoriously under the pupillage of late Mr Tayo Aderinokun, the former Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.

After his spell at Chase, Ogunbanjo re-qualified as a Solicitor after attending the University of Buckingham School of law and thereafter joined the prestigious and renowned Law Firm of Chris Ogunbanjo & Co in 1990. He currently serves as the Firm’s Managing Partner. He has vast knowledge of and experience in commercial law, especially in Capital Markets, Shipping and Corporate/M&A’s. He has garnered considerable corporate finance transactional experience working with public and private institutions including rendering advice to a host of multinational corporations.

 But Ogunbanjo says he will rely on his long association with the Exchange, and provide the required leadership and vision to take the Nigerian Stock Exchange to new heights and improve on the achievements of his predecessors. He also shared his thoughts on what the public should look forward to during his tenure

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Excerpts:

“Only a son that is not proud of his father that would seek to get out of his father’s shoes.”

THE JOURNEY TO THE COUNCIL.

I’d like to believe that it is an open secret that my father Chief Chris Ogunbanjo is the foremost commercial lawyer in Nigeria and much of the commercial law precedents in use today in the legal profession has its roots at his law firm Chris Ogunbanjo &Co. Eventhough Chris Ogunbanjo & Co is a full service law firm, rarely could you pass through the chambers without mastering the art of drafting Offer documents, Trust Deeds, Prospectuses and the like, or interacting in one way or the other with the NSE or the SEC. The Firm has firmly established itself as a breeding ground for Corporate lawyers. As a matter of fact, it would interest you to note that the firm under Chief’s leadership was responsible for the incorporation of the Lagos Stock Exchange (now Nigerian Stock Exchange) in 1960. The firm was also retained by the Daily Times and in fact drew up the Lease agreement between Daily Times and the Exchange in respect of the premises occupied by the Exchange at Customs Street. Chief, along with Pa Akintola Williams CBE who is incidentally the only surviving signatory to the original Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Exchange, the late Pa Timothy Odutola, the Ogbeni-Oja of Ijebuland , Sir Louis Ojukwu, Sir Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Chief Jerome Udoji, and several other distinguished Nigerians and Institutions are the founding shareholders of the Exchange. Many of the founding shareholders have guarded their share certificates jealously as evidence of them being constituents of a limited but unique class of members.

So, aside from the fact that my practice focus at the firm was Capital Markets and Company/Corporate law, I represented Chief at the Exchange’s annual meetings and other fora where I was presented with the opportunity to express my opinion on salient issues affecting the development of the Exchange. My contributions must have been sufficiently impactful to have caused the Exchange to subsequently invite me on self-recognition to become an Ordinary member. The credit for placing me in a hierarchal position to become a principal officer of the Exchange therefore belongs in part to the visionary leadership of the Exchange at the time. STEPPING OUT OF HIS FATHER’S SHOES

I am not an advocate of such a strategy when you view your father as a role model. It is only a son that is not proud of his father that would seek to get out of his father’s shoes. If there are people out there trying to emulate my father, why should I, his flesh and blood seek to get out of his shadow? I really do not conduct myself to impress others because no matter what you do, experience has shown that people will always form whatever impression they want to form of you. This often means attributing your success to your parents or the like. The most important thing is to receive God’s approval in whatever you seek or do, that is enough for me!. It might interest you to note that my father has been retired from law practice for well over 40 years and so if I am not out of his shadow by now, I doubt I can ever be. There is however no gainsaying that my name played a prominent role in my getting appointed to the Council and that is the very essence of how having a good name should work for you.

MAJOR CAREER MILESTONES

Firstly, I must confess that I did not envisage that I would read law and so after going to law school and getting called to the Bar having worked at Chase then Continental Bank several years beforehand, I felt extremely fulfilled.

Handling my first major transaction as a Solicitor which was a cross border multi-million pound share acquisition of a multinational Insurance corporation was a turning point for me as it boosted my confidence in legal practice immeasurably.

When I joined the firm I did a brief stint in the Shipping department which at the time was headed by Chief E.O.A Idowu of blessed memory. He was a multi-disciplinary genius. He was excellent in Tax Law as he was with Shipping and Company law. I took a very keen interest in Shipping under his pupillage and recall handling a Ship Arrest with him in South Africa. We had to travel to Cape Town, South Africa to give witness statements at a time when Nelson Mandela was still in prison and there were no diplomatic relations between South Africa and Nigeria. The journey took us 4 days. That was my first experience of working out of a foreign law firm and it opened my eyes at how advanced law practice had developed in South Africa at the time.

Finally, being elected President of the Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange tops it all.

GUIDING VALUES/PHILOSOPHY

As a grandson of a clergyman of the church of the Anglican Communion, I regard the fear of God as the beginning of wisdom. As a young family, our parents imbibed peace and love of all into our DNA. That is the backbone of our family and that is why the motto of the Chris Ogunbanjo Foundation is symbolised by the statement, “Peace with Strength”, which in effect means that we are a family of peace, but not one borne out of fear, but courage to confront adversity in a non-violent manner.

The moral instructions I received as a young man, in particular as a Boys Scout, constantly reminds me of the need to always be close to God in prayers and supplication. In my view, the essence of a good life is to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all other things- the wherewithal and peace of mind shall be added. Prayer lies at the epicentre of our family and right from a very young age we knew that once the 9.00pm NTA news has ended, we instinctively gathered in Papa’s prayer room to say our evening prayers before retiring to bed.

ROLE OF MENTORS

There is a saying that goes, “you are the product of your environment” and I must say that I have been very privileged to have received the best education both in Nigeria and abroad and to have travelled widely and met people of diverse cultures.

In my youth, my character was somewhat shaped by many of my parents close friends and those who took a personal interest in my educational development. Dr Michael Omolayole stands out in this regard. He was and remains very close to my father. He wrote recommendations for me to attend Igbobi College and for my secondary school education at Millfield School in the UK. He was our neighbour and Chairman of Lever Brothers and quite a few other companies when we lived in Apapa. He would often visit us at home to play tennis with Papa and of course I was their ball boy. Not only did I develop my tennis skills under their tutelage, I benefitted very much from eavesdropping into their after sports conversations which always centred around the corporate world and integrity in business dealings. I no doubt derived my moral compass from Dr Omolayole and to whom I am most grateful. I was also very much inspired by another of my father’s very close friends and business associate, the late Chief Adeyemi Lawson. He also spent a great deal of time at our home. Together with Papa, I admire them for their leadership qualities, can-do attitude, savoir-faire and calmness in the face of provocation. I admire Chief Frank Akinrele SAN for his simplicity, erudition, incisive mind and wit. I give them immense applause for managing their busy business schedules whilst maintaining a convivial family home.

I also salute and look up to certain women who have either shaped my life or influenced me positively in one form or the other. First and foremost is my late mother, Chief Mrs Hilda Adunola Ogunbanjo whom I consider my best friend and whom I have Agape love for. I look up especially to women who have had to raise families’ single- handedly in Nigeria at young ages due to their husbands’ early demise because I know it is not a stroll in the park in a country like Nigeria where our social security system is inadequate to support such calamities. I hail them for their resilience, their emotional strength, mental toughness and faith. The likes of Princess Alice Olaperi Shonibare who lost her iconic and charismatic husband Chief Samuel Olatunbosun Shonibare in 1964 at the early age of 44 and had to raise 8 children all by herself whom by God’s grace have all turned out successful in their various enterprises. I am in awe of Mrs Louisa Ayo- Kasumu, whose urbane and cultured lawyer husband, Mr Ayodele Bankole Kasumu, popularly known as “Afinju lawyer Ne Ne Ne” died at the tender of 46 in 1975 leaving her at age 37 to nurture a young family of 5 girls and a boy who have all equally thrived in their respective endeavours. I am sure there are many other Widowers who have carried or are carrying such a heavy burden and I have nothing but respect and praise for them for sustaining their families in what many may consider a male chauvinist society.

My professional development story would be incomplete without mentioning the role that Alhaji Aliko Dangote has played in opening the window of opportunity for me to participate in the governance of the Exchange. Alhaji served on the Council with me for 4 years as President and Ex-Officio of the Council respectively and in those years I studied him closely both in and outside the boardroom. I paid particular attention to him, not because he is the richest man in Africa but because he did not fit the stereotype of the billionaire board room man which I was more familiar with. Eventhough one of my life principles is never to use another man’s watch to read my time, you cannot but be in awe of the man’s mental stamina, tenacity of purpose, milk of compassion and his respect for human capital. He is an epitome of the adage; ‘Work hard in silence and let success make the noise”. The unspoken teachings he has imparted into my life over the past 7 years is unquantifiable and I shall be utilizing the wisdom gained from my relationship with him in leading the Exchange to the next level.

ELECTION AS PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

I must give credit to my predecessors in Council led firstly by Alhaji Aliko Dangote then Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. Under them the Exchange executed on a 5 year transformation agenda which entailed Business Development Efforts, Strong Regulatory Environment, Deployment of “21st” Century Technologies Strategies, Growth-Enabling Market Structure and First-Rate Investor Protection Programs The Exchange recognizes the importance of corporate governance as a key element in achieving its vision and therefore ensures that best practices are infused into its activities to guarantee the highest level of business conduct in all its dealings with its stakeholders. The Council is governed by a Charter which outlines its principal roles, regulates the parameters within which it operates and ensures the application of the principles of good corporate governance to ensure the highest level of business conduct in all dealings by, in respect of and on behalf of The Exchange.

Prior to assuming the Presidency of Council, I chaired literally at one time or the other, all its Committees including Demutualization, Governance and Renumeration and Rules&Adjudication, and the subject matter experience and knowledge garnered over the period translates to Preparedness, a key factor in holding such a key office in such an institution. The diverse training I have undergone within the same period on supervising an Exchange as well as meeting the qualities prescribed in the Job Description of the President is not something you acquire overnight.

Of course my training as a lawyer and businessman has made my task slightly easier and the fact that the Council is made up of people with diverse professional backgrounds of which a significant number are accomplished women in management, business and public service is an invaluable asset to have when supervising over a huge undertaking such as corporate Nigeria.

PLANS FOR THE EXCHANGE

The Nigerian Stock Exchange is one of the pillars of the Nigerian economy. It is a company that represents corporate Nigeria and markets us on the global stage. Accordingly, its strategic plans and goals are not set by anyone individual.

At the Exchange we run strategic plans in 4 year cycles. We are currently in the 3rd cycle since the transformation begun in 2011 which started with our “five pillars” of transformation strategy that will drive the agenda in the next few years. These are as follows: Improving the depth of the market; growing the liquidity of the market; ensuring optimal investor education and sensitization; improving market transparency and engagement; and adopting international industry best practices in the standardization of rules, regulations, processes, procedures and infrastructure.

Our 2018 -2021 strategic plan is anchored on four pillars – operational efficiency, customer centricity, innovation and partnership. We intend to deliver high quality products and services with a shorter time to market, enhance the customer experience, and continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to enhance the NSE’s global competitiveness.

SIGNIFICANT LEGACY TO BEQUEATH

I am sure the Market is aware of the long road we have travelled towards the Demutualisation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. It has been 11 years in the making and I am pleased to state that the Demutualisation Bill has been passed by the National Assembly and is to be transmitted to the Executive for Assent. Demutualisation of the Exchange would be a game changer in that it would amongst other things result in the Exchange’s ability to generate increased trading volumes, diversify its client base and enable it compete and offer services on par with leading exchanges around the world. It would of course be a matter of personal pride and joy to oversee the transformation of the Exchange back to a limited liability company form where it all started originally as incorporated by my Father. If market conditions are right and the economic fundamentals align, launching an IPO of the Exchange may not be farfetched in my tenure.

We are also on track to launch the first ever Exchange Traded Derivatives market in West Africa. We have put in a lot of work and have engaged widely to build capacity and to expedite the establishment of the requisite legal and regulatory frameworks for Nigeria’s first Central Counterparty Clearing house (CCP).

These are all First’s that I would certainly like to accomplish and bequeath to my successors