The Acting Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of CWG Plc, Mr. Adewale Adeyipo, in this interview speaks on the need for organisations to build agile systems that will meet today’s business demands, among industry issues. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:
What is your view about Nigeria’s involvement in the financial technology space in driving digital inclusion?
We are playing big also in the financial technology (FinTech) space, which I call the digital prosperity space. I was privileged to be at the African CEO Forum in Kigali, Rwanda, some couple of weeks ago, where I spoke to the gathering on digital economy and it is amazing how much we have been able to do with over $100 million investment in 58 FinTechs in Nigeria alone in 2018, which for me, is a great achievement for investors to find some of the solutions of our FinTech players worthy to invest in. This shows we are making good growth in the financial technology space. But in spite of the achievements, I am worried that Nigeria is still a major consumer of financial technology solutions rather than becoming the producer. World Bank estimated the entire GDP of Africa to be $2.2 trillion and the World Bank also estimated the value of four tech giant companies of the world to be $3.5 trillion. Simply put, four giant technology companies outside Africa, have a market valuation that is more than the entire GDP of the African continent. So it is high time Nigeria become more of producers than consumers of the digital prosperity, and the only way we can achieve this, is to look inward as a nation. Organisation like CWG provides the kind of opportunity to leverage that kind of engagement. Our smart metering business is about Internet of Things (IoTs) and we are beginning to see that in the evolution of the 5G technology. We need to keep innovating and set a global standard for ourselves that will make us compete with global companies. CWG is creating an ecosystem of partnership that will help achieve that.
How can government enhance liquidity flow to drive businesses in Nigeria?
Liquidity flow in the country is insufficient and this is negatively affecting business growth to a large extent. But what is important to investors is about stability of currency exchange rate, which most times impact negatively on their business when the exchange rate is not stable. Government must therefore ensure stable exchange rate and a fair playing field for businesses to thrive in the country. We appreciate the Executive Orders of government and we need more of that in technology business across the county.
What was the state of CWG business as at the time you took over as Ag Group MD/CEO in January this year, and what added value are you bringing on board?
First, it is important to clarify that I have always been part of the CWG family. This year will probably be my 11th year in this organisation. I have been part of the many great successes recorded in the organisation. One of which is the Pan-Africa Initiatives. In January 2019, the organisation was officially handed over to me, and at that point, the organisation was in a stable business condition. I see many possibilities in the organisation, which cut across almost all major verticals of the economy deploying unique services and offering to notable organisations in Nigeria and Africa. It is a brand name that has survived for 26 years, and being a insider with insider experience, I hope to bring the experience to bear in adding more value to the CWG business.
What are your vision and strategic thrust for CWG business remodeling and staff restructuring?
The plan is not far from what you have always known. CWG is arguably one of the largest system integrator, services, and software development company in sub-Sahara Africa. This is a company that has implemented and currently supporting, including customisation support for over 11 commercials banks in Nigeria and West Africa. We are talking about over 60 per cent of all banking transactions in Nigeria. A company that controls over 30 per cent of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) install base in Nigeria, delivering IT Infrastructure managed services to the three largest telecommunication companies in Nigeria. That’s the many assets of the organisation, and in there, are the possibilities and potentials I earlier mentioned. Each unit in CWG can become an organisation by every scale. Whether it’s the ATM Business, the Banking Software unit, the Gaming Business, the CWG academy and lots more, these are large entities and they ought to be treated as such. We will operate inside one organisation, several units that see themselves as an organisation with a clear strategy and roadmap based on the dynamics and realities of their business and market landscape. It cannot be one size fits all. The business units in CWG is quite a lot. We will continue to grow and improve our competency framework on services leveraging the existing customer base to scale-up to other sectors and verticals. Today, we have over 200 resources supporting the major telecommunication companies in Nigeria and other operations in Africa. We have over 100 skilled resources in Nigeria responsible for support and customisation on Finacle core, treasury, managed services, end-user, and specific audience targeted training, resource augmentation, data migration, and third party integration.
However, we have created the five pillars under which all units must run, which are Growth, Profits, Liquidity, Brand, and Dividend. Ultimately, these units will have divisional heads and you can call them CEOs and together we will shape the direction and future of the organisation.
What are the likely key partnerships that CWG will be taking advantage of?
Our focus from 2018 is to help organisations to embrace change by moving away from large scale, inflexible project deployment towards more agile systems that meet the demands of today’s fast-moving business environments. We have created an ecosystem of partners and solution providers that will provide the required expertise for every Information Technology (IT) deployment/optimisation exercise. With a renewed focus on business and technical architecture, we partnered Gartner, a leading research and advisory company in January 2019 for strategy alignment, people, process and best practices. Today, we are positioned to provide services on end-to-end governance frameworks, network, and IT systems, and develop digital transformation strategies that may include new cloud, operations/ DevOps, Security/Risk management and Business efficiency solution.
What are your expansion plan for existing initiatives?
If we concentrate on the existing platforms and opportunities we have for another 12 months, I guess we will be busy. We are getting into new territories and deploying solutions for organisations that will not before now embrace IT. The emergence of the tier three and four financial institutions created a lot of opportunities. We see the drive from most organisations to use technology to drive business process optimisation, promote better operational efficiency and to create platforms for new revenue streams. All these have created a lot of opportunities for IT companies like CWG.
What could be responsible for the increase in your operational expenditure in Q1 2019, compared to previous years?
Operational expenditure could go up and down, and the reason why we had increased expenditure in Q1, was as a result of the one-time investments we had to ensure we put things in their proper perspectives. In Q1, we tried to achieve about 30 per cent reduction in our expenses and we had a clear roadmap on how to achieve that. In Q2 and Q3, we are working towards major reductions in our operational expenditure.
What are some of the challenges encountered and perceived in the ICT industry and the economy at large?
Major challenges were around regulation and the role of regulatory bodies in ensuring that the ICT sector comes out winning with partnerships to ensure we are at the fore of such regulatory initiatives. We, however, encountered some challenges in the financial position of the business, as we tried moving from previous loss-years to key plans that kept us afloat in business.
What is the future hope of CWG shareholders, having listed on the Nigerian Stick Exchange six years ago?
Six years into listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), we are confident of business growth and expansion and we are assuring our shareholders of the business profitability and expansion in 2019 and beyond that will enable it pay good dividend. Although the country’s liquidity had been badly squeezed, leading to slow growth of the economy, we are however confident that the reappointment of the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele by the Presidency and the confirmation of his reappointment by the Senate, will bring economic stability that will help businesses grow to profitability. Being a public company through the listing of our shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange since 2013, created more discipline and transparency on our business. Our listing was timely and it helped us reposition the organisation. As a systems integration company, we provide support and customisation services to financial institutions in Nigeria, both small and big. Today we control and deploy ATM services to 13 banks and three out of the banks have signed up with us for the ATM management as a service and we plan to roll out over one thousand ATMs in the next 24 months. Our focus as a business is to become the hub of ATM managed services in Nigeria in the next five years. We plan having the Independent ATM Deployer licence in the next 36 months. The ATM management is one of our successful projects that will further help us to be more profitable as a business that has shareholders to take care of.