Chief Executive Officer, Chaka, Tosin Osibodu, a Systems Engineer by training with experience working in data engineering and analytics across internet, payments and e-commerce companies locally and globally, started an international e-commerce business five years ago, which was later acquired by an American distribution company. He recently added another feather in his cap with the launch of his latest initiative, Chaka, an investment passport platform. He speaks on the opportunities this new initiative is opening for Nigerian investors and more in this interview with MARY NNAH
Having successfully launched a company before, what fueled your interest in the digital investment space?
I developed a passion for trading and investing over a decade ago of which I have leveraged my engineering experience to build automated trading systems for a while now. My interest in the digital investment space was fueled by my frustration with the barriers that prevented Nigerians from being able to trade and invest in the global economy. In the last four years, local market and currency performance declined while U.S markets outperformed. A naira investor in Netflix five years ago would have made over 10 times their investment. Netflix make money from Nigerians as consumers so Nigerians should be able to make money from them as investors. Reducing the barriers that prevent such investments for Nigerians and the desire to proactively make investment processes easier is what fuels my interest in this space.
Let’s talk more about your recently launched platform, Chaka
Chaka is your investment passport to trade local and global stocks such as Apple, Alibaba, Google, Manchester United, the S&P 500 index and many more. With the platform, customers can access assets listed on NASDAQ, the New York Stock Exchange and the Nigerian Stock Exchange offering users over 4000 assets and indexes from companies 40+ countries around the world.
Primarily, my goal is to provide premium borderless trading and investment opportunities for Nigerians – professionals and investors; and with our platform, investment processes have been simplified. Chaka also facilitates global citizens’ access to invest in our capital market, thereby providing a gateway for foreigners to invest in Nigerian assets while also allowing Nigerians invest in foreign assets.
Chaka positions itself as an ‘Investment Passport’, what exactly does that mean?
Similar to a travel passport, Chaka allows Nigerians to access multiple countries in a regulated, safe and official manner. This means that when you make an investment with us, you do so with the backing of national financial regulators such as SEC, NSE, CSCS in Nigeria and SEC, FINRA, SIPC, IRS in the U.S.
What difficulties have you encountered in launching this platform?
The main difficulty was getting the regulation, partnership and team right. A lot of pieces had to come together to make this business possible.
You have a background in systems engineering, did this have any influence on the creation of Chaka?
Most definitely, I have leveraged on my engineering experience to build automated trading systems for a while now. The passion I have for trading and investing has served as a drive for me to use technology to reduce access barriers between local and global markets
What is the scope of the assets offered through Chaka?
We have over 4,000 assets covering blue chip companies like Apple, GTBank, Google, Alibaba and companies in more than 40 countries. We also have 600+ index products from global asset managers such as Vanguard, BlackRock, Fidelity, MSCI and more.
You earlier mentioned that Chaka simplifies investment processes; can you expatiate further on this?
We are all about reducing investment barriers and simplifying investment processes.
Users are able to place their first trade in just three steps. All they need to do is register with their email address, complete the regulator’s verification process and fund their accounts; and they will be ready to buy and sell stocks using Chaka.
When it comes to purchasing stock, users can easily buy whole stocks or fractions for example; even though one share of Amazon costs over $1,500, you can still choose to invest $100 with Amazon, $200 with Google and $700 in the S&P 500 without bringing out your calculator. In addition to this, by providing customers with index funds and ETFs that represent industry sectors, countries and regions, users can simply diversify and build a well-rounded portfolio while getting the benefits of mutual funds with the liquidity of stocks.
Are there any other special features the platform offers?
We have a host of unique features such as: Stocks gifting, Naira or Dollar conversion on a per asset basis so that you can see how a Naira investment would perform in dollar assets or vice-versa, and a host of other special features. We are also easy to access and super affordable, working with local and global brokers, we have removed account opening fees, monthly maintenance fees and international wire costs so that it’s more affordable for Nigerians to invest.
How can corporate and institutional clients integrate Chaka into their existing system?
We provide execution services, white-label services and market automation technologies for corporate and institutional clients. We work with brokers, investment managers and financial institutions to integrate Chaka into their day-to-day operations, to serve their customers with a more compelling offer and automate KYC verification, user onboarding and trading execution.
What impact would this initiative make to nation’s economy, especially at a time like this when borders are closed and a lot of investors are lamenting over their investments/ businesses?
We believe that by lowering the barriers for Nigerian individuals and businesses to access foreign markets, we make it easier for them to make a return anywhere in the world and we also make it easier for the world to invest in Nigeria. Our expectation is for the initiative to specifically improve the investment income of Nigerians, increase the number of retail traders at the Nigerian stock exchange and increase foreign direct investment.
In terms of market competition, where does Chaka stand globally?
Although there are longstanding global platforms that offer investment access to people from differing regions, we are unique because we offer global assets to our local audience and local assets to our global audience. We aim to enable more people to cross the barriers of investing in or from Africa.
Many Nigerians are skeptical about online financial services, what assurance does Chaka give them on security?
Chaka is partnered with a local broker; Citi Investment Capital Limited and a global broker based in the U.S. Through them our offer is regulated and overseen by the SEC, NSE, CSCS in Nigeria and SEC, FINRA, SIPC, IRS in the US. The SIPC insures dollar assets up to $500,000 and furthermore, all whole shares, local and global, are held in the investor’s name.
With the rise of digital investment platforms globally and in Nigeria, how does Chaka intend to stay ahead of emerging competition?
We have an amazing team of technologists and financial professionals who work tirelessly to make our service possible; and we all highly value learning, improvement and ensuring a great customer experience. Our focus is on continually improving our investment options, access possibilities and providing better decision-making tools to customers.
What was your working experience like before Chaka?
I am a Systems Engineer by training with experience working in data engineering and analytics across internet, payments and e-commerce companies locally and globally. I’ve worked with GTBank, Interswitch, AppNexus (now an AT&T company), and Wayfair.com. Five years ago, I started an international e-commerce business which was later acquired by an American distribution company. After that, I worked as a data consultant for companies here in Nigeria, as I pursued certification from the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers.