Aig-Imoukhuede: How Nigeria Can Deepen Financial System

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Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede

•Says insurance, asset management sectors must be transformed

By Obinna Chima and Dike Onwuamaeze

The immediate past Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, has stressed the need for the transformation of the insurance and asset management sectors in order to deepen the country’s financial services sector.

This, he said, would help position the sectors to the same level as the banking sector in order for the country to have a balanced financial system.

Aig-Imoukhuede spoke yesterday at a virtual press conference as part of the activities to herald the launch of his memoir titled: “Leaving the Tarmac: Buying a Bank in Africa,” scheduled for Monday.

Responding to a THISDAY question, Aig-Imoukhuede, now founder of the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG), stated that a policy is needed to enable other segments of the country’s financial system such as the insurance, assets management, to develop.

He said: “Right now, the issues should be: will the banks continue doing what they are doing? Or should we have the same kind of revolution that took place in the banking industry across all these sectors?

“I will tell you something. The largest financial intermediaries in any economy actually are not banks. They are insurance companies and asset managers. And that is because banking is just a place for you to save money and make payments.

“Insurance companies and asset managers are where your wealth is created. Your future and legacy are preserved. And that is why those aspects of the financial system are multiple times larger than banking and that is where Nigeria and Africa are lacking behind.

“If we do not fix that, we will remain held down in terms of the competitiveness of our financial services across the globe.”

According to him, Nigerian banks today are big enough but the problem of the Nigerian economy is that the insurance industry is not big enough; the asset management companies are not big enough; the Fintechs and e-commerce businesses are not big enough.

“Are we going to compel Nigeria banks into these? That will become a major weakness that will make our financial service system completely weak compared to other nations that have a much more balanced approach to development.

“That is why these frontiers (insurance and asset management companies) have to rise to the same level we find banking today,” he explained.

Aig-Imoukhuede said he believed that from the perspective of a global citizen, every country owes its citizens four cardinal things, namely access to quality basic healthcare; access to educational opportunities at least up to the university level; the opportunity to work and produce goods and services and lastly the enforcement of fundamental rights and contractual obligations.

He stated that without them, and a resolute commitment to fight and cage corruption, Nigeria would be left stranded at the tarmac while the rest of the world would take off, fly and soar.

He said: “The emancipation of human beings is always going to be measured in these four contexts. You will embark on different dreams and visions but these four are the basic platforms one needed to launch out.
“If they are not there, regardless of what is going on in the rest of the world, one’s ability to live his/her dreams will be fractured, hampered and constrained.

“This is why we have hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurial ventures taking place in Israel with a population that is a fraction of ours while you have so much muted activities in Nigeria. It is not because Israelis are smarter but simply these four things are in place,” he added.

Aig-Imoukhuede also shared his thoughts on how debilitating corruption could be and urged Nigerians and governments to join hand to defeat the menace before it reduced the country to the status of a failed state.

“Beyond bribes, leakages and theft of public funds, the truly debilitating consequences of corruption is the fact that merit cannot have its way in any nation where corruption is rife. In a globalised world, the ability for individuals, companies, industries and the entire nation to grow and develop on a sustainability basis is a function of their competitiveness,” he added.

According to him, corruption has implanted the culture of mediocrity in several aspects of Nigeria’s lives to the point “where our performance in many fields of human endeavour is much worse today than it was 50 years ago.”

He added: “I hope that the story I am about to tell will be an inspiration to other young entrepreneurs who are setting out with big dreams, great visions and high hopes. It is a story that shows you how you can build a world-class business in a relatively short time if you lay the right foundations, have good core values and do the right things.”