Ola Belgore: Budgeting, Saving, Investing Essential for Financial Stability 

Ola Belgore is the Managing Director of Utica Capital Limited. He has over 20 years’ experience in the financial industry. Belgore’s diverse and rich professional career started in 2003 and has seen him handling different challenging roles in stockbroking, asset management, portfolio advisory and business development. He began his career at TRW Stockbrokers Limited from where he joined Meristem Securities Limited in 2006. In 2008, he rose rapidly to become the pioneer Head of the Wealth Management Department of Meristem Wealth Management Limited, a subsidiary which he helped set up alongside two other colleagues and later Managing Director of Managing Director of Afrinvest Asset Management Limited. In this interview he offers tips essential for achieving financial stability and long-term financial goals. Excerpts:

You will be turning 50 this month, how has the journey been especially when it comes to your career?

Turning 50 is a significant milestone for me, especially when reflecting on my career journey thus far. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience filled with both challenges and triumphs. From my early days as an intern in a stockbroking firm to working my way up the leadership ladder, culminating in the establishment of Utica Capital Limited, the journey has been a fulfilling one. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with talented individuals and supportive bosses who modeled me into the person I am today. Their dedication and collaboration have been instrumental to my successes. Over the past three years, Utica Capital has grown from an ambitious idea to a thriving asset management firm dedicated to impact investing in Nigeria. The journey hasn’t been without its challenges. However, each challenge has been an opportunity for growth and learning.

I must admit that I’ve been fortunate to work with a passionate team who shares our vision of using finance as a force for good. Together, we are making tangible strides in driving positive change through our investments, whether it’s supporting sustainable development projects or fostering social entrepreneurship. Personally, reaching this milestone has allowed me to reflect on the values that have guided my life—integrity, fairness, and a commitment to making a difference. Right now, I am just grateful for the family, friends and everything I have. I choose not to brood on what I am yet to achieve

What will you say prepared you for the tasks and achievements in the past 50 years?

I believe several factors have contributed to preparing me for the tasks, roles, and achievements I’ve encountered.

Firstly, my upbringing instilled in me a strong work ethic, resilience, and a sense of responsibility. Carrying a family name like Belgore has its demands as one is always unconsciously aware that you cannot do anything to tarnish the name and you must play your part in entrenching it. That may sound like an oxymoron but you just know that integrity, fairness and kindness are more important attributes than just making money.

These foundational values provided a solid framework for navigating challenges and seizing opportunities throughout my life. Education also played a pivotal role in shaping my perspective and providing me with the knowledge and skills necessary for success. From formal education to continuous learning and professional development, I’ve always valued the importance of acquiring new knowledge and staying abreast of industry trends. Moreover, my diverse experiences, both professionally and personally, have broadened my horizons and equipped me with a multifaceted understanding of the world. Furthermore, mentorship and guidance from seasoned professionals have been invaluable in my journey. Learning from their wisdom, experiences, and insights has helped me navigate complex situations and make informed decisions. Lastly, my passion for making a positive impact has been a driving force behind my actions and achievements.

Whether it was founding Utica Capital Limited or being there for family and friends, this intrinsic motivation has fueled my determination to create meaningful change in the world. In summary, a combination of upbringing, education, diverse experiences, mentorship, and passion has prepared me for the tasks, roles, and achievements. I’m grateful for the journey thus far and excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.

 What exactly is financial inclusion to you?

Financial inclusion refers to the availability and accessibility of financial services to all individuals and businesses, regardless of their socioeconomic status. This includes services such as savings, investment, credit, insurance, and payment systems.

At Utica capital Limited, we are enabling financial inclusion by working with the Regulators (SEC, CBN) in enlightening the general public on the value on getting onto the formal sector of the economy. After from being observer at the CBN Community of Practice – COP6 on framework for advancing women’s financial inclusion in Nigeria, we have partnered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in public education on financial inclusion. We have retail and innovative products to onboard the financially excluded.

Why is it important for a country to promote financial inclusion?

Promoting financial inclusion is crucial for a country for several reasons. Firstly, it helps reduce poverty by providing opportunities for individuals to save, invest, and access credit. Secondly, it fosters economic growth and stability by increasing financial resilience and fostering entrepreneurship. Additionally, it promotes social inclusion by ensuring that marginalised groups have access to financial services, empowering them to participate more fully in the economy. Being financially included is pivoted to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

What do you think is affecting the growth of financial inclusion back in Nigeria?

Several factors are holding back financial inclusion in Nigeria, including limited access to banking services in rural areas, low levels of financial literacy, inadequate infrastructure, and regulatory barriers. For example, the recent processing fees on cash deposits. Culture and religion also play a key role in the expansion of financial inclusion as certain members of the society are disenfranchised from banking due to the interpretation of religious beliefs or culture of subjugation especially for the women folks.

How can these issues be addressed?

Addressing these issues require a multi-faceted approach. This could involve expanding banking infrastructure in rural areas through mobile banking and agent banking (point of sale) services, implementing financial education programs to improve financial literacy, investing in infrastructure development, and creating an enabling regulatory environment that encourages innovation while protecting consumers. Demystification of religious beliefs or misinterpretations and co-opting the menfolk in encourage women to open accounts will go a long way.

What are money-management basics everyone should make sure to understand?

Money-management basics that everyone should understand include budgeting, saving, debt management, investing, and retirement planning. These skills are essential for achieving financial stability and long-term financial goals. Most people think retirement planning should wait until a few years or months to retirement but the best time to start retirement planning is early on in one’s career and youth.

That way your investment can take advantage of principles like compound interest and even succession planning for entrepreneurs.

How can one develop a good savings and investment habit?

Developing a good savings and investment habit involves setting clear financial goals, creating a budget to track income and expenses, automating savings and investments, diversifying investments to manage risk, and continuously educating oneself about personal finance and investment strategies. Simple acts like taking a list of necessity when shopping goes a long way in ensure that you buy only what you need, not what catches your fancy at the market.  This leave you with more disposable income that can go into savings or investment.

What role does schools and educational institutions have to play to promote a savings and investment culture?

Schools and educational institutions play a crucial role in promoting a savings and investment culture by integrating financial literacy into their curriculum from an early age. This can include teaching students about basic financial concepts, budgeting, saving, investing, and retirement planning. Additionally, schools can organise workshops, seminars, and practical exercises to help students develop practical money-management skills.

 What are the smartest things we can be doing to prepare for retirement?

Some smart things individuals can do to prepare for retirement include starting to save and invest early, taking advantage of voluntary pension fund in addition to the mandatory employer-sponsored pension schemes, diversifying investments to manage risk, regularly reviewing and adjusting retirement savings goals, and seeking professional financial advice where needed. Additionally, considering factors such as healthcare costs and inflation when planning for retirement can help ensure a secure financial future.

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