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Monday, 17 September 2018

HOW I OVERCAME STIGMATISATION IN MY CAREER

-  TOYIN SANNI (EX UBA TRUSTEES CEO)


Few weeks ago Mrs. Toyin Sanni retired as Group CEO of United Capital Plc, but many knew that she was not going home to bed and pillow. Instead she is even more inundated with calls for more work! And no one is surprise about that. 

Toyin Sanni has after retirement, gone ahead to become the CEO of Emerging Africa Group. She is also on the board of other companies and few days ago, she was also appointed into the Board of Pearl Awards which rewards winning companies on the stock market.

Toyin Sanni’s impressive achievement includes being declared the All African Business Woman of the year 2017 by CNBC Africa: Nigeria's CEO of the Year 2017 by Pearl Awards, and her past roles include CEO UBA Trustees, CEO UBA Global Investor Services, MD/CEO Cornerstone Trustees and AGM at FBN Trustees. “She is a prominent Investment Banker, Public Personality & Speaker who derives satisfaction from grooming future leaders and proferring capital solutions for financing & investing challenges of African governments, businesses and individuals.”

In this interview with Paul Ukpabio, MrsToyin Sanni tells us her story:

What factors in your early background influenced the person that you are today?

In all ways, I must say, I am today a product of a combination of factors which are; an early introduction to the knowledge and fear of God, the sound education provided by my parents, the legacy and positive example of industry and selfless service to family and community left by my late mother and father, and the positive examples of my early female role models.



As a child was education mandatory for you?

Education was absolutely compulsory for all of my parents’ seven children and my parents ensured everyone graduated with a university degree. My parents were an amazing tag-team in our upbringing. My Father, who was an Accountant by occupation and a mathematical genius by reputation, personally taught us mathematics and economics after school and actively monitored our educational progress by selecting excellent schools for us and often issuing postdated cheques to pay our bills and those of his siblings and nephews whom he also educated. Our mother supported him all the way by providing school materials and needed extras. For example she insisted on being the one to buy my wig and robe when I qualified as a lawyer.

Who would you say determined your eventual life career?

I will have to credit that to God. I sense His unseen hand guiding my life, even now, opening doors I did not even knock at and generally nudging me in the direction to go. My parents never dictated to me but were extremely supportive when I chose first to be a Company lawyer and later still to be first a Financial lawyer/Banker and later still to enter the Investment Banking industry.



Where did you grow up and what memories of childhood do you recall?

I was born in Ibadan and grew up in Abeokuta and Ibadan where I had my primary and secondary school educations respectively.  My early memories include attending St. Peter’s Cathedral church with my parents, going on nature trips to OlumoRok, Ikogosi warm springs and other Nigerian tourist sites with my father, and visiting my grandmother in Ifo, Ogun State where she indulged us with delicious native meals.

Your educational background?

I schooled at Queen’s School Ibadan where I graduated in Grade 1 with high grades cutting across both Science and Arts courses. I proceeded to study Law at the University of Ife and graduated before I was 19. I then attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos and was called to the Nigerian Bar at the Age of 19. I took a Masters Degree in Law at the University of Lagos. I have also attended various executive education programs including the Lagos Business School CEO Program and others at Harvard Business School, Wharton Business School and IESE Business School.



What was the turning point that led you into the world of finance?

I entered the world of finance pretty early actually. I had developed interest in Economic and Financial Law by my 2nd year in the Law Faculty and ever since tailored my course selections in that direction. After three years in Legal practice, I entered the Finance Industry in 1989 when I sought for and obtained a position as a Finance Executive with the then Caribbean Finance Ltd in Great Nigeria House, Lagos.

A woman in the financial world and capital market; an industry that is dominated by men, how do you cope?

I cope by demonstrating professionalism, competence and commitment and by showing respect for both male and female colleagues alike. I have never sought special favours on account of my gender but rather set out to prove that I can carry my fair share (and more) of responsibility.

Any gender issues that you have experienced in the course of your work that you recall?

I have experienced all of the usual, such as active discrimination, unconscious bias, direct harassment and stigmatization. I overcame by remaining focused and never compromising my standards.

What were your initial challenges when you decided to go into the world of capital market and financial investment?

My initial challenge was the need to bridge the gap between being a financial lawyer and being a core-finance and banking operator. I bridged this through professional qualifications and trainings(CIS, ICSAN, New York Institute of Finance and so on) and through a willingness to keep learning. 



Your work is entailing, no doubt you operate a tight schedule, how do you cope with the home front?

I have a wonderfully supportive family led by my spouse and great assistants at home and at work.

How about family, was yours love at first sight when you met your husband?

(Laughs) It was “friendship at first sight” which quickly grew into love on both sides.

What has been the secret of your marriage success?

Mine has been mutual respect, understanding, patience, forgiveness and the fear of God.
What inspires you and keeps you going?

The need to fulfill destiny and acquit myself well before my Maker keeps me going by impacting lives positively. That again, inspires me and keeps me going.

What's your advice to young married career women?

I advise them to believe in themselves, to be focused and very professional without neglecting their marriage. I advise them to get all necessary professional and academic qualifications to equip themselves and then distinguish themselves by first class service to their employers. They should however communicate proactively to secure their spouse and children’s buy-in in advance of every career move.



What appeals to you?

In people, I value honesty, warmth, diligence, confidence and generosity.In other things I like quiet spaces, lovely and natural environments, good music, lively conversations, well-written books and great movies. I also like unique pieces of jewelry and clean-cut fashion items.

Women love shoes, bags and adornments, which comes first to you whenit comes to fashion and what fashion accessories do you not dowithout?

Bags first, jewelry next and then shoes. You will hardly find me without a well chosen scarf.

What memories of childhood always readily come to your mind?

What usually readily come to my mind are my father’s very obvious love and nurture; my mother’s discipline and industry; and my sibling’s warmth and liveliness.

You retired recently as Group CEO at United Capital plc what memories have you taken with you?

I have great memories of working with smart, friendly and hardworking people. Leveraging that experience, we are building a new family of highly innovative, determined and cultured people now at Emerging Africa Capital Group.

When you retired recently, one thought you were going home to sleep but Pearl Awards just appointed you into its board, you are also on other boards and CEO of another company, it seems you have not retired yet. Or what do you think?

Honestly, there’s too much to do to fulfill purpose. I am also about to launch my authoritative book on investing in Nigeria,and also have my ministry. So I agree with you, it’s not yet time to rest. My ultimate role model, Jesus Christ said “My Father worketh and I work”.

I am of course honored to join the Pearl Awards Board in a non-executive capacity and will embrace other non-executive roles that enable me to add value to excellent institutions but do not conflict with the business of Emerging Africa.

Do you have any special hobbies?

My hobbies are reading, dancing, singing and watching movies and yes, before I forget, lying on quiet, sandy beaches.


Were you into sports while you were young?


I was a long-distance runner in secondary school.


If you were not what you are today, what else would you have loved to be?


I would have loved to be a tutor. I hope to still do this someday.


What is the most challenging aspect of Pastor and a business woman?


Balancing my roles and doing business without allowing sentiments to cloud your judgment.


Are you fulfilled?


I am fulfilled but still pursuing greater fulfillment daily, which is why I work so hard.


What does the future look like for you?'


I see a future characterized by leadership roles on strategic boards and also more writing and public speaking. 




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