Back story: Bola Ajomale

Bola Ajomale, inaugural president of the Nigerian NAC and managing director and CEO of NASD, on his varied career to date and how the CISI has helped him
by Bethan Rees

Praneet Shivaprasad, CISI senior international manager, with Bola Ajomale 

Bola Ajomale’s financial services career began with an accountancy articleship with EY Nigeria, after studying economics at the University of Leeds, UK. “However, I found myself getting more excited about daily official lists and corporate returns than ledgers and audits,” he says. “By the time I had finished my professional exams with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, I was also on the way to qualifying as a dealing clerk on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and one of the first members of the then newly formed Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers. To qualify, I had to pass an exam and interview with the council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.” 

Since graduating in 1984, Bola has had a varied career – see boxout for his CV. In 2012 he became managing director and CEO of NASD – a Nigeria-based securities exchange that offers a more formal market for over-the-counter (OTC) trading. The board at the time asked him if he’d like to be in charge, following his successful performance in the role of project manager since joining the NASD in 2011. 

Setting up the NASD has been one of the biggest challenges of his career, but not the only one. “I still recall the sense of accomplishment from leading a syndicate of banks to fund the construction of a stadium in the late 1990s,” he says. “Nigeria was due to host the all African Games in Abuja and the federal government decided to construct a new stadium. I headed up the corporate finance and syndications team in a merchant bank, and my institution won the mandate to arrange a syndicate of banks to finance the construction of a wing of the stadium.”

Bola Ajomale's CV

2012–present: NASD, managing director and CEO

2011–2012: NASD, project manager

2009–2011: CPP Investment Board, associate

2007–2008: Manulife Financial Corporation, manager of data integrity

2004–2007: Associated Asset managers, managing director

1998–2004: MBC International Bank, divisional head of corporate finance

1996–1998: Augusto & Co, senior consultant 

1995–1996: Midas Stockbrokers, head of stockbroking

1990–1994: CSL Stockbrokers, head of stockbroking

1985–1989: Ernst & Young, accountant
Since joining the NASD, he has taken an adaptive approach to the business. “My objectives have changed from one year to the next as the company has developed from project stage to fully fledged, functional exchange.”

Bola’s day-to-day job involves building the integrity of the OTC market and expanding its reach and relevance to the Nigerian economy. “Before, there was no public price or uniform information on the issuer of unlisted public securities. It was virtually impossible to quantify the transactions that took place. NASD has created a reliable record of transactions and prices that go back five years. We also require the securities to be dematerialised before being traded, which encourages transparency around ownership and an orderly structure for investors,” Bola explains. To push the boundaries of the market, NASD created an online portal that enables growth companies to upload information about themselves. This is then processed by NASD-registered due diligence analysts and made available to a group of accredited investors.   
Taking the NAC reins The CISI has recognised his proactive approach and expert knowledge of the Nigerian markets by handing him the reins to the new CISI Nigerian National Advisory Council (NAC), which launched in Lagos in March 2019. The NAC was established to support both CISI members and the development of professional standards in the country. 

Bola was happy to take on the role, having been helped by the CISI in building NASD. “To succeed in building the NASD OTC Securities Exchange, my colleagues and I had to actively seek knowledge about other jurisdictions, regulations, products and trends.” 

The opportunity to hold Nigeria’s financial professionals to international standards is also of paramount importance to Bola. “The CISI online modules and continuing professional development (CPD) programmes give us a great point of reference to enrich our knowledge and skills.   

“The CISI has also provided me with the opportunity to belong to a global community of securities and investment professionals, which, as international markets move closer together, may prove invaluable.”
Looking aheadAn international outlook is vital for Nigeria to continue its upward development, says Bola. Deepening the capital market is a good way of weaning the country from its dependence on oil. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, but with diminishing oil prices, this could become a problem – according to OPEC, petroleum accounts for almost 83% of Nigeria’s total exports revenue.

For Bola, diversity of capital markets is the way forward. “We have started this with the NASD Enterprise Portal, which ultimately will deepen the capital market. A second target for me is to encourage professionalism in the sector, so I look forward to mentoring and opening up opportunities for younger members.” 

Bola has some advice for younger CISI members trying to get ahead. “Financial services will always be a rewarding destination for younger people who show diligence in all things, from knowledge building to execution; versatility, which comes from varied experience and exposure; and flexibility and a willingness to quickly – and appropriately – adapt to increasing technological disruption in the securities sector.

“Technology will transform all practice in capital markets from products such as margin trading, to processes such as surveillance and risk management. Big data and advanced analytics will change the way information is being shared,” Bola says. “Also, blockchain will reduce the reliance on central third-party intermediaries such as exchanges and central depositaries. The first blockchain private bonds were issued in 2015 and traditional exchanges are expanding offerings to include cryptocurrencies or using blockchain to enable trading in private securities.”

Throughout his career, then, the message from Bola has been loud and clear: change is good – if you know how to deal with it. 
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Published: 07 Jun 2019
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