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Episode 105:

105. Love as an ESG Strategy with Ighosime Oyofo

What is ESG? Why is it important? How is it practiced? How is it measured?

Ighosime Oyofo works to bring sustainable capital market solutions to less-utilized markets in Africa, and he shares his expertise in investment banking, finance, and all things ESG in this episode.

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

JeffProfile

Jeff Ma     

Host, Director at Softway

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ChrisProfile

Chris Pitre

VP at Softway 

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Ighosime Oyofo

Ighosime Oyofo

Executive Director at Lions Head Global Partners

Transcript

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Ighosime Oyofo
You may have heard of when people refer to the triple bottom line, which stands for people, planet, and profit. So of course, companies want to make money, but at the same time, they don't want to harm the planet. They don't want to harm the people.

Jeff Ma
Hello, and welcome to Love as a Business Strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. We're here to talk about business, where we want to tackle topics that most business leaders tend to shy away from and we believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. As always, I'm your host, Jeff Ma, and I have a co host today. Hello, Chris. How's it going? Chris Pitre Peachtree?

Chris Pitre
Hey, Jeff, good to see you.

Jeff Ma
Chris, you know, as well as anybody, you're a regular here that we love to have conversations and hear stories from real people and how real businesses work in real things in life. And whenever you come to co host, it's always for a very good reason. So I was hoping you could introduce our guest today.

Chris Pitre
Sure, I would love to. So as I was sort of scanning through LinkedIn, you know, I love just like, you know, stalking, you know, people from college and past lives that I've had. And I saw this interesting article on Inc Africa from one of my classmates, and I was like, holy crap, like, I want this guy on the podcast. And so without further ado, I invited Ighosime Oyofo, also called Igo I call him Igo. But we went to college together back in the GW days, he graduated in 2005, I graduated in 06. And since then I've just been following the life of an investment banker. For I'm not gonna put the number of years it's almost 20. But I've just been fascinated, because it's the world that I personally didn't go into. But being in the business school, I was surrounded by so many finance majors. Likewise, with finance. That's what I was taught to say. But it was such a pleasure to read that article and get a refreshing take, because so often, I don't get that perspective into investment banking. And to see, that article connects so much to what we've been talking about, I really wanted Igo to come and share some of that insight and prospective and get into ESG reporting and some of these other new trends inside of the the investment banking and finance industry. So that way, we can dig into it and just open this conversation, you know, perhaps for the first time inside of the Financial Services community, but I'm, again, gonna stop and let Igo sort of share more about himself. But I just am so grateful and excited to be able to have this conversation, reconnect, and have it be heard and or watched by all of our listeners and friends.

Jeff Ma
Awesome, welcome. Igo.

Ighosime Oyofo
Thank you, Chris, for the great introduction. Thanks, Jeff. So yeah, my name is Ighosime Oyofo, Igo for short, like Chris pointed out, yet we, I was in class 05, etc, etc. You know, and yeah, I haven't seen Chris in a long time. But what I do now, as I mean, I moved back to Nigeria, late 2006 started my career in investment banking here in Nigeria in early 2007. And it just, you know, been in this market been in Africa for pretty much all of that spent some time in Mauritius some years ago. But really, most of my work has been focused on Nigeria, in a little bit of Ghana, some Kenya and a couple of other countries as well. So currently, I am an executive director at a UK based boutique investment bank called LionsHead Global Partners. What we do essentially, is try and take a capital markets, innovative finance approach to basically sectors that are in need of a lot of development, you know, in the markets like Africa, you know, Middle East as well. And really, it's just around, you know, affordable housing, agriculture, health care, education, etc. You know, if you're familiar with kind of deals that happen in Africa, you'll hear a lot of stuff that's happening and maybe infrastructure and telecoms and oil and gas, etc. you know, large scale financial services, but you won't hear as much in other sectors. So we take a very sort of innovative approach. But what we try and do is also make sure we accomplish I guess, you know, you You know, social and like environmental goals, you know, basically ESG, you know, there's a lot to that approach that is sort of embedded in our work. So yeah, that's, that's, that's kind of what I'm up to now. Yeah.

Jeff Ma
Igo, if you don't mind me asking, just just to set the stage here for everybody, can you define what ESG stands for? And what it is for our listeners if we're not aware?

Ighisime Oyofo
Great question stands for environmental, social, and governance. So it's really just us there's two ways, I guess, to look at it, right. It's like, it's a discipline in of itself, ie, looking at projects, companies, the way things are financed, etc. And saying, Does it comply with certain ESG Standards? You know, so, with environmental, for instance, you know, you want to make sure that, you know, as much as possible, its climate positive in the sense where, you know, you're you're not, you know, having them, or you're, you know, reducing carbon emissions, or, you know, you're not degrading coastline, or whatever the case may be eroding coastline, excuse me. That's correct. Social, it's really just around the communities, the people, for instance, if you are looking to set up a power plant, right, it's next to a community, you know, 30,000 people, etc, etc. You know, is, are there harmful chemicals or harmful byproducts that's going to affect people, you have to make sure that you, you, you cater for those people, and the environment at large. And then on the governance side, it's really around your company, your project, but really, transparency? Are you run in the right way? Do you have stakeholders you're accountable to do you report on your activities. That's a huge part of ESG, actually, particularly when it comes to the investing side of things. So it's really just something that's become embedded in a lot of business now, and kind of making sure that everything we do has a net positive impact on a number of kind of, I guess, in a number of areas, right, you may have heard of when people refer to the triple bottom line, which stands for people, planet, and profit. So of course, companies, they want to make money, but at the same time, they don't want to harm the planet, they want to harm the people. So it's all sort of tending towards the same direction.

Chris Pitre
So you already gave me so much wisdom? And I'm like, we're just seven minutes in eight minutes. And no, but I have a question. Because we've been, or I've been actually, like, getting really curious and interested in learning more about ESG is because there's so many existing organizations that have now started to, you know, create teams and processes to build out these reports, many of which are either new to this practice have never sort of done it before, but also are now having to scrutinize themselves to realize they're not compliant, and a lot of a lot of things that are expected. So in your experience, in Africa, UK, any market that you've been in, how do you help leaders of businesses understand one the importance of ESG but also when they realize they're not compliant? How like, what's the ramifications? What are the lookouts or what are the motivators to get them compliant?

Ighosime Oyofo
Okay, so great question. Um, it's, it's still, you know, there's still a lot of progress that needs to be made. I mean, one of the aspects I didn't mention around ESG, because there's so much in each sort of bucket, but around the social list things around, you know, diversity, equity, inclusion, etc. Now, before we kind of formalize what ESG was, you know, about, you know, 10-15 years ago, at the beginning of my career, there was a cognizance of, you know, for instance, like, you know, there weren't enough women represented on boards, right. In Nigeria, for instance, you know, where I am, you know, so that thing around leaning towards gender balancing was kind of starting to develop in people's minds. Now. With some people you're gonna said, okay, you know, is it a little bit of tokenism? Or is it something where you're actually understanding that having women on your board actually leads to better outcomes from a business perspective, right, but that's sort of developed over time. And now we've started seeing more of a formal E & G to join everything. And so what we see now I was, you know, a lot of companies. So basically an economy like Nigeria, is made up of, I like to call it. So you have a lot of, you know, quite a number of large companies, but then there are so many smaller companies that, you know, kind of, you know, comprise this massive middle layer, which is why, you know, you see, oh, we have largest GDP in Africa, etc, etc. But, you know, in that is like, you know, 1000s and 1000s of smaller companies that talk about, you know, like, they're all looking to make money, etc. But it's like, each of them is sort of coming to their own realization of the importance of some of these things. So from a regulatory perspective, if you're doing like, you know, like an aforementioned power plants, you're doing something like you're doing something in the telecommunication space or whatever, you know, there is an understanding that right, you need an environmental safety impact assessment report, right. So that takes care of the eat. But it's still in sort of bits, there is some investor driven, I guess you could say, progress or change. For example, you know, there are certain investors that are out from outside of Nigeria, that are Africa that invest on the continent that insist on certain kind of metrics and outcomes that they want to see as a condition of investing in whatever it is. So whether it's, um, you know, maybe a bond, and, you know, green bonds and sustainability bonds are starting to be something that is becoming more popular on the continent. So, you know, in a nutshell, we have basically, you know, progress towards the mean, driven by different areas, right. So it's not like, necessarily, there's one thing that says, oh, you know, ESG standards must be at this level, but there is a general sort of market awareness, and it's growing, that ESG needs to be something that we take more seriously, and incorporate into the mainstream.

Chris Pitre
I mean, that's, that sounds very, like, interesting when it comes to like, the investors are like putting those requirements out there. Like that. Oftentimes, that is what it takes for some leaders to either get their heads and hearts in the right place. And I know personally seeing so many, so many leaders who, who need, you know, that accountability in order to, like launch into this or to take it seriously, or to stay consistent in it? And, you know, I'm curious, in your, in these experiences and these stories, where does I guess, education play a role like going to business school? Where do Where do those sorts of facets and funnels and channels go leading into sort of the pipeline of talent coming in? What are their roles? Or, you know, do you think that they have a role in this conversation?

Ighosime Oyofo
So as you know, as you may know, education is obviously a very important space in Africa. Because as Africans, we value education, but then at the same time, we don't have enough of it, right? I think a statistic a long time ago, was that a tertiary rate, ie the number of kids they actually get in university and the contents by 8%, which compared to about 24%, in Indian, you know, 72%, the United States, etc. This is from a few years ago. And this was something that, you know, I know, I worked, funnily enough at a company called African Leadership University. That was when I was in Mauritius. And, you know, spend some time thinking about, you know, this issue and how to deliver education models that can help close that gap without necessarily having to go build, you know, 25,000 new universities around the continent. But to answer your question more directly, I think it's a combination of things, right, because I don't know, necessarily that curricular has sort of caught up fully, and you have, at least in the sort of university level, and you have, you know, full on ESG courses, etc. I think there's just an awareness of changes that are happening from a cultural perspective, but also happening from an international perspective. You may know that, you know, Africa, we have, you know, a pretty decent sort of mobile and, you know, mobile connectivity, and internet connectivity, penetration rate. So, you know, we're very well exposed. We're connected to things that are going on, and so we're seeing things that are happening, especially also when you look at social media, right? We're seeing what's happening to the diversity could be an inclusion discussion. And we're looking for ways to sort of incorporate that here. I think that, um, you know, we talk about these sort of millennial Gen Z, Gen X, everything sort of divides, but I find that their generation, whether or not to get to, you know, finish university, because we're always having University strikes in Nigeria, right? They, they, they are already very aware, very clued into a lot of issues. And so what ends up happening is that they come into the workforce, whether it's interns, or like, you know, junior employees, but they bring a lot of this understanding of some of the issues. Now, you know, we can go back and forth on, you know, how, what that means for like, the culture of firms and, you know, how things have been, and you know, whether they're going to change, etc. But, you know, it's, it's an interesting balance, but then I think, you know, when you think of business school, it is something that is being discussed quite vigorously at different business schools around the continent, you know, I think, you know, they do, a lot of the schools, and institutions do a really good job of trying to keep current with some of these issues. And also to, at least on the environmental side of things, it's really important to consider that, when you think of the effects of global warming, climate change, etc, Africa is going to be are is already one of the hardest hit continents. And that's going to change it unless we reverse it. So there's also that, again, increasing awareness to have a stake in trying to solve some of these issues, and it all just cuts across the board.

Chris Pitre
Jeff I don't want to monopolize the conversation. So do you have any questions for Igo

Jeff Ma
this is, this is great. No, I I am always curious about, I guess, you know, you're working in finance, obviously, in investment. But where does your personal kind of passion come from and is that connect and how does that relate into your work in ESG, and things like that.

Ighosime Oyofo
Um, you know, I think just, you know, something when I step back, and I look at, you know, the first sort of part of my career and what I've been able to experience and, you know, sometimes when you're working in finance, and you're, you know, you're, you're neck deep and all kinds of transactions, there's documents flying all over the place, you're running helter skelter to get things done, sometimes it's difficult to see the impact of the work you're doing. But then sometimes you get a chance to step back and be like, Oh, well, you know, I worked on that deal. And this is what happened as a result, etcetera, etcetera. So I think seeing the tangible impact of some of that work has been very helpful in sort of helping to develop my passion. I think also interacting with people directly, you know, throughout the course of my work, but also just, you know, personal side of things in my life, etc. And just getting the chance to understand people's stories and understand, you know, certain things that happened to people and being able to again, look at the impact of certain bits of work, and how they translate into. So I'll give you an example. Quite a while ago, I worked on the first municipal bond for a state called Lagos Lagos is the biggest state by population in the country. They say unofficially, it's about 20 million people think officially, it's much lower. But if you if you drive around Lagos, you'll you'll know, there's quite a few people here. So what is that, like? Nearly three times the size of New York City, right, but, um, but not the same land area at all. But anyway, um, you know, we have suffered from a lack of infrastructure in Africa, right. And so that bond that was raised was one of the first instruments that helped to go on and build a significant amount of infrastructure in the city in the state. And one of those bits was a link bridge between, you know, to a densely populated suburban areas, but it basically allows you to create another thoroughfare for traffic. But the the net effect, also included a bit of a bonus because now we have a sort of running and jogging culture that is really taken up like off because of that bridge. So you always have people going back and forth it now because it's so nice looking. It has a sort of almost landmark effect. And it's part of the Lagos skyline, right? So you've now got something that looks good. It serves a functional purpose from a traffic and mobility perspective. But it also encourages a certain amount of Fitness and Lifestyle. So, you know, and so like, you know, if I step back, and I say, Okay, well, so the things I did years ago led to something that allowed a state to issue an instrument that allowed for those things to be created. So that's the kind of thing that I'm talking about, that helps with, you know, helping to build up that passion.

Chris Pitre
As I said, far removed from the world of finance, but it's really interesting to hear you, you know, sort of bring that closer to like reality in terms of what I see in terms of a bridge, you know, started years before the bridge even got the, you know, commissioning to get built. And so, as you look at, you know, the impact that, you know, finance has on everyday lives, and now looking at, you know, the development of ESG reports and sort of these cultures inside of organizations, I'm curious to know, like, what, what would you want to happen inside of the world of finance, culturally speaking, people impact wise, right, because you guys do so much for everybody else. But, you know, I'm just curious to hear like, what would you love to see inside of the world of finance, you know, in terms of people impact?

Ighosime Oyofo
I mean, to be fair, not everyone will share that opinion, that we got so much for everyone. I'll just say, because I'm right, I'm tackling the world of finance, but there's a lot of stuff that's happened that I'm far, far removed from, but I mean, just jokes apart. Look, I think from a cultural perspective, what would be nice to see. It's, it's, um, I mean, I think that there is an, I guess, this is synonymous with, like, the theme of your entire podcast, right. But I think there is a space for just a little bit more consideration around, you know, employees, employee welfare, and when I say that, I don't just mean like, you know, perks and giving people time off, etc. You know, that's part of it. But really just trying to step back and look at the entirety of a person. I remember, one of my first jobs, we had a company retreat, and we were talking about, you know, ways to improve the company, etc. And I just, you know, raised my hand, I was younger, I was, like, 24, or something, and I said some stuff around like, basically, thinking of ways to improve staff morale, right. And they were like, oh, you know, sounds like a bunch of soft skills. And I was like, I mean, if you want to call them that, because there's the whole thing of like, what technical skills, right, oh, Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc. And then on the other hand, is like soft skills. So that's everything from ranging from, you know, customer service, interactions, etc, to, again, the aforementioned time off and, you know, time to, you know, just plug and stuff like that. And I got laughed out of the room, you know, because of this, like, oh, and I was just like, Okay, fine, whatever. But look now, right, um, not only are we seeing increasing flexibility around, you know, sort of like maternity and paternity leave, etc. Even though the idea of paternity leave still gets laughed at. But, um, you know, there is an improvement, but I still think that we have a little way to go because we we still have not fully drawn the connecting line between a an employee's performance and sort of like their mental, you know, an emotional condition. So, even though I am, you know, you know, I've worked as hard as I, you know, the rest of them, you know, I've been up there with the best I've, I've had the super late nights, the super early mornings, you know, the last last ditch flight, like, like last flight out of town kind of thing to, to get that one, you know, document or approval or whatever the case may be. I don't mind the breakneck speed. But I do think we just need to be a bit more cognizant of the fact that we are people. And we do from time to time need to sort of like take a step back. And in some companies, we need to do a better job of sort of working into the schedule or the culture, deliberate ways to unplug or to socialize with each other. Just kind of recharge the batteries.

Chris Pitre
Good answer. Jeff. Do you have thought about that?

Jeff Ma
yeah. I mean, I'm curious. I'm curious, like, you know, Oh, you've made a, I guess a joke about No, not everybody feels that way about financing folks in that in that line of work. Do you see that like, as a problem? And do you see that as solvable? Or do you see there opportunities for love to penetrate that arena? Or as greed, just kind of?

Ighosime Oyofo
You know, it's interesting you say that, right? Because to some extent, you can look at what happened with the 2008, you know, the financial crash, and everything, you know, subprime mortgages, and greed played a big part there, right. But at the same time, you look at the crypto world now, and just the amount of value that has been lost in the last, you know, three, four months, or whatever. And you can definitely see that greed was a part of it as well. So I think it's not necessarily greed that's just, you know, attributed or attributable to just the finance world, I think it's just kind of, you know, human nature, what I think would help with finance is for those of us who are in the space, you know, we, you know, do a better job of going out of our way to sort of explain what it is we do, right. So the example of what I did to help, you know, create a bridge, create a piece of infrastructure that I drive over all the time, and I don't even think about, right, those are dots that you can connect for people to help them be like, Oh, wow, you know, it's not just a bunch of greedy guys with briefcases and have insert however many dollar value suits, right, running around and talking about things that don't make any sense, right? It's actually things that lead to significant outcomes. So and on the one hand, yeah, so we don't do ourselves any favors in not being able to sort of relate with people and explain so like, what are the implications of the the Feds rate hike just yesterday, right? What does it mean for the United States? What does it mean for Europe? What does it mean for Africa, etc, etc. And so having more of us who just kind of take the time to say, hey, you know, what this is, what it is, etc. And you might want to consider this, you know, when you're thinking about your savings and your cash, you have any assets, you have, etcetera, etcetera. So, yeah, that's my take it there.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I appreciate that. And, you know, speaking, statistically wise, we don't talk to a lot of bank, banking, financial folks here, enough, that I know that I truly believe that, you know, love as a business strategy and just, humanity can be found in every in every avenue in every arena. But I think there is something like to be said about, kind of, like greed being the enemy of love. In especially in business. And, you know, it's really, really encouraging to talk to you to kind of, you know, because there's, there's, there's a human behind every, you know, every role and there's a story behind every human and, you know, I always hope that we can we can move forward in those spaces not to generalize an entire industry or, or, or job, but, you know, I, I selfishly and kind of, you know, always hoped to find more and more, you know, allies and advocates in that space, because I feel like Thoreau we need it the most, in a way. From my perspective. Yeah.

Ighosime Oyofo
No, absolutely. I agree with that completely. So count me as one going forward.

Jeff Ma
I will absolutely Chris, anything to say to your, your long, longtime friend before we close out here.

Chris Pitre
I thank you, Jeff, as well as Igo for joining me and having this conversation Igo I think, you know, I told the team, I was like, hey, we need somebody from finance. We need to buy for buying I think we've talked to so many different industries. We talked to a smaller Bank A while back JMMB In Jamaica, but like investment banking, and that sort of that world, I'll be honest, is typically not seeing a lot of value in our message, mainly because, you know, sometimes feels like a competitor or a challenger to status quo, which Yes, I'm sure it is. But I just I know that there are more of us, like you in that world who are looking at things and seeing things and either waiting for their turn so step in leadership and be able to show that you know, what has been doesn't have to be, but I just thank you for coming and sharing your journey. by your wisdom, and also your ability to emote and show that finance does have a place in all of our lives. And you know, just like with anything it's in its impact can be positive or negative. But really, it can be a tool regardless. So thank you.

Ighosime Oyofo
It was my pleasure. Thank you guys for having me. It was great to talk to you. And we, I could have kept going, but you guys have important things to do. And it's, it's nighttime over here in Lagos. So let's quit while we're ahead.

Jeff Ma
Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you making the time. Thank you to Igo, Chris, for joining me. And thank you to the listeners, who as always know that we are putting out new episodes for you every week on Wednesdays and we hope you have checked out our book Love as a Business Strategy. If you haven't already, pick it up at Amazon, other retailers. And don't forget to subscribe and rate the podcast tell a friend and reach out with any thoughts questions, love, support, feedback. So with that, thank you everybody. We'll see you next time

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