Nimi Akinkugbe is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bestman Games Ltd, a leading African games company and the African distributor of customized Hasbro games including the world famous Monopoly Boardgame.
Prior to this she enjoyed a successful banking career spanning 23 years first at Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc where she rose to the position of General Manager and Head, Private Banking and Director Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Ltd. Subsequently she joined Barclays Bank Plc as Regional Director (West Africa) for the Wealth & Investment Management Division and Chief Country Officer for Nigeria.
Achieving financial security ranks as a major source of concern, and Nimi seeks to harness the use of financial inclusion and financial literacy as tools for youth empowerment, entrepreneurship and economic development. Under the auspices of the brand “Money Matters with Nimi,” through speaking engagements, television and radio appearances and social media, articles in leading newspapers, magazines, seminars, the Monopoly Board Game and her book, “A – Z of Personal Finance,”
Nimi provides frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues in a simple, practical and user-friendly way. She is a proficient Pianist with a Piano Teaching Diploma from the Royal College of Music and happily married with children. In the first part of this two-part interview I talk to Aunty Nimi about the impact of her parents and family on her, It’s rich and insightful.
Tell us about your growing up years
I have wonderful memories of growing up in a very close-knit family with my parents and four siblings. Some of my most cherished memories are of growing up in East Africa. Living in Dar es Salaam, attending a wonderful school, International School of Tanganyika (IST) and family holidays on safari including exciting visits to Ngorongoro Crater and Zanzibar are particularly special memories.
My parents both had successful teaching careers and brought much of this into our home. They were very deliberate about building those enchanting, learning experiences and creating wonderful memories. In those days there wasn’t the frenetic lifestyle, so there was quality family time with lots of outdoor play and activity and constant face-to-face interaction that sadly we are losing touch with in this our digital world.
My father’s role with UNESCO meant he was constantly travelling across East, Central and Southern Africa, but when he was home he was very hands-on and very involved in each of us as individuals. He even sent post cards home to each one of us on every trip!
Since your Father was constantly travelling how did your Mother handle raising you and your 4 siblings?
Our parents were really quite extraordinary; a tough act to follow! My mother was a pillar of the family and held fort whilst he travelled. She was an exceptional homemaker always creating a lovely home.
She taught us so much and was instrumental in identifying our talents and skills early and ensuring that we all embraced and used them. In particular she felt that every woman should be able to earn from home if she chose not to go out to work or if it became necessary for her to be at home with her family. Once she identified our talents she encouraged and invested time and resources in them. It is interesting to note that at various times we all used this to supplement our income. Emi, my eldest sister is an exceptional medical doctor that bakes delicious cakes. Ibiai is an HR consultant and a talented creative; she once ran a thriving dress making business and is an incredible interior designer.
My mother continued to develop herself throughout her life. In addition to being a superb hostess supporting my father in his role, she took up piano lessons, art classes and language classes when it was not appropriate for her to go out to work.
In her sixty’s she decided to formalize her interest in floristry by going back to school to obtain a diploma in Horticulture and she did wonderful free floral arrangements at home and for Sunday services at church for years, as well as numerous bridal bouquets and buttonholes for close family and friends.
Even in her seventies when sadly, her health began to challenge her, she took up computer classes so as not to be left behind by the digital world and her grandchildren. The setting they created for us gave us a legacy of strong family bonds. We feel very lucky to have each other and are there to support one another in the good and not so good times.
Wow! You definitely had a magical childhood now let’s fast forward to marriage. You are in an inter-tribal marriage, which is really not a big deal these days. How has it been?
I have been very fortunate and blessed being married to a very special man and with the family that I am married into. Both our families were bound to get along as our values are very much aligned. My parents in law who are more like parents are simply amazing and very supportive of all that I do.
An area that I wish we had made more effort with, was our two languages. I think it is so important that children learn to speak their language. The more “watered down” a culture becomes through inter-tribal marriage, the more we lose a piece of our cultural heritage. I think that parents should be proactive about ensuring that culture, tradition and language do not get lost as children take on the identity of the blended marriage.
I admire the Igbos; even where they have married from other parts of Nigeria or further afield or live away from home, they appear to be very proactive about ensuring that children speak Igbo and regularly return to their hometown so as to be familiar with relatives, friends and the extended family. That sense of community is very powerful and we must not lose it.
Talking about wedding ceremonies, your daughter got married recently, congrats!
Thank you, yes my daughter recently got married so now we have added another culture to our wider family. Our wedding ceremonies took tradition and culture into account combining the Kalabari and Ondo cultures. Her traditional wedding was stunning and went even further; it truly was a splendid display of the blend of the three cultures Ondo, Kalabari and Igbo. The music, dance, apparel were all showcased in such a beautiful way.
When one looks at how you have been able to impact people in the area of personal finance it is clear you have found your purpose. What helped you discover your purpose and how are you helping other young women live a purposeful life.
My mother had a huge influence on me. Just subconsciously observing how she carried herself and all that she was involved in, whilst still maintaining an outstanding home front was truly inspiring. I constantly think of her example as a template even if I cannot match it.
I am still a work in progress. A life of purpose may mean different things to different people and I think it evolves through one’s journey. For me it includes pursuing areas of interest where you can put your heart into something and find fulfillment. It is not always easy to find that “thing” that you should be doing. Without spending years as a banker, I may not have found out that I had a flair for and interest in supporting people regarding their finances.
Your purpose may not be obvious; the key is to be the best you can be in whatever you are doing at a particular time, and to be conscious of how you feel when you are doing certain things. One shouldn’t be too rigid; as you grow, as you experience new things that purpose too can evolve. It may be a new season; a time to do something else. Embrace that new time without questioning it or feeling guilty.
You have had what must be a very fulfilling and interesting career, what role has family played in all of this?
I derive so much pleasure and strength from family relationships and have tried to give my children that gift of sibling relationships. I invest in my family, both my nuclear family and my extended family relationships.
I rely on my husband and my three children for their opinions and advice regarding whatever I am up to. I was raised in a very close-knit family with my parents and four siblings. Our parents were very hands on and even since their passing our relationships remain strong and we are all very involved in each other’s lives. Periodic family meetings are important to catch up and deliberate and act upon our parent’s legacy.
My father in law, Chief Akinkugbe is one of the wisest, most discerning people on the planet. It is pure magic sitting with him and learning from him. I value his presence and wisdom.
You have been blessed with a supportive spouse, what advice do you have for women who may not be as fortunate in this regard?
I have been exceptionally lucky. My husband is very supportive of all that I do and was very involved in raising our children from childhood. He was always present at their activities from sports meets and music concerts and is still very involved in all that they do even as adults. This was very important for me particularly when I was in a demanding banking role in their early years.
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has told women, “Who you marry is the single most important career decision you make.” It is true and to a large extent can determine whether or not you thrive or just survive. Your choice of spouse is a fundamental decision and has huge implications for your achieving your full potential so it is important that young people, particularly women who face so much societal pressure to be married early, don’t cave in and marry an unsuitable suitor.
Naturally having your partners support is a huge plus but not everyone has this advantage. Even where you do not enjoy the support and reinforcement of your spouse, in whatever you are doing, it is possible to succeed. Communication is a key ingredient in a successful marriage and you should speak up about it as a first step to resolving the issues.
Still talking about family a lot of people have villainized in-laws but you have a great relationship with yours.
Yes I do, I have already spoken about my amazing Father-in-law, I am also blessed with a Mother-in-law who is pure magic and has been a huge support. Looking back over 34 years, I feel eternally grateful for the role she has played and continues to play in our lives as a mother and a doting grandma; the wise counsel, full of love, wisdom, knowledge, and experience. I recently read a piece by Cindy Wright that describes the relationship so aptly:
“The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is one of the most complicated human connections. It comes with a built-in conflict before the relationship even begins: two radically different views of the same man. One woman always will see him first as a man; the other always will see him first as her child.”
Many young women enter marriage with preconceptions of a difficult relationship. I understand that many are not so lucky, but I urge our young women to give this special relationship a chance. Whether your role is as a home-maker, in a corporate career, in business or in government, remember that the success of this relationship can be a key factor in your overall success, as you navigate so many of life’s challenges. Instead of assuming that your Mother-in-Law is going to be a problem for your marriage, focus instead on trying to be the best daughter-in-law that you can possibly be.
Your mother clearly had a huge impact on your life, kindly share some lessons she taught you
I recently penned down some of the lessons that she lived by. I called it, “12 money lessons from my mother.”
- Invest in yourself; read widely, learn constantly. You are never too old to learn.
- Nurture and invest in your talent. Pursue your Passion.
- Your husband is the Head of your home. When you are successful and powerful, you can still be submissive and feminine.
- Your home is your haven, make it welcoming. Plant a garden . Even in hard times you will always have beauty all around you.
- Some things are for you to hold in trust for the next generation. Protect your heirlooms and create your own.
- Maintain an Emergency Fund that you can fall back on during challenging times; such times will come.
- Every woman should be able to earn from home if she wishes to, or if it becomes important or necessary to do son.
- Be financially independent; Invest for future in a diversified portfolio of cash, stocks, property etc.
- Plough back at least part of the proceeds from real estate into real estate.
- Quality is better than quantity. Save up for the best quality; it is more durable and retains value.
- Travel when you can. It is part of your education.
- Most important of all; keep God at the center of your family
A few young women have objected to No 3 and find the idea of being submission almost offensive in the discussion of gender equality etc. I always say view “submission” as a strength and not a weakness. It does not belittle you in any way.
Beautiful Ma, thanks for sharing