Windhoek-For Chukwuemeka (Chumi) Michael Ogbonna, life is about constant improvement, being curious, finding out stuff, understanding them and doing something with that knowledge. At only 26, he already holds a Masters in Business Management (MBA) from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT-GSB) and is currently pursuing a PhD with the same institution. In addition to that, he holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from UCT, and as well a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Entrepreneurship.
Recently, he was appointed the Strategy Execution Manager at Nedbank Namibia, making him one of the youngest Namibians currently sitting on the management table at the commercial bank. The story of Chumi’s life started in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, where he was born to parents who are both doctors. As a child, Chumi’s family lived in both Nigeria and England for a while, before eventually moving to Namibia in 1997.
“I completed most of my primary school at Holy Cross Convent School here in Windhoek and for High School I went to St Paul’s College. I am currently doing my PhD. I believe in constant improvement and in always trying to get better. In many cases I read, for example I’ve got no formal education in Physics but I’m very interested in the subject and I always try to know as much as I can about new discoveries in that space,” says the soft-spoken Chumi.
As the Strategy Execution Manager for Nedbank, he will be responsible for the execution of business projects and the streamlining of processes and systems to facilitate strategy execution and alignment.
“I am here to try and make the execution of projects smooth. There are a lot of great ideas, projects and initiatives within Nedbank and the pending question was, how do we turn those ideas into tangible reality? I am to act as the cog that helps to turn the great ideas here into projects with a high chance of success and I am to work with all stakeholders and our Project Management Office to ensure that we learn from initiative to initiative and keep improving.” he said.
Chumi is an established entrepreneur who worked as a supply chain consultant for a South African based Supply Chain company prior to joining Nedbank. During his MBA studies at the UCT-GSB, he was elected Class Representative for Economics and founded the GeoEconomics society, the school’s first society for the study of Economics and won the national “CEO for a day” competition.
How are modern-day banks transforming the way people view money? Chumi says modern-day banks are allowing people to have money sort of work with their lives, rather than the other way round where people work their lives around the bank and the money.
“Let’s say you decide that you suddenly want to go to South Africa or Mozambique for a weekend, instead of building your trip around whether you can get money or not, you kind of just go where you want and your money sort of follows you. Banks have created diverse channels through which clients can access their money pretty much anywhere in the world which is the way we think about most things in our lives now – your phone comes with you, your computer and your emails come with you, your Whattsapp messages. For that reason I think modern-day banks are transforming the way people view money.”
With that said, Chumi adds that there is still more banks can do to meet the diverse financial and banking needs of today’s fast paced clients and this may include encouraging more collaborations between old bank systems and embracing what’s new.
“In this day and age for example, we’ve got friends who live in random countries across the globe and it is still very challenging to send money to some parts of the world with banks, but you get social media companies and Fintechs doing more than banks in that area. For that reason I think that collaborations between banks and Fintechs should be encouraged, sort of the way Apple did with having Apps on their phones – Apple couldn’t have built all those Apps so they built a phone that could house all those Apps, and instead concentrated on selling the phones, enabling them to become one of the biggest companies in the world in that way,” he said.
He further adds that going into the future, it would be beneficial for banks to get companies to build services that sit on top of their capabilities, “and they then just take on the transactional and interest income. It is important for banks to focus on what they do well, which is to manage money, risk and regulation, and then sit underneath as the support structure for companies that will implement some of these innovations. The normal stuff that banks do such as getting loans and so on, that was cutting edge a long time ago is no longer revolutionary much of the time. We are undertaking exciting projects at Nedbank and I hope that some of these will become a source of strategic advantage,” he said.
Part of what Chumi is looking forward to most in this new role at Nedbank is the element of system creation and improvement of the whole project management and strategy execution lifecycle.
“I am also looking forward to chatting to people and seeing if we can have one or two good ideas that will make Nedbank stand out even more. A lot of the time banking products are just banking products, whether it is from this bank or that bank it is all pretty much the same stuff so it would be quite exciting if there is one or two things that we can come up with to increase our competitive advantage,” he said.
To what extent is financial literacy incorporated into the strategies of banks in the 21st century? Chumi says banks nowadays are doing fairly well in ensuring transfer of education to clients regarding banking products and services.
“I think most banks are better at consumer literacy than they used to be, some of it is part of regulation, but some banks are going the extra mile in staying ahead of the regulation and making sure that clients know what they are doing,” he said.
Asked what his approach is to leadership and management, Chumi says he prefers an open or straightforward approach that allows for people to express their strengths and weaknesses and play to that as opposed to a sort of cookie-cutter approach where everybody kind of does the same thing.
“Where the team is weak, you let somebody else who is stronger in that areas take that on,” he said.
In his free time, Chumi swims, plays chess and playstation, as well as read up on advances in technology, physics and management practices. Some of his favourite reads include management journals and the Harvard Business Review.
What drives him? “Improvement. I usually get something in my head of how things should be and normally that consumes me until it is done,” he said.
The world would achieve equality if everyone could challenge their own prejudices, said Chumi when asked how he thinks equality can be achieved.
“I think a lot of issues with equality come from prejudice, people thinking that they know you or your capabilities because they know one characteristic of yours like your age, gender or race. I think the most practical way to challenge prejudice is to expose oneself to unfamiliar things. For example, instead of thinking all white/black people are a certain way because you have only met a few who are that way, allow yourself to meet a few more and what you will probably find is that people who seem the same on the surface are vastly different underneath. That helps you to challenge the prejudice which then makes you treat people better.” he said.