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Gloria Eruemegbe: I Draw the Line Between When Being Ambitious Means Stepping on others or Becoming Shameless Self-promoter


In this exclusive interview, Gloria Eruemegbe, Head, ATM Business, Alternative Channels, Union Bank, explained what it means to have more female investors in the Fintech space and how hot new market for female-focused products and services are being developed. Excerpt

 How crucial is your role to the growth and development of FinTech in Nigeria?

All forward-thinking business heads need to continuously keep up-to-date with FinTech developments as a vital part of their daily life. Being aware of the latest opportunities and developments within the field will only improve your business and help you stay at the forefront of your market. The FinTech companies are the major cause of all the recent disruptions being experienced in the Nigeria banking sector today and these include Union Bank 826 and online platform. Now you can access top-notch financial services without stepping into a banking hall.

The Fintech companies use technology in a better way to make the customers feel comfortable in the modern age.  FinTech helps those who are unbanked, but have the desire to buy or sell online in order to gain quick access to affordable banking operations just by using a mobile phone. The rise of FinTech has opened up a world of opportunities for small businesses. Businesses can now offer more services than ever and for a fraction of the price of what it would have cost before. Other new technologies, like machine learning, AI, predictive behavioural analytics and data-driven marketing will take the guesswork out of financial decisions.

What is your relationship with the FinTech industry?

The industry definitely welcomes me. I am currently an executive member of the Committee of e-Business Industry Heads (CeBIH). This is a body of the upper echelon of electronic business industry practitioners in all the banks in Nigeria with its major and most important objective being the promotion of e-banking services in line with global best practices, whilst driving its adoption through right policies, standards, technologies and public awareness programmes. The vision of CeBIH is to drive the adoption of e-banking services through the right technologies, policies, standards, innovation and public awareness

Do you consider yourself a FemTech in FinTech?

Indeed, I have become much more aware of the necessity to bring more female talents into the tech world to encourage women to join race. FemTech is the all new booming sector that has startups actively mining for female investors. It’s a recent term coined by an emerging female founder to describe the hot new market for female-focused products and services, which form a multibillion-dollar market that is a force to be reckoned with.

Female investors are big in this space due to their intuitive understanding of said products and services from many different standpoints, whether it’s design, engineering or craftsmanship. Genders aside, all investors recognize the potential for this emerging market and they’re attempting to ride its coat tails. The main reason is because of the giant contradiction I see in FinTech: While 80% of household spending and financial management decisions are taken by women, only 7%of FinTech organisations employ female executives.


Would you say working for a bank is different from working for a Fintech firm or a startup?

I am privileged to have the opportunity to watch and learn how large companies are dealing with the rise and disruptions from FinTech and the impact of digitalization of all the sectors of the economy in the last two years. FinTech start-ups are discussed as being ready to unbundle banking.

Now, what seems to be more beneficial to all concerned is the area of open innovation with everyone working together. Where the banks have the ability to distribute products and provide customers service at scale, working with FinTech founders who come from a wide range of backgrounds and provide solutions from a completely different perspective seems like a winning combination for success. Coupled with that introducing teams made up of design-thinking specialists, developers, data scientists, growth hackers and all manner of other brand new job titles that weren’t the norm in banking, this new genetic code being added into the banking gene pool can only be for the better, in order to create cutting-edge products at scale.

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Kindly share the biggest issues women are facing in the workplace?

The issues that concern women the most are work-life balance, harassment, career opportunities, children and family.

Would you say women are underrepresented at the top of the corporate ladder?

One can say that women are underrepresented at the top of the corporate ladder. In Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed that women occupy 40 per cent of top management positions, and 30 per cent board positions across the banks from 2014 and, only 22.3 per cent of women have attained that.

Over the last year, there’ve been a lot of firsts in the Fortune 500: the first openly lesbian CEO, the first Latina CEO, and the first Black woman CEO of an NBA franchise. But there have been a lot of good-byes, too, as Indra Nooyi of PepsiDenise Morrison of Campbell Soup Company, Margo Georgiadis of Mattel, and Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez have all left the top spot at their respective companies and, they have been replaced by men.

In fact, according to data compiled by Catalyst, since 2009, only three female CEOs were followed by another woman. Internationally, there are now only 22 women CEOs in the Fortune 500 index.

How have you faced any gender-related obstacles in your career?

Women have reported an environment of favouritism, destructive office politics and a lack of recognition, cutthroat environments and unethical behaviour. Internal politics and people stepping on top of other people’s heads have probably been the two most prevalent factors. While I am ambitious, I draw the line when being ambitious means either stepping on others or being a shameless self-promoter. Overall, I consider myself as a tomboy and I enjoy working with men.

Managing work-life balance is a big deal now. How do you create a balance?

Every employee has a bad day from time to time. It’s nice to have a space for employees to go to when they just need to step away for a moment. We have a lounge in my office where you can take a mental break when required. It’s also very important to create a steady and reliable work environment  that will counteract stresses that employees feel at home.

Another great way to connect the dots between work time and out-of-work time is to offer community engagement activities that are meaningful and beneficial. I personally volunteer to train school children on financial literacy and saving culture. Team-building exercise is crucial for the team. I take out time to bond with the team from time to time through exercise or by going out for finger foods in a nice lounge.

Also taking a vacation is very important to get rested and refreshed. On a smaller scale, it’s important to the workers’ mental and physical health to take frequent breaks throughout the day. The human body was not designed to sit still and stare at a screen for eight hours. Doing so can lead to a wide variety of health issues. Taking breaks at work also makes employees feel better at their jobs because they are more focused, less burn out, and more productive in the long-term.

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How would you mentor women who are in your present position?

I personally take interest in nurturing and mentoring young ladies by encouraging them to be patient with people. Good mentors do not take their responsibility as mentors lightly. It is important to invest in the success of the mentees. Overall, good mentoring requires empowering the mentee to develop strengths, beliefs, personal attributes and goals.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Be patient. Be kind. Work hard and play hard. Invest in yourself and learn to be good to everyone you meet in life.

 Who do you admire most in the FemTech in FinTech space?

Internationally, I do admire Jennifer Atkins. She is the Executive Vice President and Head of Digital Sales and Marketing at Wells Fargo. She is responsible for the digital sales and marketing of consumer and small-business traditional products and services through Wells Fargo’s online, email and mobile channels. Jennifer manages the acquisition, activation and retention of customers for digital services such as mobile banking, electronic payments, and electronic documents. She also co-leads multichannel revenue initiatives across Wells Fargo’s Community Bank.

Locally, I admire Lola Cardoso. She is the Chief Digital and Innovation Officer of Union Bank. Lola has been responsible for driving and executing the digital roadmap for Union Bank. In addition, as a special assignment, she will focus on developing and executing retail strategy for niche customer segments, while retaining oversight on strategy and innovation for the bank, including the Union X initiative.