How to crush it in corporate finance in Nigeria – Tips from Uche Adiele

Corporate finance, in Nigeria or abroad, is typically a very quiet but influential force within any successful company. So, how do you get in and be exceptional in this role? What tools, skills, experiences, and certifications do you require?

In this 1-hour LinkedIn Live session, I spoke with Uche Adiele, Senior Financial Analyst at Johnson and Johnson, Canada to get answers to the most popular and pressing questions about how to get into and crush it in corporate finance in Nigeria and beyond.

Before I get into the meat of the conversation, here’s a brief bio of Uche Adiele.

Uche Adiele is a Finance, Analytics, and Business Consulting professional. He is an experienced management and financial consultant with over 6 years of experience focused on business and financial analysis, financial and other kinds of modeling, feasibility studies, strategy planning, research, and analysis.

Having worked with 2 of the Big-4 professional services firms, Uche currently works with Johnson & Johnson in Canada and he’s also an Adjunct College lecturer at Queens University.

Uche has a Bachelor of Science – Statistics/Economics (University of Nigeria) degree, is a Chartered Accountant (CPA, CGA in Canada and ACCA- UK), and a Master of Management Analytics graduate from the Smith School of Business (Queen’s University).

How did Uche get into corporate finance?

Uche’s journey began in Nigeria. Between 2011 and 2013, he wrapped up his bachelor’s degree in statistics and economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and concluded his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

Consequently, he got his first ‘’major’’ role in finance as a strategy and finance consultant with PwC Nigeria, one of the big 4 firms. I’ve described this as major because Uche, prior to PwC, worked with a commercial bank in Nigeria for under 7 months. He also started his ACCA exams in this period.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, Uche left Nigeria. He spoke extensively about why he left, how that put him out of employment for some time before he got his next opportunity and how he survived during that waiting period.

His next big opportunity came, and it was at Ernst and Young (EY), Canada, another one of the big 4 firms. So, if you’re curious to know which two (2) big 4 firms he worked at, there you have it – PwC Nigeria and EY Canada.

He went on to get his CPA CGA designation, an equivalent of ICAN’s ACA in Nigeria, and joined Johnson and Johnson, Canada as a senior financial analyst.

So, why not study finance from the outset?

Here, Uche discussed how he didn’t have everything figured out from the outset. He knew he loved numbers and data, but he wasn’t all sure where that will lead to.

Looking back, however, he didn’t think he would have changed a thing. According to him, ‘’If you read accounting and I read economics and statistics, we’re both not chartered accountants till we get the professional certification.’’

Uche shared 2 things he has found exciting about the finance function:

  • The finance function warehouses tons of data that require constant analysis to derive insights.
  • The finance function oversees how the big picture ties to the daily tasks and numbers.

His role at Johnson and Johnson, simply put, involves being the Chief Financial Officer for the brands he manages and justifying financial and investment decisions around them.

He explained that finance is a broad function, but the corporate finance role is more laser-focused on delivering on the strategy of a corporate organization. This could include financial planning and analysis, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, etc.

What skills do you require to crush it in corporate finance?

  • Laser-focus on the big picture: According to Uche, ‘’crushing it in corporate finance will entail having the big picture, not just thinking numbers and completing tasks, building financial models and doing analysis.’’

He talked about how losing sight of the big picture can mean thinking small and limiting your own growth. You need to constantly evaluate how your role impacts the larger context of the organization.

  • Problem-solving skills: ‘’People gravitate towards individuals who help them solve problems’’ Uche said. He also alluded to the fact that It’s being thrown around a lot on CVs but maintains that its importance cannot be overemphasized.

Remember, your name will be imprinted in people’s minds for two things; the problems you solved or helped solve, or the problems you created or helped create.

  • Attention to details: Everything you do in corporate finance in Nigeria or abroad can end up leading to a huge impact – positive or negative. An investor can throw out a financial model you built if it has a fundamental mistake.
  • Technical adeptness with Microsoft Excel: ‘’Microsoft built a beast with Microsoft Excel’’ Uche remarked. While people are now gravitating towards R, python, and SQL for data modeling and analytics, Microsoft Excel is still the most common tool for analytics.

You need to be able to dive deep into the features and functions of Microsoft Excel as it relates to data analytics, financial modeling, and visualizations.

  • Dexterity with other tools: Delving into tools that may seem complementary in the present can make a lot of difference when it comes to crushing it in corporate finance.

When it starts to seem you are conversant with Microsoft Excel already, start learning to use R, Python, or Alteryx.

Professional certifications for corporate finance

Uche noted that while having the skills will already set you apart in corporate finance, professional certifications go a notch higher to show you have acquired relevant knowledge from competent and recognized institutions.

Uche concluded the session by sharing 3 key defining moments of his career and how they shaped him.

Uche noted that while having the skills will already set you apart in corporate finance, professional certifications go a notch higher to show you have acquired relevant knowledge from competent and recognized institutions.

When choosing certifications to pursue, however, it’s important that you:

  • Choose the ones that key into areas you want to build expertise in. Uche mentioned that the popular certification for corporate finance is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

However, if you’ll love to go deeper to assert authority in business valuation in Canada, Chartered Business Valuator (CBV) is a great one to pursue.

  • Think global. The competition is no longer local; hence you should position yourself appropriately. Uche explained that he chose to bag his ACCA, an international certification for chartered accountants for this purpose.
  • Have local context. Here, Uche describes how a person with an ACA from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) can be respected more than someone with a CPA CGA which is more recognized in Canada and vice versa.

Uche concluded the session by sharing 3 key defining moments of his career, what he learned from each of them and how they shaped him.

You should watch the recorded session to learn about these moments and other nuggets we couldn’t have shared in this summary

Watch the Linkedin Live session here.

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>> Key tips for career growth and success in a 9-5

Communications and PR Analyst at Leonine Investment Services Limited | + posts

Abdulsamod Balogun leads Communications and Public Relations at Leonine Investment Services Limited. He's excited about new media, technology and public policy. When he's not working, he's catching up on movies and books.

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