Ayo Akintujoye, 33, is the Group Head, Strategy, at Consolidated Hallmark Insurance, and convener of the Lagos SME Bootcamp. He speaks with TOFARATI IGE about his job and other interests
What’s your educational qualification?
The first school I attended for my elementary education was Omolere Nursery and Primary School in Akure, Ondo State. I later moved to Lagos State and attended A-Z Nursery and Primary School in Ajao Estate. I went to African Church Model College, Ifako, for my secondary education. I have a Bachelor degree in Counselling and Political Science from the University of Ibadan. I graduated among the top five in my class. Everyone thought I would go for a Masters’ programme immediately, but I decided not to. After five years of working, I went to the University of Lagos, and bagged a Master in Political Science, with a major in Human Relations and Strategic Studies.
Tell us about your current job.
I am the Group Head of Strategy at Consolidated Hallmark Group. Consolidated Hallmark group is made up of four organisations which are into insurance, micro lending, health management organisation, and also HR capital, which is a form of investment. I lead the entire strategy division– we do research, process and product innovation, budgeting, and strategy itself. I coordinate strategy, development and implementation for all the subsidiaries. I also double as the head of the Shared Services Centre.
How did you find yourself in an insurance company?
I was in the financial market before I joined insurance. I did quite a lot of work in that area, dropping a lot of strategies and innovation. At the time CHI needed someone to help them execute a plan, they contacted PricewaterhouseCoopers to recruit for them. Because I had earlier worked at PWC, they pointed out my skills and potential, because my core area of specialisation is strategy education. It was PWC that poached me to come and lead the ‘executive initiation’ for them. It’s not as if I was consciously looking to move to insurance, but because I was asked to help drive some required changes and transformation.
What are your duties as the Group Head, Strategy?
My duties include monitoring and developing consistent strategies. I also do strategy monitoring and execution. Once strategies are developed, there are different people responsible for driving those things. My responsibility is to ensure that people are implementing what needs to be implemented. I am also responsible for research, which we place a lot of emphasis on. I am in charge of product management and innovation. Since I joined the company, I have put out five products, and three of them have been approved. My other duties are process transformation, innovation on all our market processes (which also include policy formulation), and budgeting.
What are some of the challenges you face, and how do you surmount them?
One of the biggest challenges I face is a sort of culture shock. Insurance is different from my consulting background, so a lot of the behavioural patterns that I expected were quite different. However, I have learnt to apply more emotional intelligence into getting things done.
What’s your work history before joining CHI?
I once worked with a technology company, Tusjuji Consulting, for about a year before I moved to KPMG Advisory Services where we advised clients on various complex transactional issues. I was there for about two years before I moved to PWC where I was on the strategy team. While there, I worked on various client transactions and gathered a lot of experience in core strategy. That experience is the major component of what I do today. After PWC, I joined Phillips Consulting, where I was also involved in a lot of organisational transactions. I later became the head of strategy at FMDQ at the age of 29, and I was there for a while till I moved to my current role.
You’ve changed jobs a lot. Why didn’t you stay in one place?
It is important to understand that the age where people sit at one job for many years is gone. Our generation is different. Immediately one feels that there is a new challenge out there, one has to take it. To be honest, I didn’t plan to move around, but opportunities just kept coming because I learnt other things aside from what I was doing at the company. I love challenges, and when these things come up, I don’t shy away from them.
How do you plan to rise to the top of your career?
My short-term plan is to improve myself, in terms of education– that rigorous learning exercise deepens my understanding of strategy. I intend to expand my theoretical knowledge. I believe that will take me to my next phase of growth. I’m open to taking new challenges. After a while though, I intend to focus on consulting fully, and much later, go into academia. I would either establish a consulting firm with a partner, or as a sole entrepreneur. That is my growth plan.
The academia does not pay as much as financial institutions. Would you be able to cope with that?
By the time I would be going into the academia, it wouldn’t be for money. I probably would have retired from the industry. Ultimately, it is about my passion for teaching.
Does your job schedule allow you have a social life?
It doesn’t allow much, but I still find a way to socialise. Those who know me know that I am active on social media. I attend lots of corporate events, and socialise with people every now and then. It hasn’t been easy, but I still create time.
How do you relax?
I share a bottle of drinks with friends, hang out and discuss politics, business, and the economy. I have also been learning how to play tennis. I do exercise on weekends and evenings. I also go out with my family, and read a lot of books.
Do you see yourself going into politics in the future?
In the short-term, I don’t see myself doing that. Maybe much later when I feel I need to contribute to society, I may consider it. But presently I wouldn’t think of it, because the values in the political space are totally different from the values I uphold.
Who are your role models?
I like Professor Wole Soyinka for the way he built himself from the scratch to become one of the most formidable personalities in the world without being attached to any organisation. I like the freedom that comes with his brand.
In the business world, I like Prof Clay Christensen. He is a lecturer at Harvard Business School. He is the number one authority when it comes to disruptive innovation. I also admire Tony Elumelu. I like the way he brands himself and gives back to society.
How do you like to dress?
Most times, I dress corporate. I like to look very sharp. I wear more of suits and bow ties. When I wear traditional attire, I like coloured ones. I also love jackets. Once in a while, I may wear jeans.