Tell us about yourself and your organization, is it a company or an investment club
My name is Tomie Balogun, a certified financial educator. I have worked in multiple industries as well for over a decade. I have been in the communication sector- consulting in value added technology and more recently fintech. My experience cuts across multiple sectors but one thing that has driven me is wanting my finances help me live the life that I want and that is what put me on the journey of financial education and eventually started a community-based investment club.
It all started with my story. I wanted to go do my MBA program and then I realized that I had been working for 4 years and I had not been saving, so what happened to my money? I knew I had to get better on my personal finances. So right after my MBA, I started a savings club for my classmates and that led to the journey of investing after learning that it wasn’t enough to just have savings. We started learning but it was hard due to lack of documented works of people’s investment journeys like in the West where it is very easy to find stories of Warren Buffet and the likes. We decided to look for experts and reach out to people who had this knowledge in their heads. We got our fingers burned but learnt our lessons.
I started to blog about it on my personal blog at that time and I realized that there were so many people like me who simply wanted to understand investing. Someone asked me to start a community based investment club and we will join and at that time, I only knew of one model which is the financial club, so we started it together with my friends. I wrote about 3 investment models and the Green Investment Club which I established 3 years ago was me implementing the community based model. It is a registered entity. We invest in financial literacy, educating people about how investment works and go the extra step of helping them implement whatever they learn.
You have talked about lack of documented stories, why do you think people and companies shy away from telling their stories especially in africa?
In Africa and especially in Nigeria, people like to stay private because they feel like they will get unnecessary attention when they put their stories out there. You find that for the generations before us they feared that the government would put some regulations if they speak up because they grew up in the military regime where there was no much freedom of speech.
For us, with all these social media platforms it is normal to talk, we share openly and maybe even overshare. We find people with over 20 years’ experience in let’s say investing in the stock market shying away from telling their stories like the case of my mentor just because they want to stay private. We need such people to come out boldly and speak up because you know we are at a better position having such people around who can educate us and guide us. We need to push them to tell their stories and if necessary write books.
What are some of your achievements 3 years down the line?
The truth is that when I started I did not have this big and clear vision of where I wanted to go. It was more of like just deciding to start. What am grateful about is evolving over time and recognizing the point where I had to evolve. We started the community on Facebook, when we grew to around 200 people. We decided to have a proper domain so we built an online portal with online courses and then we moved into building a platform.
Right now we have 1,700 members and that to us is a big achievement. Seeing such a big number commit to financial literacy and them going an extra mile of investing is such a big joy to us. In 2019 we built an app that helps us track investments and am proud to say that so far, we have seen investments grow to over US$70 million.
We have seen the impact of these investments not only to our members but also to the companies that we invest in. We have seen them grow significantly and absorb more people in terms of employment. From produce exporters to Europe, to consumer lending companies and logistics companies, we have helped grow local businesses. In short, our investments have affected the whole economy positively.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered along the journey and lessons learnt?
One thing that I have learnt is that humans will always be humans. When you are working with people you have to understand that sometimes we make decisions based on our emotions especially when it comes to money, there are these emotions that come about with money. The challenge has been understanding that beyond the financial principles we need to teach people the right mindset towards money and investing. Most of us have the wrong mindsets towards money because of our upbringing and what we see on the new that shape some to think that you have to engage in fraudulent activities to be rich, this is what we are trying to change.
Another lesson we learnt during the pandemic was to have an open mind because it is during that time that we were able to invest in companies well due to the discounts offered. Another challenge that we see is people wanting to make money really fast, they are impatient. We try to show them that investing is a journey and you have to pace yourself, it takes time to build an investment portfolio.
Some of the sectors that I think need more investment are; one – Agro-processing because we have raw materials and we need to capture more value along the value chain, two – logistics especially international logistics, three Fintech- here we have seen two companies come from Nigeria that is Pay stack and Flutterwave but this is only one aspect of fintech that is payment processing, that has been explored and this space is so huge, there is potential. Credit is very important for economic growth. Healthcare is another sector, the pandemic showed countries the gaps in their healthcare sector and now they know where to invest.
Education is definitely a big one. We need both the government and the private sector working together because it cannot be private sector led alone- that would make it expensive. We need a more skill-based type education focused on providing solutions.
We are in the fourth industrial revolution we need more people learning tech skills even at the basic level. What we want to see is more public-private partnerships in this particular sector. Learning that brings change.
Do you get inquiries from people outside nigeria interested in joining the club?
Our members are spread over 26 countries, mostly Nigerians in Nigeria and in diaspora aiming at investing in Nigeria. We also have people interested in implementing the model in their countries all over and am working with a few of them. They trust the information we provide.
Tell us about your future plans and impacts you are looking at
For us, the future is bold and audacious. We are looking towards becoming a premier investment mining company not just a club. We are looking towards becoming a company that has an investment club and platforms.
We will be building digital platforms across border that offer global adviser services, wealth management services and because we understand how our generation thinks, we understand that we will have to be disruptive in terms of our use of technology so we will harness the use of block chain technology. We want to enable people to own and purchase assets in a secure way because that is a gap we see there. We are also looking at taking advantage of technology to scale up our work.