We are pleased to announce the appointment of Adeola Adebonojo – who joins the executive team with responsibility for legal, risk, compliance & fraud, and human resources.
What is your role at Contis and when did you join?
I am General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer of Contis and I joined in July. So, I am the “new girl on the block”!
What were you doing before joining the Contis team?
Tell us a bit about you – background, interests, aspirations, everything!
That may take a while.
I first qualified as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn in the late 90s and then requalified as a solicitor in 2005. I have always loved Tech and started my career at Dell Computers then spent a chunk of time at Accenture.
I moved on to lead the legal function of a private equity portfolio in high growth mode, with a mandate to provide telecoms infrastructure across the emerging market. I travelled extensively across Sub-Saharan Africa, because although I am of Nigerian descent, I had only ever been to Nigeria! I have fond memories of travelling across the River Congo trying to get from the Republic of Congo to the DRC!
I love to learn and I had an opportunity to undertake an MBA at France’s premier business school – HEC Paris where I specialised in Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise. I had the absolute best time. My hope is that at some point in my life, I will be able to bring much more to the table than being a lawyer.
I am married and have 2 boys – outside of work they take a lot my time and I am an active member of my church. I love to entertain, socialise but more than likely you will find me stuck behind a book or my kindle. I am currently reading “Unapologetically Ambitious” by Shellye Archambeau and “Bamboozoled by Jesus” by Yvonne Orji. I flip between the two as my mood dictates.
It is uncommon to find UK lawyers with an MBA. Why did you decide to do one and how has the MBA made you a better leader/lawyer?
I did the MBA because I am trying to change the narrative about lawyers. We always get stick about being the “blocker” and there is usually a disconnect between the needs of the business and how the legal function helps meet those needs. So, I want to be able to combine my understanding of business needs with my legal expertise and be an enabler of the business’ goals and ambitions.
What interested you about joining, and what sets Contis apart from other fintechs?
Am I allowed to say Peter Cox? If you have an opportunity to learn from an early adopter of payments, e-money (etc) then you take the opportunity. I am also a life long student of everything tech and so an opportunity to fully understand the nature of crypto assets exchange and how Contis enables those transactions was a huge attraction.
What is your vision for your role at Contis and what impact do you hope to make?
My vision is to build on the robust compliance framework we have, which I believe makes us one of the most thorough payment providers. I want to take all that and help create commercial solutions that make us easy to do business with.
What does a day in the life of a General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer look like here? And what keeps you up at night?
My role is very broad, I lead our Compliance, legal and HR functions. I deal with everything from customer enquiries to setting up a crypto platform, undertaking audits on some of clients, interacting with regulators across Europe and ensuring we keep on their right side whilst finding pragmatic ways to help our customers meet their own goals. It involves a lot of straddling. Thankfully, I have a very robust team who have done very well in keeping the company on the right tracks. We can all sleep peacefully at night!
Fintech is unfortunately a very male dominated industry. What advice would you give to women hoping to reach a senior position such as yours?
Today, there should be nothing stopping women from reaching the top. It is critical you have the right support system – whether that is familial, mentorship, network etc – a place/person you can go to when you are at crossroads or need a bit of hand holding. I would recommend that you work with companies who support you through your career and life span and make changes as soon as the time is right. Do not stay put because it is comfortable.
Where do you see the company in five years?
From a growth point, I see our brand (whether in its current form or otherwise) as global brand, with all our expansion plans truly bearing fruit. I also see Contis continuing to be a friend to the regulators where we operate and being a significant contributor to the payments/e-money ecosystem.