Meet Daniel Isa, Country Manager, Nigeria.

“What we’re about to embark on here is a game-changer. We are enabling those who find it hard to access financial services aligned with their belief systems and social values. We are excited about that journey.”

In this edition of our spotlight series, we sat with Daniel Isa, Country Manager at Wahed in Nigeria, who gave us a sneak peek into his role, his passion for the mission and what led him here. 

 

Tell us what you do at Wahed.

I’m the country manager for Nigeria, which primarily entails making sure that Wahed has a successful launch in Nigeria. Beyond that, other duties range from recruitment and hiring to building out the sales funnel, making sure our internal back-end operations run according to the scope of work agreed, and gathering feedback from users and pushing those onto updates. Essentially I make sure that all of our people and processes are taken care of here in Nigeria. 

 

How did you manage to get where you are today?

I started in mechanical engineering at the University of Lagos then I went to the UK. I studied computer science at the University of Portsmouth, then I came back to Nigeria. That was always the plan: I was dead set on going to the UK, upskilling, then coming back home to help solve some of the challenges we face here. 

When I got back to Nigeria, I ended up helping my Aunt with inventory management in her shop. She was using paper systems as well as three different types of inventory management software, and it spurred me to build something that addressed that pain point. I created an app called Blubird, which won national awards from Microsoft and Airtel Nigeria. 

Then Seedstars launched a venture building program in Nigeria, which I joined. I was made the founder and CEO of Lendigo, a pioneering end-to-end digital lending solution. I led the company from seed stage to closing a $10 million Series A round. 

After that, I joined another venture-building company, Founders Factory, where I was working on building and scaling startups across fintech, agritech and healthtech. And then I came on board Wahed.

What do you like most about your job at Wahed? 

First, the mission: Current FinTech activity is geared towards the South (Lagos), which is not representative of the majority of Nigeria. I was interested in Wahed’s mission around financial inclusion and enabling people to easily access ethical and halal investments (an area which is really underserved in NIgeria).

What we’re about to embark on here is a game-changer. We are enabling those who find it hard to access financial services aligned with their belief systems and social values. We are excited about that journey.

What’s it like running a fintech company like Wahed in Nigeria? 

Sometimes it’s a bit like Alice in Wonderland as there’s a lot to contend with: As general country manager, I wear multiple hats. So one day, I could be a product manager; the next, I could be a hiring manager; the next, a fund manager. It’s constantly having to switch in between those roles, and this has led me to learn new skill sets around operations and team-building capacity.

 

Do you see a lot of competition for Wahed in Nigeria and other African nations? 

We’ve seen those who say that they understand what Islamic finance is all about, and put it on their website – but when you start to engage with them, you find out that there’s rarely substance behind the offering. There is an appetite for savings and investment, especially Halal and ethical investment. So in the whole space, we have a couple of indirect competitors, but within the halal investment space, I would say we are the first to launch in Nigeria.

 

What’s one thing that could help improve the future of financial services for the everyday consumer?

One thing is that national governments need to set up ‘sandboxes’ which enable fintech’s to easily build and deploy compliant fintech services. Given how quickly the Nigerian fintech space has become heavily regulated (which is a good thing in itself), it has had the resulting side effect of now making it difficult to build and launch products due to the regulations.

 

Tell us something about Nigeria that you’d like to share with the world.

A lot of people don’t know that we have a Superbike racing league in Nigeria with our own race track that we race on. I race Superbikes here in Nigeria.

 

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