Toyin Sanni: Yes You Too Can
Youthful Toyin Sanni is an interviewer’s delight, very delightful to speak with and without mincing words, her story is one that inspires you as she also launched a new book titled ‘Yes! You too Can!’. A trained lawyer, chartered secretary and stockbroker, her foray into the male-dominated and competitive world of financial services is a lesson in tenacity, commitment and hard work. Toyin clocked 50 recently and she attributes her glowing success to God, she says, ‘It’s all about God’.
Toyin was admitted into the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study Law at age 15 and was called to the Nigerian Bar at 19years old against all odds and she attributes all to God! Never one to sing her own praise, Toyin has a Masters degree in Financial law from the University of Lagos and you may wish to call her a role model to millions of not only Nigerian girls but every aspiring young person, male or female.
A chip off the old block, Toyin got her dexterity and wisdom from her late father. “My father was very outstanding with number. In his school days, he was nicknamed ‘another method’ because he always had an alternative method to solving mathematical question in class. Even after the class teacher has solved the problem, my father would raise his hand and say I have “another method” to solve the equation’. Little wonder, her father grew up to become the treasurer of the then Western Region of Nigeria.
On her transition from Law to Financial services, she said, ‘I have always been a person with affinity for numbers, there’s no way you’ll be my father’s child and not be good with figures, mathematics was the yardstick for measuring whether you passed in your exams because when you come home with your result, my father would check your scores in math first before other subjects’. And like a family tradition, we all gave our best in mathematics, my mother was also a trader, so you can understand. I also majored in the financial side of law thus the transition was actually not a herculean task because I had it in me and God has been my main stay. She reiterates.
Toyin Sanni is the Group CEO, United Capitals Group (subsidiary of United Bank for Africa UBA). Prior to this appointment, Toyin had made her mark in the private sector running successfully Trustee Asset and Management business and has served as a part-time lecturer of Business Law and Pension Trusteeship at the University of Lagos/APFN Post-graduate programe. She is a frequent speaker at various seminars, and workshops in various countries including International Investor Services events and conferences; Harvard University Africa Business Conference Washington DC, the Global Custody Conference and the Network Managers Conference.
Toyin has played leading roles in landmark deals. She held the position of Chairman of the Nigerian Capital Market Annual Retreat Committee from 2012 to 2014. Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) UK and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stock Brokers (Nigeria), she was Vice President of the Association of Pension Funds of Nigeria (AFAN), an Associate of the Institute of Directors, the President of the Association of Corporate Trustees Nigeria as well as National Board Steering Committee, the West African Capital Capital Market Integration Technical Committee and Chairperson of the Custody Subcommittee of the Capital Market.
She spoke extensively on Pensions Management Fund and wished Private Sector Employers who deduct Pensions from their Workers Salaries will remit same to the appropriate quarters so that on retirement such workers are able to access their money without any stress. “As we speak, I am aware that funds deducted from public servant salaries are being invested in other areas to attract interest so that on retirement, workers not only get value for their monthly savings they also earn interest on them over the years. We do hope that such is the situation in the private sector.
As a woman leading a pack of men as the CEO, her experience has shown that a woman often times is easier to work with than men executives “I perform my duties, assign duties and co-ordinate every staff working with me everywhere I find myself”. Asked how she has been able to cope in such a male dominated industry, she smiled, saying ‘when you deal strictly officially, and show understanding and respect, gender will have no role to play in the delivery of service and achieving results’. An advocate of women empowerment, Toyin was quick to point out that, ‘women were born disadvantaged, its not just an African thing but a deeply entrenched societal ill. For example, parents raise their sons to play with the computers but train their daughters to play with dolls’, you raise your daughter not to speak too loudly but raise your son to bully, infact parents are proud seeing their sons talking. When a woman is talking you say she’s shouting, but when a man is, you say he’s speaking! There’s a lot of conditioning in the society that has repressed the girl child for a long time, she loses her name on getting married et cetera’, She however advises women not to get caught up in the gender discrimination struggle in their offices, ‘women should go to their respective offices with the sole aim of working and not getting trapped in the gender debate’.
Beauty and brain you’ll say, but the brawn part became more apparent as we continued our discussion on women advocacy and freedom, infact if there was any part of the interview that brought Toyin out in her element, it was on this issue, ‘can you imagine a man having a business appointment at 7.00pm and a woman having the same appointment, how would the husband feel? How does a woman tell her husband that she wants to go and close a deal in a restaurant at 7.00pm but the same appointment, a man would go without even taking permission from the wife, its such an unbalanced playing field! She enthused that there must be a conscious effort by the public and government to address this anomaly, women should be considered on the same grounds as men! Speaking further, ‘a review of fortune 500 CEOs reveals that the companies run by women were outperforming others and the answer is simple, the women CEOs would have gone through so many challenges to reach the top such that they become rockstars once they get there’. Asked if she feels even the Bible is not gender biased, the Pastor in her rose to the fore, she took us through so many women in the Bible who performed valiantly and believes that God is not gender biased but requires that everyone should stand up to be counted for her rights. By and large, research has shown that for any country to move forward, its high time governments invested in their women population because women constitute about 60 percent of any country’s population and when 60 percent of a country’s population is already disenfranchised based on gender, how do you expect that country to progress, its simple logic she exclaims! As the gist continued, I ran into trouble when I asked her how she felt on the women appointees in the former administration in Nigeria and how their performance has done little good to the women cause, ‘you are in trouble, she shouted, how many are you in your family? I answered, seven? And she said how many are women? I said 4, so are you saying the women in your family are not trustworthy? Who conducted the trust test on the men or does wearing trousers confer on men the toga of trustworthiness and by the way women are also wearing trousers now and we all bursted out laughing. Men have been mismanaging, pillaging, killing, maiming, embezzling money for decades yet they kept getting recycled, this is just a case of calling the dog a bad name, so why is it the women folks that get criticized for small misdemeanors that have not even been proven? We have great women who have contributed immensely to the growth of this country and we still need more women in positions of authority who can champion this cause for the good of our generation.
How does it feel to be fifty, she smiled, ‘to everyone asking me how it feels to be fifty, I can only say, it feels the way you want it to feel, for me, fifty is the new thirties! It feels good, empowering, you are at an age where there is a degree of acceptance of yourself and who you are, you are not so anxious to prove anything to anybody and it earns you a bit of respect, I love the feeling!’.
Toyin is married to a banker and pastor and she has three children; a 24-year old boy who already had a Masters Degree in Law and two daughters studying Accounting & Finance and Biological Sciences
Quizzed on how she’s been able to manage the homefront and still climbed this height in her career, she smiled, ‘it begins with your partner realizing that God has also deposited in you some talents which needs to be expressed yet creating quality time for your family’. My husband and children knows they come first and having this at the back of their minds makes them relaxed. For example, we have a family code that when they need to get my attention, no matter where I am, they just need to say the word and I’ll drop anything I’m doing and attend to their needs first and this has really helped us as a family’. Furthermore, she explained, ‘I am a believer in God’s word that says I can do all things through God that strengthens me, I believe God has created us to multitask and nobody is better at that than the woman. Before I set out everyday, I try to draw strength from my maker and this prepares me for the task ahead for the day’. And this is the message of Toyin’s new book, ‘Yes you too can!’ Every woman can maximize her life, you can balance things, balance your work with your life, you can have your ministry, impact your community, you can be everything God wants you to be. The major issue is that we underestimate what God has deposited in us, women are created to multitask with ease.
The secret of her young look, ‘I drink a lot of water and eat light and do lots of exercise’. Because of her heavy work schedule, she says, ‘walking is my best form of exercise’, atimes I just walk for the gate of my estate to my house, just to keep fit!
An accomplished author and speaker, Toyin Sanni marked her fiftieth birthday in Lagos recently and it was a roll call of eminent personalities in the finance industry that included the likes of Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Mrs Arunma Oteh, VP of the World bank, Oba Otudeko, the Chairman Honeywell Group, Mr Bola Adeboye, the MD/CEO of the Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank Plc and other dignitaries. She also used the occasion to launch her new book, Yes! You too Can! Oluwatoyin Sanni’s book- Yes You Too Can– provides a blue print to understanding how to maximise life’s opportunities. She also shared her experience not just as a woman, but an African woman, which in itself can be a complex labyrinth and how with the grace of God has been able to weather the storm and excelled, The most powerful tip being maintaining a strong personal relationship with God“.
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