If we don’t help each other, what is the point of being here?
An interview with Adesola Orimalade, Director of Treasury
In mid-2020, Adesola Orimalade joined Kiwi.com as Director of Treasury, coming to us with a career built in a diverse range of industries including banking, retail, travel and the energy sector. With 25 years of experience in financial services, Adesola originally trained as a real estate management and town planning professional in his homeland of Nigeria. He is an accomplished writer. If you search online you will find short stories and self-published works of fiction. Read on to learn more about his job and responsibilities as well as the many other activities Adesola passionately makes time for when he is not balancing the books at Kiwi.com.
Hi Adesola, it’s great to have you here! I see you are a very accomplished online storyteller, could you share with us a little about YOUR story?
I was born in Nigeria and have lived in the UK since 2006. I do loads of volunteering across various charities but mainly those in education and supporting migrants. One of the things that has stuck with me is how my settling in the UK could have been made much easier if I had had a network of immigrants like myself who were available to offer me their guidance. I had to find out things on my own and that made the journey more challenging but equally more rewarding because those experiences have made me who I am. I volunteer for example with a charity called Consonant. It is a UK based charity that exists to support immigrants, with settling down in the UK They offer language classes, CV writing assistance, etc, and I help with running the entrepreneurship development training for those looking to set up businesses.
I also do public speaking and I am a storyteller, sharing my life and career stories to inspire and motivate others. I was married for 17 years, divorced for about 3 years and have a 17-year-old daughter who lives with me and is leaving for university this year so we are both excited by this bitter-sweet prospect.
You were successful in getting the role Director of Treasury at Kiwi.com, in the middle of the pandemic. What have you found inspiring in our company in the past few months?
The camaraderie within Finance has been brilliant. It is the feeling that we, as a team, are building something really special here that drives and motivates me. Two things motivate me about teamwork and these are the fact that:
a) Teamwork means meeting new people and when you meet new people it’s an opportunity to broaden your network, learn about them, their journey, how they arrived at where you met them, what their aspirations are and what you can learn from their life experience. We are after all, people who are constantly learning.
b) Teamwork means an opportunity for me to positively impact others and to help them grow by sharing my own life experience and journey. The second and equally important part is that I enjoy learning and I am still learning a lot about the business, the people, the organisation and the country.
I had no second thoughts about joining a travel company because for me while the impact of the pandemic will be very deep and painful in terms of our personal and professional experience, the human desire to travel will never be extinguished and at some point we will return to seeing the world. The challenge is to be able to survive the pandemic and work in Treasury and make a positive contribution to that journey.
Can you tell us more about the Treasury team and the work they do? Most of us would have a general idea, but Finance teams tend to often be a bit mysterious.
I would describe Treasury as the team that exists to ensure that we are able to keep all our financial commitments. That’s why I enjoy working in Treasury, we are at the centre of the business, we manage the ins and outs of cash. We do all that whilst ensuring that we manage all the related financial risks. Financial risks include those related to counterparty credit, foreign exchange, liquidity and of course payment-related fraud.
The Treasury team is brilliant. We work hard, work together and we try and have fun while doing it. The team is also keen to be better, keen to learn more and be receptive to new ideas and tasks. The interpersonal relationships are what makes this job fun, we laugh and talk about other “life things” apart from the technicalities of Treasury.
Finance is usually understood as cold-blooded and data driven work. How do you connect volunteering, public speaking and motivating people with a Finance job?
To be honest I have never imagined myself as a stereotypical finance person. I imagine that when people think of finance they picture someone more introverted, keen on his/her abacus, likes to calculate everything and so on (only joking!).
There are two ways I’m trying to connect my passion for volunteering, motivating people and public speaking to my Finance career.
a) In my case, I enjoy Finance because of the value those skills can bring to the table in building businesses, people and society. When I wanted to go into Finance, my preference was Development Finance, using my finance skills to help redevelop slums and neighbourhoods that are run down.
b) Before I ever grew old enough to move from basic mathematics to finance as a subject I enjoyed writing. In fact my earliest writing began in primary school when I was between 6 and 10 years old. I would create my own cartoon characters and write the dialogue.
c) I am a people person and enjoy developing people. So while I am developing my career in Finance, I am also using every single opportunity I have to touch those who I meet on that journey either by sharing my personal or professional stories and by sharing knowledge. Through public speaking, volunteering and motivating people, I try to achieve all of the above.
Can you share with us a rewarding, feel good story, perhaps one about someone you inspired to go out do good things ?
Too many to tell but when anyone comes to me to say they took up volunteering because of hearing me or watching what I do, I feel inspired.
I was approached by a lady who had read about some of the work I do with a certain charity in the UK that supports economically disadvantaged people. She was inspired to help but wasn’t sure how her skills could be put to use. I spent an hour going through her skill sets and then recommended some charities for her to consider. The last I heard from her she is on the board of a charity that deals with domestic abuse which is something she had experienced whilst living abroad.
You put a lot of time into inspiring others by writing articles, public motivational speaking, who or what inspires you?
My desire to give back. Everyday I wake up and go out hoping that I will make a positive difference to someone. I know this sounds like a soundbite from a motivational speech but I genuinely believe in those words. I think it is important to clarify that my desire to give back is not the result of some feeling of penance. I was raised in a Christian home and my parents gave a lot of their time and knowledge to others. My Dad passed away just as I was leaving university and I had to take on, from a very early age, responsibility for my mum and little sister. I think that experience helped build that mindset of giving to others. I couldn’t tell you for sure how much these experiences played in it but all I know is that I’ve always been someone who has given.
I remember one day when I was in boarding school, I was walking past two of my classmates who were complaining about being hungry. I had some money on me and even though I had walked past something kept nagging me about it. How could I walk past people who were hungry and I had money in my pocket? So I went back and gave them the little I had on me. I always say to myself and others “…If we have the capacity to help someone and we deliberately choose not to, what is the point of being here?..”
I have tried to put that mantra to work in my life. I am active on Linkedin and I have mentored and supported young men and women who have either come to me directly or been referred by others. I help them find purpose and direction as well as clarity, especially in their personal and professional lives.
In my native New Zealand, the indigenous people have a word in the Te Reo language, “turangawaewae”, it is the place you feel strong or grounded – where would you say is your turangawaewae?
My place of strength and grounding is my faith and I carry it around with me. I have always believed in a “balance” in everything I do and I always try and look beyond the immediate, even in my most difficult moments. If there is one thing life and my faith has taught me it is that we have the capacity to spend a considerable amount of our lives worrying about things that will, with the benefit of hindsight, never occur.
What makes you proud about your country and about being Nigerian?
Two words, “The people”. The boisterousness, the happiness, the ability to deal with life and still smile even when you have no running water, no electricity and economic inequality. The country is blessed with resources and the biggest is its people.
If you were to have a paid 6-month sabbatical – what kinds of things would you use that time for?
I would go volunteering around the world and take great pictures of sights for a blog I would maintain. It would be a great way to celebrate our diversity yet discussing something that unites all of us, which is sharing your knowledge and competence with the world.
I am very open-minded towards the charities I support but I tend to focus on those that try to address issues like economic inequality whether that is related to homelessness, health, education, diversity and inclusion but most especially poverty. I still find it unbelievable that we live in a society where we can afford all these expensive luxuries but children still go to bed hungry.
If you could time travel – would you go back to the past or travel forward into the future?
I would definitely go back to the start of the Second World War. I would like to spend time with Winston Churchill observing him and understanding his stoicism.
I will use two quotations to explain stoicism. The Serenity Prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr states: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”
The U.S Army’s Leadership manual contains the quotation “It is crucial for leaders to remain calm under pressure and to expend energy on things they cannot positively influence and not worry about the things they cannot.” These quotes reflect my understanding of stoicism and it is the ability to accept things you can change and work on them but also be comfortable knowing that there will be things outside your control, accept them. It is also important to know the difference between the two.
Churchill knew what he had in his control which was to mobilise the world against oppression, to remain calm under pressure and to know that he had no control over how his enemies would react but he did what was required of him, to confront the problem of the times. It is these abilities and strength of character that I would have loved to hear from the “horse’s mouth”. When leaders make difficult decisions, we often see the end product. What we rarely get to see are the long hours of self-development that shaped their competence and the hours of considering and agonising over the variables before a decision is made.
And if we talk about travel, are you an intrepid traveller or do you go for something a bit more comfortable?
When I travel, I like to hike and visit sights and see places. I’m outdoorsy but when I get back I like a warm bed inside so I’m not a big fan of camping or staying in hostels or things like that.
What are the top 3 places around the world you would love to return to?
The Seychelles for its pure beauty, Chamonix for the train rides up the mountain in winter and New York for it’s a place where the city itself feels “Alive”.
And the last question for you, what are the 3 places or experiences that you would like to add to your bucket list?
- Walking a section of the Great Wall of China
- Visiting Japan. There is so much to see, it’s such a fascinating place!
- Spend a month helping a charity anywhere in the world
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