The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the legal, tech and justice space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.
For this week, we have Vincent Chimobi Okonkwo, a Legal and Compliance Associate at Renmoney Microfinance Bank, a leading fintech company in Nigeria. Before joining Renmoney, he was an Associate with Jackson, Etti & Edu. He is a tech-focused lawyer (and a budding product manager), with diverse experiences cutting fintech advisory, finance and financial services, regulatory compliance, commercial intellectual property, corporate law and technology policy. Beyond professional life, Vincent is fun-loving and an ambivert. He is a writer, an unpublished poet and a pseudo-music-snob (with a preeminent taste for indie rock).
- Tell us briefly how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The short story is that I started from the bottom now I am here. Lol. The long story though, is that I started out working with a top law firm in Lagos. I got an offer to work with them during my service and I worked there for three years before making the ambitious transition to my current role as an in-house counsel. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far, with a lot of learning curves and fast-tracked growth.
2. Walk us through what your job at Renmoney entails? What is it about your job that you enjoy the most?
In my current role, my work ranges from regulatory compliance (which typically includes navigating AML/CFT, CTR and STR compliance, to just about any other CBN or bank related compliance requirements), to product compliance (which entails interfacing with the Products team or the Marketing team as the case may be, to ensure products are either in line with regulatory requirements or are well provision for in terms of documentation), to contract negotiation, drafting and management, to company secretarial, to a bit of financial advisory, and some form of general risk advisory. The part of my job I enjoy the most is the fluidity of the work I do. Because Fintech is such a tightly regulated industry and because my Company gets quite busy (both literally and figuratively), I get to be involved in the work done in many of the operational parts of the Company and contribute value directly through the work they do in the form of the advice I support with or documents I help prepare or manage. This gives me a sense of variety, since the thinking or skills I apply to each task depends on the nature of work done by the operational team I am supporting and may be quite varied. It also give me a sense of excitement, as it always feel like I am contributing value direct to source.
3. With your work at Renmoney, the ILCA, Millennial Lawyer, how do you keep track of what you have to do?
I would be lying if I said I am doing very great at joggling everything I have going on and that all of the things I have on the stove are cooking fine. Some end up burning a bit and for some, I may forget to even light the fire. But to be fair, what helps me keep on track is the people I work with on each of these platforms. With my job, I work with an amazing team of people who are always hands on deck and who are always looking to better themselves or those around them. This helps keep me fully grounded and serves as a constant source of direction and motivation. The same goes for the other platforms. For the ILCA, I have had the luck of working with really forward-thinking people, who are always outdoing themselves. When I feel out of touch, I only have to go on the platforms emails and see the amount of crazy stuff the Capacity Building or Partnership guys are cooking and that would re-calibrate me right into form. For Millennial Lawyer, I have an amazing team which I am still trying to get fully functional – so it is not all rosy yet, in all honesty. It helps though that the people I do have on the team are really competent people who I believe I can rely on when things finally get ticking.
4. What tasks do you dislike but still do? What gadgets do you rely on to stay productive?
For the first part of the question, I wouldn’t say dislike per say, but I am not much a fan of regulatory filings, which is funny because it is a huge part of what we do as in-house counsel in the Fintech/Banking industry. I find them routine, and routine can get very boring, very fast. But they are faciendum – they just must be done. In terms of gadgets, I rely on my phone, alarms and my fully synchronized calendar. I also try to scribble on notes, in the old fashioned way, to keep track of tasks. I don’t have a catalog of gadgets that help me keep productive. I tried some productivity apps previously, but it turned out I need to deliberately map them into my existing systems and I struggled with that. I am looking to start using Calendly and Engross. Since those are targeted to improve efficiency in specific quarters, they may be easier to work with.
5. What are the things you enjoy doing on a typical weekend? How do you recharge or take a break?
My typically weekend has an element of “smash and grab” to it. (Not in the sense of a robbery, of course.) They basically trickle into existence and then take off, ram into something and crash land on Sunday evenings as I am scramble to recalibrate in time for Monday. Usually, I catch up on some personal tasks over the weekend, between doing laundry and other house chores. Personal tasks could include working on some parts of the deliverables for Millennial Lawyer or getting two hours in on the Product Management course I am currently taking on Udemy. They could also mean finishing up articles or coming good on gigs from friends. On a very good weekend, I might have time to cook, binge on anime a bit and maybe even visit friends. On a bad weekend, I just stumble through and hope against hope for a second Sunday.
6. What are you currently listening to, watching or reading?
Listening: I love rap – so I have been binging on J. Coles Off-Season for a while now. I have also been trying to discover new alternative/indie rock bands to listen to. I have recently discovered/rediscovered Matt Maeson, Doc Aquatic, Foster the People, Two Door Cinema Club and Kodaline, so I have been listening to those as well. Watching: The Euros – although my favourite teams Portugal and France suffered early disappointments. I am rooting for England now, because, well, Commonwealth. I am also on two animes with weekly releases, Boku No Hero Academia (Season 5) and Tokyo Revengers. Reading: Currently, I am only reading materials from Cole and Evan to be honest. (Cole and Evan teach the Product Management course I am taking).
7. What is a problem you are still trying to solve?
The one problem I can remember off-the-cuff which I am currently struggling with is getting everything going with Millennial Lawyer, the content-aggregation platform I am trying to build. I think I am way too finnicky with everything and I am slowing down progress myself. I must find a way to get things to a place that I can accept that the train can get on the track and just let go.
8. If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self?
To my “pre-adulting” self, I would say “get even better grades, do even more extracurricular and try out for more opportunities, especially those with international flavour.” I have learnt that despite how much I like to think I did in my younger days, I left too much time for faffing and I have paid for it in some ways. I would like to have given my current self even more boost, if I can afford to. Also, I would tell myself to get involved in the tech industry, in whatever capacity, as early as I can.
9. Who would you like to answer these questions?
I would recommend Ademola Adeyoju.
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