Harmonizing Risk and Reward: Olusesan Ajayi Acing Leadership at LOTUS Bank

‘A man is known from the company he keeps’, and we are all aware of this adage. But doesn’t it also hold true for an individual’s choices of words, ethos and values? Here is a man proving the latter bit. “Power is nothing without control,” a maxim that resonates with Olusesan Ajayi, the Chief Risk Officer at LOTUS Bank. Positioned among “The Top Most Influential CROs Making an Impact, 2023,” he is a distinguished figure in the banking sphere. With a background in finance and extensive expertise in risk management spanning over 18 years, Ajayi holds three certifications in Islamic finance. Additionally, he is affiliated with the Institute of Chartered Administration, an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, and a Fellow of the Institute of Credit and Collection Management.

Ajayi doesn’t merely embrace his role as CRO with zest; he orchestrates a harmony between risk and reward with finesse. From his vantage point, the position isn’t just interesting— it’s a strategic symmetry between fostering business growth and safeguarding the financial fortress of the bank. He skillfully guides the institution through the high-stakes world of banking, assuring its success by avoiding financial hazards through the implementation of solid risk frameworks and mitigants. In his leadership approach, Ajayi actively fosters a knowledge-sharing culture within the team, steering clear of micromanagement. He aims to empower team members to explore their passions and assume self-leadership.

He says, “That is the only way to groom leaders and make succession sustainable.” 

Ajayi’s impact extends beyond risk management; he is architecting a legacy of leadership at LOTUS Bank as well as in the respective industry.

Distinctive Vision of Success

Since it changes over time and differs from one individual to another, success is hard to pin down. While for some, it can mean making a name for yourself in your field, creating and releasing blockbuster hit music, for the rest, it can be about having a loving family, buying properties, being financially secure, staying healthy, and so on. There is no one-size-fits-all concept here. So, what is success for Ajayi? When we popped this question, he responded with a profound definition. To him, success is not merely the culmination of achieving a dream; it is the profound journey of actively pursuing and realizing one’s aspirations. In his view, success is intricately tied to the dual purpose of attaining self-fulfillment and adding value to personal growth and the betterment of humanity.

Navigating Hindrances in the Professional Journey

Embarking on a professional journey entails confronting both physical and mental hardships. The potential to overcome these formidable challenges resides within everyone who reaches the top. It requires the courage to reassess and regroup when needed, explore alternative approaches, and ultimately triumph over the situation. This theory holds true for Ajayi, whose professional path was marked by initial challenges that became pivotal in shaping his leadership growth.

Reflecting on those early impediments, Ajayi shares: “Adapting to my new role’s rigors and huge responsibilities, it is a C-suite role, and the demands were entirely different from what I was used to. I, however, have adapted to my new reality and love the opportunities that come with the job.”

Evolution through Challenges

In the initial phases of his career, this adept banking specialist encountered a significant roadblock as he realized he was overly dependent on his colleagues to meet set goals, hindering his journey toward self-actualization. This realization prompted a transformative shift, urging him to become more self-led and take ownership of his professional development. Another pivotal moment came when he mistakenly posted money into a customer’s account, resulting in adverse consequences. However, this setback became a crucial lesson for Ajayi, teaching him the importance of being attentive to details and maintaining thoroughness in job deliverables.

Empowering Ethical Prosperity: Introducing LOTUS BANK

LOTUS BANK, a leading Non-Interest Nigerian Bank, ‘otherwise known as Islamic finance,’ focuses on ethical banking practices, responsible investing, and fostering ethical prosperity. The bank is dedicated to expanding financial inclusion by offering a diverse range of non-interest products tailored to banked, unbanked, and under-banked populations. LOTUS BANK plays a climactic financial aggregator in the retail sector, contributing significantly to the economic landscape.

The core values of LOTUS BANK are characterized by boldness, ethics, and innovation, reflecting its commitment to delivering a distinctive customer experience. This financial organization is at the forefront of driving positive change in the financial industry, focusing on supporting Nigerian businesses and creating shareholder value.

Vision for Impacting the Next Generation: Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning

LOTUS Bank’s Chief Risk Officer (CRO) envisions making a meaningful impact on the upcoming generation. He says the key lies in continuous “learning, unlearning, and relearning.” Ajayi emphasizes that giving back to the next generation involves sharing knowledge and contributing to the crucial aspects of their early career development. He underscores the significance of mentorship, highlighting that being exemplary role models is essential for instilling the right behaviors in aspiring risk managers and the younger generation as a whole.

 Pre-LOTUS Bank Experience and Pinnacle Achievements

Before joining LOTUS Bank, Ajayi gained experience in four financial institutions, each contributing to his personal and professional growth. He acknowledges that such on-job acumen has played an important role in shaping him into the person he is today.

Among his notable achievements, this senior executive takes pride in becoming the youngest Head of Credit Administration at one of his previous workplaces. Additionally, he highlights his accomplishment of maintaining ‘zero regulatory infractions’ for the bank where he previously worked, showcasing his commitment to excellence and adherence to regulatory standards in the financial sector.

Striking a Balance between Work and Personal Life

Balancing the demands of work and personal life proved challenging for Ajayi, with work occupying a significant portion of his time. Yet, he managed to navigate this challenge over the years.

Despite a hectic schedule, Ajayi prioritizes time for both himself and his family during weekends and vacations, firmly adhering to the mantra “FAMILY FIRST” for a genuinely happy and rewarding life. His day typically begins at 6 am, involving morning runs, prayers, and preparation for the day’s business. Despite the long hours dedicated to ensuring optimal performance in his division’s departments, Ajayi remains motivated through prayer, and reading books. He also actively engages in regular constructive conversations with his mother. In his life she has been a significant source of inspiration and wisdom.

He adds, “I also enjoy reading the success stories of other great financial gurus as this keeps me on track to know the race will be swift and rewarding if I stick to certain key success principles.”

A Pursuit of Fulfillment and Leadership Wisdom

Ajayi expresses a simple yet profound approach to his personal goals over the next few years. His primary focus is on leading a fulfilled life while minimizing regrets that might divert him from his core objectives. For Ajayi, fulfillment and contentment take precedence, and he is committed to continual self-improvement to be the best version of himself at any given moment. His message to aspiring leaders is steeped in wisdom, emphasizing the importance of learning and surrounding oneself with mentors. Ajayi advises aspiring leaders to be measured in their speech, eager to absorb knowledge from those who have mastered their craft.

He underscores, “Humility is also key for success; always assume a minimalist approach to things and let your work and results always speak for you.” Ajayi’s guidance reflects a holistic and balanced personal growth and leadership perspective while demonstrating how humble he is.