Have you met someone who left such a strong impression on you, professionally, that you immediately began to think of how you could plant yourself in their professional world so you are never far away – professionally speaking? If you have not, then you may not be familiar with FAM.
What exactly is FAM? What is its relevance to the world of professionalism? Is FAM the name of a person, place or thing? Or is it all of these and a lot more that the professional world needs to start paying close attention to? In a broad sense, FAM is a philosophy. It is a philosophy of life critical for the advancement of human civilisation in general and professionalism in particular. It is a construct that represents much more than can be treated and exhausted in one piece of writing. So this entire piece is at best an attempt to introduce the concept of FAM.
F.A.M, if you consider it as an acronym and try to make sense of the individual letters, can be translated into so many interesting combined nouns, adjectives and/or action words and phrases that will excite the professional world. When you think FAM, you think Friend, Anchor and Mentor. You could also be thinking Fair-mindedness, Amity and Mission-focus.
It can also represent Fight Against Mediocrity; Further-Ahead Movement; Faith, Aspiration and Meaning; and Future-thinking, Ambitious goal-setting and Monumental legacies. FAM also means Following Altruistic Mandates; Famous, Accomplished and Magnificent; Free, Accessible and Modest; and, wait for this one, Failed? Arise and Move forward. Remember this is only an introductory piece where the writer is not expected to exhaust all that F.A.M can be translated into. If you already get the drift, you can start coming up with the next set of interesting F.A.M words and phrases and probably write the next piece in the series on the idea called FAM in professionalism.
FAM is a noble idea that is larger than any one individual or person. There should be no cause for people to get this twisted or muddled up. FAM is a grand idea that should never be reduced to a person, even though it just so happens that someone exists who so embodies the values and philosophy of FAM. Step forward Folake Ani-Mumuney (FAM).
An accomplished strategy, transformation and growth marketing professional and business leader, Folake Ani-Mumuney is a C-suite executive whose career, spanning over a quarter of a century, cuts across aviation, manufacturing, oil and gas, banking and insurance, among other sectors. Starting out with British Airways in the United Kingdom, Folake has been involved in roles where she has demonstrated capacity in strategy and business planning, business analysis and process re-engineering, business development, innovation and marketing.
After contributing to driving business solutions across British Airways’ CASAMEA (Central And South Asia Middle East and Africa) region, she was moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where she served as Marketing Services Manager, Africa for several years. She was later moved back to the UK to assume the role of Manager, Brands, Policies and Communication with responsibility for 59 countries in the Europe and Africa region.
Moved by her passion for Africa, Folake returned to the continent to take up a pioneer role in the largest diversified conglomerate in Africa, the Dangote Group, as its Chief Marketing and Corporate Communications Officer. The executive position allowed her to introduce a number of innovations that have helped Dangote brands to remain household names in their markets.
Nigeria’s burgeoning financial services industry then could do with some of the innovations she was driving at Dangote. It was therefore only a matter of time before Folake would be switching industries. And where else could she berth so her impact and creative streak would be felt the most but at Samuel Asabia House, 35, Marina, Lagos where Nigeria’s oldest bank, a heritage brand with all that connotes is headquartered. It is to her credit and the credit of the management of the institution that the bank, in 2014, undertook one of the largest and most successful corporate rebranding in Nigeria, repositioning FirstBank as a contemporary bank and a brand for all ages and thus becoming more attractive to the younger population.
Folake joined FirstBank as Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications and manages this function for the FirstBank group (which includes the bank’s subsidiaries across Africa and beyond), as well as the parent company of FirstBank, FBN Holdings Plc, and all the latter’s subsidiaries. These subsidiaries operate across a varied field of financial services covering asset management, investment banking, private equity, insurance, pension fund custodian services, among others, making FBN Holdings Plc one of the most diversified financial conglomerates on the continent, and the chief marketing officer (CMO), Folake, one with about the most enviable CMO role in Africa.
She has managed this alongside chairmanship of the board of directors of FBN Insurance Brokers, one of the subsidiaries of FBN Holdings Plc, until recently when she completed her tenure. Under her chairmanship, this 20-year-old strategic subsidiary witnessed a significant turnaround of its fortunes. The company returned to profitability after “years of declining financial performance, diminishing client base, absence of new businesses and the loss of its leadership position in the market.” Folake’s appointment as chairman of the company’s board had been necessitated by “the imperative to change the narrative of the franchise and reset the performance trajectory of the business.”
The results of her stewardship speak for themselves. Performance as documented shows that between 2018 and 2020, The Company experienced “triple-digit growth in profitability, achieving a 524% growth in profits before tax.” Within the same period, the company saw double-digit increase in operational efficiency, driving cost-to-income ratio from as high as 89.9% as at 2018 financial year to 51.2% as at 2020 financial year, with strict budget discipline and reduction of operational inefficiencies. The company also witnessed, within the same period, 17 times increase in returns, pushing return on equity north of 200% as at 2020 financial year from as low as 12% in 2018, on the back of improved earnings.
If FAM is a philosophy, could the study of Philosophy for her first degree (from the University of Lagos, Nigeria) and then Law for a second degree (from the University of Buckingham, England) have played any role in Folake structuring her professional life in such a way that calls for a detailed study with a view to cloning the mindset that has made for professional excellence and success? Could the diploma she obtained in Business Computing Systems Analysis and Design, learning to code in c, c++, Java, SQL have had a hand in the way she has designed and engineered career success in marketing and financial services that people are desirous to know when she is going to detail it all out in an autobiography? Though Folake insists she is too young and has way too much to learn and do before she hangs up her boots.
Her education aside, one should not leave out the fact of her being a voracious reader, as readers are said to be leaders, or downplay the permanent student/learner mindset that she has assumed. Folake invests a great deal of her time and resources in learning. An alumna of the prestigious Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme and other executive education programmes by leading business schools around the world, she continues to attend courses on business, management and leadership at home and abroad, to remain in the cutting edge of knowledge.
Active in a number of professional and not-for-profit circuits, Folake is an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK, a fellow of the National Institute of Marketing Nigeria and a member of the Institute of Directors Nigeria. She was the first female president of Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), and serves on the executive committee of the global trade association of leading multinational advertisers known as World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), headquartered in Brussels.
She continues to serve as a non-executive director on a number of boards of organisations within the marketing, technology, communication, education, health and transportation domains, whilst serving in an advisory capacity on strategy, growth, technology, ESG and gender issues to many organisations. Folake is also contributing meaningfully to the public and private sectors through chairing or co-chairing a handful of private sector and NGO boards (including Junior Achievement Nigeria where she serves as vice chairman), as well as membership of public sector select committees.
All Folake’s involvements and commitments, especially in so many volunteer roles, mirror the advice she gives others with regards to making a difference, making an impact. She urges women to work to be exceptional by developing the right skills for positions that they seek, whilst volunteering for projects and seeking mentors and sponsors as appropriate. Folake is an advocate for going the extra mile and is known to say ‘expertise and therefore excellence resides in going the extra mile’ Another FAMism ‘anything you put your hands to, do it well, do it exceptionally well, because that which you do, you do for yourself, the knowledge resides with you and no one can take that away from you’. Even though she concedes that her method is not the only way to shattering the glass ceiling, it is manifestly clear that her method has delivered remarkable results for her and women generally. Folake has been recognised with many awards both home and abroad for her numerous contributions and achievements as an African (woman) committed to the growth and development of Africa and Africans. She is especially proud of the Lifetime Achievement Award which she has won three times over the years from different awarding bodies in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Folake is passionate about mentorship, empowerment, diversity and inclusion, which are also dear to the institution she works for. FirstBank considers financial inclusion to be critical to the realisation of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), to which it is committed as an institutional partner. Folake believes that with access to financial services, people can invest in businesses and education, live healthy more rewarding lives and contribute better to uplifting humanity as a whom. Putting its money where its mouth is, her institution, FirstBank has put in place a N5 billion Women Fund to empower women.
To address gender gap at senior levels in FirstBank and tap the opportunities presented by enabling women to contribute even more if given the necessary strategic support and an intentionally enabling environment, Folake co-developed the concept, structure and implementation plan for the FirstBank First Women Network (FWN). The successes achieved by the FWN initiative has resulted in a special case study on the bank put together by Brand Communicator magazine, to inspire other corporates to follow suit.
Folake also uses her position as an executive council member of World Federation of Advertisers to lend her voice to diversity and inclusion matters, influencing positively and driving narratives to change stereotypes. She drives similar objectives at Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN), where she represents FirstBank as a board member and play a pivotal role in driving financial literacy and entrepreneurship programmes.
At WISCAR (Women in Successful Careers), where she is an advisory board member, Folake is also contributing her quota in raising the next generation of successful career women. WISCAR is an NGO working to assist professional career women achieve their full potential through the provision of a structured, practical mentoring programme conducted by a group of successful and experienced professionals, selected using the strictest criteria. She has also served on the WimBoard advocacy committee of WimBiz (Women in Business and Public Sector) amongst many other such volunteer roles.
Ever involved in empowering and creating growth opportunities for others, Folake considers this to be a part of her purpose in life and one of her key achievements. Out of her constant yearning and ability to empower others has come She Speaks, an association she co-founded. She Speaks is an association of senior women who come together with the key goal of sharing knowledge and specific experiences in an informal style aimed at empowering and improving lives. She never tires of making deliberate efforts to create opportunities for, and equally help nurture, colleagues who have worked with her, to become leaders themselves and occupy same position as herself across different sectors.
So, today, across corporate organisations in different sectors in Nigeria, one would find persons leading their corporate communications function, who, at some point in their career, worked with and gained substantial tutelage and exposure from Folake. Two leading oil and gas companies, two leading fintechs, two deposit money banks, another company in the financial services sector, one leading insurance firm, one of the electricity distribution companies (discos) in the South West are among a host of companies across Nigeria where someone who has worked under Folake in the last five to ten years now sits at the top of their companies’ corporate communications function. This is replicated outside Nigeria in other countries across ontinents where Folake has worked. In a somewhat uncanny way, an association with Folake is fast becoming the surest and fastest way to rise to the top of brand management in Nigeria.
This is the same conclusion that Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo, a former colleague of Folake’s at FirstBank, who now lives and teaches in Ghana, draws in a post on his LinkedIn page when he celebrated Folake as his #Woman Crush Wednesday. Listing people who had worked with Folake about the same time he did and were now leading the marketing communications function in other organisations, Anderson wrote: “Dear Folake Ani-Mumuney, like so many others that are privileged to work with you, my career is much better because of you.”
Two current colleagues could not resist the urge to corroborate Anderson’s claims about Folake. “Dr. Uvie-Emegbo used the right words that Mrs Folake Ani-Mumuney has a way of empowering people to do exploit. She isn’t satisfied with you just doing as she says, she wants you to think on your feet and always find long-lasting solutions. In all of [this] push, she is also kind. I am a student in the school of FAM and, it has been an enlightening journey. She is simply FAMazing!” volunteered Temitayo Akpeneye, a departmental colleague of Folake’s. Ifeanyi Anthony Okonkwo, a colleague who works in a different department at FirstBank, was delighted to add: “Thank you FAM for the very rich flavour you bring to the workplace. We are better off with you at FirstBank.” Anderson concludes by noting that ”working closely with FAM, one of the indelible lessons that have stayed with me is the way she develops, empowers and coaches her team. No sacrifice is too great”.
Folake Ani-Mumuney is a mentor of mentors, a torchbearer, a pacesetter, a glass-ceiling “shatterer”, if you may. She has gone ahead to pave the way for others and make the journey along their own paths easier.
The adventure-seeking Folake, whose spare time affords her the pleasure of boating and travelling – hobbies that power her capacity as a futurist and trend-spotter with a knack for predicting future trends with remarkable precision – is one whose recommendations have fetched rewarding jobs and appointments for others, particularly women. Folake works hard but makes time to have fun with a bubbly and infectious ‘work hard play hard’ outlook.
This happily married amazon with three children, who currently makes her home in Nigeria, is one who expands and advances opportunities for her teams in different spheres. She pushes her lieutenants forward. She creates and amplifies platforms to enable individuals in the teams shine. She goes out of her way to support her team members professionally and personally.
Folake has a large heart. She is generous and magnanimous (to a fault, it should be added). Endowed with an elephant memory, Folake recalls things with astonishing precision. She is a master juggler of responsibilities, a multitasker par excellence. Anyone who has ever been involved in any project with Folake will tell you that she makes the work about the work and the team efforts required to achieve the objectives of the project, and not about her or other personalities. With Folake leading a project, you will not have to worry about personalities or having to massage anybody’s ego.
She is a general who knows how to lead and marshal her troops and execute strategies to achieve corporate victories. Ask anyone who knows how she and her lieutenants planned and executed the massive corporate rebranding of FirstBank and the entire FBN Holdings group in 2014 from their strategic “War Room”, and you will be amazed at the cerebral prowess, business acumen and big-picture-perspective-executing mindset possessed by the self-effacing strategy, marketing and business guru that Folake is.
Outstanding as Folake is, there can be no argument against the natural reality that there cannot be only one woman who fits the mould of someone who embodies the FAM philosophy. In other words, there are a number of FAMs out there in the world and in various professional circles. It just so happens that in the “comity” of FAMs in the world and its professional circles, this Favourite Amazon of Mother-Earth, Folake Ani-Mumuney is primus inter pares!
By Anie Ezekiel