Samuel Nwanze’s Take on Building Capacity

Capacity Building in the Eye of Entrustment (Part 4)

In this wrap-up edition on Capacity Building, we had a chat with Samuel Nwanze, Executive Director/CFO, Heirs Oil & Gas.

We wanted to explore the peculiarity of his rapid growth – one of which was his becoming the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) of a Prestigious bank in his 20s, with only 18 months of banking experience.

As you read, we hope this story, as narrated in his own words, will help demystify the biases that to make rapid progress, one must know many “men of position and power.”

As an upwardly mobile professional, an aspiring entrepreneur, or a business owner, you can share the lessons learned here in the comment section.


This narrative unfolds in Samuel Nwanze’s narrative and first-person voice.


I started my career journey long before I landed my first job. Towards my final year at the university, I started making keen observations, interpretations and analyses of trends – seeking direction.

I identified three areas necessary for self-development long before I thought of getting a job. Those three areas were technology, management and finance – this was when technology wasn’t this advanced.


I wanted to understudy management because I believed that knowing how management works would be critical to my ability to function in the workplace.

I realised that understanding how to manage a business, lead, make decisions, manage time, and all those critical aspects of management development were vital to a successful career.


For finance, I felt that it boils down to the numbers for most businesses, and everything you were doing in the activities showed up in the numbers.

To set the context at this point, I was a Student of Human Nutrition at the university, and I knew that the degree I was studying in school was not going to be the end result of what I was going to do.

I started that development journey during my mandatory National Youth Service (NYSC) to the nation.


My first step was to begin to understand technology. I commenced writing some technology-based exams; using the salary I earned as a Youth Coper and with some support from my elder brother, I registered for my Microsoft exams. (Those were the days of Microsoft Certified System Developer, Oracle Database, etc).

While serving as a Dietician, I realised I had loads of time on my hands. I converted that time for personal development, spending lots of hours reading materials, i.e. technology materials.

And that was how I wrote many of the exams I noted were tech-related, got certified, learnt how to program and understood systems engineering.

I also wrote the Oracle Certified Database Administrator and became a certified OCDBA.


I started job hunting and dropped my CV in several places, and fortunately, I got calls from three organisations to write tests. I attended their interview sessions and landed a job at one.

On entering the company, in the first three months, I suddenly found myself in a scenario where I needed to step up very quickly. I had to develop myself rapidly because the organisation’s middle management got wiped out, and I worked in the management consulting advisory.

I spent hours after work in the company’s library. (We had a resource library where I would watch videos on management and business and read books.

I proceeded to work in the strategy and research group of the consulting firm, worked in change management and did a number of projects with banks.

At the time, MTN was coming into the country and trying to understand Nigeria.

In my career journey, I felt that many clients had better knowledge than I did because they had hands-on experience. So, I wanted to develop hands-on experience and not just be a consultant.

Because I wanted to develop my third focus, which was in finance, I started looking for opportunities in the financial service sector.


It was clear that my dissatisfaction stemmed from my understanding that many of the clients I was working with had more hands-on experience than I could relate to from my background.

So, again, I applied to several organisations, particularly banks. 

I was highly blessed to have stumbled upon a Management Development Program at FCMB, which evolved around a very intense recruitment process.

The program was designed to identify future leaders of banks and to help them develop at a rapid scale so that they could step into management roles within the bank.

I got into that program, and I was developed alongside other management trainees very intensively for about 18 months.

During that training period, I got seconded to the finance department in the bank.

Whilst I was there, I knew I wanted to develop myself more in finance, so I Intensely followed a lot of what was happening in the bank. I started reading books and engaging with other materials on finance.

I was very fortunate to have a boss who taught me the ropes and helped me develop as a grounded individual in finance.


I got hired as a CFO for a bank not long after that. This hire came just when I had only 18 months of banking experience. I also had no degree in Accounting or Finance or any professional qualification.

I had soaked up so much knowledge on finance and other more expansive subject areas that when I sat in front of the CEO of the Bank, it was apparent that I was the man for the job.

When I got the job, I was the youngest CFO in the banking industry then because I was in my 20s.


I took up my job as a CFO with great seriousness and a sense of responsibility. I also applied many things that I learned in technology and management to the job.

Post the merger between STB and UBA, I became the Head of Finance for the new UBA. But around this time, I decided I needed to go and expand my qualification base. So I started writing the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting Exams.

And then, I went on to do my Masters at Cranfield University. Before then, after working at UBA, I went to handle one of the post-merger integrations for Platinum Habib Bank and raised enough money to go and do my masters in the UK.

That move opened many opportunities for me. I won a prize (monetary) from the Association of Corporate Treasurers in the UK, and engagement with Bank of New York because they always come to get the top students from Cranfield University. I finished as the best graduating student that year.


Although I was very dissatisfied and felt that my career would be limited in growth, I quickly traced my career trajectory in Nigeria. I noted that before coming to the UK to do my Masters, I was running finance for banks.

Now, I was in Bank Of New York, working in the GDR Department, and reporting to people I would have been talking to across the table if I stayed in my role in Nigeria.

So I left the bank of New York, came back home to Nigeria, got back into the banking industry, worked intensively and rose to the Deputy General Manager position in 2010.

By then, I had functioned in various roles, and when I was leaving, I was group treasurer for the bank, managing over a trillion naira balance sheet.


I left banking in 2010 and joined HeirHoldings. Here I was part of the pioneer team to help build the whole Heirs Holdings Idea, and I started there as the Chief Investment Officer. Built investment strategy, the investment team, and began to look for deals.

Through the years, we did several deals and transactions that accumulated into some of the largest deals I closed. One of those deals includes acquiring a couple of oil and gas assets from Shell, TOTAL, AGIP. I raised two and half billion dollars from the international market and got much exposure from doing that deal.

At the lenders’ insistence, I was moved into the oil and gas company as Executive Director and CFO, which is the role I currently play.

While working with Heirs Holding, I had several international exposures throughout this period. I was the first African to be on the Broad of the Global Impact Investing Network based in New York.

I lectured at Oxford State Business School on the impact of investment in Africa. I spoke at several international conferences worldwide, including some universities – developing the content and understanding of how to invest in Africa and more around various issues related to the economy of the continent and the business states.

And that’s how my career evolved.

More to come in the Podcast.

I am Adeyiga Awomuti; towards the smartest you.

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