Haruna Jalo-Waziri is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS).
In this interview, he attributed the new rules and governance witnessed in the Nigerian Capital Market to the aftermath of the 2007/2008 market crash.
According to him, the crash has helped bring in new rules and a new governance structure that takes away whatever was done before in terms of transparency. Excerpts:
CSCS recently announced revenue growth of 39.2% and paid N3.7 billion in dividends. How did you achieve this?
Reflecting the ingenuity of our participants and more importantly quick adoption of new remote access technologies, the Nigerian capital market remained active through the prolonged COVID-19 crisis. The collaboration of our regulator and participants has been incredible in sustaining our operational protocols and IOSCO PFMI standards.
Though clearing and settlement activity waned by 10.2% due to lower participation of foreign investors in the Nigerian equity market and a host of macro challenges, we are excited at the growth in our depository assets by 6.1% to N23.0 trillion, reflecting new listings of securities across our multiple Exchange partners as well as issuers’ and investors’ confidence in the safety and secured accessibility of our systems.
How Nigeria’s Stock Market Evolved Since 2008 Crashed – Haruna Jalo-Waziri, Managing Director, CSCS
Despite the average inflation rate of 17.0% during the year, we sustained our cost-efficiency strategy, leading to a 1.6% decline in operating expenses. Overall, we achieved N5.8 billion and N4.4 billion Profit Before Tax and Profit After Tax respectively, underpinning the resilience of the business and the commitment of my colleagues and I, in delivering on our pledge to sustainably create value for shareholders and our broader ecosystem.
CSCS’ income from ancillary services contributed 18.1% of your total revenue in the 2021 financial year. How has this performance reinforced your commitment to diversifying your income base for sustainable growth of the business?
I think it is quite encouraging. I think it is also showing that our strategy, from a board perspective, is beginning to show results. Two to three years ago, we decided that we needed to diversify our revenue so we started creating products and services that within our market will also enhance the requirements for market participation. As such, we began to think about what we should do, and what kind of products we should provide. It became clear to us and it gave us confidence that we were in the right direction and we would push that. And hopefully, the numbers will reflect again this year. We are confident of that. It is an expanding business. It is growing fast.
How would you assess the Nigerian capital market, its challenges and prospects?
I have seen the market evolve significantly over the years in my career, from when it was a call-over system to an automated system to the situation where we are. I get a sense that other evolutions of the market are due to what we saw in 2007/2008 in terms of the market crash has helped bring in new rules and a new governance structure that takes away whatever was done before in terms of transparency.
We have also seen improvements in the regulatory environment where we are having more competent people come into regulation and shape the market. We have also seen progress in terms of licensing.
How has this affected the banking sector?
We have seen the banking environment go through its own metamorphosis into what they are today – being one of the most efficient financial systems in the world. So if you put all of these together, of course, the journey has to do with learnings – that have to do with solutions being provided and then, of course, lead to the execution of what we are seeing today. Honestly, it has been a fantastic job so far. There is still more to do and I am proud that I am part of that evolution.
You have been in the capital market for decades and also been in and out of the CSCS and it has witnessed a lot of transformation under your watch. How do you manage to turn things around, especially by introducing technology to aid operations?
Honestly speaking, if you ask me today as the CEO of CSCS, there is one catalyst that puts it all together. And that catalyst is the people. It is incredible. You can put technology; you can put processes; you can put new products; you can put even money into it. They are all tied around people. We are only lucky to have a good set of people dedicated to their work, who bring in fresh and new ideas all the time, and then plan and execute all of those ideas and strategies into reality. So that for me is the driving force at CSCS and, of course, the camaraderie and cohesiveness of our people. So if you see new solutions, it is because we are bringing those perspectives into play. We see what the market wants, and then we execute it.
How do you think the government can sustain a positive growth trajectory for the Nigerian economy?
What is important for me is focusing on the small and important things. I know we are doing that in terms of all of the programmes spearheaded by the Central Bank in seeing that there is a concentration of growth in that area. That for me is where the focus and attention should be on more. The policies are good. The second aspect is agriculture. Their SMEs and industries—I have been seeing some kind of improvement in that. The agriculture aspect is the bread and butter for the country to look at so there should be more focus on that. Security is also important. These are the number one priority among other things. That’s my key perspective on that.
In the last four years, CSCS has seen a major boost in its revenue base as well as building strong strategic alliances with other financial market entities across Africa. What areas are you still looking at for further growth?
In CSCS, data is king and we are sitting upon a lot of opportunities regarding data. I see us building services along with data concentration. Also, leveraging technology to make things easier for investors to participate would be my focus. We also have this unique team that is stressing out ideas, and as we go along, since data is king, having customers in mind and making life easier for everybody would be the priority.
CSCS operates a computerised depository, clearing, settlement and delivery system for transactions in securities. How have you been improving on these to ensure it is in tandem with the latest available technologies and free from cyber-attacks?
I mentioned earlier that we have resilience and a strong, robust client network in place. I think what we would like to see the most is, educating the market about what we need to do better and getting them to imbibe in the change that currently occurs in the technology aspect. For example, we have built strong APIs where people can come and connect, we have created solutions, and the integrations are becoming stronger. The challenge is that we have to drag people to come sometimes. If we are able to communicate quickly, I believe that would be the real icing on the cake for us.
CSCS clocked 25 recently, what do you think the next 25 years hold for the company?
It has been twenty-five years of meritorious service, as the infrastructure for the Nigerian capital market. We have pioneered a number of initiatives and efficiencies in the market and have enjoyed the best collaborative engagements with different stakeholders. Whilst we relish our progress working with other stakeholders in transforming the Nigerian capital market, we reckon there is a long way to go in bridging the gap towards our aspiration of positioning the Nigerian capital market as the hub of securities services in Africa and one of the leading capital markets, globally.
To this end, we have reinvigorated our strategic thrust with the development of a medium-term playbook that would enhance our capabilities in executing new initiatives toward deepening the Nigerian capital market and strengthening our business growth frontiers for the mutual prosperity of all our stakeholders. We have begun to solidify our business. We have started to diversify the business. So the confidence is there that we are only going to see a better CSCS in the future.