Inspirational Woman: Dr Anino Emuwa | Founder & Managing Director, Avandis Consulting

Dr Anino EmuwaDr Anino Emuwa is an international management consultant with over twenty-five years’ professional experience in Europe and Africa.

A former corporate banker with Citibank, Anino is the founder and managing director of Avandis Consulting in France and Nigeria, providing strategy and financial advisory services to entrepreneurs and business leaders, and consulting on bilateral commercial activities.

A highly respected advocate for women business leadership, Anino convenes several networks including the Africa Women CEOs Network and leads the Power Breakfast Series for Women CEOs and the Women Business Owners’ Seminars. Anino is also a business coach and mentor for the prestigious Cartier Women Initiatives and the Cherie Blair Foundation. An international public speaker on entrepreneurship, fintech and diversity in business leadership, Anino has been invited to speak at Facebook, ING, Nottingham Business School, Institute of Directors, University of Cambridge, London School of Economics and The Banking Space. Her thought leadership articles have been published in Forbes and Entrepreneur.

Anino graduated with a BSc Economics from London School of Economics and holds an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. She obtained her Doctorate in Business Administration from Nottingham Business School where she is an alumni fellow. Anino has been accepted at the University of Cambridge to pursue a Masters in Entrepreneurship. An experienced Non-Executive Director, most recently Anino was on the board of Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company PLC where she was the Chair of the Audit Committee. Anino is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, a member of the Institute of Directors and an AACSB certified business school instructor. She has lived and worked in six countries in Europe and Africa, and is bilingual in English and French.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Dr Anino Emuwa and I’m the founder and MD of Avandis Consulting. My career journey at Citibank, Nigeria in the Corporate Bank division where I worked as relationship manager and credit analyst managing a portfolio of million-dollar multinational companies after gaining a degree in economics from the London School of Economics.

As a corporate banker, I noticed entrepreneurial gaps in the local market and when I went on to complete an MBA at Cranfield School of Management to further my banking career, I also took several modules in entrepreneurship.  I returned to banking as a branch manager and I subsequently had the opportunity to live in several countries in Africa working as an independent consultant advising smaller businesses. I saw the growth of many businesses being stunted due to a paucity of loans and started provided advisory services to help them access bank credit. Noticing the same issues in several countries and form the perspective of macroeconomics, I felt that Africa’s development was being constrained by the inability of smaller businesses to access credit for their growth. I decided therefore to undertake research into overcoming obstacles to financing smaller businesses, earning a doctorate from Nottingham Business School. The intention was to work as a consultant with financial institutions to help them improve their capacity for lending to smaller businesses, but I found that these businesses also required management development training.

I then began to run seminars for women entrepreneurs to help them strengthen their management skills. During the course of this programme, I found the women founders gained not just from the content of the seminars but from the networking, collaborating and support from their peers in the group. After relocating to France and completing my doctorate in 2015, I founded Avandis Consulting in France to specialise in strategy and financial advisory for entrepreneurs and business leaders alongside developing my portfolio as an independent director and international public speaker. As a result, Avandis Consulting also runs seminars, CEO power breakfasts and international business leadership events in Africa and Europe for women leading businesses. Our consulting work also includes advisory work on the France-Nigeria commercial activities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Up to a point, yes. When I was very young, I wanted to be a banker as I was fascinated finance, the unseen resource that powered businesses and at the age of 16, I went to the City to interview a director of Barings the merchant bank, for a school project. In preparation for a career in financial sector, I then set out to study Economics. But at the same time, I also envisioned myself heading an organisation which I had created but I had no particular plan to link the banking career and being a founder.

Conviction and a passion for seeking solutions to large scale economic development issues also played a key role in determining my career path. Though I had planned from the onset to undergo a MBA after three years in banking, I didn’t know at the time I would be interested in studying entrepreneurship neither did I know I would continue to study for a doctorate. 15 years ago ago I was convinced that entrepreneurship and small business would be the key to development for our continent and I am pleased that our governments all over continent over have embraced this view. And the role of women as founders is in in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to drive economic and social development.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I was brought up in a household where my parents invested in their children. I went to a girls’ secondary school in Nigeria- Queen’s College- which was a selective state school and had the best academic reputation in the country. We were trained to believe we could be anything we want to be and many of former students are known be in the top positions- including engineers, doctors, ministerial positions and more-look at opportunities not challenges and I think that shaped my approach to my career. Throughout my subsequent higher education in the UK and my career in banking, I never labelled myself as a minority whether by race or gender.  However it was only as a researcher decades  later when I   began to explore data on women studying economics and  in MBA programmme- key feeder into prestigious professions such as investment banking and management consultancy- that I  realised I had  been very much  in all aspects through my higher education and in my early career. And that knowledge propelled me to work towards creating paths for women to reach the top in their careers where corporate or as founders.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It seems difficult to talk about achievements when there is still so much to do. I think seeing the impact of Avandis’ work on the improved performance of women- led business, and hearing their stories of triumph over difficulties, seeing their businesses grow, the employment and wealth they are creating. Knowing that their families, communities and their employees will also be beneficiaries of their success, and that in way they can contribute to economic and social development.  This drives me to do more I would like to see this effect multiplied many times over.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

The major thing is, focus. It’s about concentrating on the goal and not to be overwhelmed challenges. Challenges are opportunities to find solutions. Being open to learning is also very important the world of work is changing at speed. Being humble is key. When you start, you start from the bottom! Surrounding yourself with positive people certainly helps. Even if I haven’t known where I’m going and the exact direction, I always found believing that it can be done, and that there always helps me to find a way around.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I feel very strongly about mentoring. I had mentors in my early career, all of them men, and still today. They were senior colleagues within the banking sector, and they offered me guidance. I am also a business and career mentor for 3 institutions:  the Cartier Women’s Initiative my mentee won the finals this year. I’m also a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for women and at Nottingham Business School where I am an alumni fellow, I mentor students to help them with their career paths, often first jobs. I believe mentoring should be started when you are young and provided to you right through your career.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

More than one! In the workplace, organisations should not only have policies on gender diversity they should have KPI’s linked to them and develop women friendly working environments.  Institutions are more likely to figure out how to achieve the goals once gender diversity truly becomes a strategic objective.  Also favourable government policies to do with childcare and parental leave such as wider availability of affordable places in creches and tax deductions on childcare costs and maternity and paternity leave.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To have been more involved in networking with professional women. To have surrounded myself with senior women in the field and to work with them as mentors and role models. It really helps you to share your journey and gain knowledge from those who have done it before you.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have just embarked on a part time master’s programme in entrepreneurship at Cambridge university. But unlike my previous degree where it was about gaining a qualification for myself , this time the focus is on  amplifying impact  to entrepreneurs and to work on  a project to create a platform which will unify the various networks for women business leadership that Avandis Consulting curates  . I have just returned from the UN General assembly event where we were a supporting partner at an event on changing the narrative of women of African heritage in leadership. A resounding success and oversubscribed, it is a reflection that the now is the time.

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