Spotlight: Meet Bimpe Nkontchou
Tell us a bit about your background
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria — one of four children to parents who were both medical doctors. My education was mainly in Nigeria, though with short stints in a boarding school in the UK for A-levels and my Master’s degree in law at UCL, after an undergraduate law degree in Nigeria.
Why did I study law? It was more a process of elimination; I knew I didn’t want to study medicine, accountancy or engineering — the only career choices which were presented to most of my generation growing up on the African continent in the 70s and 80s. I envy millennials and the younger generation who have such diverse choices and can even create a career from a combination of their skills and their passions. I’ve tried to do this over the years by combining my practising law with my passion for problem-solving and helping people.
After practising law in Lagos for about 8 years (in top tier firms), I moved to London in 1995 to get married and raise a family. The move was necessitated by the fact that my husband, a Cameroonian national, had just moved from Paris to London to continue his career in investment banking after we had been dating for a while (yes, over-the-ocean and without email or WhatsApp in those days!). I arrived in the UK and realised that I couldn’t fit into the rigid lifestyle of a city lawyer (with long hours) if I also wanted to raise a family, so I opted to establish my own law practice in Central London — and so started my entrepreneurial journey. I established my law firm Addie & Co in partnership with another female Nigerian solicitor and we had a great team of 8–10 solicitors, with a niche practice in private client and corporate & commercial work that spanned between UK and Africa (especially Nigeria).
Why and how did you pivot from law practice into wealth management?
Fast forward to 2014, after 17 years of running the law firm, I decided to change direction. After winding down the law firm, I established a wealth management practice and the multi-family office called W8 Advisory, with a focus on African entrepreneurs and their families. This enabled me to use a combination of my legal skills, my love of problem-solving and a good excuse to meet and network with a wide range of professionals in different jurisdictions.
I did have to do some additional courses to increase my knowledge base; which included qualifying as an accredited Trust & Estates Practitioner (with STEP), a diploma in Family Business Advising and membership of the Chartered Institute of Securities & Investments for continuous professional development.
I am interested in meeting and connecting people to each other, with the ultimate objective of helping to solve a problem, create a solution or to build a lasting relationship. I think being a lawyer not only gives me a heightened awareness of the need to earn the client’s trust and confidence, but also the ability to listen, engage and advise the client in a balanced and impassioned manner. The ethos of a multi-family office is to provide a client with a platform from which to access independent advisers on a range of issues that affect the family’s wealth and financial wellbeing. I am passionate about supporting the conflict-free transfer of a family business or wealth assets to the next generation; something which is still not being achieved successfully by many African families.
What motivated you to start up Wealth8?
Within 2 years of establishing W8 Advisory, I realised that wealth management services had to include the management of financial and non-financial assets. So I also set up an asset management company called W8 Wealth (in partnership with a formidable firm of asset managers in London VAR Capital).
Through these two W8 entities, we have been able to provide the full suite of wealth management solutions for high net-worth African clients, with family members and assets across different countries. On this journey, it became clear to me that my business model was focused on those who had already built up businesses, made money and acquired significant assets. Yet I recognised that the population of the African continent and the diaspora is largely a youthful one, who are increasingly entrepreneurial, starting businesses and creating wealth at a rapid rate.
However, it’s one thing to make money and another thing to preserve it and sustain its growth and also to ensure its positive impact on you, your family and community. I realised that I wanted to support the younger generation in their journey of wealth creation and preservation, by making the language and tools of investment accessible and affordable. Similarly, women are another underserved group who are not encouraged or empowered to take control of their finances from a young age. The majority of financial products are created and tailored by men to meet male expectations. I believe women need financial education tailored to recognise their own life journey to reach financial independence.
Wealth8 is the answer to this. It is a digital wealth platform that, once fully launched, will include an investment portal which will give users the ability to start saving and investing in globally managed funds It will also provide tips and articles, aimed at demystifying the language of investments. Wealth8 will enable us to achieve scale in bringing wealth management services to a wider, previously excluded audience and hopefully to impact their lives positively.
I am super excited to be joining forces with David Fisayo in bringing Wealth8 to the market and also fortunate to have a great team, as well as a wise and wonderful support group around me.
You have had a successful career — what do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
I would rather describe my career so far as an enjoyable one (though yes, it has been successful). I enjoy what I do and I’m fortunate to have been able to find the equilibrium between law and finance, through collaboration with others. My greatest achievement is the ability to keep going, to keep re-inventing myself and to keep on earning the trust and confidence of clients, for whom my priority is to deliver a world-class service in wealth and asset management.
How do you deal with achieving your work/life balance?
This is the million-dollar question for all working women, isn’t it? (I wonder how many men get asked this same question!). I made some choices earlier on with this in mind. When I first moved here and settled down, I chose to set up a small niche law firm, as opposed to working in the City at a high pressured job. I thought that working for myself would mean that I could dictate the pace and also be present for my family. This was true at first, but as a business owner, you do get consumed by it and the challenges of maintaining that work-life balance are real. However, I am thankful to God that I have managed to raise my children into superb young adults with whom I have a strong and loving bond.
Who did you most admire growing up?
My father was my hero, my mentor, my friend. He taught me about being open, communicative, loyal and fearless. He was a medical doctor and a trained surgeon. He instilled in me a high standard of work ethic but also encouraged me to have fun and to enjoy life. He introduced me to jazz music, good coffee and red wine (being a connoisseur of all three). He also encouraged me to read a lot and was always buying me books on different subjects which we would discuss long into the night. He was a great storyteller himself and an author of published fiction and non-fiction after he retired. Although he was a medical doctor (and a trained surgeon), he was also deeply spiritual and held the belief that God and science were not mutually exclusive.
How do you manage your own finances i.e. your savings and investments?
I’ll be honest, I was a late starter. I wish I had paid attention to the idea of savings and investments when I was in my 20s and 30s. I’m fortunate that my husband did not put any pressure on me to contribute to the family finances and in fact, he always supported me in the early ‘unprofitable’ years of building the law practice and later on, when I set up my more recent business. I did start a pension in my early 30s but for the most part, I only took investing seriously in my early 40s. Still, it’s never too late. I have dabbled in real estate and was able to use the gains to support my new business when I sold.
I prefer to put any surplus earnings into an investment, to see my money working for me. I have different investment portfolios for different goals and time horizons. Obviously, since setting up a wealth advisory practice, I am more aware and better educated of the options and solutions out there. I am definitely excited about the use of financial technology in delivering wealth management solutions to people.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I am passionate about art in any form, especially visual art. I collect contemporary African art and I also enjoy the conversations, the events and the social life that comes with space. I am fortunate that my line of work accommodates this passion, as many affluent Africans (especially Nigerians) are art collectors and enthusiasts, so this is a natural topic of conversation with new and established clients. I am particularly interested in the role that philanthropy needs to play in developing the African art ecosystem and I lend my support for artists and art foundations where I can. I am a trustee of the Yinka Shonibare Foundation which, founded by the celebrated artist of the same name, is committed to supporting up and coming African artists both on the continent and in the diaspora.