Nimi Akinkugbe is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bestman Games Limited, the African distributor of customized editions of Monopoly, Hasbro’s world famous game.
Nimi was born in Port Harcourt and lived in Lagos until she was 7 years old when her family moved to East Africa where her late father Mr. F.I. Ajumogobia was UNESCO Chief of Mission. She grew up in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and attended the International School of Tanganyika, and later Limuru Girls School, Limuru, Kenya before returning to Nigeria for her O’ Levels at the International School, Ibadan.
Nimi holds a Bachelors Degree from The London School of Economics (LSE) and an MBA from Lagos Business School (IESE). After which she formalised her interest in Music by obtaining a piano teaching diploma from the Royal College of Music in London before returning to Nigeria to participate in the National Youth Service Corps scheme.
Mrs. Akinkugbe enjoyed a distinguished banking career spanning over two decades first at Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc where she was General Manager and Head Private Client Services with responsibility for the bank’s high net worth business and a director of Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited.
Nimi provides frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues under the auspices of the brand “Money Matters with Nimi,” through speaking engagements, television and radio appearances and social media, the Monopoly Board Games and her new book, “A – Z of Personal Finance.” Through these platforms, she has been able to empower people to take responsibility for this most important aspect of their lives.
She also contributes articles to several leading publications in Nigeria.
In an exclusive interview with Guardian Woman, Nimi details what drives her passion as a finance expert, the essence and success of the Bestman Games of which the digital version, The Bible Game Mobile App, was unveiled on IOS and Andorid on Easter Sunday.
You’ve had a vast experience in the banking sector, at what point did you decide to leave the banking environment to start your own business?
I enjoyed a fulfilling banking career spanning 23 years. Naturally there comes a time when you crave greater flexibility to pursue other interests and to have more time for the people and things you value most.
Throughout my banking career the subject of personal financial management was at the forefront of my roles in private banking and asset management. This is how I caught the personal finance bug. I developed a keen interest in money management and could see how much better people fared with financial knowledge and information.
Tell us about Bestman Games and the reason for establishing Africa’s first monopoly city edition- The City of Lagos edition
Bestman Games is a games company and is the African distributor of Hasbro games including the iconic Monopoly board game.
The City of Lagos was the first African City to have its own edition of Monopoly; Lagos is a mega city with well over 20 million inhabitants that has undergone significant transformation, was an obvious choice. Since our launch of the Lagos Edition we have gone on to launch a Nigerian Centenary edition, Cross River State, Accra, and Corona Schools became the first African school to have its own customized edition of monopoly.
Let’s talk about the Monopoly board game. What are the benefits of playing it?
The Monopoly Game is much more than a board game; it is has so many intricate facets to it, which make for outstanding educational value. At its core, the game of Monopoly carries strong lessons in personal finance. It is primarily a property trading game, as the objective of the game is to build wealth through buying, selling and renting property. Apart from highlighting a city or states infrastructure our editions also deliver important social messages through customized twists included in the cards. We are able to use this novel tool to present some basic lessons in civics by educating players about some of the laws of the city that are so often overlooked, and to attempt to correct negative behaviour, and reward positive behaviour through fines and rewards in a practical and engaging way.
For example in the Lagos edition, one card sends those who drive against traffic on a one-way street for psychiatric evaluation at the Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba and imposes a fine! You are rewarded for planting a tree and penalised for dumping refuse, which are so important in preserving our environment. Whilst it is through play, it is real and has outstanding educational value. So many of us grew up playing the London Edition of Monopoly and it felt like I knew London long before I visited for the first time. It’s great that African children both at home and in Diaspora can now learn about the familiar streets and neighborhoods in our own cities.
We look forward to developing editions for all the Nigerian states, and partnering across 48 African countries to create stunning editions of Monopoly that showcase our emerging cities, iconic buildings and infrastructure, historic landmarks, and tourist sites.
Who is the main target audience for the game?
The Monopoly Board game is a traditional family board game, and we are delighted to see that so many families have embraced. Many tell us that they have established Family Games Nights to enjoy uninterrupted quality family time free from devices for a time. This is a fundamental part of our core values. I feel strongly that the family has been fractured and has become dysfunctional; indeed so many societal ills come from the breakdown of the family, a fundamental unit of society. We must try to build this back.
We have established monthly games nights on the last Thursday of each month. The audience consists largely of young professionals and entrepreneurs, who stop by after work to relax, network and play board games. On the last two occasions it was wonderful to host a 70 year-old grandma and her daughter; we also had and an elderly couple join us. We say monopoly is from age 6 -100; It truly is for all ages and has been around for over 80 years.
You are very active in social media. How do you see the value of social media in what you do?
Under the auspices of the brand “Money Matters with Nimi,” through social media, articles, speaking engagements, radio, television, my book the A-Z of Personal Finance and of course Hasbro’s Monopoly Board Game, I have been able to present personal financial matters in an engaging easy-to-understand way. Social media is a fantastic tool to pass on important information to the widest audience possible.
How important is it for a woman to be self-sufficient?
Over close to three decades of being involved with money matters, I have witnessed first-hand that women face unique challenges when it comes to their personal finances. We tend to be more tentative, even risk averse and cautious as investors. There are compelling reasons why women must become more aware, engaged, and actively involved in their finances. Too many women find themselves in dire straights particularly following illness, divorce, or the death of their spouse.
Empowering a woman financially does far more than equipping just the individual. When you provide a woman with financial knowledge, you are strengthening the family unit and society at large.
Tell us about your book the A – Z of Personal Finance
Money has an impact on every aspect of our lives; your personal financial situation can affect your relationships, your lifestyle and standard of living and even your perception of yourself. The purpose of the A – Z of Personal Finance is to remove some of the mystique surrounding savings and investments and to provide readers with information and tips on matters concerning the management of their money throughout their lives. I am very pleased that it has been so widely embraced.
You launched some new games recently. Tell us about them.
Yes we’ve had a very exciting few months. In December, we launched our first proprietary game- The Bible Game Saints and Sinners. The recession took its toll on businesses and ours was no different. Inflation took our costs totally out of budget and the devaluation of the naira dealt a severe blow; I’ve learnt through it all, that it is through challenge that some of the greatest opportunities present. That was the ‘aha’ moment; it was time to manufacture our own board game right here in Nigeria. That was very exciting; we have the required skills and against all odds, the game was manufactured locally. The plastic tokens were beautifully made using 3D technology by Stampar 3D.
In February this year, we launched the City of Lagos Electronic Banking Edition which reflects the Central Banks Cashless Nigeria Policy; of course Lagos was an obvious first choice given its selection for the pilot.
At Bestman Games, we are all about face-to-face play with quality time to build bonds and relationships and we always will promote the immense value of board games as a fundamental part of what we do. We also look forward to using our experience and knowledge to support other innovators that approach us with the most amazing games, to deliver these wonderful learning tools.
Tell us about the new game you have up your sleeve
We embrace technology wholeheartedly, and its power to engage, entertain, educate and enthrall! Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, we are set to unveil our very first digital game! The Bible Game Mobile App; it will be available on IOS and Andorid. This is one of the most exciting things we have ever done over the company’s five-year existence.
Many parents feel challenged about raising children in this troubled world. Our children have access to a wide range of games; many are violent, many have sordid inappropriate messaging. Unfortunately most schools do not prioritise moral or religious instruction; parents have the primary responsibility and must take up the challenge in being deliberate about raising children that imbibe the right values.
Learning through play is proven to be one of the most powerful forms of learning. The Bible Game is an excellent way to gain a better understanding of the Bible as players learn, review and reinforce their knowledge both individually and in teams through this enjoyable learning experience, leaving parents free of worry of questionable content. It is ideal for family games nights, friends and colleagues, Sunday School, Youth Church. It is universal and we invite players of all faiths to embrace it.
How about the kids, how can we raise them to become better money managers right from childhood? Tell us about your Personal Finance school initiatives.
As money management is not taught in schools, the onus is on parents, guardians, teachers and other stakeholders, to equip children with this most basic skill that will serve them throughout their lives.
We are on a mission to establish Personal Finance School clubs as an extra curricular activity, one school at a time. It is very important to ensure that the next generation is financially literate, to give them the best chance at future financial security.
We are excited that the Lagos State Sports Commission LSSC identified with the the Monopoly Board Game as a tool to educate and engage the youth through play. In September 2016, in collaboration with the LSSC and the Ministry of Education, 1,200 students from 100 Lagos schools competed in a spectacular tournament and Elizabeth Braihmoh of Topfield College Ajegunle emerged as the ‘The City of Lagos Under-17 Monopoly Champion.’
We are taking the Monopoly game, to primary and secondary schools, university campuses and the NYSC Orientation camp. All our games will entertain, engage, and educate.
Our youth have a significant advantage; the gift of time. If they start to save and invest early, time gives them the benefit of the magic of compounding. They can also take greater risk as they invest with goals and with a long-term view in mind.
Tell us about family life, growing up and so on.
I grew up with my four siblings in a season where time wasn’t as frenetic as we witness today with our fast paced digital world. We enjoyed an idyllic childhood spending quality time with siblings, parents and friends. We grew up in the midst of books, music, traditional board games including Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Scrabble, Chess, and Monopoly as well as outdoor play.
Those precious memories filled with face-to-face interaction and quality family time, had a strong impression on me, and were invaluable in building strong relationships and bonds that have endured to this day.
You’re a renowned columnist in many newspapers while also giving motivational talks and having your hand in a lot of other pies. How do you juggle your time to accomplish all these?
Yes I do have a lot on my plate, but even though I am extremely busy, I have learned over time to value my time and to try to build in leisure, so that I have lots of fun as well.
I also have a very supportive family. My husband is very supportive of all that I do and handles many of the things that would stress me. Our children are very thoughtful and helpful and then I have amazing siblings; I love being “the baby of the family” as they spoil me. I’ve been blessed with great in-laws who are firmly in my corner; my parents-in-law are simply awesome.
I always say every woman needs that small clutch of friends who are your cheerleaders, supporting, encouraging, guiding and telling you the truth. I have those too, which is a huge blessing. I guard my time jealously and you certainly wont find me at “four weddings and a funeral” on a Saturday!
Having loyal, proactive and hardworking staff is another critical piece if one is to be able to accomplish all that you set out to do. I’ve been very lucky in this regard.
You are on the Artistes Committee at MUSON. What does music mean to you?
Yes, I have the honour of serving on the Artistes Committee of the Musical Society of Nigeria MUSON. The Society has done extraordinary work in developing outstanding musicians that can hold their own anywhere in the world.
Music plays a significant role in my life. My siblings and I started piano lessons very early – I started at 4 years old and completed the 8 piano grades in school. After my bachelor’s degree I was able to formalize my interest in music by obtaining a piano teaching diploma from the Royal College of Music. The diploma was particularly useful when I was raising a young family and was able to give piano lessons from home.
Playing the piano for me is a favourite pastime, a way to reflect, relax and be challenged to learn amazing new pieces. Even though I am a classically trained pianist, I appreciate and perform a wide variety of music from classical, jazz, choral, hi-life, R & B, and of course Nigerian Pop music has grown on me over the years.
I have also been given the wonderful role of “Honorary Assistant Organist” at church and get to play a spectacular Mander Pipe Organ regularly. It is also special to be a regular feature behind the organ console at many family occasions, birthdays, weddings, and inevitably, funerals.
You have allowed your children to pursue their passion in music. Was that difficult?
I have three amazing children who are all musical. Two of them, Kaline and Dolapo have made music a primary focus. Kaline is a singer, songwriter, film composer and pianist. I am so pleased to see her making steady progress in the challenging terrain of music and film.
“Dap the Contract” is a rapper – I’m still trying to get my head around being a rappers mom! It hasn’t been difficult to appreciate the significance of music in their lives; they are extraordinarily talented, and I am their greatest fan.
We are Nigerian parents; even though our children were able to pursue their passion for music, the underlying foundation of an outstanding education has always remained a key focus.
What is relaxation for you?
I work very hard so I try to ensure that I build in leisure as well. A wonderful form of relaxation for me is sailing on Lagos Lagoon with great food and great company. I often picnic close to the stunning Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge. Tarkwa Bay has become quite idyllic with the great work done by Elda Akerele in cleaning up the beach.
I also love to spend time alone in my garden among the orchids and butterflies; it’s a sanctuary, a place to just be. I find much peace and tranquility just sitting and unwinding after a busy day.
Music is a primary form of relaxation for me and I manage to play the piano for at least 30 minutes each day, a little longer at weekends.
I love to travel and always manage to grab some rest when I am away. It can be quite difficult to switch off completely in your own environment.