Nigerian Fintech Entrepreneur Wale Abba, born Adewale Otolorin, is the brain behind the widely used Quickteller by Interswitch and several banking applications and ATM interfaces, as well as other Interswitch products in Nigeria.
Having actively built for 15 years, Wale Abba is in the process of passing on his knowledge, experience, and influence to young people, something he calls “the greatest investment.”
When you use your favourite fintech applications, chances are you rarely think about the time and processes that went into their design or even the people who came up with their designs.
Behind every app is a designer who spends hours tinkering. Wale Abba is one such person and is the brain behind products like Interswitch’s Quickteller.
Nigerian fintech unicorn, Interswitch, has, for the past 19 years, led the way when it comes to digitising payments in Nigeria where it provides most of the country’s digital banking infrastructure and other African countries.
Interestingly, Wale Abba is an Interswitch alumnus who founded TeamApt, one of the startups currently playing in the same space as some of Interswitch’s products. Former staff of the unicorn occupy strategic positions in various Nigerian startups, with fintech giant, Paystack a notable example.
The company offers a range of products transcending Africa’s borders like payment switching, payment disbursement, payment collection, and other mobile financial services. There is also its Verve card network which covers most African cardholders.
Wale Abba’s first serious exposure to graphic design was when he designed campaign fliers for his dad. Before then, he designed for fun when playing Commando Stimulator during visits to cyber cafes.
Growing up, he struggled with low self-esteem, which he hid behind stubbornness. However, he reached a turning point during his undergraduate studies at Portsmouth in the UK. He planned to study business information technology but was offered creative computing technology on resumption.
Before leaving the UK, Wale got his first job as a freelance designer for Nigerian cable service, HiTV. He built Future Awards Africa’s first voting platform, which earned him a certain amount of attention. Soon after, he got the call to join Interswitch in 2010.
While at Interswitch, he was part of the team that made companies request attractive websites, paving the way for startups building software solutions. He was proud to be a part of it, but it soon got boring.
He wanted something beyond designing what a customer wanted. He wanted to be able to build what he knew customers needed but did not ask for because they did not know.
Wale Abba left Interswitch in 2014 for Fidelity Bank, and in four months, he had built the bank’s Internet banking and mobile banking app. He also designed the software for its first interactive ATM and changed the financial institution’s approach to product branding.
It was only a matter of time before Wale realised he had to return to Interswitch.
Interestingly, he was able to do so much at Fidelity Bank in less than a year, and he’s quick to mention Deji Olowe’s influence in his success while at the bank. In the meantime, Wale also had a stint at Stanbic IBTC Bank for product fine-tuning.
Back at Interswitch, Wale put all he’d learnt in UX and anticipating clients’ needs to work. He refined Quickteller, which he originally designed before leaving. He was also active in the Mobile Finance department.
Wale has designed mobile apps for Access Bank, First Bank, and GTBank. He is also responsible for the Western Union app, MVisa, and the Interswitch PoS app.
He admits that his growth story isn’t complete without Interswitch’s impact.
“Before leaving Interswitch, I was leading about 22 people across four different countries. I still say if I didn’t work at Interswitch, I don’t know where I’d be today. The company gave me the platform to build on what I already started doing outside Nigeria.” He said in his interview with
Wale fears not doing enough and eventually not leaving a mark in life. And therein lies his motivation. His dream is “to have a community and pool of talents” with people in any space, “be it product design, project management, or tech.”
Wale discloses how he’s been building this network of influence throughout his career. He’s actively running an Academy called Bycep that gives people access to a community of mentors.
Outside tech, Wale does event planning. He also likes interior decor, photography, and entertainment.
Wale remembers with fondness how, in the early months of returning to Nigeria, he worked with renowned Nigerian comedian, Basket Mouth, to build a website and run promos for his comedy concert, Uncensored. He did the branding for Nigeria Music Video Awards and founded a company with a friend, Adekunle Adegboyega, to build cheap products for people.
He has political ambitions and recommends trying out different things to develop different skill sets during one’s lifetime.
He believes you can’t afford to get better at only one thing because there will always be someone ahead of you.
“You can only be good at something. What will set you apart and make you marketable is the level of experience you have in every other thing. If you want to get better, touch everything else; there is gold somewhere that will fit your personality and sit well with you, and nobody will take it away from you,” he advises.
The 35-year-old, who is currently the Head of Marketing for AI-powered financial analytics startup, Indicina, recently built a payment platform called Aeropay. He reveals that there are other products he’d rather not disclose.
Speaking of work-life balance, Wale employs the services of personal assistants to keep track of his work schedules and family responsibilities.
Story Source: Techpoint Africa