Kenneth Olisa has been appointed as the new Chairman of the leading Africa-focused integrated digital payments and commerce company, Interswitch. He was preceded by Adedotun Sulaiman, MFR.
Interswitch, a prominent leader in the payments platform in Nigeria was founded in 2002 and has been active across the entire payments value chain currently processing over 4 billion transactions yearly valued at $38 billion. Interswitch owns and operates the country’s principal domestic debit card scheme, Verve, as well as serves as a third-party transaction processor for many of Nigeria’s largest banks.
On this appointment, Mitchell Elegbe, the founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Interswitch, said;
“Ken’s inspiring business leadership, vast experience and professional expertise will be great assets to Interswitch as he comes on board as Chairman at a defining phase in our journey of transformation and international expansion. We are delighted to welcome him on board, in succession to the visionary and highly successful tenure of Adedotun Sulaiman, who as country CEO of Accenture, played a key role in the formative years of our company and upon assuming the role of Chairman, oversaw the successful transition of Interswitch to private equity ownership”.
Kenneth Olisa commented, “Interswitch is a shining example of financial technology entrepreneurialism at its best. Unlike many of its global competitors, Interswitch is not only a fast growing and powerful innovator, it is also profitable. This is a testament to the skill and drive of its founder – Mitch Elegbe – and I am delighted to be joining him and his team. As the son of a Nigerian father I am particularly honoured to have been elected to fill the shoes of my distinguished predecessor – Mr Sulaiman – whose steady hand has helped steer Interswitch’s journey so far. They are big shoes to fill.”
Interswitch has garnered business growth in recent years because of the digital payments evolution the company provides. It offers several B2B services to major sectors in the country including hospitals, telecommunications companies and utilities, government entities, and operates Quickteller which is a leading B2C bill payments platform in Nigeria.
Based on estimates from McKinsey & Company, Interswitch occupies a leading position in the emerging marketplace, especially in debit cards, which comprise 99% of all cards in Nigeria. Interswitch also operates in Kenya, Uganda and Gambia.
- At IBM he held various posts before joining Wang Laboratoriesn 1981. Following a period as Marketing Director for Europe, VP of US Marketing and then of Worldwide Marketing based in Boston, he was appointed Senior VP and General Manager of Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME) located in Brussels.
- Olisa led the team which restored the EAME operation to profitability, following which he launched an unsuccessful management buyout resulting in his departure in 1992.
- Olisa then founded Interregnum, the technology merchant bank, leading it through its early growth, its entry into and exit from a joint venture with BDO Stoy Hayward, the AIM IPO in 2000, and the tricky years that followed the collapse of the dotcom boom. At Interregnum he worked at the forefront of the entrepreneur/technology growth cycle that began in the mid-1990s.
- He was also a principal advisor to, and director of, uDate.com, which became one of the UK’s few large scale dotcom successes when it was sold to Barry Diller’s USA Interactive in 2003. Olisa retired from Interregnum in 2006 and now runs Restoration Partners, an independent boutique technology merchant bank and architects of the Virtual Technology Cluster model.
Olisa’s Board Experience
- Olisa has considerable public company board-level experience on both sides of the Atlantic. He was the first British-born black man to serve on the Board of a major UK public company (Reuters) and is currently a non-executive director of Thomson Reuters (where he is a member of the Audit Committee), and also a non-executive director of the Institute of directors.
- He was a Director and Chairman of the Remuneration Committee of Canada’s largest independent software developer, Open Text Corporation. More recently, he served as a non-executive director of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) from 2007. He also serves on the boards of, or is an adviser to, several privately held and innovative companies including the UK’s leading corporate governance advisor Independent Audit. Olisa is also Chairman of the Thebes Group and Shaw Trust.
- In 2009, The Sunday Times, named him Not for Profit Non-Executive Director of the year, and in 2016 he was voted number one in the Powerlist’s Top 10 most influential British black people.
- In 2015, Her Majesty the Queen appointed him Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London.
Sixty-six years old Olisa was born of a Nigerian father and a British mother, and a native of Nottingham, Olisa’s technology career commenced in the 1970s at IBM after he won a scholarship while an undergraduate at Cambridge University where he studied Natural Sciences and then Social, Political and Management Sciences at Fitzwilliam College.
- He possesses an unwavering reputation with a career in business and technology.
- He was also appointed by Her Majesty the Queen of England as the first black Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London in 2015.
- In 2016, Ken Olisa was named the most influential black Briton on the Powerlist, this is the annual list of the 100 most powerful people of African and African Caribbean heritage in Britain.
Compiled by Chacha Wabara & Chris Pemu