In 2006, Oluseye Olusoga, a former investment banker at Lehman Brothers, found himself contemplating a return to Nigeria. However, he recognized the need for substantial resources to maintain the quality of life he had experienced in London. Leveraging his expertise, Olusoga began exploring opportunities to trade financial instruments in Nigeria, starting with treasury bills obtained from Associated Discount House (now Coronation Merchant Bank).
Recognizing the lack of liquidity and transparency in the nascent market, Olusoga embarked on a mission to address these issues. A trip to Nigeria in 2010 revealed an absence of regulatory frameworks for inter-dealer brokers, prompting him to collaborate with bankers and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to establish Parthian Partners, the country’s first inter-dealer broker.
In the burgeoning Nigerian startup ecosystem, fintechs have played a pivotal role, with 2022 witnessing them accounting for 59.4% of funds raised and 47.8% of funded startups. Notable names like Paystack, Flutterwave, Paga, PiggyVest, and Cowrywise have been instrumental in this growth. However, wealth management startups, including Risevest, Bamboo, and Trove Finance, have gained prominence as Nigerians seek avenues to protect and grow their wealth amid inflation and currency devaluation.
Parthian Partners entered this landscape in 2018 with the launch of i-invest, aiming to provide Nigerians with a platform to trade treasury bills conveniently through their phones. The platform’s CEO, Oluseye Olusoga, highlighted the genesis of i-invest in 2017, originating from discussions with Abubakar Suleiman, Sterling Bank’s CEO, about the limited participation of retail investors in the treasury bill market. The platform’s goal was to reduce barriers for retail investors, enabling financial institutions to tap into a larger resource pool and diversify their investor base.
Starting with treasury bills, i-invest has expanded its offerings to include equities, commercial papers, insurance, and mutual funds. Users can create savings plans, invest in fixed deposit notes, pay utility bills, purchase airtime, and access financial news, reflecting the platform’s ambition to become a comprehensive “everything app” for finance.
Engaging with regulators has been a key aspect of i-invest’s strategy, with Olusoga emphasizing the importance of understanding and collaborating with regulatory bodies. This proactive engagement has helped the platform navigate regulatory changes and influence policies, crucial for startups in the financial services sector.
Despite facing challenges such as fluctuating interest rates and technological dependencies on external APIs, i-invest has demonstrated resilience. The platform has actively addressed increased competition, adhered to local regulatory frameworks, and prioritized transparency, including undergoing audits by top auditing firms.
Since its launch, i-invest has garnered over 250,000 users and facilitated transactions exceeding $100 million. Notably, the platform has refrained from external funding, relying on support from its parent company, Parthian Partners. Olusoga envisions expanding i-invest’s reach beyond Nigeria, leveraging opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area.
As Nigeria’s retail investment segment grapples with challenges, i-invest stands as a testament to resilience, innovation, and a commitment to providing accessible financial solutions to a growing user base.