Adeyemi Esan is the Group Senior Legal Counsel at AZA, Africa’s largest non-bank currency broker. Ifeoluwa Ogunbufunmi spoke to him about his role in the company’s mission to drive lower costs and increase the speed of international transactions across frontier markets.
Esan plays an instrumental role at AZA, a company focused on making international payments simpler for businesses looking to send money to, from and around Africa.
“We do this through our innovative infrastructure and licensed payment platforms and operate offices in Europe (London, Spain and Luxembourg), the Middle East (UAE), and Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal, and Tanzania),” says Esan.
In his almost two years at AZA, he has been responsible for ensuring legal compliance across the company’s offices within Europe, Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) regions.
“A core part of my work also includes acting as a Product Counsel for our flagship products: BFX, an international payments platform for businesses and TransferZero, a leading API solution, for mass international pay-outs and collections”.
Prior to his role at AZA, Esan worked as an Associate at Detail Commercial Solicitors, a commercial law firm based in Lagos for a little over three years.
“My work at Detail cut across a few practice groups – Power, Corporate/Commercial and the T.I.M.E group (Technology, Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment). My time at the firm was truly amazing; a lot of the core legal and commercial skills that have contributed to my career growth were learned at Detail working with the partners, Dolapo Kukoyi and Ayuli Jemide”.
Before joining Detail, right after completing his LLM at the University of California, Berkeley in 2014, Esan worked with BrightCurrent LLC, a clean energy marketing company based in California in a dual capacity as a Legal Advisor and a Senior Solar Associate, for a year.
He admits that his time at BrightCurrent was his first stint as an in-house Legal Advisor and this experience influenced his decision to take up his current role at AZA.
“BrightCurrent, in the typical fashion of start-ups in the Bay Area, was a very fast paced environment, where the focus was less on job titles but on innovation and productivity. I found that, beyond my core function as a Legal Advisor, I was heavily involved in other aspects of the business, specifically business operations, marketing and product development. Over time, I found that beyond my core legal role, I had developed a keen interest in applying myself in other areas.”
“Overall, I would say my greatest motivation for wanting to go in-house is my curious nature and the fact that I have realised that working in-house unlocks a whole new level of analytical thinking. To thrive in-house especially in a fast-paced and multi-dimensional company like AZA, I have learned to think differently and bring a creative perspective to solving problems.”
It’s no surprise that he is also exploring new courses in UI/UX Design and Product Management to boost his technical skills. Beyond this, Esan is even more pleased that he finds more and more lawyers exploring similar courses, which shows that they are embracing areas outside core law practise, to stay well-rounded.
“A major highlight of my work is the fulfilment that comes with collaborating with a cross-border team and playing a key role in solving Africa’s payments infrastructure challenges. I also love the “can-do” attitude at AZA, for us AZA-watus (as we fondly call ourselves); innovation is our watchword as we continue to work towards making cross-border payments easier, faster and cheaper.”
However, navigating the regulatory landscape across multiple countries in Africa, Europe and the Middle East remains the most prominent challenge in his line of work.
In his downtime, you’ll find him reading, listening to music or cooking. More recently, he’s picked up design as a hobby as it helps him translate his ideas into something visual.
“Keep an open mind, be teachable, cultivate healthy relationships and always add value, even when it is outside your core role,” is invaluable advice that Esan has gotten along his journey and which he implores young lawyers to adopt.
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