Old Mutual Nigeria is focused on general insurance and life assurance products, says Adefulu and, as the head of the legal team and the one responsible for corporate governance, she wears several hats. She is also the Chief Compliance Officer and Group Company Secretary.
She manages a four-person team that includes two lawyers and two compliance officers. Emphasizing the need for a reliable team that delivers, she says, “In dealing with multiple stakeholders with varying interests, I prioritize and delegate to members of my team, relying on their strengths.” She also recognizes the influence of technology and how its effective use has improved her work efficiency.
Adefulu sees her role in the insurance industry as an enabler.
“On the surface, it would seem that governance systems are at odds with the commercial objectives of the business.” But, she says, she has learned how to use the internal systems so as to enable commercial objectives. She admits there are “grey areas” in her work and, in these situations, she is happy to engage external counsel. “For example human resource matters in Nigeria are tricky,” she says.
“We have a lack of employment laws and the Nigerian Labour Act itself is largely inapplicable,” she says. And, she says, while employer/employee contracts govern the HR relationship, the National Industrial Court (NIC) (which has exclusive jurisdiction over labour and employment matters is deciding matters in respect of employers and employees) is changing settled principles of jurisprudence.
“It would be foolhardy to assume mastery in respect of such grey areas without engaging an external firm with the required experience,” she admits.
Before joining Old Mutual, Adefulu was a legal manager at one of Nigeria’s Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. While she never had a mentor in her formative years, as an in-house counsel she recognises the critical role mentors play in a person’s career.
“If you do not have a mentor in your formative years, you can still gain from mentoring later in your career,” she says. In her role now she says she is benefitting from the “wise counsel, guidance and frankly, firm hand of the Chairman of a Board of which I act as Company Secretary.”
Her advice to up and coming in-house lawyers is to, “Be strategic, understand the business, be technically sound, have strong stakeholder skills, provide useful advice and appreciate legal technology and innovations”.
Adefulu began her law degree at the University of Benin (in southern Nigeria), and found her way to Cardiff University in Wales where she spent three years completing her undergraduate degree. “This was due to the incessant and protracted strike actions at home at the time.”
If she was not a lawyer, she says, she would be a food blogger. She loves cooking, particularly tasty healthy options, spending time with her family and shopping.
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