By ‘Fisayo Soyombo
VENTURES AFRICA — Still less than 50, he has achieved global renown as a motivational speaker, martial artist, classical guitarist and a finance and money market expert, having lived and worked in several countries on separate continents in nearly half a century of his sojourn abroad. He has worked at globally known audit firm, Arthur Anderson, then Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and the National Bank of Saudi Arabia.
Retiring at the youthful age of 45 at once validates the very notion such audacious acts suggest: achieving in a matter of decades, all there is to achieve in a lifetime. From an enchantingly eventful life as that of Kayode Fahm, there are always important lessons for anyone:
Receptiveness of heart
Although Kayode had been born in Nigeria, he left the country aged one year and spent most of his early childhood growing up in Zambia, also having brief stints in Kenya and Tanzania.
His father, a United Kingdom-qualified barrister, had taken up an appointment as a senior legal advisor to the Zambian Government in an era that was the family’s golden age, replete with expatriate privileges.
Enrolled, at seven years, in a boarding school in England, he attended Prior Park, a prep school in Wiltshire called Prior Park where he was introduced to a broad range of disciplines, one of which was music and the violin. He was receptive to the violin; and played it right through his late teens and up to grade eight.
It was also during this period that he stumbled on Master of Kung Fu, a fictional book. Subsequently, he “earnestly” began attending martial art studies alongside his academics from the age 11. He studied Master Ken Wah and Wu style Tai Chi Chuan with Master Peter Chen, and also took up the viola, which he played side by side with the violin for about five years, from age 13. He could have discarded the violin, viola and Kung Fu to completely concentrate on academics; but these instruments have gone on, several years later, to define the personhood of Kayode Fahm.
After graduating from Imperial in 1986 with a B.Sc. in Mathematics and from the Royal College of Science with a diploma, he joined Arthur Andersen to fulfill his yearnings for practical life and work experiences, and for financial independence. Despite exposure to the Audit, Tax, Insolvency and Consulting divisions, he soon found the work uninspiring and tedious. The following year, he left AA to join Morgan Stanley. It was at MS that he watched Wall St, starring Michael Douglas, realising and deciding that taking calculated risk was the best and quickest way to achieve financial independence. So, he decided, at that point, to trade. This would prove elusive at Morgan Stanley, which was a blue blood firm with a very competitive culture.
He moved to Goldman Sachs in 1990, where his outstanding performance soon attracted one of the chief dealers in the Fixed Income division; he was offered a position on the money market trading desk and later given the sole desk mandate to take proprietary positions (i.e. take outright risk) on currencies and fixed income instruments up to two years. In June 1994 at the ‘tender’ age of 29, he was made an executive director at the company.
Of his time there, he would later say: “I had a very successful career at Goldman Sachs executing some of the largest transactions at the firm at the time, including two $1 billion trades … I was also asked to speak regularly to new entry level MBAs from schools such as Harvard, Stanford and Wharton on the Capital Markets and how to trade them; and I held quite a number of stretching, relaxation and fitness classes, after markets had closed, in the in-house gym to help traders to better manage their exposures.”
The magnetic might of excellence
Kayode was head-hunted from Goldman Sachs (following his sterling performance as ED) by the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia in 1995 to set up a Hedge Fund based in Jeddah to trade the international capital markets on a global macro basis. This was a Greenfield start-up that involved setting up the business architecture, including the IT and Operational platforms, as well as the middle office, including Risk Management and Financial Control. The final step was to hire a team of seasoned local and international proprietary traders.
With the stress of building and running a business, including managing people, the guitar became an outlet to escape, forget and express his feelings. He commenced private guitar studies (which lasted 14 years) with the late Richard Hand of the Hand/Dupre guitar duo. During the same period, he attended many leadership and people management training programmes, workshops and seminars; and ran many in-house and industry-wide capital market training courses. He equally taught mixed martial arts on weekends at a local sports club, at the same time.
“This four-year period in Saudi was the most challenging of my career; I did not have the Goldman Sachs infrastructure, including tips from mentors and superiors to help support and guide me; and very volatile financial markets tested my discipline and resolve as well as my leadership and character, right to their core,” he wrote of the era.
But what was the summary of that “challenging” time? His words: “It was an edifying period of immense personal, professional and spiritual growth.”
The allure of home
One of the most important lessons to draw from Kayode’s life is the time-honoured saying that there is no place like home. After leaving Saudi Arabia in 1999 and moving to the United Arab Emirates, he joined the board of Tricon Group of Companies based in Abu Dhabi as an investment advisor and became a personal business advisor to the Al Maskari family also based in Abu Dhabi.
But after the early death of her mother who had always implored him to return home, he relocated to Nigeria, focusing on helping to improve and develop the country in particular and the continent in general.
“I invested and started to trade in real estate; set up Enia Advisors, an independent advisory and consulting practice, in January 2001; and commenced capacity building in the local industry,” he said of the extraordinarily long list of his preoccupations since returning home.
“For over nine years, I ran in-house training programmes for the Treasury departments of several pre and post-consolidation banks as well as their capital market subsidiaries, and almost all investment banks and discount houses and a number of brokerage firms.
“I was also a keynote and motivational speaker at the off-sites of several cutting edge boutique firms. In addition, I ran industry-wide training programmes in collaboration with the Money Market Association of Nigeria and wrote many articles on specialised finance and professional development for financial journals such as ‘The Treasurer’ and personal development journals such as ‘Net Worth’ and ‘Bottom Line’. I ran specialised in-house and industry wide programs for Law Firms as well as Consulting Firms, and personal and professional development programmes for Lagos Business School, Lagos University and Lagos State Government.”
In addition, Kayode, who “completely” retired from financial sector in 2010 at 45 years, has been involved in capacity development of Nigerians spanning the corporate world, martial arts, music performing, life coaching and mentoring. Even in retirement, Kayode Fahm has spiritedly maintained the quintessential jack-of-all-trade-master-of-all posturing that defined his entire career life.
Image copyright Kayode Fahm via http://kayodefahm.com