Banking & Finance – Damilola Wright

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Damilola Wright, Associate, Banwo & Ighodalo

Damilola is a banking & finance associate at Banwo & Ighodalo (B & I). Prior to his role at B & I, he was an associate at Aluko & Oyebode, and a legal trainee at the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).  

Damilola graduated with Second Class Upper Honours from the University of Lagos, and the Nigerian Law School in 2014 and 2015 respectively.  His awards and recognitions include:

  • Best Written Arguments, Commonwealth International Criminal Justice Moot Court Competition, London, 2014;
  • 1st Prize Winner, Simmons Cooper Advocacy Development Challenge (SCAD Compete) 2014;
  • 1st Prize Winner, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management National Essay Competition 2013;
  • 3rd Best Oralist (and Best West African Team), All African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, Mozambique, 2012;
  • 3rd Prize Winner, Justice Pius Aderemi Essay Competition, 2011;
  • Best Graduating A-level Student (Cambridge A-level Examinations), Bridge House College, 2010.

In his spare time, Damilola enjoys teaching and mentoring.

Please note that all opinions expressed in this interview are the opinions of the individual interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of their employer or of Legally Engaged.

 

Put simply, this sector involves raising debt [or equity] capital to enable businesses achieve their corporate objectives. Lawyers in this sector often advice on a broad range of financial products including corporate & investment grade lending, project finance, real estate finance, and trade finance. In the Nigerian context, a number of debt restructurings have occurred due to current economic realities. Innovation has also created an increased demand for legal and regulatory advisory services in Fintech, and derivatives & structured products.

Each day can be quite different – in a typical financing transaction that runs for about 6 to 8 weeks, my tasks would include facilitating and conducting corporate (and insolvency) searches on the borrower entity at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the Lands Registry, and the Federal High Court.

 

I am also “CP Champion” meaning that I co-ordinate the process of ensuring that the Borrower satisfies Conditions Precedent (CPs) to the utilization of the loan facility. In my capacity as “CP Champion”, I draft template CP documents such as board and shareholder resolutions, and furnish them to the borrower entity, organise and take notes at regularly scheduled CP conference calls, and draft a CP satisfaction letter after the borrower has satisfied all CPs (or the lender has otherwise waived certain CPs).

 

In financing transactions, I would often draft security documents such as Deeds of Share Charge, and All Assets Debenture(s) for review by a Senior Associate/Partner before same are circulated to the transaction parties.

 

On a daily basis, I peruse the websites of banking and finance regulators for circulars, guidelines, and market notices that might impact the sector, and the nature of advice rendered to the clients operating within the sector. I also prepare regulatory updates for the benefit of clients that operate within this sector.

 

From time to time, clients would, in the course of certain transactions or where they need clarity or guidance on a legal issue, request a legal opinion. Responding to legal opinion requests would generally involve conducting research into the legal question, preparing a draft written response, and thereafter sending my draft response to a Senior Associate/Partner to review before the final legal opinion is circulated to the client.

To be honest, I think this path chose me – after participating in a number of mooting competitions as an undergraduate, I was keen on becoming a litigation attorney. However, during my internship at the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), I was exposed to corporate and project finance transactions and I began to give this path serious consideration because I thought it was a tad technical, and I enjoy a good challenge.  I was also drawn to this area by the impact that the projects financed by the AFC had on local communities.

 

In addition, my love for business studies and economics as an A-level student fuelled a desire to develop expertise in this area because a transactions’ lawyer must appreciate not only the legal issues that underlie a transaction, but also the client’s commercial objectives.

To excel as a banking & finance lawyer, I think it is important to have a genuine interest in this sector, a teachable spirit, and the discipline to build the requisite legal and business knowledge and skills.

Most of the clients I work with are large corporates, local and international financial institutions, development finance institutions, multilateral finance institutions, and government agencies.

My workload can sometimes be pretty heavy – as an associate I do not really “own” my time which means that long hours are more the norm. On weekdays, I work 12 -14 hours per day on the average. Tight deadlines may also mean that I have to work on the weekends.

For me, the most challenging aspect of working in the banking & finance sector in Nigeria is keeping abreast of regulatory developments. In recent times, the CBN has released a number of circulars particularly on foreign exchange (FX) regulations that have impacted the market for loans, and international trade finance.

It is gratifying to play a role in helping businesses (and people) thrive, and contributing to the success of a project that has the potential to positively impact a community or nation.

I think that university and law school definitely gave me the right tools to work in this sector – contract law, corporate law, banking law, and property law serve as the foundation for practice in this sector. In addition, the rigour inherent in obtaining a law degree also prepared me to cope with long hours in legal practice. Nonetheless, formal education is not sufficient; expertise can only be developed through continuous on the job learning, and transaction experience.

Right now, my goal is to keep learning per transaction and improving on my skills through formal and informal training such that I am able to leverage on my knowledge, experience, and training to grow throughout my career. It would be great to make partner at a top-tier law firm in 8 to 10 years.

 

I am also passionate about teaching and mentoring so I am open to opportunities in academia as well.

My first derivatives transaction was quite interesting – we had to advise an international investment bank on its proposed transaction structure for entering into Over the Counter (OTC) FX Futures to hedge against currency risk associated with investing in Nigerian treasury bills. At the time, the market for OTC FX Futures in Nigeria had just been opened and we were constantly liaising with the FMDQ in order to furnish the client with “practical advice”. This experience was memorable because it was my first real interaction with derivatives, and I remember scribbling diagrams and charts on my note pad to ensure that I had sufficiently grasped relevant concepts.

For lawyers that aspire to work in this sector, I’d say strive to obtain banking & finance transaction experience at a law firm with a solid reputation in this area, and never stop learning.

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