Rukayyat Modupe Kolawole on how gender equality can reduce poverty

LEAN IN to 60 seconds with the founder of PaceUP

In this latest LEAN IN Equity & Sustainability instalment, we speak with Rukayyat Modupe Kolawole, Founder of PaceUP Invest GmbH, and an inspirational woman in finance.

Rukayyat, tell us about yourself.

I am a mother to a beautiful five-year-old daughter and the founder and CEO of PaceUP Invest in Germany, France, and Nigeria. I am from the Yorùbá culture, which has ingrained female power that has existed and persisted over time throughout many facets of Yorùbá life, including economic, domestic, religious, as well as political spheres.

I grew up in Nigeria and left for the UK for my studies. After graduation, I started working in the financial industry, travelling to different countries, and working across many regions. I now live in Germany with my young family.

I have over 15 years of experience in the financial industry: Investment Banking, Investment Management, and Capital Markets in Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg and Reuters.

I am a Chartered Financial Analyst. I earned an MSc in Finance and Investment Management with Distinction. In 2020, I earned a double Diploma Executive MBA at Mannheim Business School, Germany, and ESSEC Business School, France.

I love playing golf, travelling, reading, and playing silly games with my five-year-old.

Why did you specialise in finance and investment?

I am Nigerian by birth with a strong lineage of strong entrepreneurial women who controlled and invested their money. My passion and reason for going into investment banking resulted from learning how my grandmother empowered women in her community.

She was a gold trader who travelled to Ghana to buy gold and sold them in Nigeria. She taught me the basics of empowering women via money to build wealth in addition to the power of communities. I watched her do this seamlessly when I was growing up in Nigeria. I learned how money could create value and what value can be derived from it. Real wealth to her was about freedom.

Why did you start PaceUP Invest, a Fintech platform?

I have often talked about the mission and vision of PaceUP Invest and how my grandmother inspired me. She taught me the basics of empowering women via money to build wealth in addition to the power of communities. I watched her do this seamlessly when I was growing up in Nigeria.

Real wealth to her was about freedom. However, working in the financial industry for over 16 years showed that the industry was not built for women. Most women largely believe financial advice and products are geared only towards the wealthy and feel alienated.

My first awakening moment was when I went into my bank some years back to see a financial advisor and discuss my financial goals. I was enthusiastic as I told him what I would like to have and what my plans were. He listened to me ranting on, and in the end, he asked, “so, where is your husband?” He did not believe I was capable of having that amount of savings.

I left the meeting feeling dejected. I had two options: leave my savings in the bank or learn more about investing on my own (even though I was working in an investment bank). I decided on the latter.

I made it a point to educate myself further as I understood that if I did not, I had roadblocks that would not enable me to achieve my goals, especially as women live longer and earn less on average than men. My financial independence was crucial to me. I spoke with my circle of friends and their circles, and on and on it went, and it turned out I was not alone in feeling like this.

Women are very good at saving but not investing! I was determined to be a catalyst for change. I began coaching fellow women and men too. This was before financial coaching became mainstream. I helped my friends and their friends create their investment portfolios, and we were accountable to one another to follow through.

We are changing this narrative for women and the underrepresented to build sustainable and generational wealth via knowledge and investing. I am sharing my expertise and stories and helping as a Black person, as a woman, as a migrant, and as someone from an underrepresented community to create opportunities for other marginalised and disadvantaged people to build and access wealth. It is important to be a role model to others to see that they can also dare to do this and should do this!

Who are your clients?

Women and underrepresented groups and Both B2B and B2C.

We help our B2C customers to become financially independent via financial education and investing in financial and non-financial assets. We help our B2B customers develop wellness as part of their social responsibility programmes for their employees, customers, and community via training and education, transparency of products and services, and creating the right customer journey to help them understand what they need and how to get there.

Impact investing is at our forefront.

Why are finance and budgeting not taught at school at a very early age?

It depends on different countries and parts of the world. For example, in my secondary school in Nigeria, we had chequebooks and had to budget and balance our books. 

To give some context, globally, financial literacy is low. According to an OECD study, only 33% of adults worldwide are financially literate. Even though this figure is significantly lower than expected, men, on average, have a better understanding of basic financial concepts than women. While 35% of men are financially literate, only 30% of women are. Not only that, but women are less confident in their financial knowledge compared to men. It has been suggested that men are more confident because finance has historically been linked to men. These are often passed down to younger generations.

Another study shows that western European countries have very large gender gaps in financial literacy. The gap ranges from 3% in Croatia and Russia to over 20% in the Netherlands. Interestingly, the gap is generally higher in more developed countries (e.g. Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK). On the other hand, in the formerly communist countries (Croatia, Hungary, and Russia), the gaps in financial literacy are relatively small.

The more equal financial literacy scores in those countries may be related to social and economic norms leftover from times of communism when women were expected to be active participants in economic life and decision-making.

What can we do today to make children more aware not only of money but also budgeting?

Financial literacy becomes important when women make financial decisions for the household. The positive side of this gap is that women recognise their lack of financial knowledge. Hence, education programmes are very successful. These can be transformed into schools at a young age. Also, women are great educators; they ultimately educate their kids on finances.

There must be some policy changes to make it mandatory to teach kids about budgeting and basic concepts of financial literacy. Partnerships with organisations like PaceUP Invest can help as we target people from 16 years of age to access some of the budgeting and financial literacy concepts.

We need to make it fun as well. It will help kids to avoid following the detrimental patterns of money scripts that may have been ingrained in them from a familial point of view. We also need to make personal finance a required course at colleges and universities. 

We should start educating our kids and not wait till policy changes happen. Many of our clients at PaceUP Invest encourage their children to learn from the platform, and we are also forming university communities to tackle personal finances.

How can gender equity reduce poverty?

It is important to understand what equity means. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and needs; therefore, different groups need different resources and opportunities allocated to them to thrive.

When we empower women, we empower generations to come. In terms of gender equity, this can reduce poverty because it will increase the representation of women in leadership positions and commerce. Not only does it not lead to an increase in financial strength where they can save more, invest more, and invest in their communities and households, but it also teaches and shows generations coming that anything is attainable for them as a woman. It leads to financial independence.

What are you the proudest of in your life so far?

Having a beautiful daughter who is very empathetic at an early age. I learn a lot from her.

What does the word achievement mean to you as a woman?

Making an impact and empowering others.

Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

To have moved the number of women who invest from 10% to 90%. It is a big ambition, but it is doable.

I also want to have scaled PaceUP Invest to be globally recognised for what we stand for.

About Rukayyat Modupe Kolawole

Rukayyat is a former VP of Capital Markets and Treasury at BMCE Bank International London, covering EMEA, Americas, and APAC. She is a transcultural communicator and leader, having worked on international assignments throughout my career.

Rukayyat is on the board of Kassavex, a social impact agricultural company in Nigeria, Founding committee board member of 100 Women in Finance Germany and a mentor at &ahead, Germany.

If you are a woman in finance with a phenomenal story to tell, enter the Women in Finance Awards UK 2023 here.

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