Coronavirus Updates

When Kolapo Joseph, ’18 (EXP-23), pictures the ideal customer for his fintech startup, Fundall, he imagines someone like his sister: an educated Nigerian hesitant about transitioning to digital banking.

“I have a sister who is a successful lawyer, and she has little experience with numbers. She has never even taken a loan. She’s scared of taking on any debt,” Joseph says. “For a very long time in Nigeria, these products were not easily accessible, so our parents never really experienced taking a loan or interacting with many financial products or services.”

Even though Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, most banking is still done in person. The pandemic helped to make the case as customers grew tired of long lines and social-distancing measures, but there is still a level of trust missing when it comes to digital banking—even for more privileged people who can afford to take risks.

Plus, Nigeria’s economy is classified as an “emerging market.” In other words, there is great opportunity for growth, but the economy can also be unstable. In this kind of environment, many people prefer to invest in tangible assets such as real estate, or keep their funds in hand. 

Enter Fundall, founded in 2019 by Joseph, a former investment banker who turned entrepreneur after completing his Booth Executive MBA.

Fundall aims to be a key player in the Nigerian banking ecosystem, but with a “twist.” It gives clients many of the offerings of a traditional online bank, but adds on an extra layer of educational tools that are based on the needs of the company’s target consumer—Fundall aims to cater to all ages, but its most active and revenue-generating members are between the ages of 38 and 45. 

Kolapo Joseph headshot

“For a very long time in Nigeria, these products were not easily accessible, so our parents never really experienced taking a loan or interacting with many financial products or services.”

— Kolapo Joseph

Key services range from virtual US dollar and Nigerian naira currency cards to spending trackers and budgeting tools, as well as bill payment and savings-backed loans. The startup even offers long-term financial planning tools such as estate planning and retirement savings goals. 

Joseph drew on his time at Booth to help design Fundall’s operating and business model to ensure that the company can weather an unpredictable regulatory and economic environment while continuing to remain accountable to its customers. Retaining customer trust is vital to any fintech company, he says, but particularly challenging in a market like Nigeria.

His Organization Design course at Booth has been critical for him as a founder. “I am keen on ensuring that there is accountability for performance and integrity in all aspects of the business,” Joseph says. “At the end of the day, we are providing financial services and products via technology, which optimizes costs and efficiency. There’s a trust factor you need to make sure you have with customers, and risk management that you need to have. The organizational structure helps drive both.”

Fundall recently took a huge step forward when a majority equity stake was sold to the Emerging Africa Group, a leading financial services company based in Nigeria. Joseph remains involved in guiding Fundall as the chairman of the board and a significant equity shareholder. Fundall relaunched in August with additional product and service offerings.

Fundall’s goals do not stop there. Joseph’s sights are set on Fundall entering nearby Ghana in the next two years, before expanding through Africa.

“The biggest challenge for trading in Africa is actually allowing transactions to move across borders,” he says. “You use your local currency to pay for products and get a viable exchange rate for a product from Ghana. How can you do that efficiently? We’re trying to solve that with a multicurrency wallet.”

Despite the challenges, Joseph says it is clear that Nigeria is ready for fintech as more and more startups like Fundall emerge. There will be speed bumps, he says, but also much to look forward to in the future. 

“Regulation is evolving, so you don’t know what may come next and when things will change. But there is some understanding that fintech is here to stay,” he says.