Uche Orji

By OKEY ONYEWEAKU

As Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Uche Orji is one Nigerian who is doing a lot to keep the country going. His brief is to make money for the country and he has continued to do this since assuming office.

To be sure, Orji comes to the job with a wide trove of experience and grooming.

Commencing his professional career in 1991 at Arthur Anderson & Co, it soon became his lot to be engaged with consulting and audit briefs for such organization as Guaranty Trust Bank and Diamond Bank.

Quite notably, between 1991-1992, he was there in the frontlines even as Diamond Bank moved to implement its landmark Diamond Integrated Banking System, DIBS, which is arguably one of the first on-line real-time banking technology platforms to have come into force in the country.

Undoubtedly one to prove his mettle at every point of opportunity, Orji was thereafter to join Diamond Bank’s financial control department in 1993, and three years later, had risen to become Financial Controller of the then fast rising financial institution.

Next, Orji undertook a Harvard Business School MBA programme and upon his graduation in 1998, was to be engaged at the Asset Management division of Goldman Sachs International in London. Beginning as an Associate Portfolio Manager, in under one and a half years, the fastidious Orji had risen to the position of Vice President, and saddled with co-managing a $600m Global Technology Fund and a €1billion pan European Equity Fund.

As if he was making further preparations for what he would be later, at Goldman Sachs, Orji was also to function as an analyst on briefs involving Chemicals, Pulp and Paper, Technology and Industrial Sectors for Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He also provided valuation advise on companies such as Bayer, BASF, Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, Philips Electronics and Siemens.

Also quite decidedly, Orji as part of his his global market schedules, superintended over Goldman Sachs’ Asset Management investments in the technology space in Asia and the United States and some firms that he was engaged with during this period are Samsung Electronics, Toshiba and Blackberry.

And it was also here that his SWF romance was to practically begin, as in the course of his schedules also, Orji and his team were equally to be involved in co-managing several Sovereign Wealth and Pension Funds.

Three years after being involved with Goldman Sachs, Orji made a career shift to the advisory and equity research components of the investment banking field, joining JP Morgan in London as a Vice President. His particular brief at this time was to focus almost exclusively on Semiconductor sector research and advisory activities. Rising to the challenge, Orji published several equity research pieces both on Semiconductor technology and valuation of listed and private semiconductor companies. He also worked with more than 15 global companies and advised on private placements, public listings and restructuring of essentially technology firms.

Two of his quite notable transactions in this regard involved Philips Electronics, that was undertaking a spin-off of their technology and semiconductor holdings; and Siemens, which was restructuring its Semiconductor division, a development that gave birth to Infineon.

Three years into his sojourn at JP Morgan, Orji was elevated to the role of Managing Director in the Equities Division and co-global coordinator of its Semiconductor Research.

A man seemingly on the move and with his sights set on attaining even greater heights all the time, in 2006, Orji joined the New York office of UBS (Formerly Union Bank of Switzerland) as Managing Director and coordinator of their global Semiconductor Equity research and advisory business. This involved overseeing their business platforms in places like San Francisco, London, Taiwan, Korea, Seoul, Zurich and Tokyo. Here also, he was to be responsible for supervising three other Managing Directors as well as Vice Presidents and Associate Directors across the globe.

The highly prodigious Orji, was to among other roles at UBS have direct coverage of over 30 companies and coordinating 100 or more global companies in semiconductor sector.

Some firms that he was to be particularly engaged with providing strategic advice to their management were Intel Electronics, Taiwan Semiconductor manufacturing company, Samsung Electronics and Texas Instruments. He equally was engaged with advising several global portfolio management firms and sovereign wealth funds while serving as global coordinator in the Equities Division at UBS.
Home, sweet home.

Orji bagged the position of pioneer Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA in 2012, a move that saw him relocating to continue his work life in his fatherland.

At the onset, his brief was defined as being to oversee the seed capital of $1bn that was in the coffers of the NSIA.

Setting out to work, it was his lot to help in putting in place the fledgling structures of the authority while also keeping an eye on the generation of value for the several layers of investments that were to be called up in the process.

It is to his credit that he not only did very well in that period, his appointment was similarly to be renewed in 2017 for another five-year tenor.

A Record of Achievements

Today the NSIA is evidently one of Africa’s most respected sovereign wealth funds attracting hundreds of million of dollars in foreign direct investments.

Among others, Orji has continued to oversee NSIA’s investments in key sector of the Nigerian Economy including Agriculture, Real Estate, Power/Gast to Power, Healthcare and Motor Ways.

The result of many of these forays is that the initial asset size of US$1billion has since grown to an asset size of almost US$4billion.

This superlative performance recorded in under a decade has come out of the consistent levels of profitability across all three funds of the NSIA, and in one particular instance, while business players were cringing on account of the pandemic, the authority was recording about N109billion in comprehensive income in 2020.

Governance Matters

Beyond making money for NSIA and the nation and engendering the emergence of structures around which a lot of national economic development have continued to be built, Orji has brought in his wealth of experience to bear on the development of governance and accountability systems for the NSIA. Little wonder then that the NSIA was already shining in the global transparency ranking of SWFs within its first two years of inception. Today, it is one of the preferred investment partners that FDI’s looking to do business across Sub-Saharan Africa readily look unto.

A trusted advisor to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the NSIA under Orji’s watch is now almost routinely invited to help out with many of the economic transformation initiatives that are being introduced.

Housing Sector Engagements

One such engagement has to do with NSIA’s involvement with the deepening of Nigeria’s financial system by promoting and investing in financial market infrastructure of all types.

A notable one is Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company, NMRC which was established to help bridge the funding cost of residential mortgages as well as address related issues of availability, affordability and increased liquidity in the mortgage market. NSIA is the largest shareholder in the company.

Other projects that the NSIA has spawned include the Development Bank of Nigeria, DBN, the Infrastructure Credit Guarantee Company Ltd, InfraCredit and the Family Homes Fund Ltd, FHFL.

Other initiatives and engagements include the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), the NSIA Healthcare Development and Investment Company (NHDIC), the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) and Bridge Academies International.

At the same time, Orji serves on the Boards of the Infrastructure Credit Guarantee Company Ltd (InfraCredit), NG Clearing, Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) and the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC).

Commenting on the performance recorded by Orji this far, Dr Roland Igbinoba, founder PISON Housing Company says that there is clearly no doubt that Orji has indeed done well under the circumstance.

‘He knows his onions and I am particularly impressed with his strides in the housing. Under his watch, the NSIA has very commendably brokered, supported and attracted several key investments into the sector,’ the very accomplished housing finance professional underscored.

For the 1990 Chemical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, it has indeed been a journey of expression.

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