VerifyMe, a leading digital identity, and open finance infrastructure startup has recently appointed Sarah Essien as its Chief Operating Officer.
Over the course of her career, Essien has established herself as a finance, business strategy, and projects specialist. In addition to her wealth of experience in executive positions across diverse industries like Telecommunications and Oil and Gas, Essien also holds an MSc in Accounting and Financial Management from the University of London.
Prior to joining VerifyMe, she worked at HSBC Bank, serving in various capacities. She started as a premier and wealth associate and then moved up to being a Financial Analyst at the bank’s headquarters in Canary Wharf, London. 6 years later, she was offered a role in the separation of RBS Insurance from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.
Essien also served as Operations Director within Shared Services and Banking Operations (SSBO) for Morgan Stanley with a portfolio focused on Special Projects, Strategy, and Finance. During this time, she worked closely with Sophie Chandauka MBE, Global COO of SSBO at Morgan Stanley, who is also the co-founder of the Black British Business Awards and a former trustee of Prince Harry’s Sentebale charity.
“I typically describe my career as being in two phases,” Essien says. “The first being very finance-focused for almost a decade and the second being my pivot into project management, business management, and operations. Both phases definitely prepared me for my role at VerifyMe.”
In her new role, Essien will be charged with overseeing the expansion of VerifyMe’s business in Nigeria and beyond, in order to drive consistent growth and profitability. “We have new products and solutions that we are rolling out to solve existing industry problems and reduce the pain of customer acquisition and onboarding for our clients,” she explains.
Additionally, she will lead other initiatives as the company moves into new markets. “Our biggest growth will be driven by our new range of customer analytics solutions that we are currently testing with some of our clients,” says Essien. “They will be a game-changer and reinforced by the direct access we have to key government data sources. Watch this space! We have a lot of exciting announcements to come.”
Creating a culture that prioritizes customer needs
Essien considers herself to be a people person and believes human capital is one of the greatest assets a company can have.
“Richard Branson said to look after your people and they will look after your clients and that is definitely something I live by. I have had a few of these conversations already where it has turned out we can actually be doing a lot more for and with them. It’s good to talk and identify these opportunities to better serve them,” she says.
She is also passionate about startups and supports a number of them as an investor. In her capacity as an investor, she’s helped a number of startups by providing advice on finance, strategy, corporate governance, and operational excellence. Essien co-founded a nonprofit and sits on several boards and steering committees where she lends her expertise.
An advocate for propelling economic transformation in Nigeria and Africa
In 2020, Essien became keen to leverage her professional experience and expertise in order to contribute to the future of Nigeria and the African continent. This led her to take up a role as an International Project Manager on the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development (FCDO) funded UK Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (UKNIAF). Her role here was focused on partnering with Nigerian Ministries, Departments, and Agencies to develop better infrastructure in the Energy, Roads, and Infrastructure Financing Sectors.
Ensuring that more Nigerians can access basic needs like housing and credit is also of utmost importance to Sarah. “I actively seek out these partnerships and ways to connect to all kinds of businesses, especially businesses that empower lower-income earners, like, by providing loans,” she says. “I help out by providing the right information they need to make decisions that are life-changing for their customers. Open finance for all. That’s the goal – that’s where my head is and that’s where we’re going,”
With a career spanning over 20 years, Essien is set to provide leadership expertise and strategic thinking to build a rewarding and secure future for VerifyMe and its clients.
“In terms of strategy, 2022 is an exciting year for VerifyMe and there is a lot we are doing behind the scenes to design, refine and execute. Our expansion plans for Nigeria and Africa are well underway and I’m excited to be leading a lot of aspects of that growth.”