Olu Akanmu, OPay’s former president and co-CEO, exit underscores the potential tensions between financial goals and brand perception in fintech companies.

On July 31, 2023, Olu Akanmu, former co-CEO of Opay, stepped down after almost two years at the Chinese-owned fintech; his exit surprised many, given Opay’s impressive growth under his leadership.

A clash of vision between the former banker and the rest of the company’s leadership led to Akanmu’s departure, one person with knowledge of Opay’s business told TechCabal.

“The Chinese cared about numbers much more than the brand’s perception,” that person told TechCabal. 

Several of Akanmu’s proposed initiatives, such as a payment gateway and a “payme” account for one-time payments, were reportedly shelved. Additionally, his commitment to social responsibility projects like financial inclusion for women and partnerships with internally displaced persons (IDPs) seemed at odds with the Chinese investors’ laser focus on numbers. Akanmu’s exit underscores the potential tensions between financial goals and brand perception in fintech companies. 

Opay operates a co-CEO structure, giving Olu Akanmu and a second CEO internal sources identified as Steven dual leadership. According to those people, Steven was generally in charge of the policy at the fintech. Akanmu’s background in retail banking at FCMB, a Nigerian bank with a market capitalisation of ₦217 billion, positioned him to develop Opay’s merchant business, including POS, agency banking, and wallets. Despite this focus, internal sources said his co-CEO, Steven, had greater control over Opay’s direction. 


Opay did not answer any of TechCabal’s questions at the time of this report.

During Akanmu’s time at Opay, the fintech grew exponentially, reaching over 30 million users, 500,000 agents, and 100,000 merchants, according to publicly released figures.

The fintech previously offered a super app model, offering food delivery, ride-hailing, logistics, and payment services, before solely focusing on financial services in 2020. It also proved a formidable alternative to legacy banks during Nigeria’s botched currency redesign, which led to a cash crunch. The fintech’s robust infrastructure and effective distribution strategies were deeply attributed to this win. 

New Leadership and regulatory hurdles

Following Akanmu’s departure, Daudu Gotring, a former director at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), became CEO. This appointment signaled Opay’s attempt to navigate increased regulatory scrutiny surrounding its Know Your Customer (KYC) measures. 

Opay faced increasing regulatory scrutiny over its Know Your Customer (KYC) processes last year after allegations that it opened accounts for users without consent. The fintech, alongside other neobanks, had simplified user registration to attract unbanked customers, sometimes omitting strict identity verification for basic accounts account types with limited features. Bad actors have exploited this lax KYC approach to perpetrate fraud.

TechCabal reported in October that Fidelity Bank, a Nigerian commercial bank, blocked transfers to OPay and other neobanks over concerns that their lax KYC processes are leading to increased fraud cases.  

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