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“Empowering women is not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do.” – Michelle Obama. In the heart of Nigeria, where the pulse of Fintech innovation beats strong, Dr. Markie Idowu stands as a beacon of change. A visionary and advocate for women’s empowerment, she not only leads the charge at Xpress Payment Solutions Ltd. but also pioneers initiatives that resonate far beyond the realm of financial transactions.

As the Managing Director and CEO of Xpress Payment Solutions Ltd., Dr. Idowu has seamlessly blended her passion for Fintech with a commitment to gender equality. In a candid conversation, she reveals her belief that women’s empowerment is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity, especially in the African context, where women often face marginalization.

Beyond the boardroom, Dr. Idowu dedicates her time to the Women in Technology in Nigeria advisory board (WITIN), a group fervently dedicated to bridging the gender gap in science and technology. For her, it’s not just about climbing the corporate ladder but also about extending a supportive hand to the rising generation of girls aspiring to make their mark in these fields.

Under her leadership, Xpress Payment Solutions has embarked on a groundbreaking initiative. Through the Agency Banking network, the company has not only onboarded women onto its platform but has also provided them with essential tools for success: free POS machines, collateral, and comprehensive training. This initiative transcends mere business transactions; it is a tangible manifestation of Dr. Idowu’s commitment to creating avenues for financial independence and professional growth for women in Nigeria.

“We believe in empowering women not just by words but through actions that make a lasting impact on their lives,” affirms Dr. Idowu.

The Agency Banking project is just the beginning. Xpress Payment Solutions Ltd., under Dr. Idowu’s guidance, envisions a future where the fintech sector becomes a catalyst for positive social change. As she continues to break barriers and challenge stereotypes, Dr. Markie Idowu’s story becomes an inspiring narrative of a leader shaping the future, one empowered woman at a time.

Below are the interview highlights:

A Trailblazer’s Journey

Dr. Idowu’s legacy in Nigeria’s financial sector unfolds as a compelling tale of relentless pursuit and unparalleled achievements. Her professional journey, commencing in 1989 with Continental Merchant Bank (formerly Chase Manhattan), witnessed tenures at Guaranty Trust Bank, Fidelity Bank, and Skye Bank (now Polaris). Notably, her 11-year tenure at Skye Bank marked pivotal roles, culminating in the position of Executive Director of Technology and Service Delivery Channels, overseeing critical aspects of the bank’s operations.

Recognition for her prowess manifested during Polaris Bank’s IT transformation was acknowledged by Dell Computer Company. The zenith of this recognition culminated in an invitation to the Dell IT Conference in Austin, Texas, with an exclusive dinner at the residence of Michael S. Dell—an honor reflecting her exceptional contributions.

Architecting Financial Seamlessness

Established in 2016, Xpress Payment Solutions Limited has emerged as a formidable player in Nigeria’s financial landscape. With a fully paid-up N5 billion in authorized share capital, the company specializes in designing, developing, and distributing electronic payment systems. Licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for various services, including Payment Solution Service Provider (PSSP) and Payment Terminal Service Provider (PTSP), Xpress Payment Solutions collaborates with 19 Nigerian banks and the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS). The company’s footprint extends beyond Nigeria, operating in Ghana and maintaining a presence in all states.

A Harmonious Fusion of Banking and Fintech

Dr. Idowu’s transition from traditional banking to fintech epitomizes a seamless integration of her extensive banking background and a profound affinity for technology. Her dual degrees in IT fortified her comfort within the tech industry, making her transition into Xpress Payment Solutions a natural evolution. Dr. Idowu’s motivation stems from a conviction in the company’s mission—to simplify lives through seamless payments. Defined by a sense of purpose and fortified by her extensive experience, she embarked on this transformative journey with unwavering confidence.

Success, in Dr. Idowu’s lexicon, encompasses surpassing allocated targets and witnessing the triumph of her team. Beyond financial metrics, her definition extends to the professional and personal accomplishments of those she leads.

The Power of Collaborative Endeavors

With a career spanning over 30 years, Dr. Idowu acknowledges the myriad challenges encountered. However, a pivotal lesson that resonates throughout her journey is the indispensable value of teamwork. Emphasizing the collaborative spirit, she states, “I’ve learned over the years to lean on other people, leveraging their experience and expertise to ensure that our common objective is achieved.” Leading Xpress Payments, this ethos assumes paramount importance. Dr. Idowu recognizes the indispensability of her management team and all staff, fostering a collective approach to surmounting challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic, a global upheaval, posed challenges for individuals and companies alike. Dr. Idowu reflects on the losses suffered personally and within her team. Yet, as a testament to resilience, Xpress Payments declared a sizable profit in that challenging year. The victory, as Dr. Idowu underscores, was a collective triumph—a testament to the strength of a unified team.

At the helm of Xpress Payments, Dr. Idowu champions an open-door policy, symbolizing accessibility for all staff members. Her contact details are readily available, encouraging employees to engage with her on any topic, be it professional or personal. This approach extends to her top personnel, fostering a culture where ideas are nurtured and innovation thrives. Dr. Idowu underscores the importance of integrity, asserting, “I walk my talk,” setting a standard that permeates the organizational culture.

Steering Corporate Operations

As the MD/CEO, Dr. Idowu shoulders the responsibility for all corporate operations, personnel, and endeavors at Xpress Payments. Steering the company’s overall performance, her role involves meticulous analysis of the work of senior staff members and keeping abreast of the competitive market, expansion potential, and industry advancements. Her daily routine encompasses client interactions, internal stakeholder engagements, and providing leadership direction.

A Staunch Advocate

A staunch advocate for work-life balance, Dr. Idowu emphasizes the importance of completing duties within set timeframes. Beyond personal adherence, she encourages her employees to follow suit, recognizing the significance of quality time with families. Vacations are not merely optional but encouraged, offering employees the opportunity to detach from professional responsibilities. Dr. Idowu contends that a balanced work-life dynamic fosters motivation and enhances overall productivity.

Creating an optimal work environment remains a focal point for Dr. Idowu. Initiatives such as introducing a crèche at Xpress Payments underscore her commitment to enhancing employees’ work-life balance. This innovative approach acknowledges the challenges faced by young parents, ensuring peace of mind and sustained motivation.

Celebrating Milestones and Collaboration

Annually, Xpress Payments celebrates its anniversary milestone with an enthralling sports tournament named the AWA Cup. This spirited competition, held every October, not only marks the company’s achievements but also fosters collaboration among employees and sister companies. Dr. Idowu sees these initiatives as integral to creating a positive work environment and believes that collaboration is the bedrock of success.

A Catalyst for Financial Literacy

Dr. Idowu envisions Xpress Payments as a beacon of financial literacy, transcending demographics and geographic locations in Nigeria. Anchored by the introduction of the Agency Banking Platform, Xpress Agent, she believes the company is well on its way to contributing significantly to the Nigerian ecosystem. Expanding beyond Nigeria’s borders, Dr. Idowu sees Xpress Payments catalyzing change in other African countries through its diverse suite of services.

Her strategic goals encompass doing things differently, upholding integrity in client relationships, and positioning Xpress Payments as the preferred partner for third parties. Dr. Idowu’s vision extends beyond mere corporate success; it embodies a commitment to effecting positive change and shaping a future where financial solutions are accessible to all.

The Unyielding Legacy

Dr. Idowu’s narrative transcends the conventional trajectory of a banking professional. It symbolizes a harmonious convergence of experience, technology, and visionary leadership. As she continues to steer Xpress Payments toward greater heights, her journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of resilience, collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to making financial solutions simpler and more accessible for all.

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