1969

 Born in Lagos, Nigeria 

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I was born in Lagos, Nigeria in the same year that the country’s violent civil war came to an end. Although the Nigerian-Biafran War was over, Lagos was still considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. But while everything outside of my home was turbulent, I was fortunate enough to have been brought up by loving parents who provided a safe and stable home for me and my five siblings.

Throughout my life, my mom had an especially profound impact on my worldview. She taught me at a very young age that nothing is impossible. You can achieve anything you want with the help of two things: Faith and a Mission.

 
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1980

Dreaming of Harvard

But where did I get this idea? Growing up in Lagos, we always kept up with American culture. In movies and magazines, I would always hear about Harvard as the place where the world’s brightest minds attended college. And that’s what I was – a bright mind! School provided me with a way to gain notoriety; to be “the smart kid.” Over the course of my education, I was enrolled in advanced classes and actually skipped two grades – allowing me to graduate early from high school, and later, college.

When it came time to choose my area of study, I thought back to my youth, and my older brother’s friend, Dolly. Dolly would talk to me about money and finance, and the type of life it would provide. While everyone else I knew was focused on the traditional “path,” he was talking about a more extraordinary life. When it came time to go to college, I knew I wanted to get a degree that brought with it the power to guide money. In Lagos, as far as my parents were concerned, you had three options for college – become a doctor, become a lawyer or become an accountant. But instead of doing what was expected of me, I was determined to make my own path.

 

1987

Barbarians at the Gate

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I began my path to Harvard by pursuing a degree in accounting from the University of Lagos. Two years later, I would read a book that ignited my passion for financial education and rekindle my desire to go to Harvard. The book, “Barbarians at the Gate,” recounted the hostile corporate takeover of RJR Nabisco.

I was immediately hooked, and saw in Bruce Wasserstein (the prominent Wall Street tycoon) the life that Dolly had told me about as a kid. Reading about the things he was able to do was more exciting to me than Batman, License to Kill, or any of the other blockbuster action films that came out that summer. I knew right then and there that I had to work my way into high finance and that I needed a Master’s degree to do it. At the age of 20, I completed my accounting degree and was singularly focused on going to America to get my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard.

 
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1990

Arriving to the USA

At 21-years old I boarded an airplane to New York with only $250 in cash, no friends, and no job. But I had Faith. I believed that God would light my path and help my hard work pay off. Unfortunately, my meager savings didn’t last long, so my struggle began shortly after I arrived, and at one point, I found myself homeless. But even these wouldn’t stop me. I worked hard — sometimes having three jobs — and earned my way into Harvard’s MBA program.

 

I made good on that promise to my 11-year-old self, and had taken the next step toward becoming an investment banker. Unfortunately, after graduating, I got the shock that millions of Americans know all-too-well; $125,800 in student loan debt.

 

1996

 Paying off $125,800 in student loan debt 

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After graduating from Harvard Business School (HBS) in the Summer of 1996 with $125,000 in student debt, I decided to take my talents to Wall Street with a highly sought after position at one of the premier companies in the World — Salomon Smith Barney (later renamed Citigroup Capital Markets). After all, my main reason for attending HBS was to become what I considered the ultimate career – a lucrative investment banking job with a top tier Wall Street firm.

Working 80-hour work weeks and regular all-nighters under three venerable leaders — Jamie Dimon (now CEO of JP Morgan), Bruce Wasserstein (former CEO of Lazard & Co) and Benjamin Lorello (now CEO of Jefferies & Co) — I worked to secure mergers & acquisitions worth billions of dollars and corporate finance transactions for some of the world’s largest corporations. And thanks to the large bonuses Wall Street companies are known for, I was also able to pay off my student debt within a few short years

 

2003

Founded the Pacific Group

Midway into my investment banking career, I realized that Wall Street was not for me. While I enjoyed the thrills and challenges of chasing and executing multi-billion dollar deals, more than making money, I wanted meaning from my life.

So, in 2003, I teamed up with AXA, the French conglomerate, and set up my own financial advisory firm, The Pacific Group with the goal of helping both rich and poor families build good financial habits by advising them on the best ways to build a secure retirement nest egg, minimize taxes, educate their kids, protect their families from unseen events, and protect their assets from creditors.

 

2018

Founded Sootchy

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One day while at The Pacific Group, I was speaking to a large group of prospective clients on fife today ways to build wealth. A young lady walked up to me with her dad. She must have been about 24-years old and introduced herself as Angela. Angela was crying. She had accrued more than $120,000 in student debt and was earning $53,000/year.

Due to the overwhelming burden of her student loan payments, Angela felt like her life had been stolen from her — she couldn’t buy a home, start a family, go on vacation, and had tarnished her credit due to a few missed payments..  Nobody told Angela at 18 what life would be like with student loan debt.

Angela’s story led me to begin looking into the problem of student debt and I was immediately shocked by what I found: 46 million Americans have accrued more than $1.6 trillion in student debt, and more than 15% of people are unable to make payments on their loans, causing them to be in default. It was also clear at the time the problem was only poised to get worse because another 50 million kids currently under age 18 would accrue even more student loans.

Unfortunately, most people (70% of Americans) have no knowledge of, or access to, savings opportunities for their children’s education expenses. And those who have the knowledge are unable to afford the $175,000 average cost of a public out-of-state 4-year eduction, as the average family of four earns $70,000.

And that’s why I created Sootchy — to ensure that every child who wishes to go to college (or any other higher education institution) has the opportunity to do so without the burden of student debt.