At HP, I made a very expensive mistake that cost the company millions of dollars. I felt so bad about how that episode played out that I thought I may be fired and actually offered to resign. However, my boss at the time discouraged me from doing so. He made a point that if I left the firm, HP will be losing all the knowledge that I had to the competition.
Mr. Kyari Abba Bukar was born in Maiduguri. After obtaining a degree in Physics from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, he travelled to the USA where he studied Nuclear Engineering at Oregon State University. He stayed to work in the USA and rose to become part of a senior management team in charge of the development of a $5 Billion business unit at the Hewlett-Packard Company. Mr. Bukar has served as Managing Director/CEO of Central Securities Clearing System, Plc. (CSCS), the central securities depository of Nigerian capital markets. He has also been Managing Director/CEO of ValuCard Nigeria Plc (now Unified Payments System). Mr. Bukar was instrumental in introducing Visa cards into the Nigerian e-payments space and writing the rules that have underpinned the growth in the sector. He was Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group from 2015 to 2018. Mr. Kyari is a non-executive director at Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Ltd. An active member of an angel investor network that is focused on early-stage investment in technology companies, Mr. Kyari is in the process of raising funds to build a mid-sized private equity outfit. He is an alumnus of Lagos Business School (LBS), Wharton Business School and Harvard Business School, USA.
University, Science or Arts?
I studied Physics at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. All the members of my family were very science-oriented. I did my National Youth Service at Shell in Lagos and then travelled to the United States, initially to North Western University for my graduate studies studying Nuclear Physics. I moved to Oregon State University and enrolled in a Nuclear Engineering programme. I then worked for Hewlett Packard, initially as part of the inkjet technology business.
Biggest lesson from school?
I learnt independence, competition and teamwork, especially in schools abroad. The experience gave me the confidence I needed to find solutions and this helped me a lot later in my career.
I had an Indian Physics teacher in secondary school. We had great conversations beyond the curriculum.
Greater influence, mum or dad?
My mother had the gift of laughter and never taking yourself too seriously but at the same time she had a way to push you to aspire to achieve more. My dad was a deep thinker and made me conscious about my environment and how things like the economy and politics worked.
Transition back to Nigeria?
I came back to Nigeria and Mohammed Hayatudeen, the former CEO of FSB International Bank was instrumental in bringing me on board at the Bank, initially as General Manager but eventually as Executive Director. My portfolio was around electronic banking, IT and operations. By virtue of my position, I was appointed an alternate director at ValuCard. Eventually, I became the first Nigerian CEO of ValuCard and led the transformation of the business from a loss-making firm to a very profitable enterprise. I moved on to become the CEO of the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS), a subsidiary of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. In 2016, I retired to focus on the various initiatives that I am involved in at the moment. I seat on several boards in addition to the work I am doing in private equity.
Biggest challenge that impacted your career?
At HP, I made a very expensive mistake that cost the company millions of dollars. I felt so bad about how that episode played out that I thought I may be fired and actually offered to resign. However, my boss at the time discouraged me from doing so. He made a point that if I left the firm, HP would be losing all the knowledge that I had to the competition. That environment that cultivated a culture of risk-taking and that type of leadership is something that I aspired to cultivate as I progressed in my career as an executive management leader. I think that those who have worked with me will testify that I embodied that leadership style at the firms where I had the privilege of leading. I “allow” people to make mistakes.
Your best boss ever?;
I had a lot of good bosses. One that stands out is Eric Skinner at HP. He was instrumental in my becoming a confident public speaker. He also gave the opportunity to make mistakes, cultivating that spirit of taking initiative.
What type of music do you like?
My interest is varied. I enjoy jazz and a bit of classical music. I also enjoy theater and so, I look forward to the opportunities to watch live performances when I travel abroad.
Who are your favourite authors?
I read a lot and at any given moment, I could be reading as many as two or three books. I am currently reading Clayton Christensen’s latest book, The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty. I generally read business-related subjects, economics, self-development content and things of that nature.
Most expensive fashion accessory you have spent on?
I have no idea. Probably a watch.
Favourite place to go in Nigeria and abroad?
In Nigeria, it will be Maiduguri where I grew up. Abroad, I enjoy places that offer great scenery. I visited Kigali recently and I really enjoyed it.
Favourite car brand?
Most expensive fashion accessory ever purchased?
Not sure. Probably a watch.
I am not brand-obsessed to be honest. While in the US, I use to like Brooks Brothers but now I like to have my outfits tailored.
Tea or coffee?;
Coffee and it has to be expresso. I like Starbucks but in the absence of that, I make do with ground coffee.
What’s your take on wealth?
It is something we should use to touch the lives of other people. It is also a reward for solving problems in society.
In terms of your ideology, are you more to the right or the left?
I am conservative in many ways but liberal on a number of social issues. You could call me a middle of the road individual.
Best use of money ever for you?
Investment in the education of others.
I watch a bit but I can’t claim to be a diehard soccer fan. I do follow NBA basketball and American football though. I am a fan of the LA Lakers.
Where do you see Nigeria in 10 years?
Hopefully, with good leadership, we will begin to come out of the mess that we are in today. I hope for a better society.
What development model across the world do you think Nigeria can adopt from what we’ve seen across the world. India or China?
Either or a combination could be relevant but we must also create our own model. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how Nigerians have contributed to the development of the US economy. What tells me is that the problem of Nigeria is the leadership that can harness that human capital.
The Lunch Hour was at The Flowershop Café, Victoria Island.