CFI.co Meets the CEO of Dunn Loren Merrifield: Sonnie Ayere

True leadership is often characterised by the capacity to translate strategic vision into reality and thus attain the positive impact desired. That is also the hallmark of Sonnie Ayere whose new thinking on investment and capital financing in Africa has opened new paths to prosperity.

Mr Ayere is the founding chairman and group managing director of the Nigerian investment firm Dunn Loren Merrifield, a full service financial company established in 2009. As managing director and CEO of UBA Global Markets now UBA Capital, Mr Ayere under the guidance of his mentor, Tony Elumelu successfully launched and directed the investment banking arm of UBA Group Plc between 2005 and 2009, raising and trading more than $6.4bn for both sovereign clients & corporations.

Prior to Mr Ayere’s full business commitment in Africa, he had worked at the International Finance Corporation (IFC, a subsidiary of the World Bank) on the development of the Nigerian bond market. That market is now worth over NGN6.5trillion ($41.7bn). At the IFC, Mr Ayere held the role of structured finance specialist for sub-Saharan Africa. He developed structured finance and securitisation transactions in addition to creating instruments that support value in debt capital markets.

Now accumulating over twenty one years of professional experience in corporate and structured finance, corporate banking and asset management, Mr Ayere holds an MA (Hons.) in Financial Economics from the University of Dundee, Scotland from where he graduated in June 1993 with a 2:1. He is also an alumnus of the Cass Business School London where he obtained an MBA. That same year, Mr Ayere successfully concluded the Executive Corporate Finance Programme at the London Business School. After his studies, Mr Ayere gained valuable insights working at the BMO Nesbitt Burns, HSBC, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank and NatWest Bank all in London.

Fascinated by the alchemy of securitisation which he got introduced to in 1997, Mr Ayere developed a keen interest in the means and ways of financing large corporate projects, private companies and government institutions. He felt instantly at ease devising innovative models of structured finance. Mr Ayere believes that a high level of creativity – or out-of-the-box thinking – is an absolute necessity when aiming to strike the perfect balance between different asset classes and creating securities out of their cash flows – either basic or structured. This remains a guiding principle that unifies the team of over forty professionals Mr Ayere now leads at Dunn Loren Merrifield.

As an institution operating in the financial markets, Dunn Loren Merrifield thrives on a culture of innovation. The firm keeps a sharp focus on the requirements of its clients and offers peerless services and world-class execution of orders. “Our purpose is to offer new and simple solutions to the sometimes complex financial needs of our clients. We aim to positively impact the financial market with unique investment products for the buy-side based on new thinking models,” says Mr Ayere.

In February 2014, Mr Ayere was confirmed as the inaugural CEO of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), having served earlier as task manager for the setting up of the company. The Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company is set up as a private company charged with the public purpose of developing the primary and secondary mortgage markets in the country. The NMRC is to raise long-term funds in the domestic capital market and later from foreign markets. This way, the company is expected to contribute to the encouragement of affordable housing in a country of 170 million people. The initiative was championed by the presidency under the auspices of the Co-ordinating Minister of Finance and the Economy; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with support from the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and other private sector partners – commercial and mortgage banks.

The NMRC is the first financial institution in Nigeria to be established under a public/private partnership agreement. It is also the first time that the World Bank had contracted to inject capital in a secondary mortgage institution in Nigeria. The World Bank is providing $250m as Tier 2 capital for the company. The IFC is also a Tier 1 equity investor.


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