Arese Ugwu is the founder of a personal finance blog Smart Money Africa. It is a platform that provides high quality content and action tools tailored to Africans. She holds a B.Sc. in Business and Management from Aston Business School, Birmingham and a M.Sc. in Economic Development from University College London.. She is also an alumna of the of the Lagos Business School, INSEAD Abu Dhabi and The London School of Business executive education programs.

Arese has a blossoming career as the head of Wealth Management at Partnership Investment Plc; a financial services company that has been in business for 24 years. Her responsibility is to build the company’s wealth management division, through business development and relationship management.

4 Practical lessons we can learn from Arese Ugwu

Change your approach To finding a mentor

Arese mentioned once that she met her mentor Ms. Tara Fela-Durotoye on an executive course in Abu Dhabi. Ms. Tara blocked her during the tea break and started asking her questions. She wanted to know why someone her age was on the course.

A lot of us desire a mentor and even have very high standards on the kind of mentor we want. But then, do we go to places where we can find a mentor or be found by one? What are you involved in that will secure the attention of someone to the point where they will be interested in your person?


Don’t allow the fear of criticism overcome you.

Early this year, Arese organized the first Smart Money Woman conference which was a huge success. One of the lessons she shared from it was this.

“When you have a vision, surround yourself with people who will add value, support you and believe in you even in the moments when you don’t believe in yourself. Separate yourself from negative people and comments that try to tell you can’t do what you set out to do.

Let me explain, I love to say that I have a Chanel bag of support systems because the people closest to me are genuinely my biggest fans, their encouragement is beyond normal, even when I second-guess myself. They always tell me “do you know who you are Arese? ‘You Gat this’!

So, when I decided to do this event they were all more than supportive. However, I also heard a lot of negative things said by ‘acquaintances’ etc. The best of which were ‘who does she think she is? Is she Warren Buffet, How can she charge 30k? She didn’t even go to Harvard!’

For a minute, me sef I ask myself  ‘ Come Arese who do you think you are? Are you Warren Buffet?’  I confess I let ‘They’ get to me a little but after I mistakenly shared my fears with my mentor and she gave me a piece of her mind (because she doesn’t tolerate succumbing to fear), I remembered who I was!

This is who I think I am; I am Arese, I went to Aston Business School and UCL (University College London). I’ve worked in financial services for 8years, I’ve spent thousands of dollars investing in executive education programs from Lagos Business School, London Business School, INSEAD amongst others to improve myself.

I serve on the board of several companies including House of Tara and the NHEF alongside some very accomplished people, who value my contributions.  Some of whom even went to Harvard. Lol!

So, I think I’m pretty smart! Do I think I’m the smartest person in the financial industry? No!  But I know this! Each of us have a special skill set, a unique talent that God has given us to share with the world, so don’t let people who may not be doing much with their lives step on your dreams, it is a reflection of their limitations not yours! I know money, and how to break it down in a way that the everyday person can understand. The numerous people who have reached out to me via email and in person to share how my work has helped them manage their finances better are a testament to this.”

When I read this post, I could feel the energy and true emotions behind it. But I must point out, how do you ignore criticism if you aren’t even aware of your strengths and abilities? Find yourself, invest in that self and implement your wonderful ideas. Forget about what people say and focus. At the end of the day when you’ve implemented your idea successfully, it becomes plain ol’ hater gibberish.

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This life is 100% your responsibility… No one is coming to save you

(Excerpts from one of Arese’s Articles)

“In my opinion, the typical Nigerian in their 20s regardless of education or social standing is subconsciously looking for a savior. We finish school and are subconsciously waiting for someone to come and rescue us and improve our financial lives. Ebuka is waiting for the government to improve its policies and create more jobs, Anita is enduring her 9-5 life as banker while she’s waiting for a rich husband to come and marry her, Yomi is waiting for his uncle to find him a job and Sade’s lifestyle is supplemented by ‘uncle hep me’. Sometimes the saviors will come through but its not sustainable and you must realize that you are the rule not the exception. In the event that the said savior does not come through you have to have a financial plan that is dependent on you.  Start improving your finances by putting 20% of your income aside to build assets for the long run. It took a few experiences for me to realize that no one was going to come and save me and these bills weren’t going to pay themselves.  Don’t wait for a crisis to view your finances differently. Look at them differently now and avoid a crisis. You are entitled to nothing, if you want it you are going to have to earn it. The tougher the economy gets the more financially responsible you have to become. ‘Aunty hep me’ just won’t cut it anymore because even the people that gave handouts before have their own responsibilities to think about so as you approach 30 you must take full responsibility for your financial life. The world does not align with your goals simply because you wish it.”

Enough said.


Learn to play the cards you are dealt like they were the cards you wanted

(Excerpts from one of Arese’s Articles)

“Listen! It’s great to have a plan for your life, its very important actually. Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy or stupid. Those things are what happens when you don’t have a plan. I’m a ‘lists’ girl! I have goal lists for everything from career to motherhood but I’ve learned that life won’t always go exactly as planned and you have to learn to be fluid.  In fact embrace the struggle because there will be struggles but overcoming them may lead you on a path with greater opportunities. Don’t be afraid of failure as long as you are dong everything within your power to succeed. The challenges we face in life are always lessons that serve our personal growth.”

This particular point struck me to my core. A lot of people end up with broken dreams and frustrated lives simply because their life took an unexpected turn and they weren’t prepared to handle it. We have to embrace the “when life throws you lemons, make lemonade” mentality. Don’t let one little setback destabilize your entire life. Take charge


One of Arese’s main objectives is to help change the African narrative of poverty by educating her generation and the next via financial literacy content that breaks down the very complex issue of money. Arese’s articles have also been published in several media outlets and she often speaks about financial literacy and entrepreneurship at various conferences, workshops, universities and radio.

Arese sits on the boards of Partnership Securities Ltd (a subsidiary of the group), House of Tara International Ltd and The Nigeria Higher Education Foundation as a non-executive director and is an associate member of WIMBIZ (Women in Management Business & Public Service). Arese was a finalist and nominee for the Access Bank W Award for Young Professional of the year 2015.


Arese has a beautiful daughter named Zikora. She is the co-host of an ndani TV show called “AnalyseThis” where she alongside her co-host break down pertinent financial and economic issues across the Nation while showing how these issues affect the everyday Nigerian. She is also a contributor on one of the foremost newspapers in Nigeria “The Guardian”. She recently released her first book “Smart Money Woman”. Talk about multiple streams of income.

This post was culled from the Thresh woman WCW Column. The ThreshWoman WCW is a column I manage with the goal to celebrate and encourage the successes of women all around the world while inspiring other women to chase their dreams fiercely. 


One response to “Arese Ugwu”

  1. This are very good writeups on your role models in this category. I’m sure in due time your story would be featured here and also on bigger platform as inspiration to folks out there.
    Dont worry i’ll help write your own. lool 😛
    Eku ise.


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