April 15, 2024
Biography of Mitchell Elegbe

Mitchell Elegbe is Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer and a member of the board of directors at Interswitch, a business he conceptualized and has led since 2002 when the company went into operation. 

Under his leadership, Interswitch has remarkably diversified its business, broadened distribution channels, and expanded into new markets across Africa, driving revolutionary payment innovation and social impact and delivering strong growth in revenue and profits (recognized by Deloitte in 2014 as ‘Africa’s fastest growing technology business’).

Life of “Mitchell Elegbe” At a Glance:

Mitchell Elegbe

Full Name: Mitchell Elegbe

Nationality: Benin

Date of Birth: 14th November 1973

Place of Birth: Benin City

Fields of Expertise: Entrepreneur, Engineer

Education: B.Eng (Hons) Electrical / Electronic Engineering University of Benin

IESE/Wharton/CEIBS Global CEO Program

Contributions: Founding Interswitch, 2008 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow

Net Worth: Approximately US$26 billion

Birth, Education, and Early Life of “Mitchell Elegbe” :

After his father died unexpectedly shortly before his birth, leaving his mother a widow and him as the youngest child, he moved in with his uncle in Aladja, Delta State, who took care of him and became a father figure in his life. 

He began his entrepreneurial career while studying electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Benin in Edo State. To make ends meet as a student, he had to operate various side businesses such as selling shirts and audiotapes.

Following his year of National Youth Service, he got his first actual job as a field engineer with Schlumberger Wireline and Testing in Scotland. The idea of Interswitch was developed in Scotland.

Mitchell is an Electrical/Electronic Engineering graduate from the University of Benin, Nigeria, and also an alumnus of the IESE/Wharton/CEIBS Global CEO Program. He is a consummate people-centric leader who believes in motivating his colleagues at Interswitch to have confidence in their value as individuals; in the value of the work they do; and in their value as team members, whilst being relentless in his pursuit of sustainable value for stakeholders.

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Career

As an undergrad, Mitchell Elegbe struggled to make ends meet by making a business out of dubbing cassettes he borrowed from friends.

Today, he is the founder and Group Managing Director of Interswitch Limited, a payment processing company. An encounter with an ATM seizing his card in Scotland inspired the idea for Interswitch.

In 1998, Elegbe was a young wireline engineer working for Schlumberger in Livingston, Scotland. An ATM snatched his card, leaving him stranded. 

This was only one incident in a lifetime of experiencing the annoyances that the payments industry had to offer at the time.

When he returned to Nigeria, he was instantly reminded that having access to cash was a societal issue. Because there were few bank branches at the time, the only way to acquire cash from one was to go to one and wait in the queue. 

This can sometimes take three to four hours. Customers would almost always withdraw significantly more money than they needed because of the excessive wait times to avoid making the same journey repeatedly.

Carrying big quantities of cash is a difficult effort, and when you have so much on show for all to see, you, unfortunately, expose yourself to several unpleasant situations: theft and fraud.

As a result, he addressed both the difficulties in obtaining funds and the problems that money may cause. This made him see that money was not the enemy in and of itself.

The issue that needed to be overcome was ensuring that people could receive cash when and in the amount that they desired.

Elegbe joined Telnet a year later and rose through the ranks to become Group Head for Business Development. There, he proposed a transaction exchange to his then-boss and gained consent to carry it out. 

Elegbe, full of ambition and a never-ending drive to discover answers to the myriad problems he had observed in the payment business, conceived the concept to use the switching software and address the recurring problem of acquiring cash. 

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Founding Interswitch

Interswitch

On December 4, 2002, Elegbe founded Interswitch with the assistance of two other young, like-minded visionaries, Akeem Lawal (who is now Interswitch’s MD for Payment Processing and Switching) and Charles Ifedi (who is presently co-founder of Banquo).

The team received the backing of a few banks, who donated a portion of the start-up financing, as well as the consulting firm Accenture.

Even though Elegbe’s payment services firm struggled initially, his relentless attention to the work at hand helped it to swiftly achieve reputation and confidence within the Nigerian financial services market. 

It offered electronic payments, processing, and switching services as the heart of the digital payments ecosystem, upending the traditional cash-based payment system.

Interswitch’s services grew in popularity, attracting a loyal following and laying the groundwork for future growth. 

Elegbe’s ambitions were fueled by this accomplishment, which prompted him to move into unknown terrain and spread his influence throughout Africa, including Uganda, Kenya, The Gambia, and, most recently, Sierra Leone.

Elegbe’s Interswitch debuted the Verve card in 2009, and it was the first chip card in Nigeria to be accepted across all payment modalities.

Elegbe’s Interswitch worked with a variety of corporations to carry out its expansion strategy, including Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, and Discover Global Network.

The Verve Global card was later introduced, allowing users to conduct transactions in over 185 countries globally.

Interswitch has significantly expanded its size and reach over the years by partnering with Quickteller, a pioneering digital payments network that links billers and merchants with customers. 

Quickteller quickly became the most extensively utilized digital payment platform.

According to a previous declaration, globalization and variety are the keys to the future. 

Elegbe and his team expertly adapted goods and services to meet the specific needs of a diverse variety of clients after understanding the need to adapt their business strategies to appeal to different markets.

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Family, Marriage, and Children

Mercy Elegbe is Mitchell Elegbe’s happily wedded wife. They have three children.

Achievements & Awards

Elegbe is a people-focused leader who is relentless in his quest for long-term value for stakeholders and believes in encouraging his team to believe in their values.

His outstanding leadership abilities have earned him numerous honors, including the General Management Category Leadership Award from the Harvard Business School Association (Nigeria); the African Banker Awards 2019 as the African Banker Icon; the CNBC/Forbes All African Business Leader (AABLA) Awards for West Africa; and the Payments and Transfer category from the Financial Technology (Fintech) Africa Awards in 2016.

Elegbe is an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellow at the African Leadership Institute who is passionate about actively assisting new entrepreneurs.

 He exhibits this zeal by participating on the board of Endeavour Nigeria, a well-known global initiative to promote entrepreneurial growth. 

Interswitch used its 20th anniversary in 2022 to reiterate its commitment to never stop pushing the boundaries of innovation as it draws closer to fulfilling its vision of a prosperous Africa powered by seamless value exchange and commerce.

Elegbe expects that his future efforts will have a bigger impact on society. He aspires to manage initiatives that address pressing global issues, with a focus on long-term value for all stakeholders, resulting in broad economic, social, and environmental change.

 He wishes to channel his entrepreneurial drive into inspiring the next generation of business leaders to use innovation and ethical business practices to make the world a better place.

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