Think - AT LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL

Ten Black business leaders to watch

We celebrate 10 inspiring individuals who motivate and encourage us to aspire to greater heights

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Representation matters. Seeing people who look like you, and watching what those people do, can positively or negatively shape your expectations and beliefs for what you can achieve.

But there are painfully few Black senior leaders in the arena of global business. C-suites across the largest firms in the world remain largely untransformed. In July 2014, in the UK, out of all 100 FTSE companies, there were only two Black executives in the top roles (CEO, CFO or Chair). This year, there were none. That’s not one single black CEO, CFO or Chair out of 100 UK companies.

So, it is reassuring to see this group of excellent and accomplished individuals bucking that trend. They are not only occupying some of the highest positions in business, but they are also being unapologetic about who they are and leveraging their identities to help reshape the business world.

Many of them have entered industries that have not typically been associated with Black people. They are all using their voices and positions to defy stereotypes, change the narrative and pave the way for those who will come after them.

Discover fresh perspectives and research insights from LBS

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Ismail Ahmed, Founder & Chairman of WorldRemit

LBS Executive MBA graduate, Ismail, co-founded WorldRemit in 2010 with the hopes of bringing a traditionally offline industry online to help millions of people around the world. Inspired by his own experience in London, sending money back home to Somaliland, Ismail hoped to reduce the risks involved with money transfer. Prior to founding WorldRemit, he was part of the United Nations Remittance Programme, helping African money transfer companies navigate through complicated compliance laws. WorldRemit, also known as Zepz, was the UK’s first black-owned tech “unicorn” and since its founding, the company has grown into a US$5bn fintech platform with over 11 million users across 150 countries. Ismail continues to use his talent and platform to build solutions to problems that affect billions of people across emerging markets, while inspiring the next generation of African tech entrepreneurs.

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Luvvie Ajayi Jones, Digital Strategist, Author and Speaker

Luvvie is a multiple times New York Times bestselling author, speaker, CEO and self-described “Professional Troublemaker”. Born in Nigeria and raised in Chicago, Luvvie has worked in the digital and marketing strategy space for close to 20 years, and her unique and humorous takes on issues at the intersection of culture, humour and justice have earned her global critical acclaim. Her TED talk, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” describes how greatness lies beyond fear and has been viewed over 7 million times. Luvvie has been described by Oprah Winfrey as someone who “elevates humanity” and her expertise has been engaged by companies including Google, Facebook and Salesforce. Luvvie’s work and voice is a much-needed source of comfort and motivation for us as a community.

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Nnenna Ilomechina, Partner and Managing Director at Accenture

Nnenna continues to be a trailblazer from being the lone woman graduate in her Computer and Electrical Engineering class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to thriving in a male-dominated restructuring market, and now being the most senior Black Partner in her division today. She currently runs Accenture’s UK & Ireland Strategy Portfolio for the Telecoms, Media & Tech Industry, working with large clients to orchestrate and deliver transformational outcomes such as revenue growth, innovation and operational efficiency. A proud LBS MBA alumna, Nnenna is passionate about mentoring and developing opportunities for diverse talent. She leads several inclusive-focused initiatives for Accenture’s UK’s Strategy and Consulting Practice, and is on the development committee for Music Masters a not-for profit championing diversity and inclusion in music education.

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Trevor Johnson, Head of Marketing GBS, Europe at TikTok. Independent Non-Executive Director at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA)

With years of experience in strategy and market development from AOL to Facebook/Instagram, Trevor joined TikTok in 2020 to build and grow business marketing across EMEA. Passionate about supporting the black community across Europe, Trevor and his coworkers at TikTok created a grassroots campaign with the ethos of “Black History, Black Present, and Black Future”, centered on the hashtag #MyRoots, highlighting black creator voices and featuring black leaders to share their stories and experiences on the 1 billion monthly active global user platform. Trevor champions diversity and inclusion efforts within the advertising industry through his various executive and advisory roles in organizations in the sector.

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Oliver & Alexander Kent-Braham, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Marshmallow

Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham are the co-founders of the UK-based insurtech business Marshmallow. The identical twins founded the business in 2017, and since then, Marshmallow has grown to become the second Black-owned company in the UK to reach “unicorn” status (the first was WorldRemit, co-founded by fellow honoree, Ismail Ahmed). The VC space is especially challenging for Black founders in the UK, with just 0.2% of venture capital funding going to Black entrepreneurs during the period 2009 – 2019. Oliver and Alexander are not only revolutionising the insurance industry, they are also using their success to highlight and address the ongoing lack of diversity in the broader tech industry. At their own firm, Marshmallow is committed to making a more equitable world: 20% of the company’s workforce are from BAME backgrounds and 50% are female.

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Mpumi Madisa, CEO of Bidvest Group

Mpumi is the CEO of Bidvest Group, a major global industrials group headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa. She made history in 2019 when she became the first Black female CEO of a JSE Top 40 listed company at the age of 39. The start of her term coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, but Mpumi was able to demonstrate her leadership instinct and business prowess when she led the company to achieve a 15.4% increase in revenues, even exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Mpumi has helped grow Bidvest’s UK businesses, PHS and Noonan, from regional players in London to UK-wide top 10 companies. Mpumi is passionate about mentorship and about rethinking workplaces to create a more equal environment where everybody, particularly women, can succeed. President Cyril Ramaphosa has described her as an “inspiration” to all, and her journey continues to encourage and motivate us as the LBS community

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Esther Odenkunle, Antibody Engineer at GlaxoSmithKline

Esther is a Senior Scientist and Antibody Engineer, and her work focuses on identifying and removing risks in antibodies to make them more developable as medicines. Her fascination with science started at a young age when she would read books about the animal kingdom and the human body. Her passion for the subject continued past high school, when she attended Queen Mary University of London, where she earned a Bachelors in Biochemistry and a PhD in Neurobiology. Esther is a passionate advocate for the increase in Black and woman representation in STEM careers. She uses her YouTube channel to highlight underrepresented people in STEM who have made important contributions to the world we live in but haven’t been recognised as they should, and also shares more about her own journey.

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Morin Oluwole, Global Head of Luxury at Facebook

Morin joined Facebook in 2006, back when it was only 150 employees. She foresaw the opportunity and value Facebook could bring to the fashion industry as a marketing vehicle and established Facebook’s luxury hub in Paris in 2015. Since then, she has grown her team and partnered with  luxury brands to support their creative storytelling and business development across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp & Messenger. As the Director & Global Head of Luxury, Morin also drives the innovation arm of the luxury division for Facebook products, supporting brands evolution on business and creative impact. She’s keenly aware of her position as one of the few women and one of the only Black women in her industry and at Facebook, where she was one of the founders of Black at Facebook and Women at Facebook. Morin takes an active role in mentoring at Facebook and is a passionate champion for diversity and inclusion.

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Sylvester Oppong, Head of Healthcare Services Corporate Finance and M&A at EY

Sylvester heads up EYs UK healthcare M&A advisory practice, where he advises entrepreneurs, management teams, corporates, and private equity firms. A Cambridge graduate, Sylvester started his career at Goldman Sachs in 2001 and is currently one of the few Black senior Investment Bankers in London and Partners at a UK Big 4 firm. Sylvester is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders, playing a big role in his firm’s push to hire more Black talent and mentor upcoming leaders.