Career Path with Chief Risk Officer at Family Bank

May 3, 2021

John Wachiuri, 44, is the Chief risk officer at Family Bank Limited, Kenya.

The father of four holds an MBA in Finance from United States International University-Africa (USIU). Wachiuri is also a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, and Certified Information System Auditor.

He spoke to Nation.Africa about his career path.

Briefly tell us about yourself

I believe I am a people person who is easy to get along with. I can sometimes be too detailed. I am also quite observant. I like analyzing situations especially numbers. I also like adventure and I do this by visiting new places since I don’t like monotony.

I am a good listener and I don’t like taking things for granted before gathering facts. I have a passion for nature and environmental conservation. During the rainy seasons, you will find me planting trees whenever I get a chance.

Tell us about your childhood and family life

As a child, I loved school but was a bit playful and cheeky. I also grew up in a spiritual environment and I was actually an altar boy in my earlier years.

I am a husband to a beautiful wife called Mercy and a father of four lovely children. I try to spend time with my family whenever I’m free, although sometimes exigencies of duties take a toll. That said, my family comes first above everything else.

Educational background.

I schooled in Highway Secondary School in Nairobi, then proceeded to Kenyatta University for a Bachelor Degree in Economics and Business. I did my MBA in Finance from USIU Africa. I also have other professional qualifications relevant to my field such as Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Information System Auditor. I still maintain some friends whom I met in school.

Share with us your career journey

I have 18 years of experience having started my career at Equity Bank in 2003 where I worked in Compliance, Risk and Internal Audit departments. I have also worked in various other organizations such as Strathmore University, where I taught ACCA and CPA courses. I’ve worked as a Finance Officer at Credit Bank, a Senior Internal Auditor at East African Development Bank in Kampala, Head of Compliance and then Head of Audit at Bank of Africa. I also had a stint at Competition Authority where I assisted in setting up the Internal Audit Department. Before my current role as Chief Risk Officer, I was heading the Internal Audit unit at Family Bank.

What do you remember most about your career journey? 

Working in internal audit has taught me how to be patient with people. I have also developed communication skills which are key when presenting to senior management and the board and learnt how to be confident and stand for the truth at all times. I have learnt that in order to get quality output, prior planning is very critical. I have learnt to appreciate everyone’s input and that no one has a monopoly of knowledge.

How have you progressed over the years career-wise?

I have grown from the lowest level and gradually taken more challenging roles, of course, with guidance and coaching from the supervisors that I have worked with. I recall serving as a cashier the first time I worked in a bank, and it was quite an experience, especially when you get a cash difference which you had to resolve before going home.

My progress has been as a result of hard work, dedication, learning from others, listening to other’s views and above all, placing everything else before God. I believe in doing my best regardless of whether others notice.

What has been a key driver of your growth? Lessons learnt, celebrations and failures.

I am always driven by the urge to do my best in all my engagements. I have made many mistakes yes, but I have learnt to pick myself up, look back, reflect and improve on the areas that I have failed.

When I was young, I was very fast in accomplishing tasks. I have however learned to think through before taking an action or a decision. I have enjoyed every step I have made in my career journey.

I can however single out a few milestones, for instance the step towards joining senior management when I was appointed an Audit Manager at Family Bank way back in 2008 at the age of 30. I was able to sit in senior management meetings and share ideas and also learn from very seasoned professionals who were much more experienced and older than myself.

I also recall my experience in a multicultural environment when I worked at the East African Development Bank based in Kampala, Uganda. I interacted and learnt different cultures by working with colleagues from other East African countries, that is, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

I also cherish the experience of CPA and ACCA courses at Strathmore University. It gives me a sense of fulfilment when I meet students I taught between 2005 and 2007, most of whom are doing very well in various fields within the accounting profession.

I cannot also forget to mention my time at Family Bank which has been quite a fulfilling experience, working with a dynamic team of professionals.

In terms of habits, I always believe in being authentic at all times. Standing for the truth regardless of the circumstances is quite crucial though not easy. I have also leant to have an eye for details even over small things.

Who would you single out for shaping your career growth, and how did they influence your trajectory?

I have learnt something from everyone I have worked with, both my peers and seniors.
I recall our accounting lecturer, Dr James McFie of Strathmore University, who insisted on the need to take care of small things that matter most such as keeping time, avoiding wastage, completing tasks such as homework and above all upholding integrity at all times.

I am also inspired by the founding Chairman of Family Bank, Mr T.K. Muya who started the bank as a Building Society in 1985. I admire his resilience, astute entrepreneurship spirit, strong work ethics and discipline especially with time management.

Key decisions you might have taken along your career?

There are always issues that one must balance such as balancing time between family and work expectations both of which are important. I had to take a hard decision to relocate from Kenya and work in Uganda for two years.

Your current role and scope of role?

My role in risk entails implementing a robust Enterprise-Wide Risk Management Framework at Family Bank in order to ensure that preventive controls are put in place to mitigate against risks crystallizing.

The role also entails ensuring that the bank complies with laws and regulations from the Central Bank of Kenya and other relevant regulators including implementing an anti-money laundering framework in the bank.

What would you tell your younger self?

I should have been more dynamic and not too serious (laughs).

What would you advise the youth in Kenya and Africa today?

To be patient, to know that success does not come in a day, that every minute contributes to success; not to waste too much time on social media and things that do not add value; to learn from those who have more experience than them; to inculcate a culture of savings and investing no matter how little and above all to put God ahead of their plans.

Upholding integrity is also key to one’s success. In addition, they should not be swayed by the crowd through herd mentality. One should chart their course without necessarily being influenced by friends around them. If for instance, a young man sees their friend buying a flashy car, they should not kill themselves by borrowing money all over just to buy a similar car so as to “conform”.  I would advise them to live within their means, but that does not mean that they should not be ambitious.

It is also important to stay focused on a goal until it is achieved. Key to note is also to take action and not wait for the right moment which might lead to procrastination. A decision made, even if it is wrong, is better than no decision at all. One can always correct wrong decisions. Before making critical decisions, it is critical to step back, reflect and think through the issue at hand.

Future plans?

I pray that I can be the best version of myself always. I look forward to influencing, motivating and developing those that I work with to be future leaders, to be better than I am. I also aspire to learn from those who are better than myself as much as possible so that I can deliver and achieve better results in my future roles.

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