Stella Wambui Njunge is a finance professional boasting a career spanning 20 years in the insurance industry.
The 50-year-old Managing Director at AIG Kenya Insurance Company Limited shares her career journey with the Sunday Nation.
Tell us about your childhood and family life.
I am the firstborn in a family with six siblings. I grew up on a farm in Nairobi. My mother was an avid farmer though she has since retired. My parents encouraged and rewarded strong academic performance which set the standard for my education growth and professional life.
Among my interests are reading and traveling, with the reading emanating from being a bookworm in my early life. I fondly remember getting lost in my books for hours mostly up the trees on the farm where it was quiet and peaceful.
What’s your educational background?
I went to Kilimani Junior Academy for my school education and Alliance Girls’ High School for both my ‘A’ and ‘O’ levels. I then studied International Business Administration for undergraduate at USIU-A followed by postgraduate studies at Strathmore Business School. Professionally, I’m a member of ICPAK, ICPSK and I am a fellow of the Life Management Institute (LOMA).
Share with us your career journey.
I held a number of finance-related roles before moving into general management. I started my career at the ICEA Limited (now ICEA Lion) at an entry-level then worked my way up to a Senior Accountant role. I later moved to GA Insurance where I worked as the Finance Manager for six years before moving into life business and joining Liberty Life as the General Manager for Retail Life and thereafter Sanlam Life as the Chief Executive Officer in 2017.
I am currently serving as the Managing Director for AIG Kenya Insurance Company, a transition I made during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
AIG is a global brand known for quality and reliability with a presence in 80 countries. As the Managing Director for the Kenyan business, I’m responsible for driving the company’s operation in Kenya as well as focusing on the company’s entire growth and profitability.
Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy and opportunities in the insurance sector are immense. We have a young population and a growing middle class with access to smartphones which as a company, I would like to spearhead engaging and interesting in insurance. I’m happy to lead the Kenyan business.
What the most memorable thing about your career journey?
The one thing that is quite vivid in my career journey is having to deal with change at each position I have held, and that this called for a different set of skills. As such, I learnt flexibility and versatility. In my earlier days, I had very good mentors who provided me with a solid foundation and lessons on good leadership. They also encouraged me to work hard and aim for excellence.
Tell us about your career progression over the years
I have made several career changes, and each has been informed by different circumstances. The experience has been different at each move but overall a lot of growth has been achieved both professionally and personally.
What has been a key driver of your growth and what lessons have you picked?
Looking for change and growth have been my key drivers. I have learnt that willingness to learn and good change management skills are success drivers.
Overall, I have had a good experience at each stage of my working life. Having a positive attitude and remaining true to myself has contributed to the experience. Resilience is an attribute you build with time. As a leader, I try to impact people’s lives positively.
Who would you credit for your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?
I would like to single out Mary M’Mukindia, my executive coach and Ruma Shah, Head of Group Internal Audit at I&M Bank. They afforded me great upfront examples on being a woman in leadership. I also have a good number of mentors and friends who have offered advice on my professional journey and I am grateful to them for the wisdom shared.
Key decisions you might have taken along your career?
One was to move into accountancy and finance. This shaped my initial professional years. The second decision was to move out of finance into general management. My finance background continues to provide a solid base for my years in management.
What would you tell your younger self?
Focus on learning and work hard. This will set the base for your development. Be principled and be true to yourself. Surround yourself with people who are better than you. You will benefit greatly from their experience.
What’s your advise to the youth in Kenya and Africa today?
Education and hard work pay. Be aggressive about your career. Build resilience as there will be difficult situations and it is important that you bounce back. As you grow, build others.
I plan to continue working and making my contribution in the insurance industry and this is what I am focusing on. I look forward to an industry that is going to make headway in eradicating fraud and increasing the insurance penetration in the region. The answer lies in customer education, distribution and product design. As leaders we underestimate the impact that we have on others. Small actions count as well as large ones.