How I Rose From Casual Labourer to General Manager at Kenya Orient Life Assurance

May 16, 2022

Jackson Muli is the general manager at Kenya Orient Life Assurance. He boasts over 22 years of experience in insurance, having started off as a trainee.

Muli shared his  career path with Sunday Nation:

Tell us about your childhood and family life.

I was born in a family of seven a few decades ago. I am the second born in our family. I am a true and typical Kenyan as I grew up in a small village called Kiumo/Embui in Machakos County. I am a proud father of two.

Educational background.

My primary school was almost 4 kilometres from our home. I walked to and from school every day for eight years. I completed my KCPE and joined Tala High School where I sat for my KCSE and attained a mean grade of B+.

I then proceeded to Kenyatta University where I studied Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, Economics and Business studies. I majored in Economics and Business studies and graduated with Second Class Honours, Upper-Division.

Later on, I enrolled for my professional papers in Insurance (advanced Diploma in Insurance) and a Master’s degree in Strategic Management. In 2015 I enrolled for a senior leadership course at Strathmore University in conjunction with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Share with us your career journey.

My career journey started with a brief contract at SmithKline Beecham EA Ltd, now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), where I worked as a casual labourer in stock-taking of production in the blister lines at the factory.

Within a few months, I found myself in the insurance industry. My first job in the Insurance industry was at Madison Insurance Company as an insurance trainee, thanks to my aunt who encouraged me to try it.

While I was not sure of my career path at Madison Insurance, my passion and excellence in arithmetic and business understanding made me rise through the ranks to become a senior supervisor – handling life underwriting, claims and pensions – in a span of five years.

It was a positive turn of events and decided to develop my career further by pursuing an insurance advanced diploma concurrently with an MBA from the University of Nairobi. I was thereafter promoted to the Deputy Manager in charge of the entire life and pensions business at Madison Insurance.

I then joined ICEA Life in Uganda as a Life Manager and subsequently, I was appointed the CEO of the company. At the time, there were demergers in the Ugandan insurance industry. During my tenure, the asset base and profitability of the company doubled with the stakeholders reaping from the profitability of the business.

Later on, I joined Consolidated Bank where I was able to structure and create infrastructure for the organization in terms of systems, products, people and partnerships before moving on to my current job as the General Manager at Kenya Orient Life Assurance Ltd.

My main responsibility is to grow the company’s shareholder value. I work with my team on strategic facets of the business, and overall company operations to ensure business continuity and implementation.

What do you remember most about your career journey? 

It happened while I was working for ICEA Uganda. The company having started operations in 1998, policyholders had not been paid a bonus on their policies. With my team, we were able to steer growth and profits enabling the declaration of bonuses to policyholders at the time. It was fulfilling to contribute to a positive output for our customers and the industry at large.

How has your career progression been over the years?

I have risen from a trainee to a CEO position within a period of 14 years. This has been accelerated by self-drive, hard work and professional advancement in my career.

What has been a key driver of your growth?

The desire to see clients happy and satisfied is my key driver. There is a sense of conquest when you provide solutions to customers and surpass their expectations. I have learnt that celebrating small wins somehow provides a pathway to greater victories.

At Kenya Orient life Assurance Company, customer-centricity is one of the values which I advocate greatly within the organization.

Who would you credit for being helpful in your career growth? How did they influence your trajectory?

First and foremost, I must mention my family for being very supportive. My boss at Madison Insurance, Mr Mathias Sabala, saw the leader in me and brought it out. He encouraged me with special recognition for my ability to provide timely and accurate reports always. I salute you Mr Sabala!

Many of my colleagues in all the companies I worked for also challenged and supported me and thus shaped me into the person I am today.

Key decisions you might have taken along your career?

On my first appointment as a CEO, it was not easy to make final decisions for the company, bearing in mind that all along I had relied on my boss for final approvals. Making key decisions became a challenge and cast doubts on whatever I was supposed to put my signature on, in a bid to show commitment on behalf of the company.

However, with the experience gathered during that challenging period, I have been able to make decisions that positively impact the business. Being an early bird, my leadership skills set precedent to always start my day by making such decisions.

What would you tell your younger self?

During the early days of my career, I didn’t have focus and had no saving culture like I do today. If I could relive those days, I would be very far in investments and savings.

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

Practice integrity at all times. Start early savings, grow your profession, build your career and capitalize on your strengths and opportunities. Your career is your life, your old age is your retirement – prepare for it!

Future plans?

After retiring from employment, I plan to do extensive farming and manage investment portfolios within my reach. I love animals and therefore poultry, dairy farming, and other animal husbandry will be on my to-do list during retirement.

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