Last week attended Mind Speak organized by Aly-Khan Satchu after a long time and I had a chance to listen to Jeremy Awori, Barclays Kenya CEO, give a speech about his personal and professional life as well as what the Barclays Kenya is up to in the coming months. The title of the speech was….. V.U.C.A… and I later learned that VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. When you look at the environment that businesses operate in Kenya, then would appreciate why Jeremy chose VUCA as the title of his speech.
Jeremy personal and professional journeys are unique in many ways. Listening to him talk about his childhood, you get to understand how some of his early experiences shaped his adult life. Growing up from mixed marriage with Kenyan father and a British mother gave him unique perspective about life and the world. He described his larger extended family as mini United Nation, with people from all over the world.
Of more interest to me was how he moved from being a pharmacist to a top banker in the country. He went to St Mary’s school and then proceeded to study Pharmacy in University of Manchester. Finally, he did MB at McGrill in Canada, but when he came back to UK, he did not work as a pharmacist but straight away found his way to the banking hall. Standard Charted bank which was struggling at the time gave him a chance to be part of the team that turned it around. He was part of StanChart Bank till January 2013 when he accepted his current assignment as the Barclays Kenya CEO.
One question that most people have been asking is what next for Barclays Kenya especially with the fact that Barclays plc is moving away from Africa. Jeremy made it clear that they are here to stay and they are moving forward with their programs including new investments in the market. I think that is great to hear but it is important to point out that when the whole process is over, the African unit will not use the name Barclays. At that point, the Barclays Kenya as we know it today will also probably have another name.
Here some of the strategic focus of the good folks at Barclays Kenya going forward:
- Digitization- Going Digital at the Front-End
- Efficiency – Process Automation at the Back-End
- Customer Led -Service and Customer Centricity
- Performance- Diversification, Profitability, Returns
- Community – Driving the Shared Growth Agenda
First I am glad they did not call the first and the second points innovations. Most of what Kenyan companies and Government do, are simply digitization which are wrongly referred to as innovations. Banks in particular are very slow even in adopting the existing innovations. It is the reason why it is going to be so interesting to see the effect of FinTech technology on their thinking and reactions going forward. It is possible that FinTech technology would do to Banking industry what Internet and Social Media has done to the Communication and Media industry.
Talking about Digitization, at this point the most talked about ideas when comes to banking is mobile apps. Making it easy for the customers to access the banking services is key going forward. Mobile Banking is now everything for the most consumers. And it is great to see that Barclays Kenya has not been left behind. At the moment, the banks which took the lead on this are already harvesting the benefits.
On the issue of the Diversity, I was impressed with how Barclays Kenya has managed to a greater level of inclusivity within the organization. At the top, Barclays Kenya Board has 50/50 Female Male ratio and 48/52 Female/Male ratio at the staff level. Stay tuned for the second part of this article where we will look closely at what Barclays Kenya would be like in the coming months and years.