CFO Adrian Safari explains the benefit of emotional intelligence


Adrian Safari, the CFO of micro-financier Juhudi Kilimo, was nicknamed Dre in his youth, because of his first name and his love for hip hop artist Dr Dre. Co-incidentally, he also wanted to be study medicine but commerce and finance turned out to be his true calling.

Adrian Safari is the CFO of Juhudi Kilimo, a micro finance institution which provides loans to rural smallholder farmers and micro entrepreneurs in Kenya. He joined the company in January 2016.

In addition to his role as CFO, Adrian has also been a member of the board of trustees for the Juhudi Kilimo Staff Provident Fund since May 2023. His involvement in board administration and governance underscores his commitment to enhancing the welfare of the organisation's employees and ensuring robust governance practices.

Besides insurance and finance, Adrian has had the opportunity to work in several industries within East Africa including construction, engineering and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). This has enabled him to meet and work with people from different cultures and diverse social and ethnic backgrounds which he counts as a highlight of his career.

“No career is without its ups and downs. For me, the Covid-19 pandemic presented unique challenges to my financial management and leadership abilities. Cash was king during that period and I needed to ensure that our cash flows were looking healthy at all times. Emotional intelligence was at the centre of dealing with my staff and colleagues. Unfortunately, I also lost some friends to the virus,” Adrian recalls.

Adrian was nicknamed Dre in his youth, because of his first name and his love for hip hop artist Dr Dre. Incidentally, he also wanted to be a real doctor but missed the opportunity to enrol in medical school, even though he had attained the required mark, due to capacity issues at the University of Nairobi. He did get into the veterinary medicine faculty but after a month of classes, he realised he wasn’t cut out to be an animal doctor and transferred to the commerce faculty.

In addition to a BCom in finance obtained in 2005 from the University of Nairobi, Adrian holds a certificate of proficiency in trustee development from the College of Insurance in Nairobi, issued in December 2023. Earlier that year, in July 2023, he earned a sustainable agriculture finance certificate from the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Adrian also completed an executive masterclass at the Boulder Institute of Microfinance in July 2017. Additionally, he is a certified CPA through ICPAK and holds a certificate in business excellence from Columbia Business School, obtained in September 2022.

Affiliative leadership

His academic qualifications have been useful in managing his finance team made up of 16 members.

“Having such a large team calls for different management styles depending on the situation, but I believe that my approach is mostly affiliative. It enables me to freely mingle and interact with my team members and be ready to offer a helping hand to them. Leadership in a financial institution can be very demanding and therefore staff feel motivated and encouraged when they consider their leader as part of the team,” Adrian explains.

“For me, success crystallises when I have achieved all the goals and objectives that I have either set for myself or my team. The process of achieving these results must be very efficient and should be undertaken with precision,” he adds.

Adrian has always approached life with an open mind. Witnessing events that have occurred to him and others, he has concluded that it is essential to have the strength to shape his own future because nobody else will do it for him.

“A friend gifted me a book on my birthday with a very controversial title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k. I was hesitant to dig into it because of the title, but decided to give it a try. I am glad I did because it gives an inspiring approach to living a good life. What you are willing to struggle for defines who you are,” Adrian explains.

“The book also provides clarity on why things might have gone wrong in the past and how to best rectify them for the future,” he continues. “The author proposes dealing with negative experiences by accepting them as a part of life and not trying to avoid them. Everything worthwhile is achieved by overcoming some obstacles. One shouldn’t care about everything but instead prioritise and make space for only what matters in life.”

A teetotaler, Adrian spends his free time with family, watching football and movies. Aligned to the Juhudi Kilimo purpose, he is also a part-time farmer.

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