CFO Anita Umuhire finds purpose in creating community

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Anita Umuhire was appointed CFO of Rwanda's largest bank before the age of 40. She credits having the right values and demonstrating unwavering integrity as key assets on the road to success.

Upon graduating from St. Mary’s DSG in Pretoria in 2002, CFO of the Bank of Kigali (BK) Anita Umuhire really wanted to pursue journalism. However, her family held the belief that a prosperous future might not unfold through writing, steering her away from this path and into accounting. Four years later, with an honours from Wits University, she joined EY in Johannesburg. The big four firm deployed her to financial services audits.

“After qualifying as a CA in South Africa, opportunities were few and far between in financial services as a result of the global financial crisis. Yet back home, opportunities were plenty, so I returned to Rwanda where I was employed by Fina Bank, which was later acquired by Guaranty Trust Bank,” Anita recalls.

Four years later, she left her position as group CFO of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB). She found herself adrift, unsure of her career path, as neither the field she had studied nor the industry she found herself in aligned with her original aspirations.

“This was a time before ESG was well-known and understood; I wondered whether the rest of my career would consist of only chasing financial KPIs. I was desperate for a change and a chance to see if the grass was greener on the other side. I relocated to Kenya to work for The Regional Centre for Small Arms, a project funded by the African Development Bank aimed at eradicating the proliferation of weapons and light-weapons in African countries,” she adds.

It was at this inflexion point that Anita decided that she should seek a career in an organisation such as the United Nations, which focused on social change. To help pivot away from finance, she pursued an MBA in leadership and sustainability through the University of Cumbria with a dissertation examining the role of CSR in financial institutions.

Strategy and culture change

Anita’s desire to return home to Kigali prompted her to take up the financial director role at Inyange Industries, an FMCG company, in 2018. She was appointed deputy managing director of the company three years later.

“This appointment was one of the highlights of my career for several reasons including working for one of the best brands in the country and a truly Made in Rwanda company. It was also a great opportunity to step out of a pure finance role and lead strategy. We also pioneered a culture change programme geared towards driving a commercially oriented team. There were many new assignments that I discovered and enjoyed," Anita says.

Her career was taken to the next level when she was appointed CFO of the BK in February 2023. The bank is by far the largest commercial bank in Rwanda with over 35 percent market share based by total assets.

“What excites me most about BK is that we are literally transforming the lives of ordinary Rwandans from a financial standpoint. We are partners in the economic development of our country and what we do truly matters. For example, we are currently running a campaign called Nanjye ni BK meaning I am also BK, which aims to create a BK community, telling Rwandans that we offer more than banking products and services. We offer a community where you can belong and we will partner with you to realise your dreams. I can truly say that I have found the purpose that was lacking when I first left banking,” she explains.

It is a great achievement to be appointed CFO of a country’s largest bank before the age of 40. Anita states that this is the product of hard work and diligence. She credits having the right values and demonstrating unwavering integrity as key assets on the road to success.

Other than serving as CFO of BK, Anita sits on several boards including that of listed company Cimerwa and non-profit organisation Access to Finance. She is also preparing for the CFA level II exams later this year. With a packed work diary, the wife and mother of three does her best to achieve work-life balance by effective time management and a strong physical work-out regiment.

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