CFO Chemutai Murgor appreciates the value of the long game

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Chemutai Murgor is the CFO of Standard Chartered Bank: East Africa Cluster and the finance director of Standard Chartered Bank: Kenya. She speaks to CFO East Africa about her leadership journey, her work priorities and strategy insights from holding these positions for close to 17 years.

Chemutai Murgor is the CFO of Standard Chartered Bank: East Africa Cluster and the finance director of Standard Chartered Bank: Kenya. She has held these positions for close to 17 years, since her appointment in 2007, and after first joining the bank in 2001.

Chemutai spoke to CFO East Africa about her leadership journey, her work priorities and strategy insights.

You have worked for Standard Chartered for close to 23 years, why have you stayed in one organisation for so long?

Banking is a very intriguing sector for me because it is at the heart of the economy and changes dynamically, meaning different impacts on our business requiring us to proactively anticipate the impact on our business and the risks we face. Standard Chartered is an organisation that operates in over 50 countries with a unique geographic footprint that connects high-growth and emerging markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East with more established economies in Europe and the Americas.

This diversity is a unique strength as there is continuous exposure and therefore development growth opportunities across the franchise. As a subsidiary of a UK-listed company, there were times that we had to report under quite different regulatory dispensations, but we note that there is increasingly stronger alignment by regulators on regulations which simplifies reporting. My job has always had a strong focus on business partnering where finance plays an integral role in company strategy which gives me a very broad canvas.

What lessons can you share when it comes to crafting a successful strategy?
The strategy should be clearly defined, and key performance indicators developed, after which the team can roll up their sleeves and execute. People tend to think that strategy is a complicated concept and as a result they make it overly complex.

The best strategies are simple and should be based on why the company exists and what it wants to achieve.

We are in a rapidly changing world which affects all industries including banking, such as the global financial crisis, rapid technological changes and now climate change which is our next crisis. As a result, your strategy should be adaptable, always aligning to what is happening externally.

Speaking of climate change, you recently completed the Competent Boards Climate and Biodiversity Designation programme. What inspired you to pursue the programme and what were your key take-aways?
Everyone now appreciates that we have a climate crisis on our hands and there is a lot of work that is being done to create the right reporting frameworks, much like the financial reporting standards, and with it there is a lot of ongoing capacity and awareness building. At Standard Chartered, sustainability is one of our strategic pillars and we recently came up with bold stands to support our strategy: accelerating net zero, resetting globalisation and lifting participation. A lot is going on internally to actualise these commitments.

Luckily, I have done a number of internal programmes on sustainability but wanted to also get into a well-respected programme for directors and I found two courses at Competent Boards. I completed both the Competent Boards ESG certificate and Designation and the Climate and Biodiversity Designation programmes.

It is imperative that all board members are ESG literate. Furthermore, as accountants, we are moving towards integrated accounting processes. Part of the CFO’s role is to understand the different frameworks around sustainability and to comply with the standards issued by the International Sustainability Standards Board. The year-long programmes were great eye-openers.

It is mostly case study taught and I enjoyed interacting and learning from a diverse mix of faculty members and fellow colleagues.

How is your finance team structured and how do you go about managing the team?
Standard Chartered has centres of excellence that permit us to centralise a number of functions through our offshore centres. Onshore, I have different teams charged with reporting, compliance, business partnering, tax, property and supply chain. As a regional CFO, I handle teams in Uganda and Tanzania as well.

My management style is facilitative and challenging; it is also shaped by how the organisation operates. We have a very collaborative environment that seeks to empower people with the right tools. Our culture is very inclusive and structured in a manner that ensures people find the workplace supportive.

What business book can you recommend that has recently challenged your thinking?
I used to be a prolific reader, but this has now been affected by other mediums such as social media, where I get my information. We are now able to consume knowledge from different places and in different forms. I think learning is one of my greatest strengths and as a result I subscribe to different platforms including podcasts.

I still read books, mostly biographies. I also occasionally borrow management books from my husband’s [Julius Kipngetich, CEO of Jubilee Holdings] library. Most recently, I have been reading Sunny Bindra’s Up & Ahead – Use Strategy to Succeed in Life & Work, a great book full of insights.

How do you define success?
Success means different things for different people. For me, success needs to be aligned to your personal values. I love working for Standard Chartered because there is a culture of doing the right thing and never settling down; my values align to the organisation culture and there is less friction as you do your job.

In addition, I have an itch to make a difference in society which is why I have served on the boards of a number of public entities. I was on the board that set up the Insurance Regulatory Authority in 2007, which today has contributed to the increase in the number of Kenyans with insurance. I was also involved in setting up the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, which had grown to 10,000 students by the time I left the board in 2015.

Lately, I have been involved with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research , which does incredible agriculture science and I am also learning about sustainability and climate change through the lens of development.

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