CFO Juma Kimori seeks positive impact and a long-term view

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As CFO of Tanzania’s number one bank by profit, Juma Kimori employs an open door policy. The idea that any member of staff can knock on his door and seek an audience with him has been something he has found motivates charges in every company he has worked for. Having patience has also propelled his career; remaining calm in the knowledge that everything happens for a reason. Looking at his journey, he has found there are times he has had to wait for things to happen rather than rushing.

‘We tend to expect only positive outcomes for whatever we do. Over time, I’ve learned that there are certain negative outcomes that we must accept and what is important is how you deal with those difficulties and move forward. One should not lose focus because of disappointment; stay humble but also remain hungry in pursuit of your ambitions,’ Juma advises.

Born in Rorya near the border between Kenya and Tanzania, Juma was attracted to banking after witnessing the activities of a bank branch in his town centre (Shirati). Bankers impressed him to the point of pursuing commercial subjects in school before joining University of Dar es Salaam for his undergraduate Bachelor of Commerce degree. He subsequently joined PwC where he was charged with auditing entities in the financial services sector.

‘In 2009, I joined the African Banking Corporation as the Head of Internal Audit and moved to Barclays as the Chief Internal Auditor two years later in 2021.  I was later promoted to Regional Internal Audit Director with responsibility over Barclays internal audit teams in in Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritius, Zambia, Botswana, Seychelles and Zimbabwe. In 2018, I took up the Chief Internal Auditor role at NMB and once the then CFO Ruth Zaipuna was promoted to CEO in 2021, I successfully interviewed for the CFO role,’ Juma says.

Profitability and cost efficiency

Juma Kimori’s task and that of his fellow executives is to keep NMB number one in profitability, not only in Tanzania but also in the region.

‘I think we have made a very good progress because if you look at the Tanzanian market for the last five years, people were saying that one bank in Kenya was making more money than all Tanzanian banks combined. We have turned this around and NMB is now leading in both profitability and cost efficiency if you consider in-country operations and ranks overall number three in East African region for the year ended 31 December 2023,’ Juma explains.

‘The pressure to maintain solid results and steady growth is real,’ he continues. ‘Our board has a clear view that we cannot slip to second place and I take that positively and as a great challenge. Our board is very clear that there is no limit. The competition is not sleeping and we are all looking at the same numbers and targetting the same customers in the same market. Your customer today can become customers of a competitor tomorrow. We remain focused on what we have put as our strategic initiatives with disciplined execution whilst closely watching competition.’

Juma believes that governance is fundamental for sustainable growth of the organisation. Customer retention remains critical even as the bank invests in onboarding new customers. In 2023, NMB opened approximately 1.2 million customer accounts and they aim to open 1.5 million in 2024.

‘Sustaining the growth momentum is really a stretch but it is  also something that we continue to pursue and embrace. In 2022 we grew by 41% and last year 2023 by around 26% reaching TZS 545 billion. Our Balance Sheet hs been growing steadily, touching TZS 12.2 trillion in 2023 with solid capital position to support regulatory compliance and future investments. The growth rate is declining towards growing at the GDP growth rate as the Tanzanian financial sector approaches maturity,’ Juma explains.

Change agency

In steering the company towards continued growth, Juma is grateful for his time as an internal auditor as it gave him access to almost every area of the organisation. He did not view himself ‘as a policeman’ but rather as a change agent looking to contribute in terms of improving controls and providing recommendations to management and the board.  

As a leader, Juma is always happy to mentor people to move up in their career even if it means that they end up leaving the organisation.

‘If someone is leaving for a good reason, I am proud to see them go and further their careers. There are five banking chief internal auditors that I have groomed in my previous employment and I’m very grateful for that. I also consider collaboration and partnership to be critical for leadership. I interact with quite a number of fellow EXCO members casually outside of work which gives me an opportunity to understand them to better complement each other when back within office walls,’ Juma says.

Networking outside the office helps him navigate a number of issues and also enable him to understand the market and new developments.

“We have three pillars within our strategy, namely Winning Propositions, Operational Efficiency, and Innovate for the Future. Firstly, we have clearly defined what a winning proposition is in terms of looking at customers’ experience, service delivery and solutions. Next we seek operational efficiency through automation, cost optimisation and improved productivity. Thirdly, we pursue innovating for the future through digital transformation, data analytics and so on,’ he explains.

Disciplined execution

‘We have adopted disciplined execution of our strategy and continued to invest in technology and our people. This is important for implementation of strategy and I rarely authorise any spend that deviates from the strategic pillars set by NMB. Led by our CEO, we have also embarked on the sustainability agenda with a long-term view of the bank and sustained positive impact to the community,” he adds.

He goes on to explain that NMB consistently measures strategic progress to ensure that strategy is not just a nicely written document they don’t actually execute. Juma regularly has conversations with the CEO on strategy execution and asks for constructive feedback.

‘I believe feedback is important even when there are elements you would prefer not to hear because it is a learning process and it is through candid criticism that you get to improve,’ he says.

Living in a sport-enthusiastic country, Juma sometimes plays football with friends and is also a member of a running club. His weekends are well-balanced between socialising, spirituality, and family time: Friday evenings with friends, attending church on Saturdays, and relaxed quality time with his wife and kids on Sundays.

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