CFO Moses Kang’ethe finds a warmer quality of life back home

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After braving the cold weather in the UK, Moses Kang’ethe, CFO of Britam Life Assurance Company, returned to Kenya to play his part in building a better country and have a better quality of life.

Moses Kang’ethe graduated with a BCom in Accounting from the University of Nairobi in 2005, and thereafter joined PwC. After serving at the Nairobi office, he was deployed to the United Kingdom in 2010, where he served as an audit manager.

Moses found the cold weather unbearable, and returned to Kenya two years later to work as a senior manager at PwC Kenya until he joined Britam Life Assurance Company as CFO in 2016. Three years later, he obtained an MBA from Strathmore University Business School.

Moses spoke to CFO East Africa about his career path and life as a CFO.

Other than the cold, are there any other reasons why you didn’t stay in London to earn more of the coveted British pound?
I’m one of the many people who believe in Kenya and the dream of a better Kenya. People were asking me, why are you going back? I believe in my home country. And I also believe the quality of life is higher in Kenya [than in London]. I can get out of my door here and speak to other people because we are more interactive than the English. I found people in the developed world to be more individualistic and ‘lonely’. I would rather earn less comparatively, but have a better quality of life.

Tell us about Britam Life and your job as CFO.
I have a dual role. Firstly, I am the CFO of Britam Life, which is the biggest life insurer in Kenya and also the biggest subsidiary of the group. Secondly, I support the whole group with financial reporting and budgeting. The group operates in seven countries, namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Mozambique, and Malawi, and we have a shared services structure.

The life business is only in Kenya, we have asset management here and in Uganda and all the seven countries have general insurance businesses.

What have been your highs and lows as CFO?
Part of the reason I was given the role at Britam is to assist in our significant growth phase. So one of the biggest highlights of my seven years here is being able to build a finance operation that covers finance operations, reporting, planning, budgeting and forecasting. This provides the necessary bedrock for growth. Another highlight for me was overseeing the Somerset serviced residences project in Kilimani, Nairobi which Britam invested in.

The downside for me has been the struggle to achieve work-life balance.

What is your philosophy in life?
I strive for excellence, such that once something has been through me, I expect that people will see pointers to excellence. I don’t want to handle a project where there are things that are not happening right, or there are gaps. As a Christian, I dwell on the verse that states we should do our best as if working for God and not for man.

Integrity ranks as one of my guiding principles. When handling procurement, any attempts to influence me improperly leads me to disqualify a supplier because such suggestions prove that they cannot be trusted. Unlike many procurement officers who are guilty of shady dealings, I sleep well at night and can go anywhere without watching my back.

In the youth ministry at my church, I advise young people that part of the reason why many people are losing their integrity is purely because they are trying to compete in material means with others. I also advise them that relationships and networks can get them somewhere, but what will keep them there is their passion and ability to execute the work with excellence.

What areas are on your mind at the moment as the CFO of Britam Life?
We are going through business transformation which includes automation projects in which finance is playing a significant role. We are also at the midpoint of our five-year strategy for which we have just had a mid-term review. My focus is on the remaining years and implementing the action points from that review.

Taxation is something I think about both as an individual and as a company. I don’t mind paying more taxes as long as the taxes are applied appropriately. On a corporate level, all our businesses in the different countries are being pressed to pay more. Occasionally we feel like we are being treated as suspects rather than customers. This means that we have to be on top of our game to be compliant.

What is one thing you wish you knew at the start of your career?
I wish I understood the role of office politics and the need to be vocal. I assumed that if you do your work well, you would be automatically rewarded. I know now that you need to blow your own trumpet and raise your hand for roles that you are interested in.

What is your family set up and what role do you play in your local community?
As a father of three children, one of whom has special needs, I possess a heightened sensitivity and awareness towards individuals with special requirements. My wife is a gospel musician and I play a leading role in setting up and directing her music videos. I mentor young men in my church (was HoD of of the Youth Ministry for 5 years) and my village and was a board member of the local secondary school for many years.

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