FD Caroline Nderitu highlights the importance of mentorship and delegation

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Caroline Nderitu’s father wanted her to work with a gavel in hand – as a judge. But she had other ideas, which led her to becoming the finance director at Minet Kenya at the astonishingly young age of 35.

Caroline Nderitu’s father wanted her to work with a gavel in hand – as a judge. She had other ideas. Brilliant in chemistry, she would, in her estimation at the time, become a pharmacist. It was a profession that sounded superior to her.

When she finished high school in 1999, her father, through a family associate, got her a job as a cashier at Uchumi Supermarket. “That is the point I [first] interacted with money,” Caroline says of her first job, when she was barely out of her teens and not yet an ID holder.

From an ideation of a life as a chemist, her direction took a complete turn into the financial world. She recalls some of the influences that led her down that path, the most memorable being a neighbour who crunched numbers for PwC.

“She had a nice car, she dressed well, she looked good, smelled good. And she was an accountant!” Caroline remembers.

FD at 35

Thus started Caroline’s journey to sitting on the board of Minet Kenya as finance director at the astonishingly young age of 35. Prior to that, she was head of fund accounting and the chief accountant at the company.

Her career has been one of transformative highs from the very beginning. She chooses to segment these high points into her different roles over the years.

Before joining Minet, Caroline worked for three years as a senior accountant at Alexander Forbes, now Zamara Kenya.

“I think my highlight at Alexander Forbes was joining the pensions team when I was young. The determination, focus and commitment that I had saw me make an impact very quickly. The leadership team affirmed my capabilities by allocating large sized and complicated pension scheme accounts to my portfolio,” she says proudly.

Caroline joined Minet Kenya in the retirement benefits space in search of a new challenge.

She reviewed some structures and worked herself to sleep. “I used to be here by 5am and exit at 10pm, virtually every other day!”

Transitioning

In the first year, under her stewardship, the company was able to comply with Retirements Benefits Authority requirements for the first time ever - a huge deal for the company then. Her then boss, the late William Maara, who was the divisional director, wrote a note to the entire executive committee team celebrating that accomplishment.

By the time she was transitioning to "main" finance in 2014, Caroline reports, “I found a team of qualified accountants/university graduates doing very clerical duties. I invested my time to train and equip them on other intriguing and engaging finance functions that positively impacted the teams’ deliverables and overall operational efficiency,” she explains.

The move to the finance department was perceived by some as a demotion but Caroline again wanted a new challenge. She convinced the finance director to implement finance and business operating process changes that would facilitate better service delivery, both internally and externally.

Within a year of joining the accounting department, the position of chief accountant became vacant, as her predecessor left for South Africa. Caroline was recommended for the job and she got it.

“They had seen my impact in various capacities, so I was given the promotion,” she remembers.

Greatest achievement

As chief accountant, Caroline believes mentorship was her greatest achievement. With a team of 26 under her tutelage, she went about training and coaching. Roles that were previously the preserve of the chief accountant were delegated downward.

“Staff are more involved with the business units including financial reporting and analysis,” she explains.

In 2017, the finance director left and Caroline did not consider herself a strong candidate for the role having been only two and a half years as chief accountant. 

“They said, ‘Carol, you’re here, do the job!” she recalls of the proud moment when she rose to the post that she holds to date.

“In leading a team of 60 employees, I’m not a micro-manager. Let me put it this way, I like my team to thrive on their own. I give them autonomy. The employee manuals and other books we have are only there to guide the team,” she adds.

Clarity

In addition to steering the company strategy deliberations, ensuring productivity and efficiency across the business based on real-time financials, Caroline says effective communication with other business units on expectations and deliverables is a subject that finance teams should never ignore as there is more to gain when there is clarity.

A recovering golf addict and staunch Manchester United supporter, Caroline let’s her hair down by going on long walks, meditating on the fresh air and taking in the scenery.

Further to her achievements at the upper echelons of corporate Kenya, she views being a mother of two as one of her most enjoyable jobs.

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