Abraham Ongenge is excited by the professional and personal opportunity to redefine the banking experience in Kenya in his new role as head of Personal and Private banking (subject to regulatory approval).
Abraham Ongenge, the finance director of KCB in Kenya, is returning to Stanbic Bank to head the retail division. He has previously served as chief finance and value management officer (CFVO) of Stanbic Bank Uganda and Stanbic Kenya and South Sudan.
Abraham has previously worked for the holding company, Standard Bank South Africa, where he was involved in executing the bank’s expansion strategy into Nigeria and Kenya as well as leading the finance digital transformation across its Africa subsidiaries.
“If you look at my career, I have generally created impact within a period of two years before moving to a different post,” he says. “The CFVO role in Stanbic Bank Kenya is my longest serving role and with it came immense learning and experience. When I accepted a similar role in Uganda, I was looking for a systemically significant organisation within an economy. Stanbic Bank Uganda has approximately 30 percent market share in Uganda, which makes it systemically important. It gave me the opportunity to work for an organisation that drives the economy of a country significantly.”
Orchestrating purposeful impact
Similarly, the finance director role in KCB aligned to what Abraham was looking for as the bank is one of the biggest financial institutions in Kenya similar to Stanbic in Uganda.
The fact that Kenya is a bigger economy was “a sweetener” to accepting the role.
As a CFO in systemically important financial institutions with presence across the continent, Abraham has used the opportunity to orchestrate purposeful impact in East Africa. CFOs have an enviable platform to tackle the challenges of the region by allocating resources to opportunities that drive growth.
Abraham will be transitioning from the role of FD to head Personal and Private Banking at Stanbic Bank Kenya, subject to regulatory approvals. He believes this is an exciting opportunity to redefine the banking experience in Kenya and contribute towards wealth creation. On a personal level, it is an important journey of leading a team with diverse backgrounds, knowledge and experience.
Abraham was a student at Rongai Agricultural and Technical High School in Nakuru where he grew up. His father was an accountant while his mother was a primary school teacher.
“It was at Rongai that I learned how to be competitive and built the right kind of character. It transformed me to be a hard worker while introducing me to the concept of humility. There was a unique programme where we would pay fees for half a year and for the rest, we would do manual labour including planting crops and rearing livestock. We would also cook our own meals.”
When Abraham was one year old, his parents wanted to take a photo with him, but he was too distracted to sit still. Abraham’s father gave him a copy of The Accountant magazine to help settle him down and consequently the picture that was taken includes the bold title The Accountant next to Abraham’s toddler face.
“I guess I was destined to become an accountant,” Abraham says with a laugh. “I really loved mathematics and after secondary school I wanted to study something that included numbers. I joined Strathmore College for Certified Public Accountant studies in 1999 and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce and Accounting degree from University of Nairobi in 2004.’”
Discipline and influence
Having worked in financial institutions that are significant players in the East African economies, balancing the macro environment challenges and the sustainability of the organisation is one of Abraham’s major focus areas as finance director.
“I see my task as the orchestrator of doing the right things for the economy, our customers and the organisation during this challenging period. This includes balancing resource allocation, safeguarding liquidity and capital. Internally this means having discipline around utilisation of investments. Externally, it involves influencing policies that allow us to grow and to identify pockets of opportunity that can be seized by the bank without risking sustainability.”
Abraham has an empowering leadership style which is complemented by showing up as his authentic self.
“I do not believe that I am special; I do not have all the knowledge. I am a finance director today simply because of time. I am advanced on the path to financial leadership while my team is also on its own path headed in the same direction. So, it is not that I have greater ability than them; they are just at a different point in time on the very same path and it is just a matter of time before they get to leadership roles. This humbles me and calls for me to empower them in their journey to the top.”
“Success to me means fulfilment of purpose. I always tell people that as they go through the cycle of life, they should think about the things that make them feel fulfilled which are the clues to what their purpose is. Personally, I believe my purpose is to inspire excellence through mentoring and teaching,” Abraham concludes.