The WFE's Women Leaders 2020 - Jane Kiarie, Chief Finance Officer, Nairobi Securities Exchange

By: The WFE Focus Team Mar 2020

1. Can you tell us about your work experience journey? Has it been a linear path to reach your current position?

I have always loved working with figures so after completing my undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Science where I specialised in Statistics at the University of Nairobi, I applied for a position with Deloitte, Nairobi where I was employed in the audit department. I worked there for nine years then joined Deloitte USA also in external audit on a temporary contract through the Deloitte South Africa office. I worked with Deloitte USA in three different states for about two years.

After my assignment I returned to Kenya and decided to branch out into the finance field and get practical experience. My first position was as a Financial Controller in an insurance company where I was tasked with managing the finance, administration, human resources and information technology functions. I had no experience in any of these fields other than in finance (which I gained through my external audit experience) but I was able to handle the job well – being a fast learner and open to taking on new challenges and experiences.

I later joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Nairobi as an associate consultant, specialising in accounting and operations on a short contract where I was seconded to head the finance operations of one of the then largest cement production companies. Thereafter I moved to an international non-governmental organisation based in Nairobi that provides military and civilian peace-keeping training as a Financial Controller where I was also in charge of dealing with finance, administration and the civilian aspect of the human resources functions and before joining the Nairobi Securities Exchange PLC (NSE) in November 2012.

I joined the NSE as the Head of Finance and Strategy in charge of finance, strategy, human resources, administration and procurement. I have since grown into my current position as the Chief Finance Officer managing the finance, administration and procurement for the NSE and its group entities. I have gained a lot of diverse experience in auditing, all aspects of financial management, procurement, office administration, human resources and the basics of IT.

I credit my experience in different organisations and across various markets regionally and internationally critical to honing my skills and ability to deliver on my current assignment.

2. Have you worked with any mentors or coaches during your career? And do you mentor or coach anyone at the moment?

Yes. I am a firm believer that mentors play a critical role in supporting career growth and enriching a person’s work experience. One of the mentors who has had an incredible impact on my career growth is Mr. Mark Joseph Obuya who was the Chief Executive at the insurance company where I gained my first experience working in finance. He is currently the National President of the Federation of Kenya Employees (FKE). He was a go-getter and was very instrumental in guiding me and coaching me on what was expected in my roles, guided me on how to run with the other functions which I had little to no experience and exposed me to reporting to and participating in Boards and Board Committees. Mr. Peter Mwangi who is now the Group Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer of the UAP Old Mutual Group Kenya, also mentored me while he was the Chief Executive Officer at the NSE and pushed me to take up greater responsibilities and not back down. I also consider my current boss, Mr. Geoffrey Odundo an instrumental figure in shaping my career path. He has worked in the financial services sector for the last 27 years in Kenya, 21 of which have been in the Capital Markets and is a great source of knowledge and mentoring to me.

The three mentioned above have at different times in my career instilled in me a positive work ethic, created a roadmap for career growth and supported me to develop a broader perspective of my job as well as built confidence in my abilities which is key in the financial services sector, a predominantly male dominated industry.

The NSE has recently introduced a mentorship programme aimed at helping increase individual’s potential and maximise production. I look forward to mentoring some of my colleagues through the programme.

3. Who is your most important role model?

I do not have a specific or particular role model as such but people who at different times in my career have encouraged me that I have the capacity and capabilities within me to push myself beyond my own limitations and constraints, both on career terms and personally and these include the three mentors above. However, I have great admiration for my late grandmother and father who always ingrained in me the value of hard work, discipline and always pushed me beyond my limit. They inspired me to be confident in my capabilities and ultimately make it in life despite any odds.

I am also a born again Christian and I am therefore guided by the word of God in all aspects of my life.

4. How did you know you wanted to work for an exchange or CCP? Was this always a career aspiration?

I have always been interested in working in the financial sector and had been fascinated by the clips of the trading sessions that would come on TV from the trading floor of the NSE. I would watch these clips and aspire to work in the capital markets, more specifically, the NSE which would offer me a better appreciation of how capital markets work and its critical role in supporting economic growth beyond the Kenyan borders.

5. What advice would you give to other women who want to develop their careers and gain leadership positions in financial services firms?

Work hard and be disruptive! With the ever-changing technological and industry dynamics, only disruptive women are going to be relevant. Being mindful of future changes and being bold to recommend and implement them in your sphere of operation as a woman will ultimately lead to growth.

Be visible. As a woman, it is not enough to work hard. Be seen and let people see your work. I appreciate my current boss Mr. Odundo for guiding me on being more visible.

Be open to change. Despite change coming with uncertainty and a sharp learning curve, it offers growth opportunities which can underscore a woman’s ability to strategically navigate business challenges that modern exchanges face.