Meet four women driving critical businesses at NCBA

Karen Kantai

Karen is the Chief Risk Officer at LOOP DFS Limited, a fintech within the NCBA Group that is committed to inspiring growth across Africa through the innovation and development of customer-led digital financial solutions.

With over 15 years of experience in technology and finance, she has grown from a bank teller to her current position where she leads a team of some of the best minds, driving policy in credit and operational risk in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Her role at LOOP DFS has seen her empower over 50 million customers across five African countries, enabling them to access micro-savings and loans products through services such as M-Shwari and Fuliza.

Her passion in driving financial inclusion through facilitating the development of digital-first, data-driven products, and services, continues to empower millions of women across the region. This is through facilitating easy access to affordable loans as capital as well as accessible and easy to use savings solutions, which can have a significant impact on women entrepreneurs and small business owners.

By providing a digital platform that connects consumers and merchants with capital, LOOP DFS is helping to address the gender gap in financial inclusion while empowering women to achieve their financial goals.

Karen’s commitment to mentoring, coaching, and empowering women is a testament to her belief in the power of women to drive positive change in society.

As a purpose-driven servant leader, Karen recognises the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and actively encourages women to pursue leadership positions in the fintech industry. She does this through her numerous leadership, mentorship and coaching initiatives.

As a community leader, she leverages on her role as a Board Member at the Shadrack Kimalel Mixed Day Secondary School in Nairobi to drive positive change in the youth, with the aim of equipping them with smart tools to navigate a fast-changing world.

She has also been involved in mentoring youth, mainly girls, through the Good Kenyan Foundation, a non-profit organisation that mentors, empowers, and equips high school graduates.

Nelly Wainaina

Nelly is the Group Director, Marketing, Communication and Citizenship. She holds over 21 years of global experience with a passion for creating new leaders in Africa.

Currently, she is tasked with the leadership role to execute NCBA’s business strategy through building a strong NCBA brand profile, managing communication with multiple stakeholders, and investing in community related programmes through the citizenship pillars.

Being a team leader, she is tasked with being part of leadership conversations on ensuring everyone succeeds despite their unique capabilities. She takes charge of ongoing coaching of the women in her team and leads by example, which provides a platform for other women to learn what it takes to succeed in a world that does not seem fair.

Reflecting on this year’s International Women’s Day theme – “Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality” – she says NCBA is keen to significantly have an impact on the competitive skills that women need to rise to the top. In this regard, the organisation has exposed more women to digital and technological trends by empowering them through conferences, networking opportunities, training and employment in digital and technology-related jobs.

She notes that there are no jobs made for specific gender, and that careers in technology are now open for everyone. The key thing is to encourage more women to try their hand in this career space.

As part of the Executive Leadership team at NCBA, her role is to ensure that she voices any concerns that put women at risk of being marginalised and not getting their share of equity, and ensure the process is transparent enough to educate all employees when it comes to remuneration reviews.

Through her own experiences across what she would say has been a stellar career journey, she mentors many women and educates them on their unique strengths and how they can leverage their personal profiles to give them a fair shot at success.

Pauline Ndote

Pauline Ndote is the Group Director, Credit Risk Management, at NCBA Group. Her role is to ensure that the credit risk function delivers on the mandate of shaping the risk appetite of the bank; defining and implementing responsible lending practices; monitoring of the portfolio to ensure a quality book, and ensuring that the control environment is proactive and effective in minimising credit risk to the bank.

On driving inclusivity through access to credit for women, she says that some of the programmes that the bank has put in place include developing products and services that seek to increase access to credit in the market. These products are geared towards among others, asset ownership, e.g. mortgages under affordable housing programmes, asset finance, working capital facilities, and micro digital loans.

The bank also has facilities that are supported by credit guarantees provided by funding partners that help to increase access to credit to women and remove the barriers like sufficient collateral required, e.g. AFAWA/Africa Guarantee Funds.

Through these programmes, the bank is able to drive financial inclusivity as an aspect that is important in enhancing the women empowerment.

On her future plans to empower more women economically, she says that her personal empowerment agenda is to increase mentorship of young women to pursue career growth, responsible borrowing and financial management. On the corporate front, she is looking to leverage on building capacity directly and/or through partnerships to empower more women to achieve their goals. 

Louisa Wandabwa 

Louisa is the Director of Strategy and Chief of Staff at NCBA Group. She has 15 years’ experience in helping large global organisations define and execute their strategic ambitions to deliver outsized shareholder returns. At NCBA, she has the responsibility for the Group Strategy, Investor Relations and Corporate Development functions of the organisation. When it comes to the important lessons she has learnt in her career as a woman in leadership, they include leading with a distinct style; taking personal responsibility for one’s own career growth; proactiveness in seeking real feedback and building a community of other female leaders whom one can lean on.

Louisa believes that there is room for career growth for women in the banking industry. She says that the discussion on the diversity of leadership teams is taking centre stage in many boardrooms, and there is a real push from boards and indeed investors to raise more consciousness on this matter.

What that means, is that this is the Golden Age for women who have done the hard work of preparing themselves from a competency and relationship perspective. Her advice? “Raise your hand for those stretch opportunities.You’ll be surprised that the ground is more fertile than you thought.”

Her hope is that in the next decade or so, the conversation of inclusion of women in leadership will be dead and buried because originations will have arrived at the view that it is a strategic advantage  for an organisation to have a workforce and leadership team that reflects its customers.

In banking specifically, she aspires that we will have created practical programmes that are specifically geared towards supporting women in middle management to stay on the track during their prime child-rearing years;and that programmes which are commonplace in other markets, such as job-sharing, off-ramp and on-ramp, will be embedded in how organizations resolve the systemic issues of inclusion. She is looking forward to being part of that solution.

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