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Gerald Warui: The Little-Known CEO Running Equity Bank Kenya

Appointed to the top position in 2019, Gerald Warui has been overshadowed by Equity Bank founder's larger than life image

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There is Equity Bank – and there’s Dr James Mwangi.  Yet the two are so synonymous that the substantive CEO running Equity Bank Kenya operates in the shadows of the towering founder, who doubles as group managing director and chief executive officer.

Understandably, Equity Bank has come to be associated with Dr James Mwangi, who founded a building society and grew it into the regional banking behemoth that is Equity Group today.

Equity Bank Kenya, a subsidiary of Equity Group Holdings Plc, is the group’s flagship operation contributing the bulk of its revenues and profits.

It’s Managing Director is, by the way, Gerald Warui, who was appointed to the position in August 2019. Mr Warui became Equity Bank Kenya’s 4th managing director. He rose to the top position following the resignation of Polycarp Igathe, who rejoined his previous employer, Vivo, to take up the newly created role as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Africa.

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Mr Gerald Warui is an Equity Bank insider. His appointment came after serving the bank for over 20 years among them as Director of Operations and Customer Service in Equity Bank Kenya. With four years as CEO, Mr Warui could as well have clocked 25 years at Equity Bank.

Mr Warui holds an Executive Master of Business Administration degree from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and is also a Certified Public Accountant CPA (K), and a graduate of Advanced Management Program offered by IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.

A career banker, Mr Warui has vast experience spanning over 30 years and has headed operations, customer service and HR within the Equity Group. He has all the qualifications for the job and has been doing a great job – with Equity Bank Kenya profitability growing year after year.

Yet most of the limelight is hogged by the Group CEO, Dr James Mwangi, including even Equity Bank Kenya events. Perhaps the only time Mr Warui gets publicity is when releasing Equity Bank Kenya’s financial results and occasional press releases.

And that is not about to change. Mr Mwangi, the Equity Group CEO, says the earliest he can retire is 2032 in what will make him one of the longest-serving CEOs of firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

Mr Mwangi, 60, says he expects to commit his future to the bank beyond the 70-year age limit set by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) for serving on the boards of Nairobi bourse firms.

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Currently, Equity Bank has more than 16.9 million customers, making it the largest bank in terms of customer base in Africa and having nearly half of bank accounts in Kenya.

Mr Mwangi has served the bank for 33 years including about 18 years as CEO. “I have served only 17 years. I am inspired by that,” he said in a 2021 interview. “Equity retirement age is 70. Peter Munga retired as chairman at age of 75, just like David Ansell. When my time comes, it will be really easy but I am still under 60.”

Dr Mwangi said he has retired from all the subsidiaries and now sits on the holding company. “I don’t see a challenge because I don’t run the business,” he said. “The company that I run is the holding company, managing the relationship with investors. That doesn’t drive performance, but drives relationship with the shareholders. That can be done by anybody.”

This is the reality Equity Bank CEOs across its subsidiaries in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, DR Congo and Uganda will have to live with as long as Dr Mwangi is still perched at the top.

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KALU MENGO
KALU MENGOhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
Kalu Mengo is a Senior Reporter With Business Today. Email: [email protected]
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