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Absorbing it Like a Man: How NSE CEO Geoffrey Odundo Faced Market Shocks

Money never sleeps, and the world revolves around economics, says outgoing Nairobi Securities Exchange CEO

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On 3rd March 3, 2015, Geoffrey Odundo was named the NSE’s Chief Executive. With 27 years of experience in the financial services industry, 21 of them spent in the capital markets, he is a skilled investment banker. As his tenure as the NSE chief executive lapsed last month, Mr Odundo reflected on his ups and downs during his time in office.

Just like a normal African child, Mr Odundo kept shifting career goals as time passed, but in high school, he settled on financial matters and economics due to his good performance in mathematics. “In class five I wanted to be a pilot, in class seven, I wanted to be a policeman, and in form one, I wanted to be a doctor,” he says. “But when I looked at a biology book, I just took off. My strength in maths at the end of my O Levels made me settle for matters related to finance.”

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Mr Geoffrey Odundo was raised in a middle-class family in Eastlands and later moved to Nairobi West, where his father worked as a real estate agent. With nine siblings, he reflects: “Having grown up in a large family, it was competitive, but I was lucky as the 6th born. My siblings, especially my brother, provided me with the mentorship I needed. My dad was an academician, so you had to study.”

In an interview, Mr Odundo described his most challenging time as being during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He recalls it started as a normal business day until 12 noon when the first patient was confirmed in the country. The market experienced a shock, and they had to transition accordingly with the government’s advisories.

“When COVID struck, the market decelerated aggressively, and I had to put circuit breakers continuously until it settled. We had to work from home, which was something on paper as we had planned virtually but had not implemented,” says Mr Odundo.

He terms the plan to ensure the market opened the next day and the crazy swings in the market as dramatic.

Mr Geoffrey Odundo mentions that being a CEO at NSE requires knowledge in financial matters, economics, and investments. For someone new to this space, understanding how the financial market works and managing day-to-day issues is vital due to the dynamic nature of the markets. He emphasizes the intensity of the role, as one must respond to internal, external and global issues.

The outgoing CEO states that he has learned to be patient and tolerant as the market is ever-changing. “In a market like this, you are always facing the camera when markets are high and low,” Mr Odundo says. “One day I woke up and found, in the newspapers, a two-page spread about the capital markets where the price of shares was cheaper than the price of tomatoes. My wife was like, ‘Ooh, how are you gonna take that?’ and I said, ‘I’m absorbing it like a man.'”

Mr Odundo shares that he now feels fairly satisfied as he moves on from the Nairobi Securities Exchange. He plans to further his studies as he looks forward to taking on bigger roles in the financial services sector.

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Steve Wambugu is a journalist based in Nairobi.
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