Nasim Devji has worked at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) since 1996 though she did not start as the chief executive, but rather as the regional co-ordinator-cum-financial controller.
It was a senior position she had landed after living abroad for 25 years. Mrs Devji had travelled abroad for schooling after she finished high school in Tanzania.
- Today, she says she has a family of 970 employees and is happy to list her staff, her supportive husband and loving mother as part of her success and family.
- She feels women who have great potential are spending more time trying to fit the work-life balance and losing focus as they end up not achieving either.
- She holds a strong opinion on feminism. She is not afraid to contradict its proponents.
“I saw myself as having no other choice. The only way of getting a life better than that of my mother was through education,” she said. Life in the UK, she says, was difficult and one she was not used to.
However, she enrolled for a degree in accounting because she said it allowed her to work as she studied, allowing her to pay for her tuition.
Upon graduating, she realised she needed to specialise to become marketable. She therefore went on to focus on taxation and later furthered her studies in the lucrative oil and gas business by studying oil taxation. She says she had seen the oil boom in the UK and she wanted to take advantage of it.
On being Supportive
“It was scary and daunting at first,” Mrs Devji recalls. “I realised that there were several elements at play, several groups of people that wondered if I could do it but for me, it was their right to question and for me to prove them wrong.”
On Winning team
But Mrs Devji was not distracted by those who doubted her abilities in the corner office. Instead, she focused her mind and energy on creating structures for success, saying that “what mattered to me was the fact that once I accepted the position, I had to remain focused and deliver”.
The bank is now rated as one of the fastest growing commercial banks in the last five years with a market capitalisation of Sh59.8 billion.
The bank has matured its capital base through the years to billions of shillings. She has also seen it through four successful rights issues and posted greater net profits.
M-Pesa is the mobile money transfer platform launched in 2007 by Vodafone for use by telecommunication firm Safaricom and Vodacom.
The impact of the service totally changed the banking sector in Kenya. Unbanked Kenyans were soon looped into the formal financial market by making low value daily transactions at a fee.
“The industry has no choice but to embrace technology and innovation. It’s very competitive,” she said.
Indeed, the banking sector in Kenya has in the light of technology become very competitive. Every minute counts and Mrs Devji, 60, is aware of that.
“The banks are at a crossroad where they know they have to embrace technology and bring in innovation otherwise in the long run they may not remain competitive. We still do traditional banking but what has influenced the change is technology from non-banking institutions like M-Pesa.”
On being Focused
“One thing that I believe got me to where I am is hard work and focus. Just don’t be distracted. If you are serious about what you are doing, give it a go. Someone somewhere will recognise it.”
Mrs Devji has leant to fight for her space in the corporate world using her skills and will. She has always believed that one can only be a strong leader through hard work and experience but not special treatment.
“To get to a place without a journey or experience makes you a weak leader,” says the chief executive who is fond of reading career advancing books to refresh her knowledge.
She holds a strong opinion on feminism. She is not afraid to contradict its proponents because perhaps she feels her side of the story must be told.
“I really don’t ascribe to that (feminism) because I think they (women) will come out as better leaders if they go through the journey. Experience teaches a lot which you will never acquire if you simply get a position to fill a quota,” she says.
She is glad to mentor them, once in a while inviting them for board sessions with directors. She is doing what she feels needs to be done. Female or male, each has a chance to advance in their career.
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