Equity Bank is one of the leading financial institutions in the region. It went near insolvency to one of the largest commercial banks in Africa by customer numbers. The current chief executive officer (CEO) is credited with the success story of Equity Bank. He believes that circumstances and situations are not permanent and today is not a definition of tomorrow and the future is not a continuation of the past. This is the story of a man from humble beginnings who has risen to become one of the wealthiest people in Kenya.
He was born 1962 in Kangema, Murang’a county. James was brought up by a single mum (Grace Mwangi) alongside his six siblings, after losing his father very early in life. His mother was a farmer. Grace died at the age of 98 having seen her son’s success and her grandchildren.
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The Equity CEO attended Nyagatundu Primary School in Kangema village and 4 kilometers away from home. After performing well in Primary school, he went to Ichagaki Secondary School for his O level before joining Kagumo High School for his A level. At Kagumo High School, he studied Economics, Literature, English and Geography.
Upon completing A level, he joined the University of Nairobi for a Bachelor in Commerce (BCOM), accounting option.
He also successfully completed CPA ( Certified Public Accountant) of Kenya.
The Equity bank shareholder is also a graduate of Strathmore – IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain where he did an Advanced Management course.
James also holds 5 honorary doctorate degrees:
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- 2007 – Business Administration, Kenya Methodist University (KeMU)
- 2007 – Doctor of humane letters from Kenyatta University
- 2008 – Entrepreneurship from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT)
- 2010 – Doctor of Letters Africa, Nazarene University
- 2014 – Doctor of Business Management ( Honors causa) from Meru University of Science and Technology
Dr. Mwangi was hired at Ernst & Young after completing university in the auditing department. After four years, he went to work for Trade bank. He started as a teller, then an accountant, chief accountant and finally a financial controller. An opportunity arose to work at equity bank then known as Equity Building Society (EBS). At the time, this institution had been declared technically insolvent. In an interview with Churchill (Daniel Ndambuki), the CEO described how dire the situation was:
“…It was a very small bank with 2,982 customers, we had a deposit of 22 million, a loan book of 9 million, a capital of 1 million and losses of 33 million,” said the CEO.
How did he turn this around
Most people in this position would give up but not Dr. Mwangi who came up with strategies that worked so well. At the time, Equity was ranked number 66 out 66 among financial institutions. They had only 27 employees,27,000 customers and 5 branches with no hope for tomorrow. Mwangi took on the challenge to transform this institution even with the odds against him.
“ I accepted the challenge because I could see clearly how important a properly functioning society was to the masses. Micro credits, which would make a huge difference to people’s lives, was their only avenue out of poverty. I felt I had to do something – somehow square the circle,” said James in an interview published by African business.
The first thing he did was to train the workers and introduce customer care, which was an unfamiliar concept at the time. He also asked them to use their networks to invite people into the society, which he also did. Within no time, there was a turnaround. The staff became more motivated and enthusiastic and they were given their first raise in 8 years. He also encouraged them to use 25% of their salary to buy shares in the business. This meant that if the company succeeded, they had more to gain so the stakes were higher.
Little by little, equity began to rise and in 1997 they encouraged other people to buy into the company and annual dividends were paid. They were ready to expand and in 2000, James convinced the European to support the computerization of Equity. Still, they needed more money for expansion and approached Africap who provided funding but at 16% stake in the business.
In 2004, Equity Building Society was finally licensed as a bank. In 2006, it was listed in the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) which further added its value.
Today, the bank has expanded its reach to Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and even wants to reach across Africa. As of 2019, they had 9.1 million customers and a balance sheet of 320 billion Kenyan Shillings.
James Mwangi is also the chairman of Kenya Vision 2030.
They say behind every successful man is a woman. The Equity CEO has been married to Jane Mwangi for now more than 27 years. One day, a young James had gone to Bahati to visit a friend when he met Jane but they lost touch. Two years later, while doing an audit at Wilson Airport, he caught a glimpse of her and as they say the rest is history. The couple are blessed with 4 children, one of whom showed up with them at Churchill Show. The youngster said that his parents encourage him to work hard for his money, they don’t just hand everything to him on a silver platter.
During his time at Equity, the CEO has started initiatives to help the less privileged in the society. The programs are:
- Wings to fly which pays secondary school fees for top students that do not have the means to get fees
- Mentorship program where they take the top boy and girl in KCSE in every region that has an Equity branch and put them through a one year mentorship and training course so as to develop their leadership skills.
Being one of the top CEOs in the country, James Mwangi has definitely bagged some wards which are:
- Ernst and Young entrepreneur of the year
- African philanthropic award
- African banker of the year (2010,2011 and 2018)
- First class chief of the order of the burning spear
- Moran of the burning spear and head of state commendation
- Africa CEO of the year in 2015
- Forbes Africa person of the year
- African leader of the year
Salary And Net Worth
His declared stake at Equity Bank is worth Kes5 billion and kes650 million in Britan. He has bought more shares in the stock market. The CEO yearly salary is Sh60.4 million. In 2018, he made kes416 million from a total of 208 shares he holds in the bank.
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i like to work with you as also the CEO fro FMC co ltd. this is my number 0710336942. you always inspire me to be 24 years old.