Jimnah Mbaru: The Murang’a Billionaire Behind Dyer & Blair Bank

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Jimnah Mbaru: Murang'a Billionaire Behind Dyer & Blair Bank
File image of Dyer & Blair Investment Bank chairman & CEO Jimnah Mbaru. |Courtesy| Business Daily|

Jimnah Mbaru is an investment banker and ranks among the richest individuals in Kenya. He is the Chairman of Dyer & Blair Investment Bank and has been at the helm of the financial entity, which today is highly prosperous, since 1983.

Mbaru is one of the sons of Rwathia Village in Murang’a County which is home to some of the wealthiest Kenyans including; Equity founder Peter Munga, and Equity Group CEO James Mwangi.

The billionaire is savvy in his business dealings and in this article, WoK profiles the investment banker’s career success.

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Jimnah Mbaru: Murang'a Billionaire Behind Dyer & Blair Bank
File image of Dyer & Blair Investment Bank chairman & CEO Jimnah Mbaru. |Courtesy| Business Daily|

Background & Education

Mbaru was born on July 26, 1947. Born to peasant parents in Murang’a, he was determined to succeed in his education which he considered his only way out of poverty.

He attended Kirogo Secondary School before proceeding to the University of Nairobi from where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce in 1971. He also holds a Masters degree in Business Administration.

Mbaru also studied law at the University of Nairobi, graduating top of his class. He also had a brief stint in journalism school.

“I went to law school when I was in my fifties. It was purely for knowledge. to enable me to understand my transactions in investment banking and to understand how the lawyers engage their legal due diligence. I have benefited greatly from approaching the loopholes, risks and opportunities in transactions from a legal point of view.

“I only did journalism for two semesters because I wanted to learn how to simplify writing about very complicated issues like economics and investment banking in order to communicate with the average investor,” Mbaru told Bizna Kenya during a past interview.

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Career

After finishing his studies from the University of Nairobi in 1971, he worked in the civil service at various capacities before leaving to join the private sector in 1980.

“I left the government when I already had an MBA from Switzerland in 1978. At that time, the fashionable thing to do after that was either to go into consulting or investment banking. A few people went into manufacturing but I opted to go into investment banking because there were only a few stock brokers and no real investment banking taking place,” Mbaru said.

Jimnah Mbaru: Murang'a Billionaire Behind Dyer & Blair Bank
File image of Dyer & Blair Investment Bank chairman & CEO Jimnah Mbaru. |Courtesy| Business Daily|

He was also an associate professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, in addition to giving occasional talks to students in Nairobi, Daystar, Strathmore and USIU.

Investment career

Mbaru began his entrepreneurial journey while in primary school where he dealt in the sale of scrap metal. After joining secondary school, he upgraded to dealing in fast-moving products.

“In high school, I traded in scones buying 15 for a shilling and then selling each for ten cents. I would make so per cent profit. As a student at the university I used to trade in the Nairobi Securities Exchange and also lend students money.” he said.

While pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration in Switzerland, Mbaru dabbled in metal trading selling mainly gold and silver.

He opened a number of banks to start including; Jimba Credit Corporation Limited, Union Bank Of Kenya Limited and the Kenya Savings & Mortgages Limited. Unfortunately, they were shut down by the late President Daniel Moi regime as a way of regulating banking in the country.

“Moi’s era was anti-business. It was filled with hostility towards African entrepreneurship. It was a difficult and retrogressive environment where politics interfered with business, unlike Kibaki’s era which was pro-private sector. There was political stability, low-interest rates and no political interference with businesses,” he explained.

Mbaru later acquired Dyer and Blair Stockbrokers Limited from the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) for Ksh400,000. Its initial owner had defaulted on the loan forcing KCB to sell the entity.

“I ventured into investment banking because there was an opportunity in the sector. While there was a lot of stock brokerage, investment banking did not exist. The sector is tied up with economic development and at that time there was no privatisation and neither were companies looking to raise funds.”

A few years ago, Mbaru made some Ksh900 million from selling his stake in Britam. According to reports, he sold the shares at Ksh17 while ordinary shares were trading at around Ksh8 per share.

He also has a substantial portfolio of shares in other flourishing companies. His success has earned him such nicknames as “the Warren Buffet of Africa” or “the godfather of investment banking”. Until early 2012, he belonged, notably to the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), a think-tank responsible for formulating Kenyan economic policy alongside President Kibaki.

His influence over the financial sector is further reinforced by the fact that he was head of the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) from 1992 to 2001. At that time, there were only six stock brokers and turnover was very low with most of the trading.

“When I became chairman, we started restructuring the NSE so that it could compare with other modern stock exchanges in the world. We went about modernising it with technology. computerising trading. connecting brokers and finally creating a trading floor which eventually moved to their own office,” he said.

His success was highlighted by the dematerialisation of stocks and the creation of a central depository and settlement system which led to a reduction of transaction time from 60 days to a maximum of three days.

“I took the responsibility of bringing the stock exchange up-to-date so that it could be used to mobilise savings, attract foreign investment and enhance local ownership of companies in the country.”

Jimnah Mbaru: Murang'a Billionaire Behind Dyer & Blair Bank
File image of Dyer & Blair Investment Bank chairman & CEO Jimnah Mbaru. |Courtesy| Business Daily|

Political Career

In 2013, Mbaru contested the Nairobi gubernatorial seat losing to Evans Kidero, and gave it a second stab in 2017 where he lost to Mike Mbuvi Sonko. During the 2013 contest, Mbaru left members of the public speechless after presenting a 37-page curriculum vitae. It later went viral on social media, attracting both critics and admirers.

“The CV was structured to suit the academic world. I actually got down to writing it when I was applying for the position of associate professor in South Africa. I don’t know who leaked it, perhaps it was intended to portray me as an elitist.” he speculates.

Publications

Mbaru is a published author. He wrote the book; “Transforming Africa: New Pathways to Development” which captures the evolutionary process of who he is in business.

Adventures

Mbaru enjoys travelling and his favourite destination is the Orient. He is thrilled by the approaches to economic development employed by countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

“I make a point of travelling abroad once every year just to reflect on what new thing I have done for that year and to evaluate myself so that I can have a bird’s eye view of the country vis-a-vis the challenges and opportunities that have emerged with new ventures,” he explains.

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