An accountant with big dreams: The enduring reward of career clarity and crystal life goals

For Joyce Kiragu, a general manager at Orient Asset Managers, women drive economies. A mother of two and the firstborn in a family of four, Ms Kiragu, who describes her childhood and family life as “sweet and bubbly”, started her career as an accountant in the Information Technology (IT) industry working for Technology Today.

Though she loved her job as an accountant, she realized that that was not her forte. Being in the office for the whole day was not fulfilling. The top executive re-oriented her career to reflect her life goals, and good were the days when she would accompany the sales team to the field.

“Anytime I closed a sale I used to be very happy,” she says. “This made me realize my potential… because of that I resigned and ventured into business. I felt that I could not be tied to the desk for the rest of my life.”

Luckily, in 2005 Ms Kiragu secured another job with British-American Asset Managers as a financial planning manager. For the seven-year duration that she worked for the asset management company, she progressed through various roles to become business development manager, a position that enabled her provide oversight for distribution management, training and marketing for distribution teams.
In November 2012, she secured another job as the head of business development at Old Mutual Investment Group, a position she held until February 2022. Here she was tasked with overseeing the business development team that promoted the growth of funds under management and worked with cross-functional teams to achieve results.

She was also responsible for strategic planning, client relations, product enhancements, regulatory engagements, marketing, and product distribution. She worked closely with the portfolio management team, provided oversight for distribution management, training and marketing within Kenya, and Uganda.
The greatest breakthrough in her career, however, was in 2022 when she took up the role of general manager (GM) at Orient Asset Managers where her main achievement thus far has been restructuring the firm’s asset management division over the past year by putting in place the right structures, defining policies and resourcing the structure. “This has resulted to 11 per cent overall revenue increment,” she explains.

She had a chat with the Nairobi Business Monthly about her knack for providing investment solutions to the masses, her experiences and why having clear career path is sometimes rewarding.

What do you remember most about your career journey? 
I always wanted to be at the helm of a company and I knew that for me was inevitable. I was however afraid of the unknown and the day I overcame that fear is when my career started to progress. I always wondered if I could be a good leader but my experiences over the course of my career comes in handy every day in my role as the GM.

What has been a key driver of your growth? 
The urge to provide solutions to my clients has been my key driver. I take the liberty of always going a step further to understand the businesses and careers of our clients. This helps me understand their struggle, know what that means for them and in turn provide them with investment solutions that shape their investment skills and behaviour. Consequently, I am an innovative and creative thinker. I innovate through products, to differentiate myself in competitive markets.

Who are the people or relationships that you can single out that were useful in your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?
My former boss at Old Mutual Investment Group Mr. Peter Anderson. Apart from showing me how to become a better leader, he exposed me to the investment space. I learned the saving habit from him. He was also there for me any time I needed his guidance.

What is your investment pattern like?
I have been investing for the last 20 years. I learned this habit from my mother who used to invest in Treasury bills. Initially, I used to invest in traditional investments such as shares but with the rise of alternative investments I have diversified my investment portfolio. One thing I would like to say is that investment is a risky business and one needs to assess their risk tolerance to create a sound investment strategy. I have lost money when investing but this never made me stop investing.

Key decisions you might have taken along your career?
The decision to join Orient Asset Managers was key for me. I came at a time when we had just rebranded from Alpha Africa to Orient Asset Managers and being in the business of money, setting a tone of confidence was crucial for me. As the brand was transitioning, I was also transitioning. In an industry that is perceived to be male dominated, I took up the task that seemed challenging and one that pushes me everyday to give the best to my team and my customers.

What is your leadership style?
Democratic leadership style. As a leader, I always ask for input and consider feedback from my team before making a decision. This was instrumental in my career journey and I would like to impact the same to my team.

What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to make better investment decisions. When I was young I used to buy luxurious items with little or no investment at all. I also remember I once purchased a property with high hopes that it will appreciate but the opposite happened.

In the same light, I would also tell my younger self to be easy on myself, everything will fall in place at the right time.

What insights would you give to the youth in Kenya?
My advice to the youth in Kenya is to learn about investment and start investing as early as possible. They should also have an income and master the art of spending money wisely by avoiding instant gratification in a move to conform to the expectations of society In a generation that wants things to happen instantly, the Kenyan youth should learn that wealth creation takes time.

In the wake of Covid-19, some businesses were affected. What has the pandemic taught you?
The Covid-19 pandemic taught me that an emergency can happen anytime thus the importance of having an emergency fund and health insurance.

What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing really keeps me awake at night. This is because I have trained myself not to be an overthinker but just to be easy on myself and take live in the moment.

Your future plans?
My plan is to exponentially grow the Orient Asset Managers brand and make it known by more clients. I plan to achieve this by diversifying our investment solutions and ensuring that they are tailored to meet the ever-changing needs of each of our clients.

What do you do during your free time?
When not working you will either find me taking walks or spending time with my family.

Given a chance, what is that one thing that you would change in your life?
My younger self would probably have a lot to say on that but over time I have come to believe that things happen for a reason at a given phase of your life. I therefore would not change anything about my life.

Some investment lessons you can share with our readers?
I would like to tell people and the youth, most especially, to consider investing instead of letting their money stay idle. And they should do so as early as possible in life. The reason is the earlier one starts to invest and the more time their money will accumulate, the more wealth they will generate.
Apart from that, do not borrow more than you invest but instead invest more and borrow less. Finally, as long as you know the risk of the form of investment you want to venture into then go ahead. Investment is risky and all investments carry some degree of risk, it just depends on what your risk appetite is.

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