Much has been said about the failure by Ugandans to rise to the helm of serious organisations. In fact many reasons have been advanced to explain this occurrence ranging from the reasonable to the ultimate unreasonable. But as the debate rages on regarding why Ugandan business leaders are not rising to the occasion, there are some Ugandan leaders that have stood out as symbols of our capability to grab the opportunity and ride with it.
Fabian Kasi, the Managing Director of Centenary Bank, is one of those leaders. Intelligent, simple and professional are some of the best words to describe the 46 year old Kasi. Unlike many CEOs, getting an appointment with Kasi especially when you have (a) genuine reason isn’t a tall order but you must be prepared to arrive for the meeting on time, because he is strict with his time. “Every one of us has 24 hours each day”.
“How well you manage your time determines how much you can complete in a single day and ultimately how successful you will be in whatever you are trying to put your hands on,” he says. Dressed in a dark blue suit, the soft spoken Kasi wears a simple genuine smile as he welcomes me into his office at Mapeera House, the headquarters of Centenary Bank.
His office is spacious but not opulently decorated. A fine finish of brown wood, whose mahogany brown colour is sufficiently illuminated by ceiling lights, gives his office an aura of authority and class.
The not too wide crystal blue windows at the back of his desk give you a vantage view of the hustle and bustle on Kampala Road and the Constitutional square something that Kasi says gives him a chance to quickly appreciate the wide variety of customers that Centenary Bank was built to serve.
His early life
Born in Matugga, Wakiso district, 46 years ago, Kasi, attended Matugga Primary School, St. Mary’s College Kisubi for O and A levels, before proceeding to Makerere University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (first class degree), majoring in accounting in 1991.
He also holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Newcastle, Australia and is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA) of United Kingdom and a full member of the Association of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda. He has also trained in several banking and accounting courses both within Uganda and abroad. At 46 years only, Kasi wields vast working experience in banking and accounting spanning over 20 years.
Since 1990, he has worked for several organisations including Centenary bank where he is currently managing director, FINCA Uganda, Commercial Bank of Rwanda, British American Tobacco (Uganda), Bank of Uganda, Makerere University, the University of Newcastle, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Shell Uganda Ltd. At 46 years of age, Kasi is definitely one of the youngest CEOs in the country’s mainstream corporate entities and is probably the only under 50 CEOs to head a trillion shilling company.
Kasi’s meteoric rise to senior leadership positions didn’t come on a silver platter. He says, the time, resources and energies he invested to develop his character and career is the key to the magic. “The ability to inspire confidence in the team, hard work and being result oriented and being able to show results have been key in my life. Where I have worked, I have left a good track record of performance,” he says, adding: “the ability to demonstrate good skills learning all the time and improving your skills is very important in shaping any career.”
For example, having joined Centenary bank in August 2010 from FINCA Uganda, where he was country Director from 2002 to 2010, Kasi took the bank to another level, it is now the 4th and 5th in terms of profitability and asset base respectively as of December 2012. During his leadership at Centenary Bank, customer deposits have grown from Ushs500bn in 2010 to Ushs820bn by end of 2012.
Net profits have grown from Ushs22bn per year to Ushs56bn in the same period while branch network has grown from 37 branches to 57 branches. Credit extended to public has grown from Ushs320bn to Ushs575bn by end of 2012, while client numbers have grown from 900,000 to 1,300,000. At FINCA where he was the Country Manager before joining Centenary Bank, he grew its loan book from Ushs 4.5bn to Ushs21bn, with portfolio at risk of only 2%.
Loan client numbers grew from 35,000 to 46,000 while savers stood at 80,000. He however is quick to chip in that his successes have been largely associated with the teams he works with. “As a manager, identifying good talent in the team and sufficiently motivating and developing them to deliver is a challenge that every leader must take on,” he says, adding: “Empowering people, giving them the confidence to make decisions is critical.”
A day in the life of Kasi
He wakes up at 5:30am and by 6:30am he is out of home, to drop his children to school and by 7:00am, he is already in office. While in office, the first thing he does is to review work of the day, then reads newspapers and prepares for meetings. “In the afternoon, I visit clients and some branches and sometimes I am in meetings,” he says. He calls it (the day) quits at 6:30pm. And since work without play makes Jack a dull boy, Kasi goes to the gym at Kampala Club and Serena hotel.
While there, he also chats and interacts with friends. “You may over lean on work, forgetting that there’s life beyond work but I manage to balance the two for my acquaintances are important both personally and professionally.” He says he spends quality time with his family over the weekends and remembers to go with family to church especially on Sundays.
He likes playing soccer, reading magazines and watching drama. Apart from being the managing director of Centenary bank, Kasi is not only obsessed with banking but also farming; he is into commercial tree farming.
Advice to aspiring leaders & budding entrepreneurs
“They should make a roadmap; work hard, continuously learn new skills and improve them. In other words, they should build character and confidence,” he advises, adding: “In banking, integrity is very key.”
He advises the youth to work hard and motivate employers but they must also look at jobs creation.“Getting rich very quickly is not a good thing you need to invest in time, resources, energies in developing your character and competencies,” he counsels. To Kasi, entrepreneurs should be resilient if they are to succeed.
“They should set the vision what they want to achieve and work at it. This means investing in time, knowledge and resources aiming at creating trust within themselves and the communities in which they work,” he said, adding: “Our (Centenary bank) philosophy is not to make a lot of money but be useful to the community and the public this has won us trust and the clients have become loyal to us, they see us as their bank.”