Peter Macharia is the CEO, Jijenge Credit Limited. He spoke to Nation.co.ke about his childhood, education and career in banking spanning over 30 years.
What was it like growing up? What lessons do you draw from your experience?
I am the first born in a family of six. As a young boy, I used to milk my father’s cows and deliver the milk to Ololaiser Farmers’ Society every morning.
I used the little I got from this daily venture to pay for my school fees. The experience taught me to be disciplined and to stay focused.
Where did you study your degree?
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the Kenya Methodist University.
Thereafter, I got an MBA (Master of Business Administration at the same institution.
I hold some professional certificates such as the Enterprise Development Programme from Strathmore University.
I started off as a bank clerk at age 20, and climbed up the ladder to serve in several flagship departments like Sales, Marketing, Credit, Finance and Operations.
How long have you been in the banking industry? Why have you stayed on for so long?
I have served in the industry for more than 30 years.
The responsibility of taking care of Kenyans’ hard earned wealth, helping them make sound financial decisions, and seeing some of them rise from humble beginnings to become wealthy individuals, motivates me greatly.
Was banking your childhood dream?
No. I wanted to be a scientist because my dad was a public health professional, so I thought I would follow in his steps. But along the way, I developed a deep interest in numbers.
What do you owe your success to?
Honesty, discipline, integrity, trust and staying focused in everything I put my mind to. In all my endeavours, I work hard and aim for success.
You have built Jijenge Credit from the ground up. What advice do you have for young people who are looking to join the microfinance sector?
One must be very honest and exhibit high levels of integrity, stay focused and steadfast.
They should also love their job because once in a while, some mistakes may result in huge losses, which can set you back.
You must always find a way of overcoming such challenges.
How do you remain steadfast in this highly dynamic industry?
You cannot take technology for granted. At Jijenge, we have invested in a software that requires very little human intervention.
Also, I read widely to expand my knowledge. We are currently working on a mobile-lending app which will enable us reach regions without Jijenge Credit branches in Kenya, thereby enabling our organisation to expand virtually without investing in actual branches.
Who is your mentor?
Mr Ali Noor Ishmail, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives. He played a huge role in helping me get to where I am today.
What are the benefits of widening credit access to those without operational bank accounts?
Access to credit can empower individuals and households, since it gives them the ability to save, borrow and manage their finances, which can result in decreased poverty levels.
Credit access also drives the expansion of businesses, leading to exponential growth in the economy, and creation of jobs.
It also enables women to access funds, and equips them with financial literacy, thereby reducing the gender gap.
What is the biggest challenge with extending affordable credit facilities to business people? How can young people be part of the solution?
Lack of information on this issue. It impedes the growth of businesses.
Youth should attend business, workshops and seminars to enhance their entrepreneurial skills.
They should also equip themselves with financial, business and risk management skills.
Which is the most interesting book that you have read so far?
Two books by Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point, about how small actions and ideas can make a big difference and bring tremendous change, and Outliers which highlights some of the factors that set successful people apart from the masses.
Any unique talents?
I foresee certain things before they happen, and this has been very instrumental in my job.
For instance, I sometimes encounter clients who meet all loan requirements, but I decline their application because of something I alone can see, that is not written anywhere.
You can call it a sixth sense.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
(Chuckling) I would fly! Also, I would study law because most of the things I do revolve around that subject.
Any regrets so far?
No. Every decision I have made has brought me to where I am today.