Faith, family and passion: An investment banker's tips for high-flying fulfilling career

Renaissance Capital Kenya CEO Stanley Kariuki during an interview at their Offices in Westlands, Nairobi on May 31, 2024. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

When you speak to Stanley Kariuki, the chief executive officer of Renaissance Capital Kenya, an investment bank, you get the sense of a man who has finally found the elusive formula for balancing work and life. That formula, according to Mr Kariuki, is faith.

Mr Kariuki is a dye-in-the-wool investment banker and a father of two, which explains how he effortlessly uses financial lingo to describe the fact that he is blessed with both a boy and a girl.

Having only a boy and a girl in the family—which is mistakenly idolised by some as the pinnacle of reproduction—is known as the pigeon pair.

'A balanced portfolio'

But Mr Kariuki has a special term for this phenomenon, a term that fuses his passion for investment banking with the adoration he has for his children.

“In the investment world, we call them a balanced portfolio, meaning I have a girl and a boy. I have the better of both worlds," he tells the BDLife.

In investment banking, a balanced portfolio invests in both stocks and bonds to reduce potential volatility. Indeed, helping people invest in stocks and bonds has been Mr Kariuki's daily routine for the last two decades.

Yet, investment banking goes beyond selling shares and bonds. It also involves helping individuals and organisations raise funds. Investment banking is where big deals are closed. And the work can be intense.

But faith has been a life-saving anchorage against this dizzying whirlwind of transactions.

“It (investment banking) is a very stressful industry. You need to have some faith, you need to have some boundaries as a person, you need to know what you can do and what you can't do, and that’s moral upbringing,” says Mr Kariuki.

A soft-spoken CEO, he describes himself as media-shy and warns me that should I attempt to query Google for his photos, the only ones that will pop up are those of his trading days taken two decades ago. They are photos of him and other traders in red jackets, helping clients to buy and sell shares at The Exchange.

Unlike other CEOs who occupy big corner offices, his workstation is a surprisingly small cubicle, no bigger than the rest of his juniors.

During his university days, he would spend the mornings studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics at the University of Nairobi and rush to Strathmore University in the evenings for his Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

He cut his teeth in investment banking at Dyer & Blair, also an investment bank, which is owned by billionaire investor Jimnah Mbaru. He joined Dyer & Blair as a broker straight from college.

Over the years, he has helped companies raise capital, either privately or through a public initial offering, or what is popularly known as an IPO.

His work has also involved providing financial consulting services to individuals and organisations.

Because trading at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)—selling and buying shares and bonds—has been underperforming, or what is technically known as a bearish market, and companies have struggled due to the weak economy, investment banks have played a bigger role in helping these struggling firms raise money.

“We come in to help them (the struggling companies) get capital, to get the right partners to inject more life into their businesses and grow them back up again,” he explains.

He has been part of several big transactions in the country. When he was at African Alliance, which he joined after a one-year stint at Dyer & Blair, they did one of the biggest transactions in Kenyan history where Bamburi Cement was selling out of Athi River Mining (ARM), another cement manufacturer.

Renaissance Capital Kenya CEO Stanley Kariuki during an interview at their Offices in Westlands, Nairobi on May 31, 2024. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

Big ticket deals

But it is at Renaissance Capital, whose parent company is in London, that he has participated in some of the largest transactions in the country. Renaissance Capital was the transaction adviser in a deal that saw Private Equity firm LeapFrog Investments offload a 30 percent shareholding in the regional healthcare chain Good Life Pharmacy.

Known as RenCap, the investment firm also helped raise Sh8 billion for Acorn Student Housing which operates the Qwetu brand. It also helped sell a stake in Avenue Hospital and partnered with a local broker in KenGen’s rights issue, which is still today the largest rights issue in East Africa.

With a rights issue, the company invites the current shareholders to buy more shares at a discount.

Regionally, they also did rights issues and cross-listing for the Bank of Kigali, which is listed both on the NSE and the Rwanda Stock Exchange.

Despite all this work, Mr Kariuki says he has not broken down. Importantly, his work has not taken much of his time at the expense of his family. He believes he has been exemplary in both. That is unusual, but he credits it to his faith.

He is a staunch Catholic, a member of the CMA—not the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) which regulates them—but the Catholic Men Association.

“I know we were recently challenged, this Sunday, by our Bishop…Everybody is proud of where they come from. We seem not to mention this,” he tells the BDLife when asked to tell more about himself.

The CMA has different branches for different dioceses. Mr Kariuki belongs to the one in Don Bosco Diocese in Nairobi. CMA membership tends to be restricted to married men.

The teachings at CMA have a huge resemblance to what transpires in The Man Cave—the men-only-affair event where men seek to attain a macho status but also reveal their vulnerability. Only that at Don Bosco CMA, it is not a one-day event, but a training programme that takes 13 weeks.

Every Sunday from January, they are put into different formations and taught about the responsibilities of a man. He reckons that the boy child is going through a crisis that has seen most abdicate their responsibilities.

“Starting with the father, there is a lot of responsibility as men that we adjudicate. And we learn that there are various roles someone plays: You are a warrior; you are a king in your house; you are the bishop or you are the priest in your house,” he lists.

Place of mentorship

“You are supposed to be a mentor to your children and other children. So this is just broad and brings up a personal individual,” he explains.

Overall, faith has helped him navigate the office-family dilemma, a delicate balancing act, especially in these tough economic times when both parents are forced to work, spending less time with their children.

“But one thing I will tell you, and this was taught by my folks, is that the best gift you can give your children is actually, apart from education, the conscience for them to know when they're doing right or wrong. And that can only be brought up by going to church,” he adds.

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