When the numbers guy becomes a people person

Moses Muthui, Absa Bank Kenya Director for Consumer Banking.

Photo credit: Pool

Moses Muthui, the Director for Consumer Banking at Absa Bank Kenya, is spearheading the bank’s customer-centric transformation, trading in his traditional suit and tie for sneakers and prioritising personal connections over numbers. This career banker is embracing a new approach, challenging industry norms like the sector’s high sense of self-importance.

It's been almost a year now since you switched roles from a numbers guy to a people person. How are you adapting to the strategic role?

After nearly 20 years in banking, with a decade abroad and various roles upon my return seven years ago, I’ve seen the industry evolve dramatically. My background in investment banking taught me to make decisions based on analytics and markets, but those experiences also revealed the often soulless nature of hardcore finance where numbers reign supreme. These experiences, however, have equipped me with unique advantages.

In my new role, I’ve experienced significant personal development. I’ve traded my peach-striped suits for sneakers and have visited 26 branches since the start of the year to meet customers. This shift has made everything more tangible. Now, I focus less on the technical aspects. I can’t remember the last time I used a calculator or analyzed a complex profit or loss account.

This role requires listening to people on a personal and emotional level. In my previous role, I commanded attention and immediate action; now, I build trust and develop as a leader, moving from being an expert to a business leader.

Do you feel this then makes your new role quite weighty?

I believe my role as the director of consumer banking is as significant as any other business role, though it comes with unique complexities. Every interaction matters. A branch must open on time, balance tills, and ensure everything runs smoothly from Monday to Friday, and half-day on Saturday. It’s a precise execution where every detail must align.

We are seeing a renewed push for that personal interaction between customers and banks with recent branch openings, How are you prepared to meet that demand?

I have a strong personal view on this: banking should meet people where they are, whether through physical branches or digital platforms. I like to refer to this as ‘clicks’ complementing ‘bricks.’ Clicks will never replace bricks; rather, they enhance the experience. Complex transactions, like mortgages or business loans, will always require human interaction.

Banks are evolving into one-stop shops for financial services. Looking ahead 10 years, I foresee banking becoming even more streamlined for everyday transactions, while complex interactions will remain personalised and relationship-focused.

Moses Muthui, Absa Bank Kenya Director for Consumer Banking.

Photo credit: File | Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

How do you differentiate yourself from the consumer business director at the next bank?

Purpose is key to differentiation. Honestly, people don’t care about banking as much as bankers think they do. How many times did you think about banks yesterday? Our customer stories are far more important than the financial products we offer. Banking can feel generic without the human touch; it’s about how we make people feel, not just what we offer.

Outside of your role, I have learnt that you host a jazz show, being not much of a jazz person, tell us more about it.

(Laughs) I love jazz music — it’s my alter ego. Occasionally, one of the local media houses invites me to host a jazz radio show. Jazz music is timeless. Tunes developed in the 1930s still resonate today, Half of that music is probably 80, or 90 years old, but you would never tell because jazz was improvised with a little emotion and intellect, a fusion of instruments, and over time that still means something very personal to people. Almost 95 percent of it is unspoken, allowing listeners to engage with the music through its instruments and unique compositions.

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