Francis Gitau: Architect who died before steering Family Bank to attain the goal of becoming tier-1 lender

Francis Gitau Mungai, late Family Bank chairman.

Photo credit: Pool

Few people have graduated from being bank customers to being directors. But such is the story of architect Francis Gitau Mungai, who died last week, hardly a month into his appointment as the chairperson of Family Bank. He died after a brief illness while undergoing treatment in the United States.

Mr Mungai, whose pastime activities were Karate and swimming, according to his LinkedIn post, started his three-decade relationship with Family Bank in 1996 as its customer.

He started off in the banking hall back when Family Bank was still a building society. He was also the financial institution’s architect. He would help the Family Finance Building Society, as Family Bank was known, before being converted into a commercial lender in 2007, together with its members, build houses.

While he continued with his architecture career, his appointment as the chairperson of Family Bank meant he was not only going to design buildings; he was also overseeing the design of new financial products and guiding the bank through its long-term goal of becoming a tier-one bank.

After all, because they are naturally drawn to complex problems demanding creative solutions, architects tend to make good product managers.

Because its long-term goal is to become a tier-one bank, Family Bank issued 800 million new shares through a rights issue.

He would gradually move from the lender’s banking hall into its boardroom 10 years later, becoming among the few architects who sit on the board of a financial institution.

The seasoned architect had barely served a month since he was appointed Family Bank’s chairperson when he died, leaving behind a leadership vacuum on the lender’s board.

He had replaced long-serving chairperson Wilfred Kiboro, who was retiring.

“Prior to joining the board, Arch Mungai had supported the bank both as a customer and as an architect since 1996,” said Family Bank company secretary Eric Murai.

“He made invaluable contributions to the growth of the bank, and he will be missed immensely by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

Mungai joined Family Bank’s board in 2016, serving as the vice chairperson for the last two years before his recent appointment.

Mr Mungai joined the board after replacing Dr Kabiru Kinyanjui, who resigned on March 31, 2015, after serving the bank for 14 years. The board appointed Mungai on June 11, 2015, to fill in the casual vacancy, which he served until the next annual general meeting.

He also chaired the Board of Credit Committee and the Board of Human Resources Committee. He was also a member of the Nominations and Governance Committee and a director of Pesa Pap Digital Limited, a subsidiary of Family Bank.

Normally, a building society will offer, among other banking services, mortgages to its members, which explains the relationship that Mungai, who also had a stake in Family Bank, had with the mid-sized lender. His work was to design homes, which explains why he ended up with the Family Building Society.

Mr Gitau held a Master’s Degree in Architecture and Urban Design from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Nairobi.

He was also a fellow of the Architectural Association of Kenya and is registered by the Board of Registration of Architects & Quantity Surveyors in Kenya. He was the founding partner of Aaki Consultants, Architects, and Urban Designers, and worked as an architect with prominent firms like Triad Architects in Nairobi and Urban Innovation Group in Los Angeles.

At one point, he was the chairman of the Board of the National Housing Corporation, where he had previously served as a director.

He had been a chairman of various bodies, such as the Architectural Association of Kenya, and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, where he was director and chairman of the Building and Infrastructure Board.

He was also at some point a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Architecture and Building Sciences Department, where he focused on both Architectural and Urban Design Studies, as well as Professional Practice and Management.

Family Bank was founded by Titus K. Muya, also known as TK Muya. He envisioned the bank in 1961 and brought it to life in 1984.

On its website, Family Bank Kenya says it has a history of serving the underbanked population, dating back to its founding in 1984.

Established as Family Finance Building Society Limited, it was aimed to be the go-to financial institution for the unbanked majority ignored by mainstream banks. This included small businesses, farmers, and government employees.

By 2005, the Society had over 30 branches nationwide. In 2007, it received a license from the Central Bank of Kenya and officially became a commercial bank - Family Bank Limited. Founder Titus Muya stepped down as CEO to comply with regulations.

Since becoming a bank, Family Bank has focused on expanding its branch network. They currently have over 90 branches and are one of the largest banks serving the mass market in Kenya. They were also the first in Kenya to introduce paperless banking through smart card technology.

With over 30 years of expertise in architecture and contract management, Mungai was to help rebuild Family Bank’s next chapter of growth, including moving into a tier-one bank.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.