James Mose: CEO who is his son’s caddie

Kuza Asset Management chief executive officer James Mose

Kuza Asset Management chief executive officer James Mose during the interview at his office in Upper Hill,  Nairobi on June 20, 2024. 

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

I read something once: “A house has a physical definition; a home has a spiritual one.” A house therefore can be easily described: made of wood, concrete, both. A home? Well, it’s what remains when the house is no longer there.

James Mose seems to be thinking about his home often. The kind of father he grew up under. What kind of father he is. What kind of father he could be. I can see him twitch his eyes and search the corners of his brain trying to make sense of this home he is building: how to be a better father. He wants to be a friend of his children, not their best friend. It is an excellent foundation; people who know about such things tell me.

Here at the glassy Kuza Asset Management offices at The Prism Towers in Upper Hill, he is contemplative but present. He has built Kuza, an asset management company, brick by brick, and now he wants to settle, to be present, for that sort of settling down is a metaphor for something that should be internal—the difference between what home means when you’re young and when you’re older.

What makes you, you?

My story is a testament to hard work. The reason why I am where I am is because I know good things don't come easy and you have to put in the work. But amidst the success, I have remained humble.

What are you currently struggling with?

I'm a father of two children—seven years and 17 months old. I have always wanted to be a better parent than my parents but that's a challenge. My father was a disciplinarian. Being the middle child, I was always getting into fights with my older and younger brothers. Our parents would then punish us. So, what I'm doing differently is giving a chance and cultivating confidence in my children to speak up. And disagree with me introspectively.

What's that fun thing you do?

I caddie for my eldest son. Sometimes we fight because he has his own opinions, and I, being his father insist on mine and it turns out he was right, haha! Golf teaches you a lot, especially how to enjoy your company because this is a sport you can play by yourself.

How have the fights impacted the relationship with your son?

Not much has changed. His confidence is certainly up, reinforced especially during the times when it turns out I was wrong and he was right.

How are you balancing correcting him as a father and a caddie?

As a typical caddy, you are meant to give a suggestion, then the player may choose to take it or disagree with you. There have been instances when children fire their fathers as caddies and I don’t want that to happen, haha! I need to improve on that and accept when I am wrong. 

Once I denied him some chocolates and I found him taking them without permission, and later, I saw in his diary that he had written, “Dad is mean.” That startled me. Now I correct but with love.

How are you remaining childlike in your life?

I am a big fan of Formula One so I love going go-kart racing.  I am also a regular person at the gym where I try to push my limits.

Kuza Asset Management chief executive officer James Mose

James Mose, the CEO of Kuza Asset Management, wants to be a friend of his children, not their best friend.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

When and why did you pick up go-karting?

It was at a company event.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

For a long time, I lived carefree, just enjoying myself. When I turned 40, I promised myself that I would make good choices about my health. I also hold a ten-minute planking record at my gym haha!

What didn't you do in your 30s but you're struggling with in your 40s?

I was always busy, always travelling. Part of the inspiration to set up Kuza came during one of those travels. But now I struggling to slow down because in life you have to strike a balance. I only do it if it is work-related.

What do you do just for you?

I go to the gym to destress. It’s been my best investment. At least three days a week.

How did you meet your wife?

We were working in the same industry (finance). I am actually her client at the moment. When we met, I was a portfolio manager at a local investment firm and she’d come to pitch her report. My employer was also looking for an analyst and we were quite impressed with her presentation and considered her for a position, for which I offered to be the liaison person. She wasn’t interested, but I developed other interests. The rest is history, haha!

What struck you about her?

When I met her I was ready to settle down. I was looking for someone bright, and beautiful—and I have that in her.

Why do you keep choosing her?

Marriage is not easy but it keeps you going, especially if you have the right partner, and she is the best I could get. Even when we fight we make it work. She has brought a lot into this marriage and I make sure I play my part. 

Are you a better husband, father or leader?

I am trying to improve in all of them every day. I am a work in progress—but I know I am above average across all of them. I cannot plateau.

What did your last heartbreak teach you?

Haha! I have never been heartbroken.

When you think of the weekend what food comes to mind?

It always used to be steak until my doctor advised that I had eaten enough steak. Now, I am into fish. But I am not pescatarian.

What’s the soundtrack of your life?

Just do the right thing. I manage people’s money and it takes much trust to get money from strangers. Trust is hard to build but you can lose it in a snap [snaps fingers].

What’s your superpower?

I am brave. Even when none is willing to believe in me, if it makes sense to me, I shall go ahead.

What’s your insecurity now, as a man?

I worry about how it will turn out as a father. I want my children, when they are in their 20s and 30s, to always look forward to talking to their father. If I achieve everything except that, I won’t be satisfied.

What are you thanking yourself for?

Surviving my 20s. Those were crazy years. There were mistakes that only God saw me through them.

What are you apologising to yourself for?

My dad was quite strict. But that was what he knew best since he wasn’t brought up by his parents, but by his uncles who administered 'proper' discipline. Letting go of that took a longer time than necessary.

Have you forgiven him and yourself?

Yes, after I became a father, haha! I realised it is not easy being a good parent as you would want to.

What’s your favourite question to ask people?

Why you are doing what you are doing?

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