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Fresh graduates build culture at Equity Bank

By Patrick Kagenda

How does your day start?

My day starts at 5a.m. with indoor exercises. By 6: 30 a.m. I am on the road. When I arrive at office, usually by 7 a.m. depending on traffic jam, I read mail and newspapers before the morning meetings with my senior executives, not as a committee but one on one.

By 10 O’clock, I attend to visitors, customers, new business people etc. By 2 O’clock, I find time to have lunch.

What challenges do you face as a Managing Director?

There are a number of challenges and one of them is competition. The financial sector in Uganda is no longer as it used to be 10-15 years ago. A lot has changed and if you are to survive in the market you also have to change strategy, adopt certain ways and do certain things and stop doing certain things.

Many banks are now focusing on customer care. I had never imagined that other banks would also begin holding customer days like Uganda Micro Finance used to hold before it became Equity Bank.

How are you resolving the challenges that you face on the job?

We are just amassing more muscle. Competition is about muscle.

Nalyali’s tips to successful business management?

  1. You have to think right. If you think wrongly, however strong, however hard working you are, you are on the wrong side.
  2. Have commitment. You have to give time for the project to mature. You do not rush into things and do not take things for granted. There are many things that will happen and you really have to sit down and say we have to sort out this.
  3. Have patience
  4. Work hard and you will make it.

It’s about resources, about what you can do. We think we need to improve our focus on customer care, and also make sure that we deliver according to our brand. If the brand says this then you must deliver.

We are following the brand to fulfill the promise. It’s not about talking, it is fulfilling the promise.

What is your opinion of Ugandan workers?

Ugandan workers I think are good workers generally. But of course there are a few bad ones. At Equity, we have basically concentrated mainly on young people, the fresh graduates.

So you find over 60-70% of our staff were the first employees and because of that, you have the opportunity to mold them and train them in the way you want.

Because of the size and the different products we are in, some people from other institutions with skills will be brought in but remember they come with their culture and own problems.

When you continue hiring the fresh graduates, the young people, and you mold them the way you want, then you create a culture.

When these people from other institutions come they find a culture which is already strong that they cannot change it. What they do is to adopt the culture that you already have.

By and large we have got very good people and they have done a commendable job because otherwise, we wouldn’t be where we are. We just pick people straight from school because if you are going to pick new concepts, then you need a fresh mind.

We have found that this has worked very well for us and I think we have one of the highest retention percentages of staff in this country.


About Charles Nalyali: He is a former banker at the Central Bank’s supervision department. In the 1990s, he quit employment to start Uganda Micro Finance Ltd that recently merged with Equity Bank, the second biggest bank in Kenya.


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