Long-serving CEO Chege Kuria retires as CIC charts new growth path

Nelson Chege Kuria

NAIROBI: Nelson Chege Kuria, 60, is considered one of the most experienced hands in Kenya’s insurance business.

Last month, he retired and stepped down from the helm of the CIC Insurance Group after more than 36 years in the financial services sector, 14 of these as CEO of the group.

“I will be going on a sabbatical leave for two months to have a proper rest. Afterwards, I will consider offering my knowledge and experience in financial services by sitting on boards, both in the public and private sectors, if invited,” he told Business Beat in an interview. “I would also like to put in more time serving God through the church, as well as giving back to society.”

An economist with vast experience in development finance and insurance, Mr Kuria joined the Co-operative Insurance Company of Kenya, now CIC Insurance Group, in June 1998 as chief manager in charge of strategy and business development. He became CEO in 2001, and then group CEO in 2011.

RICH OPPORTUNITIES

Kuria is leaving the insurance scene at a time when new opportunities are opening up in the sector.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it now,” said Kuria, adding that he has full confidence in the new team that has taken over at CIC, which he describes as young, energetic and full of ideas.

“The insurance industry, and indeed the wider financial sector, will in the not-too-distant future go through unprecedented changes, especially in terms of consolidation and competition from larger global players. Survival will be a real tough game,” he said.

“As one leadership guru said, opportunities do not run around waiting to be discovered; they are like buried treasure that only the most discerning and persevering find.”

Deloitte Consulting, which was contracted to search for Kuria’s replacement, picked Tom Gitogo, the former managing director of Pan African Insurance. Mr Gitogo served as deputy CEO as the succession plan at CIC Group took shape.

Kuria is credited with driving CIC’s regional expansion and transformation agenda that has seen the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm set up branches in South Sudan and Uganda, with plans to enter Malawi this year. The company has also gone into real estate.

On the back of this acquisition of new business, CIC Group’s 2014 financials — released last week — show annual gross written premiums increased 24 per cent to Sh13.7 billion. However, claims increased 43.6 per cent.

It was also under Kuria’s watch that CIC plunged into the microinsurance business with Afya Bora, which targets low-income earners.

For his contribution to the co-operative movement, Kuria has received two presidential awards — Order of the Grand Warrior in 2005 and Moran of the Burning Spear in 2011.

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