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Equity Group Chief Executive James Mwangi recollects bank’s lowest moment

By Patrick Alushula | January 9th 2018
Equity Group Chief Executive Dr James Mwangi at a past event. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Equity Group Chief Executive James Mwangi recollects with a smile the lowest moment when Equity Bank, then Equity Building Society, was declared technically insolvent by the regulator.

He says the 1993 difficulties that saw Central Bank of Kenya make the decision on the bank only served to awaken his entrepreneurship journey.

Speaking on Monday, during the launch of a World Bank-sponsored book titled Developing Africa’s Financial Services: The Importance of High-Impact Entrepreneurship, Mr Mwangi said he believed the bank has made enough mistakes to help future entrepreneurs.

“What took us 34 years to build may take the next generation five years to build because the wheel has been invented and they will only roll it. They won’t make the mistakes we made,” he said.

High impact

The book, edited by Prof Dana Redford, features four banks - Equity Bank (Kenya), Atlantico Millennium (Angola), Banco Unico (Mozambique), and Fidelity Bank (Ghana) - as case studies of financial institutions that have had high impact in sub-Saharan Africa.

Equity has been given a whole chapter in which it is described as an entrepreneurial turnaround story that rose from the ashes of insolvency to become a market leader. Mwangi said seeing the bank become insolvent only helped his team to strengthen its resolve to author one of the most revolutionary stories in banking.  

He said the success story was founded on convincing the unbanked to get their money from under their mattresses.

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