Edith Chumba: Top banker's lessons on wealth, business and life

Edith Chumba. She is the Standard Chartered Head of Consumer, Private and Business Banking for Kenya and East Africa. [File, Standard]

Edith Chumba is a name you hardly miss in Kenya's banking industry.

She plays at an elite level with a chunk of her over 20-year retail banking experience spent impacting businesses at the C-Suite.

Ms Chumba is the Standard Chartered Head of Consumer, Private and Business Banking for Kenya and East Africa.

She manages about 800 people across East Africa and the bank has a total client base of about 300,000.

Her docket, with an operating income of Sh12.9 billion in 2021, serves individuals and small businesses with a focus on the affluent and emerging affluent. Over the years, Stanchart's wealth unit has grown significantly with over Sh131 billion in assets under management currently.

In a wide-ranging interview, Ms Chumba talked to Enterprise about leadership and the lessons she's picked along the way.

Problem-solving culture

I run a people business. Whether from a client or employee side, we live in a world of problems.

I keep saying to the team that I work with - particularly those in leadership - if you're not solving a problem, then you are in the wrong place.

Every single day I wake up, there's a problem - either from my team, or they have a problem with their career, or they are lost and productivity is low.

I need to find out what is going on. And how do I make you the best version of yourself, so that you enjoy what you do and earn out of it but, I also benefit because your productivity is high.

Clients come to us not because they don't have anything else to do but need help from us as a financial institution to help them solve the many problems they have.

Whether they are in business or an individual running family matters such as wanting to educate their children or have a patient.


Those problems can only be solved if you have strong leadership capabilities and character. Leadership requires courage, that you can face that problem and don't run away or make excuses or pass blame.

For example, we are operating in a difficult macroeconomic environment. I can easily throw my hands and tell my clients things are tough.

They'll still come to me and want good returns, they'll want to borrow and maybe, even don't qualify to access loans. However, I have to figure out how do I help them.


Listen, listen and listen and have a heart of genuinely wanting to help. You may never have a 100 per cent solution to every problem presented to you.

Perhaps, some of those things that clients want help with, we don't do as a bank, but if I listen and get to understand what is the underlying problem, I'll be able to offer advice or a solution.

What I love about this job, is that the clients are good. They are my number one partners in business because they genuinely want to see you succeed.

That's why they take the trouble to come to see us, otherwise, they'd move to another bank.

I must provide leadership from a service perspective, business development and also help clients reach their aspirations.

Learning never stops

Leadership is at the centre of what we do. Personally, every year, I'm in leadership programmes. The bank has invested in me and developed my leadership capabilities.

Constant improvement is important.

I believe in growth and development and deliberately look out for help. I have a coach and there are mentors I reach out to when I'm struggling.

Carry people along

Looking back to my career when I was a young manager, we were consumed by things that didn't really matter. You just wanted to be a star.

On top of everything you do, you wanted to be seen as the best but soon you realise that you can't do this alone and you need to carry people.

There are many people who have different perspectives and can help you.

Put yourself out there

When doing my own personal evaluation, I'm an introvert, I work hard and that's it.

I used to struggle, but the job that I do today forced me to change some of these things because left alone, I'd be in my corner quietly, not being disturbed. But I can't afford to do that with the responsibility that I have today.

My then business coach told me, Edith, what if you are the first person to reach an event and start introducing yourself? I had to start learning how to network. I lost many opportunities but it's something that I trained myself to do.

I don't struggle anymore or fear anything or anyone or what people think. I can sit in front of anybody and have a meaningful discussion but that's because there was an intervention to develop that capability.

Women need to show up. Show the power of diversity. What we bring to the table is very powerful and we have much more endurance in problem-solving.


As a leader, self-awareness is important and half of the time know what we struggle with. There's nothing wrong to be vulnerable and seek out help.

Don't fear failure

Earlier in my career, I feared failing and it would affect my confidence. Where I've reached now, I don't fear failing. Actually, failure, sometimes, is a good thing because you come out stronger.

If you fear to fail, you'll never do new things. Client dynamics dictate you have to be innovative and innovation is not just about this new product or solution even how you think and do things.

And when you fail, be ready to take responsibility. The beauty of part of our process and procedure is to test so that you have a window to test. During that test period, if the thing doesn't work as envisioned, you are allowed to pull it back.

Yes, there are things we've tested and haven't worked. The lesson is just to go back to the drawing board to modify and listen to more people and get more perspective.

Generational wealth transfer

As a country, here we have to work hard. The Asian community do it so well. You walk into an Asian shop, and you find an old mzee there but there are also young children being trained on how to run the business.

Institutions such as ours need to help our clients. We do bring in external partners to have a talk with them, for example about wills and probates.

Africans don't want that conversation because when you get into it, it's like they are dying the next minute, but it's very important.

Within Standard Chartered Group, there are those markets that have matured in managing generational wealth. They've even developed products that help with that transition.

That conversation (wealth transfer) shouldn't wait until a transition occurs. It should start at the point where one is starting to invest and grow their portfolio.

In our African context, there's still some fear, either as parents, we've failed to build our children and help them understand what we do. We cut them off they just see wealthy parents but have no idea how they got there.


If you have a why, you actually get motivated to save.

The motivation of knowing this is the type of asset I want. Without motivation, you'll cash out after a week. That's not saving. The mindset should be long-term.

You can't spend all of your money. You have to set aside some for a rainy day. It's not about the amount of money it's the thought, discipline and habit you form of putting aside money.

That's why we started the local onshore MMF (SC Shillingi), it drives financial inclusion and helps inculcate a savings culture.

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