After spending over a decade working in the banking sector, Elizabeth Wasunna Ochwa believes a career in banking presents a positive challenge. Her most inspiring moments include creating a positive impact in the industry. Currently Director for Business Banking at Absa Bank-Kenya PLC, Ms. Wasunna Ochwa is no proponent for lowering standards to enable women ascend to leadership; they are capable leaders.
How did your career in banking begin?
My first opportunity to join the banking industry was in Barclays Bank-Kenya, now Absa-Kenya PLC. When I left college, I was lucky to get an opportunity to work as an intern with the bank in Mombasa.
From your experience, what are some of the challenges that come with a career in banking?
In the banking field, there is a lot that you need to learn which is a positive challenge. A quote from Eleanor Roosevelt says you have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and give your best with an open mind because banking doesn’t just cover what you see at the frontline. There is a lot more that goes on in the background and so, the challenge is for you to open your mind, learn the different facets to gain a wholesome view. This comes with another challenge. In the learning, you get absorbed sometimes challenging your work-life balance. You have to find a balance in order to be wholesome, because only then can you give.
What are some of the inspiring moments you have had in the course of your career?
One of the things that really inspire me is the opportunity to positively impact people’s lives and businesses; to be seated in the SME and commercial Banking space and seeing it grow from an idea into a big business. The other inspiration is meeting and interacting with different people, with different ideas and from different cultures. What I take from there is: how can I transfer these positive ideas back home.
How can the banking sector support more women to take up leadership roles?
This year, the opportunity to celebrate women wherever they work – and especially in the banking industry – has been awesome. One thing I would ask the banking fraternity is to give women is a fair chance. The fact that women are given a fair and equal chance at being the best that they can be is one that I would recommend. They bring different positive perspectives in decision making.
What would you advise young women who aspiring to be leaders in the banking industry?
When you come into an environment like this (banking), nobody expects you to know everything. So, ensure that you have the basics i.e. you have integrity, you are focused, and you are ready to do the hard work. Be inquisitive, be ready to do over and above what you have already been assigned. Michelle Obama says don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and