She is not a face you see everyday on television but Victoria Otieno is a force to reckon with in the banking sector. Otieno, a player in the sector for 18 years, has fast risen to the status where she meets with Heads of State and their top brass in negotiating key financial relationships for her employer CfC Stanbic Bank.
While working for what was then Stanbic Bank, she was voted the top manager and awarded “Kwezi Khulu Star” in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the performance of the Bank in 2005. The award was realised after meeting and significantly exceeding set targets and the introduction of new products and services in Kenya and South Sudan.
These included the Investment Account, Stanbic NGO Account, Stanbic religious organisation account and value. She is currently the country head of CFC Stanbic Bank in South Sudan. In both Kenya & South Sudan, Otieno has successfully set up customised banking products for non-governmental organisations, religious, and international development agencies in East Africa and the Republic of South Sudan. From 2004, Otieno has been working to see South Sudan free and more information about her work is set to be published in South Sudan history books.
The mother of three took Development Agenda on a journey through her career as a young woman to present day. In school her passion had always been sciences but as fate would have it she ended up in banking and finance. “Looking back I do not regret the decision. It has been very rewarding and it takes hard work and determination,” she says.
Prior to joining Stanbic Bank Kenya Limited, Otieno spent six years with ABN AMRO Bank NV and underwent training in the Netherlands. She was subsequently posted to ABN AMRO Bank in Kenya to set up the relationship management department for organisations and institutions and was responsible for managing a number of clients of ABN AMRO Bank in Kenya.
She then joined Stanbic Bank Kenya Limited in 2001 and was appointed branch manager at the Westlands Branch with the responsibility of starting and growing the branch from the first customer to a base of over 2,500 accounts over a three-year period. Thereafter, she was appointed the Regional Head of Governments and International Organisations (GIO) for Eastern Africa, for CfC Stanbic Bank Limited.
In her regional GIO leadership role, Otieno had the overall responsibility for the bank’s Business development and growth on governments and international organisations sector across Eastern Africa. As a female corporate head in a predominantly male-dominated tier of the institution she has faced a number of key challenges and conquered them to retain respect among her peers.
“Women in top positions face various challenges and therefore you have to be assertive, confident and take time to fully understand your business in order for your male counterparts to respect you,” she said. In her current position her key focus is government ministers, Central bank and ambassadors.
“Understanding economic drivers and structuring complex transactions requires one to read widely which takes time and sacrifice,” she said. Balancing work and family can be a daunting task but she stoically says that looking after children and being a wife requires multi-tasking and knowing where your priorities lie.
Otieno says women have a unique sixth sense called ‘intuition’ and she uses hers to make business and administrative decisions. From 2001 to October 2004, while working as the Branch Manager for the Westlands Branch for her employer Stanbic Bank it was voted the best branch in the network. She later established the Westlands branch for Cfc Stanbic Bank after the merger and it now has over 1500 clients’ relationships to date, 200 of which are NGOs, religious organisations and UN agencies.
As the country head of Government and international organisations and head of South Sudan she successfully launched banking services in Southern Sudan in an environment with no previous banking services. She is currently involved in the management of the South Sudan business of CFC Stanbic Bank where she leads a team of 30 people to achieve this objective. The financial expert is no stranger to philanthropy and volunteers her time to do social work.
She is part of the Workforce Development Group Alliance, which helps nurture young talent to get into the corporate world. Otieno and others teach young upcoming professionals on how to present themselves for interviews, look at their potential and where best they would fit and also how to set future goals when working among other useful career coaching. She sits on the Board of Operation Smile, a worldwide children’s medical charity, which helps children with cleft lips and facial deformities to access medical health.
Operation Smile Mission in Kenya has since inception in 1987, provided free surgical treatment to more than 8,000 patients. Approximately one in 500 to 700 children is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate globally. With a population of 41 million, taking into account the above statistics, the small population who might be able to afford expensive corrective surgery, and those Kenyans already helped by Operation Smile over the last 25 years and similar organisations.
“There is still a likelihood that over 20,000 Kenyans suffer from cleft lips and cleft palates. We want to ensure all are able to access the corrective surgery,” she said. She believes in giving back to the community. This is done in kind through volunteering, as well as in resources. She strongly believes that God created all of us to be a blessing to one another.
This high achiever says the banking landscape in this country is changing very rapidly. The industry must adapt to technology and harness the possibilities created by technology to move banking services to the people. She adds that a lot of innovation is required.
As a banker in the neighbouring country of South Sudan, Otieno has witnessed how innovation in Kenya is now being exported through products such as M-pesa which augurs well for both local and regional banking. Victoria says her personal mantra: is: with God all things are possible. - By Gathoni Muraya