Kariuki Ngari: A Visionary Village Boy Turned Global Change Agent Revolutionising Banking in Africa
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Profiles - August 6, 2023

Kariuki Ngari: A Visionary Village Boy Turned Global Change Agent Revolutionising Banking in Africa

Kariuki Ngari, the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) in Kenya, is a self-proclaimed farm/village boy at heart who has become a global change agent. Growing up on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, Ngari was raised with humility and strong values instilled by his father. 

“He (his father) was a very humble guy. I experienced first hand his Christianity anchored on strong faith and of serving something greater than self: traits that became embedded in our family,” says Ngari.

Ngari’s upbringing emphasised equality, with equal opportunities for education and shared responsibilities among family members. These early experiences laid the foundation for his commitment to fairness and justice.

Childhood dream vs banking

After completing his high school education in Nairobi, Ngari pursued a degree in Economics and Sociology at the University of Nairobi. Although his childhood dream was to become a marching band policeman, fate led him to the opposite path, which turned out to be tremendously profitable.

He recalls, “As a young boy, my father used to take his children to the Nairobi Show every year. I was very impressed by the sight of policemen in a marching band during the night show. I thought growing up to be one of them would be pretty cool.”

While at the University, he discovered his passion for finance and banking was deeper than his naïve interest in the police force. He subsequently cut his professional teeth with a local bank before joining Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), where he served for seven years before moving to Barclays Bank of Kenya (now ABSA). 

In 2009, he returned to SCB as the Head of Consumer Banking for Kenya and East Africa, and eventually rose to the position of Retail Head for Africa and later Global Head of Retail Distribution in Singapore.

Ngari played a pivotal role in shaping the distribution network strategy for Standard Chartered Bank globally. With a presence in East Africa for over 100 years, SCB has provided banking services that drive economic growth, job creation, and wealth generation. The bank’s operations in the region currently generate over USD 400 million in revenue and employ over 1,600 people.

Ngari’s Commitment to Transformation and Sustainability

Understanding the transformative power of money and finance, Ngari focuses on leveraging banking services to turbocharge the transformation of local communities, businesses, and individuals. He recognises the urgent need to address climate change and is dedicated to helping businesses mitigate its effects. Ngari believes in using money to build oneself and support others, and he encourages his teams to develop innovative digital solutions that benefit clients.

One such solution is the SC Shilingi Funds platform, a 100% digital-only service offering money market funds in Kenya. Launched in February 2022, this platform enables clients to invest from as little as KES 1,000 (USD 10), earn competitive returns, benefit from monthly compounding, and enjoy unlimited withdrawals at no cost. The platform is available 24/7 through the SC Mobile app, providing convenience to users.

Ngari’s Sustainable Legacy and Impact

Ngari is committed to leaving a worthy legacy for future generations. According to him, “it is important for leaders to realise that leadership is a privilege and not a right, hence leaders ought to utilise their time best in doing good, since the decisions they make impact millions of people.”

Under his stewardship, Standard Chartered Bank has launched sustainability efforts aimed at achieving net-zero financed carbon emissions from its operations by 2025. The bank has already made significant progress by reducing energy use by 50% and water usage by 82% over a three-year period.

Promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion is another area of focus for Ngari. Under his oversight, SCB has implemented strategies to increase women’s representation in senior management, resulting in significant progress. Gender parity on the board has improved from 23% in 2019 to 45% currently. The bank aims to grow its supplier and vendor base from women, youth, and people living with disabilities from 17% to 30% by the end of 2023.

Ngari’s Commitment to Health and Community

Outside of his professional endeavours, Ngari is an avid runner and promotes health and well-being among his colleagues and their families. In 2020, he established the SC Running Club to encourage an active lifestyle. Ngari’s dedication to running extends beyond his team, as he personally funds aspiring runners from his community to compete in local and international marathons.

Ngari’s passion for making a positive impact extends to the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, which has grown to become the largest single-day sporting event in Kenya since its inception in 2003. As the driving force behind the marathon’s success, Ngari is leading efforts to position it as the country’s only sustainable marathon. 

The event focuses on minimising waste generation, with 100% of the waste being recycled. The marathon also prioritises environmental conservation by distributing over 30,000 tree seedlings since last year, with a goal of distributing over 100,000 by 2024.

While Ngari dedicates himself to his professional responsibilities, he also finds time to indulge in personal interests. A lover of literature, his current read is “The Future is Faster Than You Think” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Furthermore, Ngari actively engages in community affairs and is involved in building a modern sanctuary within his local community.

Reflecting on his journey, Ngari remains grateful for the opportunity to lead a large organisation that impacts the lives of thousands of people. As he aptly quotes, “I appreciate the journey I have been on and will work every day of my life to leave it much better than I found it, for the next generation.”

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