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You are not alone; Lina Higiro, CEO of NCBA Bank Rwanda began from scratch as well

The most terrifying aspect of not knowing the future is that you cannot be certain that the path you are on is the correct one.

Many young people are constantly concerned about their future, primarily because they are not where they want to be or because they have high ideals that they do not know how to achieve.

Many young people are wondering about their path but let me tell you about Lina Higiro’s journey to becoming the woman she is today.

Lina Higiro is the CEO of NCBA Bank Rwanda Plc and one of three women recently named as promising leaders in the East African banking and financial services sector.

Lina Higiro is one of the few women in leadership positions in Rwanda’s banking sector; she was appointed to this position through the Angaza Award, which recognizes women who demonstrate change and expertise in the management of banks and financial services.

She is one of those women in Rwanda who has a legacy and reputation that speaks for itself, particularly in banking, having worked for AB Bank Rwanda, I&M Bank, and Fina Bank, which later became Guaranty Trust.

Before you pass judgment on this story before reading it, keep in mind that it did not happen overnight.

Lina Higiro shared more about her journey to where she is today, as well as some advice for women who aspire to be in high positions in the management of various companies.

Higiro stated in our interview that she began working when she was 18 years old. She was working in a Canadian library in the town where she lived at the time.

Even though it was a minor position, it assisted her in developing skills that she would later apply in her other positions.

“My first job was in a library, and I didn’t start out very well.” “I began when I was 18 years old in Canada, in a very beautiful but remote city called Sackville in the Province of New Brunswick, where I studied at Mount Allison University,” she explained.

“From then on, I did various things in Ontario in terms of business, and internet marketing was not as advanced at the time as it is now,” she added.

Higiro stated that after leaving Canada, she moved to South Africa to work at ESKOM. She stated that working for this company taught her how to collaborate effectively with stakeholders.

“I later went to South Africa and worked with the energy company ESKOM, where I had to learn how to work with different partners including the government, private companies, and technicians, which helped me to have more knowledge about working with partners,” she said.

When she came to Rwanda

After working in various companies in other countries, the NCBA Bank Rwanda CEO stated that she returned to Rwanda in 2007 and began working in banks.

“I began working in the bank as an employee in charge of small and medium enterprises in the former Fina Bank, now GTBank; my job here was to establish the department for small and medium enterprises, and I am proud that I have contributed to making this bank known for assisting small businesses.”

Lina Higiro stated that during her time at this bank, she collaborated with other colleagues who increased the bank’s assets, and she is proud that all of the employees who worked with her at the time have been promoted to the highest levels.

After leaving Fina Bank, Lina Higiro continued her career at I&M Bank, where she worked as the head of the department responsible for large companies and corporate reporting.

“It was 100 percent different from the SME business, which is what I was most familiar with in banking, but it allowed me to develop strategies and work with others,” he said.

While this woman has been in this bank with the help of her employer who did not stop her from trying to do new things, she has helped her to achieve many things which include changing the way the bank operates.

A total shift

Lina Higiro surprised many people when she left I&M Bank to work as the Chief Operating Officer at AB Bank after four years. They were all curious as to why she would switch from a large bank to a smaller one.

Lina Higiro and her colleagues at AB Bank Rwanda helped it to become the second bank in Africa with the highest income among the six owned by Access Holdings Investment Center.

“I am very proud of the team we worked with, and we were so pleased with how much we won that we immediately launched a new program for our customers called ‘Group savers,'” she said.

“This surprised the people we worked with because we started with 150 accounts, which was a small number, but when I talk to the team we worked with today, they tell me that the program has grown and is still working very well,” she added.

Lina Higiro was appointed CEO of NCBA Bank Rwanda plc in 2018. She stated that she was inspired to compete for this position by two women working in banking in the region who demonstrated to her that she could handle these responsibilities.

Lina coordinated and reformed the business’s operations and introduced new concepts during her first years as CEO. This resulted in a 141% increase in the bank’s productivity, owing primarily to a 163% increase in lending.

She launched five technology-related projects, which resulted in a large number of people opening accounts in this bank, increasing the amount of money saved by clients by 99%, from $21 million to $41 million. Lina Higiro and her colleagues were only able to accomplish this between 2019 and 2020.

Lina Higiro’s management style has made the employees of this bank work in a good spirit; thus, NCBA Bank Rwanda is considered the first branch of this bank where its employees work happily.

Women should be praised in public

Lina Higiro stated that she is where she is today because of the people around her who have always shown her that she is capable and that she can do more.

“We need a lot of help as women, and we really need people to push us.” I have a group of people who help me with what I call my “inspiration cabinet,” a term I borrowed from the book “CEO Next Door.” These are people who make me feel grounded. Indeed, I attended the Angaza Award because one of them had encouraged me.”

She stated that one thing that should be done to increase the number of women in high positions in various companies is to publicly thank those who have accomplished something because it inspires others.

“It is important to talk about what a woman has accomplished in public because research shows that talking about what a woman has accomplished in public makes others feel capable,” she said.

Another thing that would help women grow is to create a work environment that is easier for them.

“It may not sound obvious, but good work measures make it easier for families; if you do it, you are not only helping women but also helping men, measures like working hours that are not difficult for people,” she explained.

“A friend has set up a special place at work to help women breastfeed; I don’t do it, but I have young workers who have breastfed babies but don’t have a place to go; I plan to start it soon. These are small but significant details for a family.”

Reading books, according to Lina Higiro, has helped her progress in her journey. Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath and Talking to Strangers are two of her favorite books.

Lina Higiro holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Liverpool in England and a Master of Business Administration degree from North-West University in South Africa. She also attended Ryerson University in Canada and graduated with a degree in Business and Communications.

Higiro believes that women should be an inspiration for each other
Lina Higiro the NCBA Bank Rwanda CEO

Straight out of Twitter