Longest serving CEO of Britam Benson Wairegi to depart in December after 4 decades

KENYABritam Holdings Limited, financial services group, has announced that its chief executive, Benson Wairegi, will depart in December after four decades in the financial services company, making him the longest serving CEO among firms listed on the Nairobi bourse.

Mr Wairegi, 67, told the Business Daily Monday that he will not seek a new term when his three-year contract ends in December.

“The board is seized of the matter. They have engaged and started a search for my successor. Whether it’s internal or external (replacement), that’s now for the board to decide. But the process began as long as two years ago,” the CEO said in an interview.

“That should not worry the market, should not worry anybody. When I leave, there will be that pool of leaders who can take over from me.”

He leaves a firm where he controls a 4.01 percent stake worth KSh715.7 million (US$6.62m), enough to earn him a board seat.

“After 40 years here… the first thing (I will do) is sit back and think what next. (I will) spend time with family, I have golf to play and there are friends I have missed because I have focused on this business all these years,” Mr Wairegi said of his immediate post-retirement plans. “There’s no urgency to do anything, just taking stock before I decide what to do next.”

Mr Wairegi is credited with shepherding the listing of the firm at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) in July 2011, helping its founders, including Jimnah Mbaru and Peter Munga to reduce their stake, earning hundreds of millions of shillings from the disposals.

The disposals and sale of new shares has seen founders of the firm cede control to foreign institutional investors like Zurich-based insurance giant, Swiss Re, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and private equity firm Africinvest.

Increased purchase of the insurer’s shares by the institutional investors signals their confidence in Britam’s long-term future prospects.

“We are sitting on a fantastic platform for growth through the investments that we have made in people and in systems, and the support of institutional investors,” Mr Wairegi said.

“Britam is poised for the next phase of rapid growth through tech-enabled solutions, and I have every confidence the organisation will continue to grow; never mind the short-term challenges presented by the stock market. The core business remains strong.”

The firm runs insurance, asset management and property development businesses, with operations in neighbouring Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique and South Sudan.

Mr Wairegi is also credited with diversifying Britam through further expansion in Kenya and in neighbouring countries, an acceleration of property development and increase investment in private equity.

He will become the second long-serving top official to step down from executive roles at the Britam in about a year after Stephen Wandera, the former principal executive director, retired after 26 years of service late 2019.

Mr Wandera has retained his seat on the board as a non-executive member.

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