Banking runs in Patience Mutesi’s family with two of her siblings and her mother being bankers. With such a background, it is only natural that Ecobank’s top Rwandan female banker dreams of one day leading a financial institution in the country.
Mutesi was born in Kenya to Rwandan refugee parents but later moved to Uganda and lived there until she completed her Bachelor’s degree in 2004.
She decided to come back to Rwanda because she felt that she would make a contribution since the country was taking great strides in the right direction. For a decade now, she has dedicated her time, energy and ideas in Rwanda’s banking sector, towards the growth of global, regional as well as local businesses.
From microfinance to corporate banking
Mutesi is now Head of Corporate Banking for the Ecobank Group’s East African Community Cluster, a position she has held since April 2013. Although banking is what comes naturally to her, being appointed to this position was terrifying at first.
“When you are entrusted with responsibility, your first reaction is to question your ability to deliver according to the expectations of people who gave it to you,” she says.
However, Mutesi rose to the occasion after the realisation that she, like any other human being, could be her own enemy if she continued to question her potential.
“I realised that success or failure depended on me, and that I could set my own limits and give it the best that I could,” she adds.
But before she was entrusted with a regional position, Mutesi had gained nearly a decade of experience in the banking sector. Her first job, the one she says was responsible for building her financial management skills, was with Rwanda Microfinance.
For nine months, she did Micro Corporate Credit and for the first time, she was able to contribute towards the growth of businesses.
To date, Mutesi’s passion remains in contributing to the growth of businesses. It is for this reason that when she joined the marketing department of Banque Commerciale du Rwanda (BCR) in October 2005, she was not satisfied that she was fully utilising her potential.
“I realised that in marketing, I wasn’t fully utilising my financial skills,” she explains. Within a few months, the leadership of the bank added Product Development and Strategy to her role, which she found more exciting.
Mutesi left BCR in 2011 and by that time, she had risen through the ranks and was now the Deputy Head of Corporate Banking. It is therefore no surprise that she was appointed the Head of Corporate Banking in Ecobank Rwanda in 2011.
Here, she continues to work with a range of local, regional as well as multinational business to contribute towards their growth at the same time contributing to the development of her country.
She also continues to aspire for greater heights, one of her personal goals being to become a Managing Director of a financial institution, and to lead that institution towards a place where it is a model to similar institutions.
Being a model bank, she says, is about: “Being able to deliver the best returns to shareholders and creating an environment where employees are excited about contributing towards institutional growth while making a significant contribution to the community in which it belongs”.
However, Mutesi adds that any model financial institution should be committed to the highest level of customer service.
She wears many hats
‘Banker’ is just one of Mutesi’s many hats. On a typical working day, she wakes up at 6a.m, to feed her eight-month-old baby. Thereafter, she prepares her three-year-old son for school and drops him off before she makes her way to work. For the rest of the day, she is engrossed in meeting teams, clients and different stakeholders until she returns home in the evening to play wife and mother again.
Asked if it is challenging to balance all those responsibilities, Mutesi admits that it is.
“I am many things; wife, mother, daughter, sibling, friend, a member of a community and an employee of Ecobank. I have to deliver in all those aspects,” she explains.
She, however, believes that more than being a challenge, it is also an opportunity for her to prove to herself and to other people that you can have a lot on your plate but still balance it all and do it well.
“You have to use your inner strength. It may not always be perfect but it is doable and satisfying,” says Mutesi.
Early childhood and education
Although Mutesi is Rwandan, she spent her formative years away from her country.
“I was born in 1981, in a village called Murang’a in Kenya. At the time, my parents were refugees,” she recalls.
In 1994, Mutesi’s family moved to eastern Uganda and there, she attended primary school before she went to Maryhill High School in western Uganda for O’level.
“I had the best time of my life. It was my first experience in boarding school. It was challenging but that’s where I made the close friends I have to this day,” she says.
From Maryhill High School, Mutesi went to Nabisunsa Girls’ School in central Uganda before joining Makerere University, Kampala in 2001. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Quantitative Economics in 2004.
In 2012, Mutesi completed her Masters’ in Business Administration from the Outreach program of Maastrich School of Management where she emerged top of her MBA class.
On women empowerment and inspiration
It can be said that Mutesi is a successful banker. However, the 34 year-old says that she hasn’t reached her optimum level of success and that in fact, there isn’t an optimum level of success.
“I don’t know if it’s possible to get to certain level where you can say, ‘I’m successful.’ At every level, there will always be something higher to achieve,” she explains. Nonetheless, Mutesi is keen on the desire to lead people in a way that will help them maximise their potential.
Mutesi also recognises that she is realising her full potential because she belongs to a country where women empowerment goes beyond paperwork.
“The issue of women empowerment is real in Rwanda,” she says. “Women have been empowered to contribute towards the country’s development and I like how I fit into that dream.”
Mutesi says that it is equally exciting to be part of the Ecobank Group which has made a significant contribution towards raising the profile of female bankers. In fact, some of the top African female bankers from whom she draws inspiration; Evelyne Tall, and Mareme Ndiaye Mbaye, are part of the Ecobank Group.
They are Deputy CEO for the Ecobank Group and Managing Director of Ecobank Rwanda respectively. Women like Tall, she says, are changing the face of banking in Africa.
Still, Mutesi’s main source of inspiration comes from within.
“I am inspired and challenged by being of service but more so when my service contributes to the financial liberation of people.
Mutesi also adds that she is inspired by Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Governor of Bank of Rwanda because of her commitment and contribution to women empowerment.
Asked what advice she would like to give to young girls in Rwanda concerning education and career, Mutesi has this to say: Think long term when making a career decision, but study and work like you will not be around tomorrow to do what you are doing today.
“Get out of your way to learn something new every day. In the work setting, make yourself available to do the work that everyone else is dodging, and do not do it for anyone else but for yourself.
“You will get a lot of satisfaction, learning and in the end even recognition will come when you least expect it. You are your own friend as well as your own enemy; you set your own limits in life. Push yourself hard and do not be lazy. Put God first. Oh, and my dad also taught me this – be the best at everything you do.”