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Mwindwa Siakalima: Success Through Principled Leadership

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When you think of African finance, your mind immediately goes to Standard Bank, one of the leading commercial banks on the continent and the engine behind Africa’s development. Standard Bank is motivated by one purpose – “Africa is our home, we drive her growth” and this purpose is shared by the bank’s presence in 20 African countries.

In Zambia, Standard Bank is known as Stanbic Bank and is ranked among the leading banks in the country. In 2021, the bank received two prestigious awards from EMEA Finance for the Best Bank and Best Investment Bank in Zambia. The awards are significant given the rapid rise in the number of commercial banks operating in Zambia. Stanbic Bank Zambia is driven by the same singular purpose as the group albeit with a slight variation, “Zambia is our home, we drive her growth.”

At the helm of the bank is Mwindwa Siakalima, who took over as Chief Executive in October 2021. He is in his tenth year with the bank and previously served as CFO. Since transitioning to CEO, Mwindwa has settled well in the familiar environment except now with much wider priorities and responsibilities.

.“We walk with the client from the time they are born, when they graduate to a job, when they become sole traders and when they grow into large corporates.”

Mwindwa’s journey in finance has been classic. He graduated as an accountant and began his career with leading accounting firm KPMG and later moved on to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Following those stints, he joined Zambian Breweries (now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) where he served in various roles from chief accountant to management accountant. He later joined SCAW Zambia Limited as finance director before landing at Stanbic Bank.

Mwindwa describes his time at Stanbic as both exciting and challenging. The bank has grown by leaps and bounds from fifth position in the Zambian market to the first position measured by balance sheet size. Today, Stanbic is focused on delivering exceptional client experiences across various points in the customer’s life cycle. The bank puts the client at the centre and aims to craft solutions that serve the customer above all else. “We believe that it is the client’s journey and we are just there to aid them on that journey. We walk with the client from the time they are born, when they graduate to a job, when they become sole traders and when they grow into large corporates,” he comments on Stanbic’s mission.

Apart from focusing on the individual retail customer, Stanbic is a key player in the growth of Zambia’s main sectors. The bank is active in agriculture, mining, energy, public sector, manufacturing and the other emerging sectors such as oil and gas. Stanbic currently has the largest investment exposure in the agriculture value chain, which is a key sector in Zambia’s future as the country plans to diversify from mining. The underpinning driver of the bank’s investment in these key economic sectors is the purpose “Zambia is our home, we drive her growth,” which dictates the bank’s strategic decisions across the business.

Mwindwa has benefited greatly from a strict upbringing under the roof of a police officer and a teacher. His environment was characterised by discipline and integrity, values he upholds today. Being the child of government workers taught him humility as his family moved around the country, as is common with civil service. On his upbringing Mwindwa says, “Moving around has had a huge bearing on how I interact with people. It drives humility to see how other people live. It gives me an extra angle to how I view things rather than a one-sided view.” He credits his upbringing for his rise to the top in a competitive field.

Mwindwa is leading the bank during a very unique period. COVID-19 has changed how businesses work and Stanbic is no exception. Like many other banks, Stanbic has transitioned to a work from home policy which poses an interesting leadership challenge for Mwindwa. He describes his leadership style as values-based, a style where leaders draw upon their own and others’ values. At its core, the values-based leadership philosophy asserts that people are mostly motivated by values and live according to these beliefs.

At the centre of his leadership philosophy is trust. He trusts that the staff has the integrity to work unsupervised and deliver work at the agreed time, within the agreed cost and quality. Stanbic’s recent performance is proof that there is alignment between Mwindwa’s leadership style and the bank’s organisational culture. Mwindwa and his team are also leveraging the power of technology to ensure that they deliver value to the customer anywhere and at any time.

Apart from his work, there are other aspects of life that excite Mwindwa. One of these aspects is seeing people grow and he is an active mentor to people of all ages. “I enjoy seeing people grow by imparting new knowledge or even new values in people. Maybe it is helping someone turn a corner or seeing a new perspective. I enjoy being part of that process. I also enjoy the aspect of reverse mentoring and I learn a lot from people of all ages.” He is also an avid weekend farmer and is excited to continue learning about farming, which he finds therapeutic.

What sets Mwindwa apart is his unwavering belief in the power of values. He places a high value on integrity and work ethic. “If I were to give advice to my younger self, I would say you never lose with integrity. Make sure that you keep your integrity at all times because it is a shield that will make you succeed. Unfortunately, integrity is not a currency that people are selling anymore” he says regarding his core values.

“You need to be adaptable as things change and move with the times. The environment is moving quickly and you need to be fast on your feet to stay ahead.”

One word that best describes Mwindwa Siakalima is agile. He is ready to take on the challenge of leading a dynamic bank in a fast-changing environment. The needs of customers and stakeholders are changing every day and decisions need to be made quicker than ever. Mwindwa summarises his approach in his own words, “You need to be adaptable as things change and move with the times. The environment is moving quickly and you need to be fast on your feet to stay ahead.”

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