22 July 2010

Uganda: New MD's Journey From Book-Keeper to Fund Boss

Kampala — Mr Richard Byarugaba's shiny profile makes most of today's book-keepers envy him. Yet that's where he started. He has risen from their level to become one of Uganda's most sought-after managing directors.

He has built a stellar banking profession from day one of his employment some 27 years ago, transcending 13 other positions to higher positions in two foreign commercial banks with local operations.

The 49-year-old, became the pioneer MD of Global Trust Bank Uganda in 2008, after a short stint at Barclays Bank Uganda as chief operating officer. Mr Byarugaba started his career at StanChart in 1983 as a bank clerk.

His brief then was to count cash, keep the records in a ledger book and take good care of customers' accounts. In a recent interview, he told Daily Monitor that joining the banking industry was "an accident" for him. For at the time, his ambition was to be a Sanitary Engineer - happily de-sludge sewer pipes and connect its network.

This may sound awful to some people but the banker says: "I thought it was really cool being a sanitary engineer because everybody would refer to you because there wouldn't be many people [in the profession]." "I thought I would be marketable and really run the sewage system of the city and if there was any trouble with sewage, they would call for me."

Yes, he's marketable today but in an entirely unrelated discipline - corporate finance and governance. At StanChart, he moved from a book-keeper up as a banking official; branch manager and eventually the financial director. He also worked in the operations department at the bank's UK headquarters.

While in London, he attained a Post-graduate diploma in Management from Henly Management College. This was after graduating with a Bachelor of Statistics degree from Makerere University. He has previously served as General Manager and Managing Director at Nile Bank before it was acquired by Barclays Bank in 2007. He acknowledges his transformation of Nile Bank and making it suitable for acquisition by an international bank, as his biggest career achievement.

Mr Byaruhanga, who is a die-hard Arsenal fan, looks up to Richard Branson, the founder and chief executive of Virgin Group. An employee, who has worked under him but prefers not be named, says Mr Byarugaba is "a good manager but hates bureaucracy". But dealing with government requires a lot of patience. Resorting to short-cuts at the NSSF has previously dipped his predecessors into a disgraceful exit. Luckily, the writing is on the wall for him.

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