Ask Andrew King’ori Wanjau to sum up his life and faith, family and finances will feature. These three pillars, according to the 36-year-old dedicated banker, father of two and church deacon, have been instrumental in shaping his life. He had a chat with ESTHER KIRAGU about his life and how he strives to be a role model to the youth.
You have possibly heard people ask if faith and money can really co-exist. For some, it is nearly impossible but not for Andrew Wanjau. His life’s principles are strongly drawn from the Bible and this was evident throughout this interview. His is a strong conviction that if people are faithful to the godly values on managing whatever financial resources they have, then they will live a much more fulfilling life.
Born in Laikipia County in a village called Wiumererie, which means persevere in Kikuyu, Andrew attests that he is enjoying the fruits of having a persevering spirit.
“There are always challenges in life, but perseverance is key in rising above them,” he starts off this interview.
Challenges of schooling…
By the time young Andrew began schooling his village had only one school, which could not accommodate the huge number of children in the village hungry for education. Learning therefore had to take place in two shifts: morning for the older students and afternoon for the younger ones. Andrew’s mornings would be spent hunting together with other children from his neighbourhood. It would take the 11am bus that always passed by the village to alert them that it was almost time for class. This would give them ample time to rush home and dress up for school.
At school, writing and reading resources were a luxury and hence schoolwork was literally written on the floor using fingers. “Each student had a portion for his work on the classroom floor. I recall an incidence once when my brother accidentally stepped on my work and rubbed it off,” he says rather humorously and we both burst in a bout of laughter. “It was no laughing matter then,” he interjects.
Despite these challenges, Andrew always looked forward to school time. “My dad, a teacher, was keen about my education and that of my two siblings. He was such an authentic teacher that he understood if a teacher taught in a certain school and believed in the quality of education offered at the school, then he had to enroll his children there as well. This saw my brother and I join Ndaragwa Primary School where dad taught. Mum was a stay-at-home mum who also did lots of farming to supplement the family’s income. Sometimes we would help her farm over the weekends and even then I would bring a book with me to the shamba to read whenever we took a break from farming,” Andrew explains.
He says he dared to dream big despite knowing that entry into a national school was a far fetched dream at the nondescript primary school he attended. “You had to have a very good score and hope that not many others in your district quota would exceed the score. I knew if i joined a national school I was almost guranteed of an entry in university. And so i read day and night,” he says.
His dedication paid off as he emerged the top student in his school and district when he sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in 1995. This earned him a spot at Alliance High School. He says, “The year I got admitted to Alliance was the second time in a long time that someone from our area was admitted to a national school.”
At Alliance High School, Andrew had a culture shock. Having come from the village, he was not confident he could communicate as well as the other students especially those from Nairobi. But interacting with students from all walks of life gave him the exposure he needed to broaden his worldview. He was also fascinated to have access to all sorts of learning resources at his disposal.
“I wasn’t so much of a sports person even in my primary school days. Possibly, what put me off sports was how I was always overlooked because of my slender disposition when students teamed up. To validate myself, I overcompensated for this by burying myself in books where I shone best,” he says.
Andrew wanted to be a lawyer and was good at debating, but he had an even greater love for sciences and was very fascinated by technology. And so he applied and was accepted at Maseno University to study for a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in computer science and engineering, which he says he thoroughly enjoyed. He reckons that his four-year stint at Maseno University exposed him to a different cultural community that made him appreciate cultural diversity.
It was also here that Andrew met his wife Caroline King’ori through the Christian Union (CU). The two would become such good friends. While travelling on a bus on their way to Nairobi after clearing from campus, Andrew asked Caroline to marry him.
“Ours was a very simple affair without much pomp. In fact, I don’t recall anything about the engagement ring; all I know is that she said yes,” says Andrew with obvious delight. They courted for three years before exchanging vows in 2008.
An interest in financial-matters…
Andrew’s major plunge into career was working in a microfinance institution where he got to practically apply information technology in a financial set up for the first time. But what really shaped his life in financial matters was a job he got in 2008 at an audit firm where he had a chance to do various consultancy jobs in different industries. This became his turning point career wise.
“It was a great opportunity to define the direction my career would take and I realised with time that I didn’t just want to be a techie guy, I wanted to get into business analysis using IT to enhance businesses. I am very grateful this job gave me the career plunge I needed,” he explains.
Andrew realised that the telecommunication and bank industries
in Kenya appreciate IT more since their products are integrated with technology such as Mpesa and ATMs. This saw him move to the banking sector in 2011 as a business analyst. Today, he is a project manager in charge of branch transformation at Cooperative Bank of Kenya.
“Branch transformation entails giving customers a better experience at the bank and with the bank’s products. My biggest satisfaction is seeing clients financially empowered through the bank’s products and services, and setting up systems to make their banking more convenient,” he says and adds that nothing is routine as you cannot predict what will be the new technology tomorrow.
Andrew says his wife has been instrumental in shaping his career as she is in the same line of business and they share a common value – financial management. As such, they have played a key role in building each other’s career lives.
Family and service to community …
Andrew and Caroline have two children: six-year-old Victoria Wahito and two-and a-half-year-old Ariel Wanjau. He says they endeavour to be more engaged and involved in their children’s life and have had to sacrifice and move closer to their children’s school to allow them to have quality family time together. In addition, they got rid of television from their home three years ago as they found it distractive and it took away the time they would have spent together.
About his seven years of marriage, Andrew says, “It has been great because we are friends and we talk a lot. It has not been without its own fair share of challenges but challenges are part of any journey. We have been fortunate to have friends who have been our mentors spiritually, financially and even on marriage, and they have kept us accountable and pushed us to do things that have been beneficial.”
Having understood the importance of mentorship, Andrew and his wife try and reach out to youths within their circle and
offer them mentorship. It has also helped to have a common shared value around faith, as both Andrew and Caroline serve in their church, St Andrews Presbytarian Church, Nairobi, in the ushering department, as a deacon and Sunday school teacher respectively.
On practical financial advice…
One of the things that Andrew strongly feels is important yet many youth ignore, especially in their young professional life, is the need to save. “It may sound cliché but there is need to build some savings for yourself no matter how little it is. The idea is to get into the discipline of saving with the little you have even before you acquire much.
Don’t just spend money without thinking about tomorrow. As a rule of thumb, always ensure that at any time you have a kitty worth atleast your three month’s income for emergency purposes. This will cushion you in case you of an unforeseen circumstance,” he says.
Andrew also insists on building one’s credit rating especially when starting out in a career as people often have little financial commitment at that time. With poor credit rating you will be limited in your borrowing tomorrow. He also advises one not to borrow money for a consumer debt, which eats into your net worth and savings.
As we conclude this interview Andrew offers wise counsel to the youth: “There are plenty of opportunities for the youth to take advantage of whether in career, education or investment, but to do so you need to be financially sound. Therefore, exercise patience and the will to forgo some luxury today in order to enjoy tomorrow because financial management is a discipline. It takes patience, sacrifice and lots of faith to achieve anything good in life.”
Published in January 2015