The end of an era: Safaricom giant Robert Collymore dies aged 61
Safaricom announced yesterday that their Chief Executive Officer, Bob Collymore, passed away after losing his battle with leukemia. The Guyanese-born British businessman was 61.
Collymore was appointed as CEO of Safaricom in 2010 and has since been an integral part of Safaricom's advancement through the payments and telecoms market. Safaricom assisted in the innovation of cashless payments across Kenya, long before major tech giants introduced their own solutions. Over the last decade he assisted in the company's expansion, during which time profits increased by 380%, making it a US$10.8bn company. Today it ranks as one of the top brands in Africa, and comprises 6.5% of Kenya’s total GDP.
Almost 28m phone lines have been registered for Safaricom’s product M-Pesa, and 16m transactions happen each day. Over 36m finance accounts are currently registered over the operator's networks and some 16m transactions happen each day.
Kwame Owino, CEO of Kenya's Institute of Economic Affairs said: “This literally revolutionised Kenya’s financial services sector. Before M-Pesa, in 2006, only 27 percent of the population had access to formal financial services. Thirty-two percent relied on informal services, and over 40 percent was fully excluded. But by 2016, 75 percent of Kenyans - most of whom had never banked - had access to formal financial services."
"M-Pesa catapulted Kenya into the international limelight as a leader in mobile money services," said Owino. "M-Pesa enriched the logistics of moving money, offering far more gain for the economy."
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"Bob helped position Kenya as a global leader in financial inclusion. His legacy will live on through all the people in Kenya and throughout the world whose lives have been changed by Safaricom's innovations,” said Nicholas Nganga, Chairman, Safaricom PLC.
The CEO was dubbed "Bubbly Bob," across Kenyan Media for his friendly demeanour, and commitment to the well-being of Kenyans. In 2012, Collymore was awarded the Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS) by the President of Kenya for his services to the nation. He has been commended for his commitment to gender equality at Safaricom, where almost half of the staff are women.
Upon Collymore's return from cancer treatment in the UK, he was transparent about his experiences and kept both his company and the public up-to-date on his experiences. "Bob was very brave in telling the country what he was going through. It’s not easy to reveal such personal details, but Bob did it," Safaricom chairman Nganga said.
In the wake of his death, Collymore leaves behind his wife and four children. Michael Joseph has been chosen as Safaricom’s interim Chief Executive Officer. Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said: “Although Bob Collymore has left us, his inspirational life will remain a great legacy, not just to Kenyans, but also to the whole world.”
(image: M-PESA Foundation Academy)
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.