Anne Sweeney once said, “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you are proud to live.”
One such leader is Mukwandi Chibesakunda, the CEO of Zanaco Plc., who started her career as a graduate trainee in a bank, and since she hasn’t looked from her career.
Mukwandi has worked in the banking industry for more than two decades, and during this period, she has worked in multiple financial service roles. She has served as the Executive Director, Consumer Banking at Standard Chartered Bank, Managing Director of Access Bank Zambia, Head Personal and Business Banking, Stanbic Bank Zambia, and Managing Director, National Savings and Credit Bank (Natsave).
Her current organization Zanaco is committed to exceeding the product, service, and innovation expectations of its more than 2 million customers spread across the Public Sector, Corporate Finance, SME, Agriculture, and Consumer Segments. There are times when Zanaco collaborates with different Development Finance Institutions, Venture Capitalists, and funders to deliver solutions that meet its clients’ needs while supporting various important segments. Also, with the bank’s digital-first strategy, it has successfully deployed digital banking solutions that enable its customers to transact without even stepping into the branch by using the bank’s digital platforms.
During her inspiring journey, Mukwandi has had the honour of serving as the President of the Zambia Institute of Banking and Financial Services. She was also named CEO of the year 2021, Zambia by CEO monthly, which is an internationally renowned magazine.
Mukwandi proudly mentions that when she looks at the ability that banking has to change and impact individuals and businesses through the services they offer, she feels her journey has been a fulfilling one.
As the CEO of Zanaco, Plc. Mukwandi knows that the challenges exist. However, she feels that she was presented with an opportunity as a leader to learn and unlearn things depending on the complexities of the situation. Further, she got the opportunity to grow and lead herself better while leading others.
Mukwandi tries to be aware of the changes happening in the environment to be prepared to tackle challenges. However, she also realizes that it is nearly impossible for any organization to be 100 percent prepared every time. She feels how a company manages the challenges and the lesson it learns from those challenges is what matters the most.
Additionally, having the right team whose vision is aligned with Zanaco has helped the bank cushion the challenges that come with a big brand. The team at Zanaco believes that the idea of working together works as the catalyst for growth, and Mukwandi happily points out that historical profit after tax posted would not have been possible without the hard work of all the staff.
She feels leaders need to invest time in developing capacity and helping their employees to align their values with their respective organizational values. By doing so, team members will always see the value while attaining organizational goals.
Implementing New Ideas
People describe Mukwandi as a compassionate leader with a futuristic vision. Everyone knows that she stands by her team and creates a democratic working experience, where everyone can come up with their input and grow individually and as a team.
She believes in creating a culture of trust, which can help employees thrive in several ways for their personal and professional growth.
As the leader of Zanaco, Mukwandi believes the right ideas are already in place with the long-term strategies that they are driving into 2025. Although the inclusion of Green financing might become a new strategy for the bank, Mukwandi’ s focus will always be inclined to deliver on the Banks strategy as a team.
When it comes to failures, Mukwandi cannot single them out. However, she explains there have been many lessons learned professionally that have taught her that no matter what we face, we must strive to do and be better than yesterday.
Serving the Society
As a leading Bank, Zanaco knows promoting sustainable development initiatives, improving lives, and meeting the needs of people is crucial. With its Corporate Social Responsibility program, the organization aims to make positive changes in society and contribute to inclusive economic growth among citizens. The bank has identified key focus areas for its CSR program which include water and sanitation, financial literacy, support in health, education, and the environment.