Kinya Kimotho, CFO Nielsen Africa: moving to risk-based management

There is great value for CFOs and FDs to meet each other and share notes, says Kinya Kimotho, finance director for Africa at international market research firm Nielsen. “When you look at different industries and companies, there is commonality in problems and challenges. How do we tackle that as CFOs? How can our companies grow fast? I would love to talk to peers about it.”

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Kinya - born and bred in Nairobi - has spent most of her career at multinational pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithkline, first as chief accountant at Glaxo Wellcome, prior to the merger with Smithkline Beecham, later as financial controller of Glaxo Smithkline and from 2004 -2012 as FD of GSK. Thereafter she joined Nielsen as executive director: finance Africa a position, which she held until October 2015.

When and I why did you decide to pursue a finance career?
"When I was in high school I listened to a career talk about the banking sector, which really inspired me and ignited my interest in finance. That planted a seed. At university I studied education, but I knew I didn't really want to go into teaching. That is why I started studying accounting, which I really enjoyed. When I finished my MBA, I joined PriceWaterhouse. I left because I was keen to apply my knowledge to business and was keen to move into the commercial sector."

What was your proudest moment during that period?
"I think my proudest moment was when GlaxoSmithKline significantly reduced prices for a whole range of antibiotics and other medicines to make them accessible for people who couldn't afford them. That happened from 2010 and I was part of the management team that oversaw that. It was very exciting. It made good business sense for the company, it was good for the country and many people benefited. It was a classic case of 'lower price, higher value'."

"Another highlight was the period when Glaxo Wellcome merged with SmithKline. We had to be able to bring together two entirely different accounting platforms. That was a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours, but it was very rewarding."

"I worked very closely with the business to put in place the Risk and Compliance function which I also led and was it was rewarding to see the business move to risk-based management and decision making."

Why did you move to Nielsen?
"I worked in the same industry for a very long time. I have a big interest in growing into a general management role and I felt I needed to broaden my experience by working in a different industry. At Nielsen we work with over 200 people in Kenya and over 1500 in Africa. It is a fascinating company that gathers a tremendous amount of insights from big data and from our research."

What have you achieved at Nielsen?
"I have really strengthened the finance function, working closely with a diverse finance team sitting in seven geographies and 3 time zones . For the first time we are now working closely with the business. The finance mindset has changed from an overemphasis on controllership and number crunching to greater focus on business partnership and advisory. There has been a lot of improvement in that area."

What will be next for Kinya Kimotho?
"I am looking to move to another industry to broaden my scope further."

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