Lusekelo Mwamondwe Kaoloka, 37 is the head of corporate and institutional banking with NBS Bank since February 2013. She joined the financial market through Standard Bank (then Commercial bank of Malawi) in 1997 as an international trade clerk. She then rose through the ranks to management trainee in 1998, treasury dealing manager in 2001 before moving to NBS Bank in 2005 as head of treasury and international trade. She also sits on the board of NBS Forex Bureau. She was initially elected president of the Financial Market Dealers Association of Malawi (then DEAMA) in 2006, and again between 2010 and 2012. What did it take for her to reach this level? She shares her story with Paida Mpaso.
Tell me about yourself?
My name Lusekelo, meaning “joy” and I aim to be a joyous person, albeit all the quagmires around. I am a born-again Christian and I owe all that I am to God. I have been down and out many times, but I have experienced God’s love and forgiveness through and through. I am a very strong willed and tenacious person, I don’t give up on what I believe in, but I am also a down-to-earth person, that is, I like people to know the real me, not the professional me, because that is temporal and external to my humanity, character and individuality. I am deliberate in my approach to life, my friends joke and call me the “Strategist” because I do so not only at work, but even for my personal life. I love being at peace with God, others and myself. I love networking, my family, my friends—they are my anchors.
Where did you do your education?
I did my primary school in various schools in Blantyre and Lilongwe, notably HHI, Chigoneka and Blantyre Girls, after which I was selected to do Form 1 and 2 at Our Lady of Wisdom and Form 3 and 4 at Marymount Girls Secondary School. I went to Chancellor College in 1993, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in mathematics and physics.
How many, were you in your family?
I am the first born in a family of seven. There are three girls and four boys, sadly, one of my beloved brothers, passed on in 2011.
What kind of relationship do you have with your siblings?
We are a closely knit family. I love my siblings. They are the most amazing people and they are my friends too.
What are some of the challenges you encountered while growing up?
I wouldn’t call them challenges as such. I would say they were platforms in life that mould you into a great being. Our house was always full of laughter.
What were your parents doing?
My father Greene Lulilo Mwamondwe was an accountant and was the first in Malawi to qualify for the London Institute of Credit Management Diploma way back in 1988 and used to work for CFAO (then Mandala). My mother, Jane Ansty Mwamondwe, was a nurse and she worked at Blantyre Adventist Hospital for over 10 years. We are blessed to have both of them alive, and I do not take it for granted. My father is a businessperson-cum-politician after serving as an MP for two terms, and then went to a diplomatic mission in Zimbabwe as deputy high commissioner. My mother has been the matron at Kamuzu Academy High School since 2001.
What have you learnt from your parents?
I learnt loyalty, love and a desire for success. My parents don’t believe in failure and that is where I got the tenacious spirit from. Irrespective of the many challenges of life.
What memories do you hold dear to your heart?
It is the love, camaraderie and oneness shared in my house growing up, that I remember most. My parents knew how to bring joy and happiness, and we would often gather as a family and with friends, and without notice, that would turn into an impromptu party, with lots of laughter and dancing. That’s where I was inundated into loving dancing. Up to now, I love dancing and when my parents visit, somehow we just break into dancing. My father has his signature dance.
What was your first job?
After graduating in 1997, and after unsuccessfully looking for a job, which I thought, would be in line with my qualification and at the insistence of my mother who told me to try other industries, I joined Stanbic Bank (then Commercial Bank of Malawi) in May 1997 in the trade finance department. I thought this was just a temporary job— after all I would be looking for jobs matching my qualification. A month later, I was transferred to treasury department as a junior dealer (foreign exchange). In July 1998 I was placed on a management trainee programme for three years. After the programme, I was transferred back to Treasury in July 2001 as a dealer (foreign exchange and money market). In January 2003, I was promoted to chief dealer—foreign exchange. In June 2004, I was promoted again to treasury dealing manager.
What qualifications do you hold?
I hold an MSc in banking and international finance from the University of Wales. Furthermore, I had a scholarship to be part of the United States of America- Department of State International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) Alumni in 2011, which allowed me the opportunity to visit and have meetings with many US financial institutions, US Senate, think-tanks plus many more, and learnt the US political and banking system—it was a great experience of growth. I also hold a post graduate diploma in Management from the University of Cape Town, a Chartered Associate Banker (University of South Africa with Institute of Bankers in South Africa), an ACI dealing certificate and a BSc in Applied Mathematics and Physics from Chancellor College.
What sacrifices have you made for your relations?
We all have made sacrifices for each other. From my relations, it comes in the form of time, say, to be with my children when I have travelled.
What challenges have you gone through in your life to reach the level you are?
Growing to where I am has been a mixture of joys and pains. There are other times when such problems have gotten personal, and the best thing I have done is to forgive myself, forgive others, learn the lessons and start moving again.
Where do you want to see yourself 10 years from now?
I pursue growth in all aspects of my life because if you are not growing, you are dying so, with God on my side, I will be exceedingly greater than I am now.
What drives you as a human being?
I am driven by several things; first, a hunger to be at peace with God. Second, my family—I have reason to live because of my family. Finally, remaining inspired and motivated causes me to pursue growth. I am most scared of being stagnant in my life.
What message do you have for our youngsters on career development?
I often speak to youth at various secondary schools. Recently, I went to Success Private School in BCA Hill and spoke on a topic I called “There is no excuse”. My message to them, which I also give to all youngsters now, is that there is no excuse not to attain success. We all grow up in various tough situations and often it is easy for us to give up, but that is not an excuse.