Paul Russo was once a village boy from the remote Northern part of Kenya who dreamed of working at a KCB branch in Marsabit. He now holds the title of Group Chief Executive Officer at KCB, the Group with the largest asset base across East and Central Africa. You wouldn’t miss the many other feathers on Mr. Russo’s hat. He was listed at the Top40Under40, named Top100 at the World HRD Congress and CEO Of The Week at the Instinct Business Magazine, and recently named one of the Top100 Kenyans. Mr. Russo stands out because of his unique journey. He holds a Master in Business Administration (MBA) in Strategic Management from Strathmore University after graduating in 2009. His other educational accolades include a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Moi University, a senior Executive certification for Africa from the Havard Business School, and a Higher Diploma in Human Resource Management from Kenya Institute of human resources.
Mr. Russo’s educational journey was one of resilience and persistence, especially starting from a humble village in Northern Kenya. Paul Russo’s formal education began in a local primary school in Laisamis. After completing his primary and secondary education, Mr. Russo joined Mang’u High School from 1991 to 1994; he financially struggled through Mang’u High School in Kiambu County. Paul’s father had to sell all his flock to pay for the fees and his brother had to forfeit his education to give Paul Russo a chance. Even after, that wasn’t enough, and Mr. Russo had to get help from Food For the Hungry International in Westlands. Mr. Russo then got admitted to Moi University in 1996. The financial struggles never ended, and he financially clawed his way through until he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Management.
Under Paul Russo’s eye, the KCB Group acquired 85% of Trust Merchant Bank’s shares and, as a result, expanded its regional footprint to 8 countries. Moreover, through the appointment of Paul Russo to the United Nations Environment Finance (UNEP-FI) Leadership Council, the KCB Group joined the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) to promote a stable and sustainable economy. The success of the KCB Group is greatly recognized as the bank took home The Banker’s Bank of The Year Award, Think Business Awards, and Finance Derivative Awards, among many others that appreciate KCB’s notable work in the financial field.
If you once walked into Paul Russo’s office, you would find four framed photographs. One is of his wife and three daughters; the other is of him holding his son. The third one is a selfie of Mr. Russo getting a nice peck from his favorite camel. In a past interview, he mentioned that his work ethics draw inspiration from the ship of the desert, A hardy, persistent animal willing to go the extra mile.
Mr. Russo was born in 1976 in a village in Laisamis, Marsabit County. He is from the Rendile community and married to a Marsabit Native. He is also a fluent speaker of the Samburu language. Paul Russo has four children, one of whom is a boy. When Mr. Russo isn’t making serious corporate decisions for one of the largest banks, he is rearing camels, goats, and chickens.
Before taking the Group Chief Executive Officer role at KCB, Paul Russo’s career began in 2000 when he worked in the Human Resource Department at Kenya Breweries Limited. In April 2004, Mr. Russo took up the role of Human Resource Advisor at Absa Bank (Then branded Barclays Africa). In September 2006, he joined Sidian Bank (Then Branded K-Rep Bank) as Chief Human Resource Officer. He then joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2007 as Head of Human Resources. In 2008, he took the same role at Absa (Then branded as Barclays Africa) up until April 2014. Paul Russo became the Group Human Resource Director at KCB in May 2014, where he worked for four years before taking the Group Regional Business Director role. In September 2019, Mr. Russo became the Managing Director of the National Bank of Kenya until June 2022. In May 2022, Paul Russo took over after Joshua Oigara as the Group Chief Executive Officer at the KCB group.
KCB has tapped into the fintech scene, partnering with players like Sopra Banking to digitize their banking experience and processes. The KCB Group has also developed a mobile banking strategy, delivering its services through the KCB Mobile App and KCB iBank App. The KCB Group is not shying away from grasping and exploiting the opportunities that come with financial technology. One great example is how KCB Group partnered with M-Pesa to have some of its services delivered in conjunction with the fintech giant.
Evident from the KCB group’s upward trend in the market, from acquiring significant amounts of shares from the Central African market to propelling KCB towards the Net Zero Banking Alliance, Mr. Russo’s work ethics can be felt coursing through the veins of the banking giant.
Paul Russo has fought through battles that have forged him into a man of courage, strength, and resilience. People with bad loans could go as far as placing a gun on his table. Mr. Russo jokingly responded, “In Marsabit, we carried them in sacks.” Paul Russo reflects on what it truly means to be strong and resilient, just like his favorite camel.