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2018 Women to Watch EMEA: Gladys Karuri

Gladys Karuri
Principal executive director, strategy, finance and operations
Britam Holdings PLC
Nairobi, Kenya
Age: 44

For Gladys Karuri, one of the best things about working in the insurance industry is seeing the impact insurance has on people and their families.

Ms. Karuri, the principal executive director for strategy, finance and operations for Britam Holdings PLC in Nairobi, Kenya, often works with small traders and farmers who rely on their businesses to put food on the table for their families. She said the ability to provide them with medical insurance that allows them to provide for their families if they get sick and are hospitalized is rewarding.

“You start seeing the joy when you have an impact in their lives,” she said.

She also loves that her insurance industry job comes with the ability to travel. In addition to spending two years in London studying her craft, she travels extensively as Britam has operations in seven African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Mozambique and Malawi.

There is a “huge opportunity” to expand the insurance industry in these countries, which have penetration levels in the low single digits, she said. The ability to use mobile phone technology and internet access to expand that penetration by reducing administrative and intermediary costs is key, as is the ability to use technology to offer insurance products with the option of paying premiums on a daily or weekly basis rather than monthly or yearly, which can help smaller companies and individuals who may not have regular income flows afford insurance coverage, she said.

Another aspect of the industry she loves is its complexity, and that complexity provides major career opportunities for young women, she said. “It gives you an opportunity to show what you can do,” she said.

“I’ve always been impressed with Gladys,” said Susan Holliday, principal insurance specialist at the International Finance Corp. in Washington. “She has a lot of responsibilities under her department, and the company is doing some interesting things. I can imagine her potentially having a CEO role.”

NEXT: Jane Kielty
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