Is heading M-PESA tougher than leading the whole Safaricom?

Since it officially launched operations in 2000, Safaricom has only been led by two CEOs – the first Michael Joseph who served from 2000 till 2010 when he handed the reins to current boss Bob Collymore.

Then in mid 2007, the telco launched its money transfer service with Pauline Vaughan as the head of the product from infancy. Ms Vaughan was later elevated to head of MPesa Product Development and Operations before finally rising to the position of Head of MPesa Business Operations. She left Safaricom – and the MPesa team – in December 2010, after about 3 years of leading the M-Pesa team.

(TOP: Safaricom Financial Services Director, Ronald Webb – left – and the telco’s Technology Director, Thiboud Rerolle  – right – cutting a ribbon during the official launch of Technology Division Laboratory at the firm’s headquarters in May this year. Ronald Webb has resigned from the company this week). 

Ms Vaughan was succeeded by Peter Arina who had joined the telco in November 2004 as Chief Commercial Officer (CMO) from Unilever before being made the GM of Consumer Business following the firm’s structural re-organization. As the GM of the Consumer Business Unit at Safaricom, he was responsible for consumer sales business which includes the dealer and M-PESA agents’ management and retail sales. Arina left Safaricom in March 2015 and now heads East Africa Cables, that is after about 5 years of heading M-Pesa.

After Arina’s exit from Safaricom, Betty Mwangi the telco’s Chief Officer, New Products Division with the overall responsibility over Value Added Service (VAS), was appointed GM of Financial Services business, a role which saw her overseeing the strategic growth, profitability and development of M-PESA. She left Safaricom in March last year after heading the M-PESA team for exactly one year.

Following Ms Mwangi’s departure, Safaricom then head-hunted Ronald Webb, who had helped Equity Bank to develop and launch its mobile money transfer platform Equitel, to come on-board and lead its M-PESA unit. Webb joined Safaricom in June 2016 as the Director of Financial Services, a position which effectively put him in charge of the M-Pesa services.

Just over year since joining the telco, Safaricom has this week announced that Webb has exited the company, with Business Daily reporting on Tuesday July 25 that he “will step down from his position today after a year in charge of the critical docket.” The article quoted the firm’s CEO Bob Collymore as saying that Webb is moving back to the United Kingdom “for family reasons.”

For continuity, Brian Wamatu, the head of M-Pesa Product Development team, has been appointed as the interim Director, Financial Services.

This means that since it was launched in March 2007, the M-Pesa team has been led by 4 individuals, that is excluding Wamatu, the current acting head of the division.

Looked at differently, one can say that heads of M-Pesa hold the position for two-and-a-half years on average, considering that the product has been around for 10 years now. Of course some are fortunate to last longer on the role while others have not been very lucky, heading it for just one year.

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