Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards 2024

Since the merger and its formation four years ago, NCBA has experienced exceptional growth over the past four years, firmly establishing itself as the third-largest banking group in East Africa.




On the merger of NIC Group and Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) to form the NCBA Group in 2019, James Ndegwa assumed the position of non-executive Chair of NCBA Group PLC which is the non-operating holding company of the Group, and is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).

Since the merger and its formation four years ago, NCBA has experienced exceptional growth over the past four years, firmly establishing itself as the third-largest banking group in East Africa. Operating across multiple countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Côte d’Ivoire, the Group boasts a robust network of 107 branches, serving a customer base exceeding 63 million. NCBA continues to thrive as a dynamic financial institution within the sub-Saharan African region offering a comprehensive range of financial services – including both core and digital banking, investment banking, leasing, asset finance and bancassurance.

James is also the Chair at First Chartered Securities (FCS), a private investment holding company founded by his father, the late Philip Ndegwa (a globally acclaimed Kenyan economist, entrepreneur, and former Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya) among other investors.

FCS operates as a strategic platform aimed at fostering investment, growth and wealth creation across diverse sectors of the economy, including real estate, financial services, insurance, reinsurance, logistics, agriculture, and manufacturing.

These pioneering investors initially invested in the Insurance Company of East Africa (ICEA) in 1974 and subsequent investments in the insurance industry saw FCS both acquire and participate in the founding of other insurance businesses most notably Lion of Kenya Insurance Company (of which James was Managing Director until 2003), and East Africa Reinsurance Company (the region’s first private reinsurance company). These pivotal moves set the stage for the merger between ICEA and the Lion of Kenya Insurance in 2012 to create the ICEA LION Group, now acknowledged as one of the largest and most prominent insurance companies in Eastern Africa.

James currently serves as the Chair of ICEA LION Insurance Holdings which, as the name suggests, is the insurance group’s holding company. Companies with the group include ICEA LION Life in Kenya and Uganda, ICEA LION General in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, ICEA LION Asset Management in Kenya and Uganda and ICEA LION Trust Company. East Africa Re has also grown to become a key player in Kenya and the region’s reinsurance industry and recently opened a subsidiary in Tanzania which is one of its key markets.

In the banking sector, FCS, having acquired Barclays Bank’s interest in National Industrial Credit (NIC) in 1996, orchestrated a merger between its bank, African Mercantile Bank (AMBank), and NIC. This transformative move led to the emergence of NIC Group PLC, later merging with CBA, culminating in the formation of the NCBA Group.

Within the realm of real estate, FCS is the local shareholder in Knight Frank East Africa, the region’s foremost property management business and with the ICEA LION Group proudly showcases a portfolio that includes prominent assets such as the ICEA LION Centre, Riverside Park, Lion Place, Williamson House, St Austin’s Gardens among others.

James also chairs the board of Mitchell Cotts Kenya which is FCS’ logistics business. Mitchell Cotts stands out for providing comprehensive logistics solutions to meet specific needs, offering a broad spectrum of services, including air cargo terminal, sea freight services, warehousing services, air freight services, project cargo, Container Freight Station (CFS) terminal services, distribution, and collateral management with subsidiaries in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

James previously served as Chair of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) for two terms from 2015 to 2021. The CMA, a regulatory body, plays a pivotal role in overseeing, licensing, and monitoring the activities of market intermediaries, including the stock exchange, central depository, settlement system, and all entities licensed under the Capital Markets Act. Its significance in the economy lies in facilitating the mobilisation and allocation of capital resources for long-term productive investments.

 Colleagues who served alongside James on the CMA board attest to his strict adherence to the practice of good governance. They highlight that state corporations have robust procedures to effectively manage competing interests, and James consistently upheld and observed these protocols. In any instances of potential conflict of interests, James demonstrated a principled stance by choosing to recuse himself, showcasing his unwavering dedication to ethical governance.

 Influenced by the upbringing and values instilled by his parents, James embodies three key attributes essential for effective leadership: personal humility, the ability to listen while challenging and supporting the board, and the courage to make decisions prioritising the company’s well-being over shareholder, employee, or family interests. This aligns with the contemporary conceptualisation in the academic field of corporate governance, emphasising business sustainability and the creation of social value for all stakeholders involved in a company’s operations.

 James holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with Honours and a Master of Arts (MA) degree from Oxford University, United Kingdom (UK). An insurer by profession, he is an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) of the UK, and an Associate of the Insurance Institute of Kenya (IIK). Beyond his roles mentioned, James also serves as a Director of several companies.


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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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