Top 25 Most Powerful Women in C-Suite Impacting Business

Catherine Kirimi

Catherine joined APA Life Insurance early 2017 as the first woman CEO in the APA/Apollo group. Since then, Catherine’s focus has been on growth of the company market share and growing the bottom line.


Catherine Karimi


The story of Catherine Karimi is one of somebody born and brought up in rural Kenya. She attended local schools both in Primary and Secondary, walked into one of the country’s top institutions of higher learning, Kenyatta University to pursue a degree in Education and walked out with a first-class honours’ science degree majoring in mathematics and chemistry.

Catherine then ventured into an insurance career, purely driven by her passion to work with numbers though trained as a Mathematics and Chemistry teacher and having had a very short stint as a teacher. She joined as a supervisor and actuarial trainee in Jubilee insurance, where she went on to work for 16 years mainly in life insurance division.

During this period, Catherine, she was exposed end to end on operations and management of life insurance in almost all areas of the business, including customer service, underwriting both for retail and corporate businesses, sales, claims management, reinsurance, actuarial and product pricing and development.

Catherine also got exposure in IT systems implementation where she became the business lead for implementation of a new life insurance management system that was a big success. While at it, she supported roll-out and servicing of life insurance business for the other East African countries of Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

While at Jubilee, Catherine was always involved in numerous projects besides her main roles, thereby exposing her to all the aspects of running a busy insurance company, thereby increasing her capacity to take on bigger roles and providing her with an opportunity to hone her skills and learn how to cope with heavy pressure that comes with increased responsibilities.

Catherine resigned from Jubilee Insurance Company in Oct 2014, to join the Kenyan Alliance Insurance as Chief Operating Officer for Life Business, a role she played for almost 2 years prior to being appointed as Acting Managing Director. Her key achievements were development of individual life sales channels for the company and doubling of the life assurance business. At the Kenyan Alliance, Catherine was exposed to General Insurance management and more so in implementation of motor assessment and customer service centres. She got a glimpse on the standardization of branch service levels and brand appearance.

Catherine joined APA Life Insurance early 2017 as the first woman CEO in the APA/Apollo group. Since then, Catherine’s focus has been on growth of the company market share and growing the bottom line. She also plays a key role in strengthening performance culture in the company as well as building relationship with all the group’s stakeholders.

Catherine opines that her journey so far in APA has been exciting as well as positively challenging, with key exciting outcomes like turning around the business to profitability, development of some of the game changing insurance products in the market and the much-acclaimed business digitization process.

She attributes her growth in the insurance industry not only to her diligence but also to colleagues and leaders who have mentored and challenged her to greater heights through her journey to the top as one of the very few most impactful women CEOs in this cut-throat and very technical industry. 

Catherine list of her many firsts includes the recent award as CEO of the Year in the Think Business Insurance awards 2020, the first time the award was won by a woman and First Board Advisory member at Nanyang Business School from emerging market Alumni.

Earlier on, Catherine was the first family member to join and complete university education, best student in KCSE in the secondary school she attended, best girl in KCPE, among the best students at Kenyatta University, 4th year of study, winning the Dean’s list award as a result.

On the personal front, Catherine believes in developing people not only in the workplace but also in the family circle she comes from. She supports various charities and Christian mission work.

Catherine Karimi

Catherine is a valued member of her church management committee at Kahawa Sukari Baptist Church, seats on the Life Insurance Council under the Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) and is an advisory board member at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

In addition to her degree studies in Education, Catherine has studied Actuarial Science (2000-2008), undergone the Chartered Insurance professional studies (2012-2014) and Senior Management Leadership Programme with Strathmore Business School (SBS) through which she also undertook a short course on ‘Expanding Business Horizon and Managing Diversity’ at Nanyang Business School, Singapore in 2017.

Besides the principled family values Catherine was brought up with, she also attributes her success journey to one ‘aha’ moment she had at the end of her second year in high school. She says, ‘I wasn’t happy with my science grades and especially mathematics. At that moment of meditating, I realised the blockage was all in my head, and therefore I could equally conquer what others are able to. I listed my plans and actions that I would take during the holidays and vowed to implement them and reverse the trend of poor results by improving on my grades and especially mathematics. I could not believe at how fast the results came as I moved my mathematics grade from a D to an A grade at the beginning of the third year. This transformation taught me one big lesson: that anything is possible with positive attitude, decision making, planning, and implementation. These are principles I have applied in every other steps of my professional career, and in personal and family life.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
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.

Related Posts