Meet the Aston Business School graduate who wants to make an impact on people and finance
Ben Muriuki Maina completed his masters degree in International Business at Aston University from 2019 to 2020. He currently works in his home country, Kenya, as an Investor Relations and Strategy Analyst for the Co-operative Bank of Kenya. The Bank is the third largest within Kenya, with over 8.8 million customers, and is a leading bank within the digital space.
Ben has always wanted to work within the banking sector. He said: “I believe people have the beauty to positively impact the lives of others. Finance tends to be at the heart of all problems and working in banking in Kenya provides me with the exposure to create a positive impact.”
As an Investor Relations Strategist, Ben in responsible for the interactions and engagements with investors, both locally and internationally. He prepares communication packages for investors which include financials, material updates, as well as articulating strategy. For the Strategy Analyst side of his role, Ben in responsible for the alignment, monitoring and valuation of the group’s business strategy across different strategic business units. He bridges the gap between business units and the Bank’s overall strategy to ensure they are aligned, and to search for ways in which he can galvanise opportunities and extract potential for the Bank’s growth. Another large part of Ben’s role is scanning the market for new opportunities to extract value creation.
Ben has been working at the Co-operative Bank of Kenya since 2016. In 2019, he asked for a yearlong sabbatical in which he moved to the UK to complete his masters degree. He wanted to study in England, as he previously completed his undergraduate degree here and felt the standards of education were top tier.
Why Aston University?
Ben chose to study MSc International Business at Aston University because of its reputation as a leading business school in the middle of a vibrant city. He discovered that the academics and practitioners at Aston University were in the market themselves and sought to apply the knowledge to the industry. Ben said: “When you are able to connect the theory with the practical, your education experience becomes so much richer."
By working and living in Kenya, Ben has become a subject matter expert of his local environment. A masters year at Aston University allowed him to get exposure of what is happening globally, and how different companies and businesses operate around the world. He said: “Whilst I was studying, I always kept in the back of my head, would this work in Kenya?”, as he discovered that there is not one singular correct approach when it comes to business.
When asked why he decided to complete a masters degree, Ben said: “I wanted a different experience, to think outside of my region and bring more on board. It is very easy to live in your own little bubble.” He was looking for a new challenge and wanted to re-invigorate himself by adding to his experiences and understanding. Ben has always wanted to complete a masters, as he stated that Kenya is very competitive when it comes to the jobs market. He said: “If one wishes to progress to more senior roles, there is a silent expectation that you are educated to a masters level.”
Ben enjoyed his time at Aston University immensely. He said: “The lecturers and supervisors were all incredibly helpful. The teachers were available and present, I never felt like a bother, and I wanted to work hard for them.”
One aspect of the course he reflects upon fondly is the personal development programme that was built into his year. He said: “This programme was super helpful as I was constantly made to self-reflect and improve. I experienced mock assessment centres, which allowed me to identify areas of improvement for my professional development.” Ben was also involved in the University Business Challenge (UBC). The UBC allowed students to showcase their leadership, analytical and problem-solving skills by working with peers to make strategic business decisions in a simulated workplace experience. Ben found this was a great way to bond with his peers and represent the University. He and his team placed third overall in this national competition.
How did his masters help him?
Towards the end of Ben’s masters year was when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. As a result, Ben moved back to Kenya in his final few months and was exposed to his first experience of home working. This experience taught Ben how to be disciplined, and how to maximise his time effectively. He also learned how to connect with people despite the distance and lack of physical presence, which is useful in his role now as he constantly interacts with investors and stakeholders via virtual meetings.
Initially, Ben recalls that he felt out of his depth being back in a lecture theatre after three years off. One of the most remarkable things for him was the mentorship he received from his supervisor who told him that it was OK to feel overwhelmed. He said:
“There is a lot of freedom in lack of accountability, so I liked how my supervisor always held me accountable”.
Ben’s advice for future students is that:
“A life absent of a good challenge can be monotonous and plain. If one is seeking growth and development, I would recommend Aston University. If I decide to pursue a doctorate, I will return to Aston University. The University provides an education that is not for education’s sake. It is an education positioned for impact.”