It was in September 2016 that Leif Waller swapped KPMG in Stockholm for KPMG in Nairobi, Kenya, where he is now adjusting to an exciting new life with his family.
“I’m registered in Kenya now, and I’m going to give it at least three years – all in! If it works out well I’ll stay, and if it doesn't then I’ll have tried it,” says Leif, who is now a partner at KPMG Kenya, focusing on advisory services within global development.
What attracted you to this opportunity and challenge?
“At KPMG Sweden one of the things I worked on was international training programs. During those years I traveled a lot in Africa and felt that ‘I want to spend more time here’ – I liked the culture and the nature, but also the work itself. I had also seen for myself how KPMG IDAS Africa in Nairobi works, as during trips in the region we both visited IDAS and worked with them. I was really impressed with the engine that they have and the expertise they possess in a number of areas,” explains Leif.
Another eye-opener was his meetings with international KPMG colleagues.
“Swapping experiences with others made me realize there is so much more for me to experience, both within KPMG and out in the world!”
What are your impressions after your first few months in Kenya?
“I’m enormously glad that I made this choice. I’ve lived with the idea in my head for so long and traveled a lot to this environment, and it just felt right! My job at KPMG is incredibly interesting in Sweden too, but I wanted to give myself a challenge. At some point in your life you want to be able to do something extra for your family, to have an unforgettable experience together. Even after just these few months we’ve been part of things that would not have happened to us otherwise,” he says.
Leif’s new KPMG office is on the tenth floor of an office block in central Nairobi. However, he has spent a lot of his first six months in the job out on the road.
“I am Engagement Partner for an assignment in which we’re helping a major player to find projects to invest in, with a view to helping small-scale farmers in particular to gain access to financial services such as borrowing, payments, savings and insurance. To understand what we’re doing in practice, it’s important that I get out and see it for myself. So far I have visited projects in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Ghana and Gambia, among others – I really do have the most enjoyable and interesting job in the world!”
The target group for this initiative is in great need of financial services and products, at a low cost, in order to be able to secure their crops and live a decent life in the meantime.
“By 2021 we will have reached out to 1 million people! We visit all the projects on a quarterly basis and review whether they are managing the money in the right way. Twice a year we also measure ‘impact’ – how many people the projects have reached, whether the harvests have improved and so on.”
Having been here for some months now, the family are getting on with their new lives – including school, jobs and social activities.
Is that something that has been hard to adjust to?
“I was prepared for the differences because I’ve been here so many times. I knew that everything takes that little bit longer. At work, for example, things don’t get done the first time you ask, nor even the second or the third. Certain practical things such as paying bills are also tricky; it took three weeks just to get my bank account set up. But at the same time things fall into place, like the traffic – on that front we’ve cracked the code now and the main thing you need is self-confidence! In fact, I’ve got better at driving even though they drive on the other side of the road here.”
Leif’s enthusiasm for the experience is unmissable – he is a true ambassador for KPMG’s call to “appreciate change”.
“It would be wrong to say that there are only upsides, but on the whole this is the best thing we’ve done in terms of a journey of change as a family. We’ve had to adjust and make an about-turn in how we live, which is incredibly exciting. We’re really pleased we did it. In terms of my work, we’re also about to embark on a journey of change with KPMG here in Kenya,” he says.
And finally – would you recommend this kind of journey to others?
Lives: Lavington, downtown Nairobi.
Family: Wife Anna and four children. “Here in Kenya it’s me, Anna, our daughters Klara, 16, and Amanda, 15, plus Albert our housekeeper and cook. Our eldest two children stayed in Sweden for work and studies.”
What do you miss most about Sweden, other than your nearest and dearest? “To be perfectly honest I haven’t particularly missed anything yet, we haven’t been here long enough!”
Inspired by: “I would say that first and foremost I have a yearning for and an interest in other cultures, and getting to experience that more. The best way to get to know yourself is to expose yourself to other environments – never having preconceived opinions makes me more humble about myself and my surroundings. When it comes to role models I would like to mention Hans Rosling, who tragically died recently. Rosling’s fact-based way of describing the positive change in the world is something we need more of – there are so many positives to talk about!”