As a young girl growing up, Rutendo (Mutowo) Magorimbo had a natural love for the sciences and knew it would be a challenge, yet she was up for it. She simply knew she would excel.
Rutendo is currently the Acting Managing Director for Old Mutual Life Assurance Company, a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK) with nearly two decades of experience in the financial services industry.
Being the eldest of five girls, she had no limitations to what she could do. She gives credit to her father, who would not only buy dolls but bought race cars and robots as well and whenever he was fixing any electrical gadgets, he would involve Rutendo and her sisters, which nurtured her love for the sciences.
It is this love, and a nudge from her guidance teacher, that led her to study the Actuarial Sciences, after taking on Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology at Advanced Level.
“I did not know what an actuary was or what they did. There was no Google back then, and research was mostly by word of mouth. What drew me to wanting to become an actuary was the fact that there were less than a handful of actuaries in the country and none of them was a woman!” Rutendo says.
She studied Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1998 she came back home and started working as an Actuarial trainee at First Mutual Life and started the long journey of writing the professional exams.
In 2001 she left First Mutual Life and joined Old Mutual as a divisional manager in the corporate actuarial division–by this time she was halfway through her professional exams.
Rutendo rose through the ranks within the actuarial department and became its head in 2008. In 2014, her career took a turn from Actuarial Sciences to become Head of Strategy and Reporting for Old Mutual Zimbabwe. This was also the time she studied and got an MBA from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.
In 2016 Rutendo moved to Johannesburg for 18 months to take up the role of Chief Risk Officer for Old Mutual Africa before returning to Zimbabwe to hold the post of General Manager for Old Mutual Life Assurance Company. She has risen through ranks with determination, from the Head of Corporate division to her current position in the financial giant.
Rutendo is well accomplished but notably, she is a family woman, a single mother of 2 children, Tatenda and Natasha. She bases her life philosophy on her Christian faith and beliefs.
“I believe one’s actions follow one’s values. I need to cherish my core values, so I remain true to myself. I bear responsibility for how I treat others, be it as a citizen, mother, daughter, sister, and colleague, the choices I make personally and professionally and the environmental footprint I leave,” she says.
Her work philosophy results from her beliefs, upbringing and experience over the years. She stands ready to encourage anyone starting in the financial industry
“People, more than ever, want to work for companies that allow people to live with meaning and dignity. If you know the type of work or role you want to pursue, do your research and see what paths others who are currently in that role have taken,” Rutendo says.
Giving back is part of Rutendo ethos as an opportunity to grow self and enriching the community. She seeks to help women to engage and unleash a better version of themselves. She is an executive committee member of the Women in Insurance Zimbabwe, an organisation set up to mentor and develop ladies in the insurance industry.
“As Old Mutual, there is an Old Mutual women’s network that provides mentorship for our female employees, enabling them to achieve their exceptional best in their chosen career path. I wholeheartedly believe in workplace equality and diversity. My vision for girls and women is not to be held back by limiting belief systems,” she says.
Her vision is for more women to be in managerial and leadership roles and for them to be visible within the industry and in the media. At Old Mutual, she is working towards that cause as they continue to identify and announce partnerships; they believe will make a difference in advancing gender equality.
They also recognise that gender equality and diversity are necessary to understand and meet the needs of the community of stakeholders that they serve.
“We can leverage technology and social media platforms to do this, and we need men to be part of accelerating this initiative. When women gain recognition as experts in their field by their colleagues and investors, it will lead to the next generation of determined young women following in their footsteps,” she says.
Rutendo would like to see women taking on bigger roles “before they are 100% ready” just as most men can do.
More women and girls should be open to challenges, conversations, and an exchange of ideas to be top players in the financial industry.
The sky should be the limit, even when there are challenges as one runs their race. However, as in her case, everything does not come on a silver platter in one’s life and career experiences – one has to work to achieve their goals and aspirations.
Rutendo describes the dilemma between continuing her career trajectory and taking time off to study or pausing everything to playing the role of mother. In hindsight, she says it was a self-limiting belief, a decision no woman should have to make.
“I overcame it, with the help of various mentors, by changing my mindset and accepting the fact that whilst you can have it all, it is also important to accept that at some point one of the many balls you are juggling, that of a parent, career, education, friend and family, will drop and be at peace with it,” she says.
She learnt that asking for help was not a sign of weakness, but that of strength.
“It is important to ask for help and voice out your needs. I could complete my MBA whilst working full time and being a parent to two young children with the help of my employer and my family. I also had the confidence to put my hand up for roles and start them before I was ready, which was another self-limiting belief I got rid of,” says Rutendo.
The MBA was a turning point for her, and the major lesson she took from that experience was that one was the master of her or his happiness and destiny. One should allow no one to tell them what they are or not capable of, as they alone know that.
With the outbreak of Covid-19, work dynamics have changed. The pandemic has led to what Rutendo recognises as the hybridity of working from home and working in the office that is becoming the norm the world over.
“I have found this new normal of working equally challenging. But I have realised that checking in on each other helps to assess the impact the pandemic is having on our employees and colleagues’ mental health and allows us to put in place appropriate support structures for them,” she says.
Rutendo believes that knowledge, as in qualifications, does not necessarily translate to the person knowing when and how to apply it. According to her, qualifications do not always equate to intelligence. She says that whilst it is important to have qualifications and technical know-how; it means nothing if those qualifications do not produce practical solutions in whatever field you are operating in.
“We can amplify street smart Intelligence through education. I believe people should educate themselves and continue to learn throughout their lives,” she advises.
In her spare time, Rutendo exercises and enjoys walking to stay healthy and to ‘de-stress.’ She spends most of her spare time with her two children and visiting family and friends.
Rutendo says she heard somewhere that ‘reading is to your mind, what exercise is to your body,’ so she also indulges her senses in a book or two occasionally. She is a big advocate for work/life balance, where she says that a break would not hurt as it keeps her energised and enables her to lead a fuller life and perform at her best.