Renée Blasky – Recipient of the Paul Sigsworth Award

Renée Blasky, CFA, CIPM arrived in Kenya in August 1992.  Her point of entry wasn’t Nairobi but Kilifi. She and her husband, along with their dog, sailed on their 45 foot sailboat from Singapore to Kenya, on which she lived for seven years.  She was working in Singapore as an equity analyst covering the Singapore and Malaysia stock markets when she started studying for her CFA exams in 1988.  She completed her CFA exams in 1990 and obtained her charter the same year.  Even before taking her first exam she knew she would be sailing towards Kenya as they had planned a sabbatical from their careers to sail around the world.  After Renee’s aunt died prematurely, she and her husband decided they would take this dream trip before they retired, rather than after.  Getting her CFA Charter was part of the plan, knowing the Charter had enormous value to employers. That way when the savings ran out she could easily find a job.

When Renee arrived in Kenya after spending 18 months sailing to several countries along the way, she was the only CFA Charter Holder between Egypt and South Africa.  When she was at the Kilifi Fishing Club, enjoying an ice cold Tusker, an investment banker met her and practically offered her a job on the spot.  This is how Renee came to live and work in Nairobi.  She knew she wanted to stay in the region as she saw the huge opportunities available.  The NSE reminded her of what Malaysia’s exchange looked like ten years earlier.

Renee has over 30 years experience in the investment industry of which 24 have been in East Africa, predominately Kenya.   She has worked on both the buy and sell sides as well as in consultancy with assignments in Tanzania, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Africa and Rwanda.

 

She has made enormous contributions to the fund management industry in Kenya, both directly and indirectly through her consulting work with the Capital Markets Authority and capacity building of industry players including the introduction of the CFA programme to East Africa.  She first hosted the CFA exam in her office in 1996, where three people sat for their exams.  Subsequently she organized and administered the exams for a further five years before its administration was taken over by the British Counsel.  Today, each year roughly 700 people through out East Africa travel to Nairobi to sit for their CFA exams. Today in Kenya there are 108 Charter holders, with another 22 in three other East African countries – thanks to Renee’s efforts in promoting the Charter and what it represents.  In a recent investment conference hosted by the CFA Society East Africa, it was even noted that Renee is her own brand.  Everyone in the industry seems to know her and what she stands for.

For those of you who do know her, it is clear Renee is a champion of ethics.  She implements Codes of Ethics everywhere she goes, including the FMA.  Renee has also quit two jobs in Kenya because the MD’s were found to be putting their interests ahead of the clients – so she put her money where her mouth was, so to speak.   After she quit her job for the second time, she decided to start her own consultancy firm, Vista Capital Limited.  She knew she could rely on the MD this time to do the right thing.  She has run Vista Capital now for 20 years.  She has provided numerous training courses for fund managers and stockbrokers on why “Ethics is Good for Business”.  Through her efforts she has helped to elevate the ethical standards in the country.

Renee is an active CFA Institute volunteer, globally as well as locally.  She founded the East African Society of Investment Professionals, now known as the CFA Society East Africa.  She served as Chair for six years.  Renee also organized the Region’s first CFA Institute Research Challenge and has judged similar events both regionally and globally.  The event in Kenya this year attracted over 20 universities.

 

Renee’s contribution to the FMA has also been vast.  She was hired by the FMA as the organisation’s first secretariat.  She doubled membership, established processes and procedures, membership standards and the FMA’s Code of Ethics.  She also championed industry issues with the regulators and helped members speak with one voice.  She also tried to enhance performance standards to ensure clients could compare investment performance on a like-with-like basis by working with members to ensure all members met similar standards.    While doing this exercise, she obtained the CIPM designation, and was once again the first in Kenya to obtain this qualification.

 

Other key capital market development and capacity building experiences in Kenya include:

  • Capital Market Development Consultant for the Capital Market Authority of Kenya undertaking the following seven studies making specific recommendations to address findings; National Market Survey regarding Capital Market Development; Customer Satisfaction Survey for the Capital Markets Authority; Study on the Adequacy and Institutional Arrangement of Capital Market Service Providers; Study on Appropriate Capital Market Segments and Structural Arrangement in Kenya; a Study on the Concept of Book – Building and its Applicability in the Kenyan Market; a Study on the Impediments to the Development of the Collective Investment Schemes Industry in Kenya and a Study on the Development of Real Estate Investment Trusts.
  • Provided Company Valuation training for fund management firms and investment banks in Kenya.
  • Has held educational seminars for her clients’ clients regarding pension issues related to investment analysis, creation of Investment Policy Statements, managing service providers, corporate governance, retirement planning, etc.
  • Training in company and industry analysis has also been undertaken for such institutions as the Nairobi Stock Exchange, and the Association of Kenya Insurers.

 

Key capital market contributions in other African markets include:

  • Capital Market Expert (part of consulting team with Maxwell Stamp leading the team) for Rwanda’s MINECOFIN to help create a strategy to create a financial services centre in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • Investment Advisor to the Social Security Fund of Rwanda, training investment professionals, assessing and revising its organisational structure, strategic investment planning, Investment Policy Statement creation and critiqued and made suggestions to strengthen its risk management.
  • Chair of the Qualification Recommendation Committee of Securities Industry Training Institute, appointed by the Uganda Stock Exchange.
  • Team Leader for a consultation to help develop and create an Over the Counter share transfer facility for the Government of Eritrea to facilitate its privatisation programme.
  • Team Leader in carrying out the privatisation of the National Insurance Corporation of Eritrea involving a company valuation, preparation of Prospectus and review of existing legislation to cater for the exercise, particularly the conversion of the company from a state owned company through proclamation to a public share company.

 

Contributions to Global Capital Markets though voluntary/consultant positions within the CFA Institute:

  • Member of Global Review Panel for Level I CFA exam to help correct/prevent cultural biases that may have been inadvertently captured in CFA Curriculum when they utilized third party resource material.
  • CFA exam grader for nineteen years, nine of which as a senior grader, five years each as an associate captain or captain of a grading team.
  • Member of the CFA Institute’s Disciplinary Review Committee to adjudicate ethical violations of members and candidates for six years
  • Asked by the CFA Institute Chairman of the Board to act as the “Designated Officer” (DO) to determine if sanctions against two CFA Charter Holders were appropriate as the official DO had a conflict of interest in the case.
  • Member of CFA Institute Research Foundation Board of Trustees for six years to provide to industry practitioners, practical and thought provoking investment related research and literature.
  • Member of a CFA Institute Candidate services committee writing practice questions for candidates to prepare themselves for both the CFA and CIPM exams.
  • Writer of End of Chapter Questions for CFA Curriculum readings to help CFA Candidates understand how the curriculum can be applied to their career.
  • Help to develop a series of interactive ethics case studies for the CFA Financial Fundamentals course to help non-investment professionals understand their role in providing asset management services in an ethical manner.

 

As a result of these roles within the CFA Institute, Renee has won the Donald L.  Tuttle Award for Grading Excellence and has been featured in books about the CFA Institute, CFA Institute annual reports and the CFA Magazine.