Two of the country’s biggest commercial banks are waiting with bated breath for the vetting and approval of their most senior officials who will guide them in the cutthroat banking industry.
First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) and African Banking Corporation (ABC) Limited are without substantive Chief Executives after they left their respective banks for various reasons last year. As it is the norm, the central bank, headed by long time governor Linah Mohohlo is the institution tasked with approving senior commercial banks appointments after they have been made and submitted by respective boards. “They (senior bankers) are subjected to fit and proper test (before they are approved,” said deputy governor Dr. Moses Pelaelo at a previous event of the bank, where the Monetary Policy Statement was launched.
He said the fit and proper test takes place all the time. Pelaelo told the media that this is to ensure fit personnel, to avoid the collapse of the industry, mainly banks. Weeks into the year, Bank of Botswana (BoB) top officials found themselves having to deal with the tough task of determining who will guide respective banks going forward. The concerned banks this time are FNBB and ABCH, both locally listed. Douglas Munatsi, the Zimbabwean national left ABCH last year following a marathon takeover by Bob Diamonds’-backed Atlas Mara. He left together with his right hand man and fellow countryman- Chief Financial Officer Bheki Moyo in a surprise shake-up. In their positions, the dual listed lender has roped in Simbarashe Pfende as Chief Executive while Christine Bronkhorst is new Chief Financial Officer.
The announcement in management changes was made in December 2014. However, weeks after the announcement was made, the regional banking group issued another statement of acting appointments. Dr. Blessing Mudavanhu is now acting Chief Executive while acting CFO is Wallace Siakochoma. Quizzed on the latest development, ABC Botswana Marketing Manager, Polelo Garebamono-Kilner said, ‘ABCH Board wanted to ensure leadership continuity and to be transparent.
The board appointed Dr Blessing Mudavanhu, Acting Group CEO and Mr Wallace Siakachoma, Acting Group CFO due to the pending regulatory approvals from the relevant authorities of the proposed new management team.” She added: “As soon as the proposed management team is approved we will again inform the media and other stakeholders.” It is not known if BoB also vets CFO or COOs. All indications are that Pfende’s name has been submitted to the central bank for approval. A source told BG Business that, BoB also works closely with finance and development planning ministry when doing the process (of vetting and approving). Pfende was previously Standard Bank Head of Finance Transformation. He also held senior positions in the bank’s Uganda and Nigeria operations. He has an MBA from UNISA.
At a press conference to announce the Atlas Mara deal, officials, in particular Munatsi, said they were not expecting any management changes following the Atlas Mara takeover. With tables having turned, will the central bank take a closer look at the ABCH candidate at hand? “I don’t think so. If he meets the requirement he will be approved,” said Head of Research at Motswedi Securities, Garry Juma. If approved, Pfende will have the big task of heading a bank that boasts a market capitalisation of P1, 8 billion and several regional operations.
At FNBB, it is reported that the company has put their trust on former Chief Financial Officer Steve Bogatsu. He is currently at FNBB Swaziland. FNBB Director of Marketing and Communications Bomolemo Selaledi told this publication that the bank has interviewed a number of candidates for the CEO and that, “a suitable citizen candidate was identified” and is currently “going through the regulatory process.” FNBB is the leading bank by market capitalisation. It has a market capitalisation of P9, 3 billion, a fifth of Botswana’s total budget for 2014/15. An expert has raised his hand for Bogatsu as the man fit to lead FNBB. “Remember when he was CFO the bank was making profits as it is the case now. He understands the local banking market,” said the expert. “He used to talk about positive jaws”. That is FNBB must increase its non-interest income.
If he is approved, Bogatsu will come at a time when the regulator has announced a two-year ban on any upward increase on non-interest products. Bogatsu holds ACCA and Msc from Botswana Accountancy College and University of Derbyshire. He was Chief Financial Officer (FNBB) from January 2007 to September 2012, before he left for Swaziland.
Over the years, pundits have called for the localisation of top posts in the banking industry. Juma asked, “If locals have the skills, why can’t they be given such posts?” Currently Leina Gabaraane (Stanbic) and Moatlhodi Lekaukau of Standard Chartered bank are the only locals to lead banks within the top four brackets in Botswana.