Standard Chartered Chief Executive Officer Moatlhodi Lekaukau has resigned, ending a five-year stay at the high office of the listed lender. The company board, which is chaired by Prof Bojosi Otlhogile broke the news to the market on Wednesday. He is expected to leave the bank which has a market value of P2, 3 billion, at the end of March 2017.
“The board acknowledges and thanks Mr Lekaukau for his dedication and contribution as Chief Executive Officer since joining the company in February 2012,” said the company. “Mr Lekaukau has successfully guided the company through the difficult business environment of recent years, maintaining a strong balance sheet and ensuring a balance between investment and returns to shareholders” The challenges the board was referring include the two-year moratorium on non-interest related products within the banking sector, which was effected on the 1st of January 2014.
There was also the liquidity squeeze which nearly brought the whole industry, half the size of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to its knees. The central bank was forced to release P2, 3 billion to bailout the industry which is tightly controlled by British and South African banks.
However, Lekaukau managed to keep the bank stable despite external challenges which affected profitability. It was under his leadership that the bank launched 100 percent mortgage funding, a first for the Botswana market. The bank also expanded its branches and ATMs network to cement its top four position in the sector. At an impromptu press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Otlhogile told inquisitive business journalists that, the outgoing CEO also managed to ensure the company reaches an operating income of P1billion, a first for the bank which is a unit of Standard Chartered plc.
Bojosi also added that, the soft-spoken Lekaukau has also strived to ensure the local executive committee was localized. Late last year, the bank opened a branch at Sir Seretse Khama’s International Airport, another first for the country’s oldest bank. The bank also has considerable exposure in the country’s mining sector. This include BCL, government owned copper producer which has since been placed under voluntary liquidation.
This week the company announced it has considerable exposure to BCL mine and its liquidation ‘could adversely impact the 2016 performance’.The company made a profit of P47 million during the 12 months to December 2015, down from P319 million made the year before. At the close of markets on Wednesday, shares of the company remained unchanged at 760thebe.
The board is not wasting time to look for Lekaukau’s replacement. “The process of identifying an appropriate replacement for Mr Lekaukau is underway and an announcement shall be made in due course,” said the board in a statement. “The person (to replace Lekaukau) must be fit and proper,” stressed Otlhogile, who is a veteran law Professor at the University of Botswana.
Recently, a local newspaper, Gazette has been writing articles to the effect that, Standard Chartered breached rules when dealing with one of its clients, OSEG group, a local company. Is Lekaukau jumping ship? “He is not stepping down because of OSEG accusations,” said the Chairman. It was speculated this week that the University of Cape Town alumni is leaving to concentrate on his personal and family businesses. At the same conference, he told the media that he is taking a sabbatical leave.
“I don’t have any major plans at this point,” he stated. Lekaukau, who has worked for Deloitte in South Africa said he is leaving an industry which is mature. “There are a lot of opportunities in the high end market as well as in the lower market,” he added. The SMMEs is also fast developing, calling for more innovative products and services from players.