Ecobank: we are very positive on Africa.
The Ecobank Ecobank is an indigenous African banking company currently serving 20 countries in West Africa and Central Africa:
With the opening of its latest subsidiaries, in Sierra Leone Sierra Leone (sēĕr`ə lēō`nē, lēōn`; sēr`ə lēōn), officially Republic of Sierra Leone, republic (2005 est. pop. 6,018,000), 27,699 sq mi (71,740 sq km), W Africa. and Guinea Guinea, archaic term for Africa's west coast
Guinea (gĭn`ē), an archaic term for the west coast of Africa. In its widest sense it has been applied to the region from Angola to Senegal. Bissau Bissau (bĭsou`), town (1991 est. pop. 197,610), capital of Guinea-Bissau, a port in the Geba estuary, off the Atlantic Ocean. It is the country's largest city, major port, and administrative and military center. , the Ecobank Group is now present in 16 countries. What are your plans for 2007?
Our strategy is to be a pan-African bank and to continue to grow. We plan to add five other countries in 2007 and therefore we will be operating in 21 countries. In the coming years, our growth will be in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa
Cameroon (kăm'ərn`), Fr. Cameroun, officially Republic of Cameroon, republic (2005 est. pop. , Congo Congo, river, Africa
Congo (kŏng`gō) or Zaïre (zī`ēr, zäēr`), great river of equatorial Africa, c. Brazzaville Brazzaville (brăz`əvĭl, Fr. bräzävēl`), city (1984 pop. 585,812), capital of the Republic of the Congo, on Pool Malebo of the Congo River. , Angola Angola (ăng-gō`lə), officially Republic of Angola (2005 est. pop. 11,191,000), including the exclave of Cabinda, 481,351 sq mi (1,246,700 sq km), SW Africa. , DRC DRC Democratic Republic of Congo
DRC Down (Stage) Right Center
DRC Director(ate) of Reserve Components
DRC Disability Rights Commission (United Kingdom) and Gabon. Our objective, as part of this expansion, is to be the leading bank in "Middle Africa", the area between North Africa and South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. where we think we have a competitive advantage.
You mentioned last year Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea (gĭn`ē), officially Republic of Equatorial Guinea, republic (2005 est. pop. 536,000), 10,830 sq mi (28,051 sq km), W central Africa. among the countries where the group intends to expand. What about that?
It hasn't happened yet. We are waiting for approval from the authorities.
Where do you stand on your plans to merge with First Bank?
Everyone asks us about this. It's a very complex deal, a cross-border transaction and it's the first of its kind. We found that we had to deal with a lot of issues. The discussions are still on course. We hope to arrive at a decision by the end of this year. You have to understand that for us it's a strategic decision. We're not very big in Nigeria and First Bank gives us a great opportunity to be in that market. First Bank is not big in West Africa West Africa
A region of western Africa between the Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Guinea. It was largely controlled by colonial powers until the 20th century.
West African adj. & n. and we give them a great opportunity to be there. Our ambition was to combine our operations in Nigeria and create a large bank to be called First Ecobank. The shareholders of First Ecobank would become shareholders of Ecobank Transnational Inc (ETI (Embed The Internet) An earlier consortium that was devoted to putting Web servers into microcontrollers used in embedded systems. Using a Web server enables access to the device via any Web browser. See Web server and microcontroller. ). The deal was complicated as it involved First Bank, Ecobank and ETI.
Was the merger with First Bank to add financial clout to Ecobank or to make it a bigger player?
Clearly it was a strategic decision to add financial clout and to benefit from economies of scale. It was to strengthen our presence in Nigeria and to allow us to move faster in terms of implementing a pan-African strategy.
If the merger deal with First Bank does not happen, do you see any other strategic alliances?
We are doing our very best for the deal to happen. It is such a compelling transaction not just regionally but for Africa and banking in Africa in general. But clearly the logic will remain even if this deal does not happen. We have a strategy to be in the top three in all the markets we serve. And in Nigeria we are not in the top three. We can make up some ground by organic growth, but other banks will not be standing still. Therefore some solutions involving our Nigerian subsidiary will be found. But right now, we are hoping that the merger will happen.
You spoke of cross-border merger problems and complications?
They are not problems, they are complications. You have to look at many difficult and sensitive issues like integration, regulations or governance Governance makes decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists either of a separate process or of a specific part of management or leadership processes. Sometimes people set up a government to administer these processes and systems. . You have also to look at the culture of the two institutions. All this is important for the success of the transaction. These are some of the important issues you have at any large scale merger. As you know, Ecobank has assets of about $3bn and First Bank has assets of about $4bn. In total, you are talking about $7bn and that is a big challenge. Ecobank has always been a pioneer and we're not afraid We're not Afraid! is a website which was created just hours after the 7 July 2005 London bombings as a place for Internet users from around the world to state that they were not being intimidated by the actions of the terrorists. of challenges. We are going ahead and we try very hard to make it work.
Your ambition is to create a big pan-African bank. How are you going to challenge the South African banks?
We have no plans to challenge them. We know Africa quite well and we have been in this market for some time. The South African banks bring some complementarities but we're not planning to get into South Africa. Our idea is to cover "Middle Africa" from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, third largest ocean, c.28,350,000 sq mi (73,427,000 sq km), extending from S Asia to Antarctica and from E Africa to SE Australia; it is c.4,000 mi (6,400 km) wide at the equator. It constitutes about 20% of the world's total ocean area. . It's a very defined pan-African area.
The Central Bank of Nigeria The Central Bank of Nigeria was established by the CBN Act of 1958 and commenced operations on July 1, 1959.
The major regulatory objectives of the bank as stated in the CBN act of 1958 is to: issue legal tender, maintain the external reserves of the country, allocated $7bn of foreign reserves to 14 banks to manage. Is Ecobank involved?
First, I believe that the CBN CBN - call-by-name has done a remarkable job in restructuring restructuring - The transformation from one representation form to another at the same relative abstraction level, while preserving the subject system's external behaviour (functionality and semantics). the Nigerian banking sector. The consolidation and its effects have been quite significant in the development of the Nigerian financial industry and in supporting economic growth. Significantly, the amounts of capital can now be raised locally. For example, the $750m Nitel transaction was largely financed locally. These are some of the benefits which have come through having scale, and the financial industry is about scale. As far as the management of the reserves are concerned, what the government is trying to do is to have Nigerian institutions play a greater role in managing its financial resources. But as the skills required are not entirely available locally, all the Nigerian banks had to pact with foreign banks. We partnered with ING Bank which is a leading international investment bank. We get our share of those reserves and we manage them. There are some skill transfers on the way and we all make money. The CBN wins by rapidly developing local talent. The foreign investors play a role in it and the local banks develop in the process, I think it's an excellent idea.
How much freedom have you got in managing these assets? Are there any restrictions?
The Central Bank has a prudent reserve management policy. We have an opportunity to participate in a fairly well established process. Previously the assets were managed entirely by foreign banks.
There is strong competition amongst banking groups in Africa with large groups in Francophone and Anglophone Africa as well as regional banks. There are also now sub-regional groups with strong ambitions. Has this influenced you in becoming a growing player reaching retail customers?
I would like to point out that Ecobank was the first regional bank. It was set up as a regional bank and our shareholders came from 15 different countries in the region. We are not like a Moroccan bank expanding into Sub-Saharan Africa, or a Cameroonian one into the rest of Central Africa. We were a regional bank from day one. As we grew into the West African West Africa
A region of western Africa between the Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Guinea. It was largely controlled by colonial powers until the 20th century.
West African adj. & n. region, which was our original base, we found that we could grow beyond that region. So we went into Cameroon in 2001. We found that we were equally successful there. Now, we are growing beyond and we are moving to Eastern and Southern Africa. The strategy to go beyond the wholesale bank is part of that evolution. We started off primarily as a wholesale bank meeting the needs of local and international companies. The prime movers The Prime Movers were a blues band based in the Detroit area, formed in 1965. Robert Vinopal left soon after the band's formation and was replaced by Jack Dawson. James Osterberg, who would later be known as Iggy Pop, took over the drums not long after. behind the creation of Ecobank were the African Chambers of Commerce. At that time, the only banks across West Africa were state-owned or foreign banks. African businessmen needed to have a local bank that can support them and their businesses. Now, we find that there is a significant demand from small and medium-scale enterprises and from consumers to improve their standard of living. We are trying to play a role in winning the custom of more consumers.
Are you planning to explore other areas, like insurance?
Insurance is the next stage. We take it one step at a time. We want to get into the market, understand it and then add value to it. That's our next step.
What can you offer an Ecobank customer in Ghana wanting to do business in Togo?
The advantages are several and that is the uniqueness of the Ecobank group. We have the Ecobank Visa card and the Ecobank MasterCard which we are rolling out across the whole group. We have also our own Ecobank Card which can be used in all the eight UEMOA UEMOA Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (West African Economic and Monetary Union; replaced UMOA in 1994) francophone countries. If you want to transfer money, you can do it very rapidly, without going from one bank to another. If you are a businessman, you deal with one of our banks and you cover 16 countries! These are some of the synergies and advantages from dealing with a regional bank.
As we become bigger, we will be able to offer an even better service on a regional basis. We are setting up a shared service centre in Accra, the first of its kind in West and Central Africa. When it is in place, we will have a seamless operation across all the 16 countries. It's nothing new; they are already doing it in Europe and in India. We are borrowing ideas and applying them here, translating them into Africa, and in doing so we move ahead of the competition.
You are listed on three exchanges since September. What are the advantages?
We were pioneers in the way we listed Ecobank. It was done on the same day on the three exchanges in Abidjan, Accra and Lagos. No other institution had done that before in Africa. The reason we had done it this way is because we are a regional institution. We were not going to list on just the Ghana or Nigeria stock exchanges or the BRVM. We had to list on all three to reflect our regional origins. So far, the market has received the shares very well.
The bank seems to have become more aggressive. Why?
We have always been pursuing aggresssively our stated objectives. Now, we are starting to talk more about ourselves so that people get to know Ecobank even better. This approach is good for the company, the shareholders and the market. One of our objectives which is not purely financial is to assist in the development of the African continent and the African people The term African people can be used in two ways. First, it may refer to all people who live in Africa, see also demographics of Africa. Second, it is commonly used to describe people who trace their recent ancestry to indigenous inhabitants of Africa, in particular Sub-Saharan . By providing credit, we help governments to build infrastructure, companies to grow, and consumers to have a better life.
Do you find it difficult to balance development agendas and your obligations to shareholders?
We are Africa's leading independent regional banking group. We have to provide value to our shareholders, so we are a profit making company. But I don't believe that this means that you cannot also be a responsible citizen. We would like to make profits, provide a return to our shareholders and to be also socially responsible.
There are now huge investments coming from China, the Gulf and other countries. Are you taking part in these new business opportunities?
We have a programme of international development. We are very excited about the increasing presence of Asian institutions in Africa because that complements what the West, Europe and America, is doing. We don't see that as competing or replacing. We will be working together because Africa can do with all the help it can get. We are opening an office in Paris next year .We plan to have in the coming years offices in China and other major money markets around the world such as London, New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of and Dubai. We will work with institutions and companies willing to come into Africa and work with African businesses, governments and institutions. We have a plan to be present in the major money centres to better serve our customers. But let me say that our focus is always Africa. Everything we do is based around trying to better serve the African markets, the African consumers, the African companies.
Would you help African corporations in these capitals?
We actually are one of the largest investment banks The following is a list of investment banks Financial conglomerates
Large financial-services conglomerates combine commercial banking and investment banking, and sometimes insurance. in West Africa. This is not very well known but the largest underwriter underwriter n. a company or person which/who underwrites an insurance policy, issue of corporate securities, business, or project. (See: underwrite)
UNDERWRITER, insurances. One who signs a policy of insurance, by which he becomes an insurer. of debt security in the Francophone zone is Ecobank. We are building a very good investment bank in Nigeria as well as in Ghana. Our objective on the corporate finance and investment banking side is to be the leading investment bank and the leading commercial bank in our region, which is "Middle Africa".
In the past, Ecobank was quieter than other banks. Why?
Ecobank is a very humble Humble may refer to:
What are your overall thoughts on Africa?
We have been very positive on Africa. We remain very positive about it because we take a long-term Long-term
Three or more years. In the context of accounting, more than 1 year.
1. Of or relating to a gain or loss in the value of a security that has been held over a specific length of time. Compare short-term. view. If you take a short term view you might misread mis·read
tr.v. mis·read , mis·read·ing, mis·reads
1. To read inaccurately.
2. To misinterpret or misunderstand: misread our friendly concern as prying. the signs. I have been doing business in Africa for over 26 years. We have seen the good times and the bad times. But overall we have seen a considerable improvement.
The level of democracy in Africa today is the highest ever for the last 46 years. We've had successful elections in Liberia Liberia elects on national level a head of state - the president - and a legislature. The president is elected for a six-year term by the people. The Legislature has two chambers. The House of Representatives has 64 members, elected for a six-year term. and DRC. Liberalisation n. 1. Same as liberalization.
Noun 1. liberalisation - the act of making less strict
alleviation, easement, easing, relief - the act of reducing something unpleasant (as pain or annoyance); "he asked the nurse of the economy is improving. We have seen a lot of money coming into Africa, not only from Asia but also from Europe and America. Fund managers and investors are coming to Africa and doing more deals and transactions than ever before. We raised a lot of money last year and a significant amount came from international capital.
We are very positive on Africa and we think that if the current trend continues, you will see a significant improvement in Africa's overall performance.
You seem to be from the Afro-optimistic school that has a positive view of the continent as opposed to many other people.
Not all is rosy ros·y
adj. ros·i·er, ros·i·est
a. Having the characteristic pink or red color of a rose.
b. Flushed with a healthy glow: rosy cheeks.
2. , but there are important positive developments in Africa these last years. Take the governments in Africa. They are much more open to external investments than they used to be. For example, we bought a bank in Chad and we did so with the approval and full support of the government and the regulatory services. This has not been common in Africa and it is only in the last 10 years that South-South investments have started to increase. African governments are now more open and much more willing to accept foreign and South-South support. I think the AU, Nepad and other organisations are making African governments and institutions more willing to seek support from each other rather than externally. For example, we've invested close to $500m in the banking industry in West and Central Africa. Very few banking groups--local, regional or international--have done that.
In light of the success of the Nigerian banking reform, do you see this spreading to other African countries?
We would like to see more reforms but obviously this is up to the respective governments. I suspect that other authorities are studying the implications of the Nigerian consolidation and what they can learn from it. Financial services The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
Please [ improve this article] or discuss the issue on the talk page. is a scale business, the bigger you are the more resources you can put into technology, into training people, into opening branches, into investing in products. Small banks find it difficult to do that. Smaller banks are also more prone to shock. A minor problem can bankrupt BANKRUPT. A person who has done, or suffered some act to be done, which is by law declared an act of bankruptcy; in such case he may be declared a bankrupt.
2. It is proper to notice that there is much difference between a bankrupt and an insolvent. the bank. Bigger banks can handle the shock a little bit better.
In terms of African integration, what are your thoughts on the creation of a single currency being talked about in some circles these days?
It's not impossible but I think it's going to be a long journey. Its creation will only come from a real willingness to integrate African economies. The final word will be left to the political and regulatory authorities Noun 1. regulatory authority - a governmental agency that regulates businesses in the public interest
administrative body, administrative unit - a unit with administrative responsibilities . However, we support and believe the move towards integration in Africa is a positive thing. It's in line with globalisation. And that has been done elsewhere. For instance in Europe where many countries use the euro between them.
A more specific question on Cameroon where there are some major mining and infrastructure projects. Are you involved in their financing?
We are quite involved in some of these but it takes a consortium of banks for the very large projects. We are active participants in financing local projects and we are involved in telecoms, infrastructure and government projects both directly and indirectly.
At the end of September, you declared profits of $50m. Do you expect the last quarter to be as positive and are you going to have a record-breaking year?
The trend you saw in September will continue. Ecobank is at the beginning of a period of significant improvements. Our performance this year is significantly better than last year. We will do better in the medium and long terms, by adding more countries and by delivering better services and solutions.
You are operating in Francophone and Anglophone Africa with different practices and environments and different ways of doing things. How do you manage to cope?
We don't see it as hard; we see it as a challenge. We know of other banks and other institutions that have done it. We have seen American, Dutch, and French companies do it, so we learn from them. We have common structures and we hope to have a culture where somebody from Ecobank Senegal can go to Ecobank somewhere else and instantly start work in an environment that is familiar to him. The computers and the systems are the same. We see the movement of people as something that enriches the institution.
We have people who have worked in Ghana, Mali and Senegal and they bring with them their experience in a very powerful way that enriches the institution. They can handle in their heads both cultures. It becomes a competitive advantage and as time moves on, it becomes increasingly difficult for other institutions to compete with us across countries.
If you take other banks, what I call our friendly competitors, I think they will all have to learn to manage cultures. I think ultimately that is one of the major challenges of being a regional institution. You have to manage the cultural sensitivities and diversities: you have to fly into a country and be able to feel at home. That is one of our challenges. In Europe, where you have different languages, they have done that already. We are going to try and replicate rep·li·cate
1. To duplicate, copy, reproduce, or repeat.
2. To reproduce or make an exact copy or copies of genetic material, a cell, or an organism.
A repetition of an experiment or a procedure. what they have done.
What is the bank doing about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR (1) (Customer Service Representative) A person who handles a customer's request regarding a bill, account changes or service or merchandise ordered. Agents in call centers are known as CSRs. See call center. ) policy?
Last year, we decided that we are going to be reporting on CSR. We have been quietly doing a lot of things. We have created the Ecobank Foundation. It gets up to 1% of our profits after tax for CSR projects. It funded projects in Burkina Faso Burkina Faso (burkē`nə fä`sō), republic (2005 est. pop. 13,925,000), 105,869 sq mi (274,200 sq km), W Africa. It borders on Mali in the west and north, on Niger in the northeast, on Benin in the southeast, and on Togo, Ghana, and , Guinea, Chad, Togo and Mali to improve the conditions of women and children. It will be funding arts, like the cinema industry in Africa, and health projects, to contribute to the fight against poverty notably in the rural areas.
In addition, we have a diversity programme where for example we are consciously increasing the role of women in Ecobank group. Three of our country heads are women. One of our main executive board directors is a woman. In the group office, two out of five of our functional heads are women, and across the group we now have about 50% men and 50% women.
We also have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a legal document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action and may not imply a legal commitment. with Accion, one of the world's leading micro-finance institutions, to provide micro-finance to our customers. We are not experts in micro-finance but with our partnership with Accion we will make resources available to the less privileged customers so that they can move up the social ladder. We also engage the authorities in trying to see how we can help in regional integration projects. For example, we raised the point of regional convertibility with the single currency that allows easy movement of capital across the sub region. We think that CSR has to be an important part of any corporation in Africa.
What can the media do to assist businesses and African regional growth?
The most important thing is to put a positive slant on Africa. Africa is almost becoming a brand for poverty, disease, and all things negative. In fact the story on Africa is very positive. For the first time, we don't have several countries at war in the continent. The economy is growing and business is prospering pros·per
intr.v. pros·pered, pros·per·ing, pros·pers
To be fortunate or successful, especially in terms of one's finances; thrive. . The telecoms and banking sectors are very successful. That positive approach, in a balanced way, is somewhat missing.
A final question: what is the secret of Ecobank?
We hold several things very important to Ecobank: teamwork--Ecobank is a bunch of Africans from many African countries working together as a team. We are the only ones who have done this successfully in the private sector. We favour a certain diversity that enriches Ecobank.
Sometimes in a meeting I'm speaking in French and the Francophone person is speaking in English. Sometimes I start off in English and finish in French; it's very exciting because from that standpoint The Standpoint is a newspaper published in the British Virgin Islands. It was originally published under the name Pennysaver, largely as a shopping-coupon promotional newspaper, but since emerged as one of the most influential sources of journalism in the I think that is the Africa of the future.
In terms of corporate governance Corporate Governance
The relationship between all the stakeholders in a company. This includes the shareholders, directors, and management of a company, as defined by the corporate charter, bylaws, formal policy, and rule of law. , we are committed to the IFC (Internet Foundation Classes) A class library from Netscape that provides an application framework and graphical user interface (GUI) routines for Java programmers. IFC was later made part of the Java Foundation Classes (JFC). See JFC, AFC and AWT. See also ICF. standards. We have increasingly committed resources to institution building, ensuring that a regional identity is preserved within the group.
We continue to invest in good quality people as people are very important assets in banking. We invest a lot in systems and processes--the soft side of banking.
The numbers are one thing but behind those numbers, you have to have the structures and processes to ensure you are a player for the long term. We want to build a long-term world-class African banking institution.
That is our final goal and we hope to achieve it by doing the right things day after day.
RELATED ARTICLE: Profile
What is your typical day?
I don't have a typical working day. I usually travel twice a week. We have a very small head office running the whole group.
I spend a lot of time on the road and on the phone. So a typical working day doesn't really exist for me.
I focus on issues of strategy, controls and regulations, education and training, shareholders and issues relating to relating to relate prep → concernant
relating to relate prep → bezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc the Ecobank brand and image.
Always on the move, what would make your life easier?
Better air networks. How do you get from Ghana to Chad? Best way is to go via Paris!
I listen to all sorts of music
Last book you have read
The Spanish Civil War Spanish civil war, 1936–39, conflict in which the conservative and traditionalist forces in Spain rose against and finally overthrew the second Spanish republic. . I read three books at a time. I like biographies, historical books, and business books.
Ecobank is a passion for all of us. Relaxation re·lax·a·tion
1. The act of relaxing or the state of being relaxed.
2. Refreshment of body or mind.
3. A loosening or slackening.
4. The lengthening of inactive muscle or muscle fibers. is when you have the time. Holidays and time with my family.
Hobbies It may never be fully completed or, depending on its its nature, it may be that it can never be completed. However, new and revised entries in the list are always welcome. This is a list of hobbies.
Reading and travelling
Latin America Latin America, the Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-speaking, and French-speaking countries (except Canada) of North America, South America, Central America, and the West Indies. , which by the way, has a great banking and micro-finance sectors.
Even on holiday you are working?
When you see a good bank branch, you want to see how they're doing it!
Last question on your background
I am a Nigerian who grew up in Cameroon.
I went to school in Manchester and as a result I support Manchester United.
I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and my first job was with Schlumberger.
I then moved into banking where I have been for 26 years.