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Kasekende: We don’t ignore low-end market

Herman Kasekende was recently appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Uganda, the first Uganda to assume the position in the bank’s 100 year history.

He spoke to Jeff Mbanga about what the future holds for the bank.

What does it feel like to be the first Ugandan CEO at Standard Chartered Bank Uganda? And what made you a strong candidate for the job?

It is a great feeling. It is special that I get to take up this position when Standard Chartered is celebrating 100 years in Uganda. I believe there couldn’t have been a better prize to Ugandans, but most especially to the staff of the bank.

What makes me proud is that I am succeeding a very successful CEO [Lamin Manjang] who stayed in Uganda for five years. He saw the business grow, in terms of the balance sheet growing by about 76%.

But also a year ago, I was part of this team, working with Lamin and managing the consumer and retail business. I competed with very able competitors. A few things probably set me apart: a good knowledge of the market, knowing our competitors.

I have worked in this market for close to 13 years. I have a good working relationship with key stakeholders like the regulators, and our customers. I have worked with the wholesale bank, the premium banking segment, the SME, the distribution, until when I managed the entire retail segment.

I have also worked with the board, chaired by James Mulwana. I also consider myself a product of a successful strategy by Standard Chartered in terms of training and giving exposure to those people that have demonstrated leadership potential.

Under Lamin, the bank’s assets went up from Shs 979bn to close to Shs 3 trillion, while deposits are close to Shs 1.5 trillion. Do you at times feel these are high expectations for you to build on? And what plans do you have in place to keep these numbers up?

Standard Chartered Bank Uganda has had exceptional performance over the past five years to a level where we command the number two position. We have also climbed to the number four slot in Africa. Already, the half-year results point to another great year of performance.

This growth is down to the rigour and consistency of executing against strategy. That discipline has been maintained in terms of what we do and deepening the relationship with our key segments. In essence, if we cannot provide what our customers need, we cannot claim to be relevant.

I will continue to ensure that we focus on service quality. We would like to have a measure to have a net promoters’ score. We want to be the most recommended bank. We have come up with new innovations like mobile banking, e-statement. We seek to come up with more innovations to surpass the needs of our customers.

Our international footprint also works for us. We have a big network of the China Africa corridor, where we make up to 90% of our profit. Our heritage is helping, like China where we have been for more than 100 years.

Some people feel that Stanchart, with only 11 branches, heavily concentrates on the corporate market segment, and pays little attention to the retail side.

For us, it is about the distribution channels. We started with one branch in 1912 and progressively expanded to 11 branches in 1971. Because of the conditions in the seventies, we scaled back to one branch. So we have never closed for business.

In 1999, we acquired the five branches of the former Cooperative bank. We will open up another branch in Kampala in the next 30 days. We also extended the ATM network to 29 and will open an electronic banking unit in the next 30 days.

We have the mobile banking; instead of going to the bank, you can use your mobile phone. For us we are looking more at an integrated customer approach. We think our customers demand alternative channels. To the contrary, we also serve the retail side.

Through our scheme lending, we lend to teachers, nurses, as far as Bundibugyo. We lend through the employer, what we call the employee banking scheme. We also finance MFIs for onward lending.

What makes Uganda attractive that more banks continue coming into this market, and what does this mean for the competition to older banks like Stanchart?

Uganda’s economic growth over the last 10 years, apart from last year, has averaged 5% and above. The banking industry has been growing cumulatively by more than 20%. That, by any measure, remains very attractive for anyone who wants to invest in this market.

We have also experienced very stable macroeconomic policies in terms of liberal foreign exchange, and pricing regimes that favour new players coming into the market because then people can forecast what is going to happen next year.

The picture is rosier because of the prospects in the oil and gas industry. The unbanked population is still very large. Out of a population of 33 million, we only count about three million with bank accounts.

Recently, Standard Chartered Bank settled a case after being accused of hiding transactions with the state of Iran – a rogue state according to some countries. Should your Ugandan clients be worried? What message do you send out to your Ugandan clients on the bank’s business policies?

The New York State Department of Financial Services settlement of $314 million, there are many reasons as to why firms settle such agreements. And in reaching a quick resolution for us, Standard Chartered Bank, with the Department of Financial Services, we have sought to act in the best interest of our shareholders, clients, and staff.

This settlement does not change the way we do business; it does not change who we are. We hold true to the values we believe in, and our brand promise. We remain committed to ensuring exemplary governance and ethics in the market where we operate. And we are here for our customers. There is no need for any of our customers to get concerned by the settlement by Standard Chartered PLC.

jeff@observer.ug

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