The Nation (Nairobi)

22 January 2012

Kenya: Marambii Set to Retire From National Bank

The man at the heart of the banking sector's most dramatic comeback story is about to retire.

National Bank of Kenya's (NBK) managing director, Mr Reuben Marambii, will bow out of his position at the helm of the firm before this year is out.

In a notice in yesterday's papers, the bank declared its intent to recruit a new MD "due to the impending retirement of the incumbent... towards the end of 2012".

Mr Marambii will leave NBK having rescued the financial institution from the brink of collapse. The year he was appointed to NBK, 1998, was bad for bankers.

Years of bad debt and non-performing loans culminated in distress for financial institutions. In Kenya, five banks toppled.

Treasury instructed State corporations to stop dealings with weak banks and this resulted in mass withdrawals from NBK.

It barely survived the crisis. Irate shareholders fired their managing director and Mr Marambii was called in from CBK to save the majority state-owned institution.

The bank was wallowing in bad loans estimated at Sh36 billion and had very little in the way of deposits.

Mr Marambii shored up deposits by encouraging state corporations and agencies to put their money in the bank.

Increase liquidity

There were also cost-cutting measures, which included 15 branches being closed, disposal of excess assets and a freeze on lending to increase liquidity.

On taking over National Bank, Mr Marambii had estimated that it would take no more than five years for the bank to turn a positive leaf.

However, by 2002, its deficit had grown from $52 million to $77 million. A fact that was associated with a change over in government.

In 2003, the bank made its first profit coinciding with a positive turnaround in Kenya's macro-economic performance.

In 2010, after-tax profits rose by 19 per cent to Sh2.02 billion from Sh1.69 billion in 2009. 2011 saw an investment of Sh600 million in branch expansion with strategy of creating a presence in every county.

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