interviewBy Julius Businge
Lamin Manjang is leaving after heading Uganda's second largest bank, Standard Chartered, as managing director and chief executive officer for 5 years, since 2007. Gambia-born Manjang, to be replaced in Kampala by Herman Kasekende, is off to the Middle East as Stanchart Oman's chief executive officer, effective August 1, 2012. He leaves the bank near the top of Uganda's banking industry and spoke to Julius Businge:
What have been your major achievements the past 5 years?
It has been a long and fruitful journey. We have become more customer-focused and continued to lead the market in innovation and customer service. Our profit after tax doubled, from Shs 42 billion in 2007 to Shs 84 billion in 2011. Our branch network grew from just six to 11 branches, and we introduced mobile banking and other services. I am passionate about staff training and development and today our talent is one of the best in the group and many Ugandans are now working in senior management positions within the Stanchart Group. We have given generously to the community through our Seeing Is Believing and NetsforLife programs. We have provided clean drinking water to communities and planted trees to conserve the environment. Our staff have been very cooperative and we have had a good time with the regulator, Bank of Uganda.
Have there been any really bad moments in your time here?
We lost three of our staff during the July 2010 terrorist bombings in Kampala and that was a tragic moment for all of us in the bank. We also lost staff in tragic car accidents and I will always remember them. At the height of the economic difficulties in 2011, when inflation hit 30% and the Central Bank tightened monetary policy, all banks had to increase lending rates, which impacted negatively on our customers. We tried to mitigate this by keeping monthly installments the same, while extending the tenor of loans, but it was painful to see how conditions were affecting our customers. We are glad inflation is easing and banks are reducing interest rates.
Now that you are leaving, how will the plans you have made be accomplished?
The bank's strategy is developed in a collaborative manner with input from the group, the board and management team. It is a dynamic document which is refreshed on a regular basis, cognizant of the opportunities and challenges facing the bank to ensure we stay on the right track.
How did you feel when you learnt you were moving to Oman?
It came as a great honor and privilege for me to be appointed as CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Oman. It is the first time an African is appointed to head one of our operations outside Africa and I am looking forward to the challenge. Stanchart's core markets are in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and it will be exciting to share our experiences in the different regions.
Critics say Stanchart in Uganda is expensive. Is this a valid accusation?
Stanchart is at the forefront of customer service and innovation in Uganda's banking industry. Our clients are at the centre of all we do and many have written to express delight at our service levels. When we fall short, we rectify it quickly. That is why I initiated a hotline, where customers can contact me directly if their complaints are not resolved within 24 hours. We give good value for money.
2011 was a successful year for the bank. How did you achieve that?
We made Shs 248 billion in revenue and profit after tax of Shs 84 billion. Our balance sheet grew from Shs 1.8 trillion to Shs 1.95 trillion. Our market share on loans and deposits increased to 15.8%, in a market with 25 banks. Our return on equity was 39%, while the cost/income ratio was 43%. Our strategy is very clear and we are very disciplined in executing it. We have stuck to the basics of banking in prudently managing our risks, focusing on customers and motivating staff.
How are you coping with leaving behind friends and colleagues?
Parting is never easy, especially when you have had as good a time as I have over the last five years. I have made many friends in Uganda and worked with an incredibly talented group of staff. I will be watching the bank's performance keenly from afar and I am confident the team will take it to greater heights.
What is your view of Uganda's banking industry?
It is generally in a good shape, with most banks showing healthy performance. It is well capitalized and liquid, with non-performing loans below 5% of total loans. More new banks have opened over the last three years, which bodes well for vigorous and healthy competition. The regulator has done a commendable job.
How did you enjoy chairing the Uganda Bankers' Association?
It was an honour for me to serve for three years from 2009 to 2012. I worked closely with my colleagues to advocate for policies, laws and actions that would help the growth and development of the banking industry. Even though we are fierce competitors in the market, we realize there are areas such as fraud, where we need to collaborate for the best interest of the industry.