25 August 2012

Uganda: Grow Up, Stanchart Told On 100th Birthday

There were some barbs in the glorious bouquet celebrating Standard Chartered Bank's 100 years of business in Uganda on August 17 at Serena Hotel.

While speakers were awed by the momentous achievement of Uganda's oldest bank, they tempered the praise with one rebuke; expand your network.

The bank's new chief executive Herman Kasekende recounted a remarkable history. Having opened its first branch in August 1912, Stanchart is Uganda's oldest bank. It had grown to 11 branches by 1972, but shut most of them down and retained only one branch during the economic turbulence of the 1970s.

In 1998 Standard Chartered acquired four branches of the former Cooperative Bank, returning to its previous 11 branches, currently in Kampala, Jinja, Mbale, Mbarara and Gulu. The bank has 29 ATMs and over 600 staff.

Stanchart's services have grown and diversified, providing consumer and wholesale banking services, including mobile money in its partnership with the telecommunication company Airtel.

The second largest bank in Uganda after Stanbic, in terms of assets, deposits, lending and other key factors, Stanchart's undisputed industry leadership in Uganda is at par with its international reputation as one of the top ten banks in the world.

For the year 2011/12 the bank made a profit after tax of Shs 84 billion and grew its balance sheet from Shs 1.8 trillion to Shs 1.95 trillion. Its market share of loans and deposits increased to 15.8%, in a field of 25 commercial banks.

Yet sparse distribution of its branches provided a vital talking point for key guests at the anniversary party.

"That is very, very wrong," said Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, who was the chief guest, in reference to the concentration of banking services in urban areas, especially Kampala. "It should stop. Move out and do business across the country."

She said Parliament would engage the Ministry of Finance to consider incentives to commercial banks with services outside Kampala.

Kadaga's sentiments were shared by central bank Deputy Governor Louis Kasekende and Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka. "[Agriculture financing] is the basis for development and I urge the bank and other financial institutions to respond to it," Kiwanuka said.

The fact that 90% of the group's profits come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, they said, should motivate the bank to expand to unbanked areas of African countries. However, Stanchart Uganda Chairman, businessman James Mulwana, said the bank's service model targeted only areas with high demand.

"That is the reason why we were the first bank to open a branch in Kikuubo [the heart of downtown Kampala's trading district]," Mulwana said.

In a recent interview with The Independent, the bank's outgoing CEO Lamin Manjang said the bank focused on innovation and customer services.

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