Ecobank: When an appointment speaks
The recent announcement by Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, the parent company of the Ecobank Group, of Ade Ayeyemi as its new group chief executive officer, with effect from September 1, 2015, is being considered by industry watchers as proof of the new things that should be expected of the financial institution going forward.
Mr. Ayeyemi, 52, would replace Albert Essien, billed to retire on June 30, 2015 after 25 years of service with the group.
Ecobank board would make an interim arrangement for the management of the group between July 1 and August 31, pending the resumption of the new GCEO.
Mr. Ayeyemi has worked with Citigroup for several years and rose to his current position as Chief Executive Officer of the company’s sub-Saharan Africa division, based in Johannesburg.
An accounting graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Mr. Ayeyemi also studied at the University of London and Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme.
Ecobank Group Chairman, Emmanuel Ikazoboh, said after an extensive search throughout the African continent, he was found the best person to lead Ecobank through the next phase of its development and beyond as a world-class pan-African bank.
“Ade is a truly outstanding individual with deep knowledge of banking across Africa, and we welcome him to the Board,” Mr. Ikazoboh said.
Mr. Ikazoboh also thanked Mr. Essien for his service as group chief executive officer over the past year.
On his part, Mr. Ayeyemi expressed delight with the opportunity to lead the bank, and commended Mr. Essien for his legacy work in helping Ecobank grow as a premier pan-African financial institution.
“Ecobank has an exceptional platform, great people, solid strategy and strong momentum,” he said. “I sincerely look forward to work with the management team, the Board of Directors, and the employees of Ecobank as we set new standards in financial services for our clients across the board.”
What he is bringing to the table
Analysts wager that the new Groug CEO would principally be coming in to continue with the task of driving growth , change and progress within the banking group.
Starting as a politically spawned institution in the basic fact of its being inaugurated by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, the bank witnessed not-too-significant commercial growth in its early years, no thanks to this heritage. But there was a flip side in its utilizing the goodwill of its founding principal promoter to quickly spread across West Africa and later Central and East Africa.
Recognising the need to grow its commercial value and edged on by the flurry of banking consolidation reforms that were to sweep the continent in the past one decade, Ecobank moved on to deepen its structures in this regard with two notable positive fruits. One, an increasing market focus soon began to right-size the Nigerian operations of the bank as the engine-room of the institution. And two, the need to deepen its commercial culture pushed it to begin to head-hunt more accomplished professionals in its management cadre.
Significantly also, the bank has in recent years equally been compelled to come to grips with the need to deepen its corporate governance systems as well as allow for greater inflow of essentially non-political investments in its shareholding structure. Today, the some of the results of these adjustments are showing. The bank presently has a quite diversified ownership structure involving West African, South African and Middle Eastern interests, among others, even as Ayeyemi’s coming also suggests that it is continuing with efforts to now be seen as a reformed bank that places much premium on professional competence within its leadership teams and the deepening of corporate governance systems across the institution.
In a related development, market watchers say that they expect that anytime soon, the pan-African lender may take further steps to end its battle against former Chief Executive Officer Thierry Tanoh through an out-of-court settlement.
According to sources, the bank may seek an agreement with Tanoh in the next few months over damages exceeding $35 million awarded by West African courts against them as confirmed by outgoing CEO, Albert Essien in an interview in Cape Town at the World Economic Forum on Africa.
“Although the court process will go on, we will ultimately settle amicably,” Essien said. “I cannot stop the court process till we have a settlement. Both options will for now be pursued.”
A commercial court in Cote d’Ivoire had ordered Ecobank’s local unit to pay Tanoh 8.2 billion CFA francs ($14 million). That was on top of $22.5 million Tanoh was awarded in January and February by courts in Ivory Coast and Togo. A London court blocked those two rulings in April, a judgment Tanoh’s lawyer said he would challenge.
Tanoh left the Lome, Togo-headquartered ETI in 2014 after regulators investigated allegations of fraud and poor governance while he was CEO. He denied wrongdoing and took the bank to court for wrongful termination and defamation. ETI says Tanoh’s contract was based on British law and that the two West African courts have no jurisdiction.
While the two sides’ legal teams had not discussed a settlement, Tanoh reportedly met with senior Ecobank staff in Ivory Coast during the African Development Bank’s 2015 summit.