By Isaac Omoding in Lome, Togo
Ecobank, the leading Pan African banking group has announced that Arnold Ekpe, 58, the current Group Chief Executive, will step down at the end of this year.
Kolapo Lawson, Group Chairman, said Ekpe will be leaving after seven and a half years with the group – his second stint at the Bank, which he previously led between1996 and 2001.
Kolapo said Ecobank, in 2011, achieved a pleasant growth with assets standing at $17.2b registering an increase of 64% from the 2010 figures. This was driven by a 52$ increase in customer deposits to $12.1b and 40% increase in customer loans to $7.4b.
Revenues grew by 33% to $1.2b. This contributed to a 57% rise in profit for the year to $207m. It was on this basis that Ecobank shareholders were given a dividend payment of $0.4cents per share.
The outstanding performance, Kolapo said, reflects solid performance from their customer-centric business segments, continued efficiency and prudent risk management. The results, he said, benefited from two months of consolidation of Oceanic Group, an acquisition that has placed Ecobank in the top tier of banks in Nigeria. He said this year their focus will be on integrating their recent acquisitions of Oceanic Bank International Plc and its subsidiaries and the Trust Bank of Ghana so that they are able to unlock synergies and continue the optimization of their unique franchise.
On the Ugandan segment, Michael Monari, the Ecobank Uganda managing director said, in less than four years the Ecobank set foot in Uganda, having been established in 2009, has currently 10 branches and plans to open 10 more by 2013.
In recognising Ekpe’s achievements, Kolapo said; “Arnold is certainly one of the most important African businessmen of his generation. His integrity, intellect and leadership have been extraordinary, and his commitment to a uniquely African vision has been our driving force.”
“Having led Ecobank from a small five country operation to its current status as the leading pan-African Bank, he has worked closely with me and my Board colleagues to identify a successor and I am pleased to announce that, after an exhaustive international search process, Thierry Tanoh, 49, currently IFC Vice President in charge of Africa, Latin America and Western Europe, has been appointed CEO designate, and will take over from Ekpe at the end of 2012. Thierry will join Ecobank in July 2012 and will work alongside Arnold until the end of the year to ensure a smooth handover.
Other appointments declared to the shareholders included that of Albert Essien, 56, currently the Group Executive Director responsible for the Corporate Bank, and Evelyne Tall, 53, the Group Chief Operating Officer, who were appointed Deputy Group Chief Executive Officers with effect from January 1st 2012.
Albert and Evelyne have both worked closely with Arnold in building the Ecobank of today and will bring to their roles a deep knowledge of the Ecobank Group and its culture of integrity, ambition and commitment to Africa.”
Commenting on his succession, Arnold Ekpe said: "My seven years with Ecobank have challenged and inspired me. I pay tribute to the team of successful and dedicated professionals who run Ecobank, and will retire satisfied with the journey we have made together. I believe they will go further to achieve our ambition of becoming the leading bank in Africa. I am delighted that we have been able to attract Thierry Tanoh to join the Ecobank Group. Thierry brings a track record of performance and achievement with the IFC, together with a thorough knowledge of the African continent and the financial services industry. I look forward to watching him take Ecobank to the next level, becoming the undisputed African Banking Champion.”
Asked why he is jumping off the boat in the middle of the sea, Ekpe said he has done his best and would now love to move to the level where he will also be able to ask management what they have done to grow the bank.
During his term, Ekpe saw Ecobank win a number of awards, which included African Bank of the Year in African Banker’s 2012 Awards, fending off competition from six other nominees to win the highly coveted prize. Ekpe himself was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ekpe’s final year as Ecobank CEO has also seen the single most significant event in 2011. This was the acquisition of the Oceanic Bank in Nigeria in October 2011. This, to him, fulfilled one of their long-standing objectives of substantially increasing their scale in the most populous country in Africa. With this acquisition, he said, Ecobank becomes the second largest bank in Nigeria by branch network (with 610 branches) and fifth largest bank by assets.
His term also witnessed the signing of the agreement with Bharti Aitel, to facilitate mobile banking services in 14 African countries and commenced partnership with MoneyGram in Ghana.
One of the other single most important achievement of Ekpe was the initiation, construction and completion of the New Ecobank Pan Africa Centre headquarters in Lome, Togo, which was inaugurated in June last year.
His term also saw Ecobank named “Best Bank in Africa” in Euromoney’s 2011 Excellence Awards in London.
He also oversaw the acquisition of Trust bank in Ghana.
His term also witnessed, in August 2011, the rollout of private communications infrastructure, which links offices and ATMs across the world, supported by data centres in Accra, Lome and London.
Ekpe also witnessed, in November 2011, MasterCard Worldwide and Ecobank agree to collaborate in bringing MasterCard’s payment solutions to Middle Africa across a range of pre-paid, debit and credit card products.
He also witnessed Ecobank being voted “Best Investment Bank” in Camreroon, Chard, Cote d’Ivoire at the EMEA Finance Africa Banking Awards in London in December 2011.
On Albert and Evelyne, he said they are both long standing colleagues, with proven track records of performance, in whom I he has the utmost confidence. Albert played a pivotal role in building our Ghana franchise and in rolling out our eastern and southern African operations. Evelyne was instrumental in moving the Ecobank Group to the leadership position in francophone West Africa. Together with Thierry, he said, “I think Ecobank will have one of the strongest and most diverse leadership teams in African banking.”