The Managing Director of Standard Chartered Bank Botswana, Moatlhodi Lekaukau, has said one of his immediate goals is to position the bank to take advantage of its global brand.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Lekaukau said the most efficient way to go about it is to create enough skills base so that the bank can take advantage of the many opportunities that are already presenting themselves in Botswana.
He has spoken of the relocation of the De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company to Botswana as a very big opportunity, not least because of the $7 billion trade a year which comes about as a result of sightholders buying the rough diamonds from DTC.
Although Standard Chartered was effectively the first bank to set up in Botswana more than a hundred years ago, Lekaukau, who was appointed early in the year, has been the first citizen to become the bank’s Managing Director.
He talks very candidly about the bank’s position in the market, saying seated at its current number three spot cannot be good enough.
He attributes the loss of ground to a number of factors, including an absence of continuity at top leadership.
“As per the published results, Standard Chartered Bank of Botswana is now number three in the country. Once you occupy a top position for a long time, complacency tends to set in. There also has not been continuity, especially in top leadership.”
But he insists that the bank is one of the strongest and most visible, especially in the fourteen African markets where it has a presence.
He says the bank has a very strong capital base, a sound liquidity position and a balance sheet that is way above the minimum requirements as set by the regulator.
“We take risks, but they are calculated risks. Some people think we are conservative, I like to see ourselves as cautious,” he said. “Results show that our bank is safe. We don’t just give money, we do so to people we know. As an industry, there have been complaints of overstretching ourselves, but as Standard Chartered, we are managing risk very well. Other banks have taken much more than was necessary with other people’s money, but we have not been as aggressive,” he reiterates.
To underscore Standard Chartered Bank’s strengths, he said the bank has recently been rated 12th out 20 banks in the world.
“And no other bank around here appears in that list,” he says as a matter of fact.
Lekaukau feels very strongly that the Botswana operation has to do more to leverage on the global brand.
One way of doing so, he says is to emulate what the Hong Kong operation has done to tap into the SMME market synergies, which saw the operation turnover $1 billion from relationship with SMMEs.
In terms of skills base, he says Standard Chartered Bank Botswana is the best in the country.
“That is one of the things that attracted me to take this job. We spend resources on training people. We are able to move people around because of our global reach. When it comes to moving people to help them get exposure we clearly are a leader. You only have to look around to see people who are products of our training structures,” he says.
He says an overview of the Botswana market also shows that there is still a big scope for growth since only 50 percent of the population is so far banked.
“Other than that, we have a special relationship with many of DTC sightholders. To better cater for this market, we now have in place a team, specially dedicated to taking care of the diamond trade,” he said.
Other than the relocation of DTC from London to Gaborone, Lekaukau is of the view that another big opportunity is on the front of coal mining.
“Coal is a very big opportunity. World coal miners are already in Botswana and this is going to be a very exciting time.”
But what does he think of enduring public complaints that bank charges in Botswana are too high?
To answer the question, Lekaukau switches onto his hat of being the Chairman of Botswana Bankers Association.
He says the Association has commissioned a study to look into the complaints and also to advise Botswana banks.
“We are trying to see if public complaints will be corroborated by the results of the study. But as Standard Chartered we have already dropped lot of charges, especially at our ATMs. The fact of the matter though is that as banks we are following different strategies.”
He also talks non-stop about what an exciting time it is to be in Africa at the moment.
“African growth is way above the world average. It is certainly exciting time for Africa. The world over, everybody is looking at Africa.”