Strengthening its capital base
Essien was in Tunisia discussing a trade finance facility with the African Development Bank. He feels he’ll need to raise tier 2 capital. Nedbank has the option of converting a loan into equity, an option he hopes it will call. “We have built a beast and the beast needs feeding,” he joked. The bank is still exploring options and could go down the route of a Eurobond, something many Nigerian banks have opted for.
It has often been quoted that the bank could lose its ‘African soul’ if its ownership was weighted too heavily by South African investors, but he dismisses this criticism. He feels the South African influence will reinforce the bank, in both expertise and its Africanness. “It is a question of balance and all Africans should partake in this fine institution that we have.”
He is confident that Nedbank are strong partners, and that the chemistry, the recipe of a successful partnership, is there. “A successful partnership is based on an alignment of vision. Nedbank wants to get into the rest of Africa, we want to be pan-African and you can’t be a pan-African institution by ignoring South Africa.”
Unless the bank’s charter changes, Essien only has another 18 months in the job. What would he qualify as success? “Healthy returns to the shareholder; good products and efficient delivery of services to our customers; and becoming an employer of choice for our staff. Once we do that, you can say we have been successful.”