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How the Ecobank – Nedbank alliance was made

How the Ecobank – Nedbank alliance was made

And vice versa with Ecobank?

Once again, everything was on a reciprocal basis. If Ecobank wants to likewise take a stake in Nedbank, we would obviously facilitate that. It wasn’t an outright contractual right, but there was a clear acknowledgement that if Ecobank would want to take up a stake, there would be some facilitation process to look at. So we looked at reciprocal board representation.

Now you’ve moved onto phase three would you say?

Yes.

When is the big date?

We’ve served our subscription notice, very technical in terms of the agreement, on Ecobank and the money is being transferred, a total investment of $493m, which will give Nedbank a 20% shareholding in ETI.

So that’s a £285m loan plus the difference?

Exactly.

Were you worried after Arnold Ekpe retired and the succession problems that were
occurring in Ecobank?

Because we knew the organisation so well, and we knew Arnold and the evolution of Ecobank, we always knew that the transition would be difficult. Arnold being the leader and the person he is, it was always going to be quite tricky to place somebody who could actually take the organisation to the next phase in terms of how we saw the evolution.

It was a question of us keeping our distance to a certain extent but supporting management. We were comfortable and confident but we were monitoring the situation very closely obviously.

Do you foresee a change in the structure of the two banks? Or is each bank going to basically run its own show?

Yes, absolutely. We remain independent banks. What is very important for us is to take the integration of this ‘one bank customer experience’ concept to the next level.

We certainly have a lot of projects in mind of how we can make that experience a lot more seamless and come up with very innovative products.

Certainly there will be significant investment in terms of integration. Ecobank, for instance, have rolled out their Flexcube banking platform across all the jurisdictions. It is also the platform which we have now chosen for our subsidiaries outside of South Africa and that’s being rolled out as we speak.

We realised the major opportunity is in retail banking and dependency on innovation; not moving away from bricks and mortar but looking at getting into the technology that will really leverage the major opportunity in retail across Africa.

Will your ordinary customer notice the ‘alliance’, if you like, of these two banks?

It’s obviously very different if you look at a retail customer versus a wholesale banking customer. I think the focus having initially been on the wholesale banking space, I don’t think there’s any awareness initiative that’s required in terms of this.

From a retail perspective, that’s where the big opportunity is going to be going forward now.

On the other hand, we don’t want to get too complicated in terms of two different brands trying to advertise or sell something or a product. The product is more important than who is selling the product.

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Written by Anver Versi

Anver Versi, is the award - winning editor of the London - based pan-African business monthlies, African Business and African Banker, was born in Kenya but has been based in London for the last two decades.

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