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Equity founder: Mwangi is still our pick to steer us through interest cap, digital disruption

Peter Munga

 

Equity Bank Chief Executive James Mwangi will remain at the helm of the bank for a few more years, the lender’s founder says. Mr Mwangi has served as the bank’s CEO for more than two decades.

Mwangi, who joined the lender in 1993 when the then building society was staring at a collapse, is expected to stay on and steer the bank through the changes facing the banking industry. Technology is disrupting the largely conservative industry and a recent regulatory change capping interest rates threatened income from one of its core revenue streams.

Equity Bank’s founder Peter Munga said while the lender has put in place measures to ensure a smooth transition, Mwangi still has a number of years at the reigns of the largest bank in the country by customer base.

Mr Munga said he considers Mwangi as still having ideas and need more time to implement them and steer the bank through further growth. Among the challenges Mwangi, and indeed any industry chief executive faces, are the performance challenges brought about change in the regulatory environment. This is seen in declining profits partly due to the capping of interest rates towards end of last year.

Munga recently ceded his position as chair of board of Governors at Equity Bank Kenya after 34 years. Prof Peter Muthure, a renowned ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, will take over as the bank’s board chair. Munga will, however, remain the chair of Equity Group Holdings Limited, a non-operating holding company, in what he said is a staggered succession plan.

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“James Mwangi is over 20 years my junior and I would not talk of his retirement in the same breath with my succession,” he said.

“Enjoying good health, Mwangi has a long time to serve the Group but like prudent practices would suggest, we have a comprehensive succession planning in place in case of unplanned occurrence. We have overlapped with Mwangi for the 26 years and I can assure the market that the bank is in a safe pair of hands for both stability and growth.”

Under mentorship

He added that Equity, whose profits slid four per cent to Sh16.5 billion for the year to December 2016, had identified talent internally that can steer the bank through future growth phases.

He termed the process as staggered succession plan, which is seen in his ceding the chairmanship of Equity’s Kenyan subsidiary but remained as the chair of Equity Holdings Group Limited.

“We have four directors in the CEO’s strategic office while we have 12 directors in the corporate office under the Group Chief Operations Officer. There is another eight MDs of subsidiaries and three very able senior directors in our flagship Equity Bank Kenya who have been under his mentorship and coaching,” said Munga.

“The Group’s approach to succession planning is different from the traditional one of identifying one successor. The Group has instead opted to develop a pool of leaders at the managerial and board level to give the board a choice should the circumstances demand this.”

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