ElIas MasIlela: “Ecobank grew too fast”

Pan-African lender Ecobank’s biggest shareholder says the bank is signalling a slowdown in the rapid expansion and that precautions must be taken immediately.



Ecobank grew too fast in a short space of time, said Elias Masilela, chief executive of the Public Investment Corporation, its biggest shareholder. Masilela told Reuters that this was potentially signalling a slowdown in the rapid expansion that has taken the financial institution to 35 countries.
The bank, whose chief executive Thierry Tanoh was ousted by the board, needed to devote as much attention to governance as to growth. “The institution grew too fast in a short space of time. They needed to have taken stock at some point and thought about internal issues instead of focusing on the expansion programme only. It would seem like the expansion programme preoccupied everything.”
Ecobank’s board removed Tanoh following months of internal division after Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation into alleged breaches of corporate governance. In a March 1 letter, the PIC called for his dismissal to prevent “the death of a pan-African dream.”
Masilela said Ecobank needs to stabilise as it emerges from growth and will face a hard task integrating its investments. “Until it has stabilised it’s very difficult to tell where the risk areas are, so at this stage we may think it’s a leadership problem and tomorrow it may be something else.” However, despite the recent turmoil, Masilela said the PIC still considered Ecobank “a very good bank with huge prospects.”
“All that we need to do is to nurture it so that it delivers as expected,” he said.
The PIC’s investment in Ecobank has given it to exposure to fast-growing states such as Ivory Coast, Uganda and Zambia as the fund manager tries to diversify beyond South Africa.


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