Ecobank Ousts Group CEO

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Thierry Tanoh, the Ivorian Chief Executive Officer of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), was forced out of his exalted position last week at a rather quiet board meeting of the bank held in Lome, Togo. Mr. Tanoh joined the Ecobank Group as CEO designate in July 2012 and commenced his executive role in October 2012 prior to being appointed Group CEO in January 2013.

 Tanoh came under renewed pressure last week after a stormy emergency general meeting of the bank where it was revealed that he had failed to comply with instructions by Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to recall Laurence do Rego, a former executive director of the pan-African bank responsible for finance and risk and whose whistle blowing, some say, brought the rumbling in the Bank into the open.

Hints that the CEO may be attending his last board meeting first came the week earlier when it emerged that the directors had been advancing a position that was seen as unfavorable to Tanoh. In the end, this paper has been told, the former CEO did not even bother to attend the crucial meeting.

In his place, directors of the board asked one of the deputy managing directors, a Ghanaian, Albert Essien, to occupy the CEO position until a substantive head was found for the Bank in October.

Announcing the replacement, ETI Interim Chairman, André Siaka said “Mr. Albert Essien has the experience and knowledge that Ecobank needs to take us forward as we continue to implement our strategy to deliver outstanding customer service, to improve long-term shareholder value and returns and to be the employer of choice in our markets.”

He also wished the outgoing CEO, Thierry Tanoh well in his new field of endeavor. “We wish to thank Thierry Tanoh for his service to Ecobank and wish him every success in the future.”

 At last week’s meeting, this paper has also learnt, it was also decided that do Rego be recalled. South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Ecobank’s single largest shareholder, has for sometime expressed concerns about Tanoh, media reports from the region have said.

The PIC, which owns more than 18 percent of Ecobank, according to the Lome, Togo-based lender, was concerned about performance under Tanoh.

 However, two former directors of Ecobank, Babatunde Ajibade and Kolapo Lawson, who served on a board that now has 12 members, said criticism of Tanoh was rooted in fear by other senior executives that his willingness to reform governance might expose past problems.

In recent interviews with Nigerian journalists, both men declined to spell out those alleged failures in detail. But Lawson said in a resignation letter dated February 7, 2014 and seen by Reuters that they stemmed from “the ETI public offering of 2008”, which refers to the bank’s flotation on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Whatever the case, Mr. Thierry Tanoh, a former International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) vice president for Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Western Europe, has been ousted by Ecobank and subsequently replaced by Albert Essien as new group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Company.

Mr. Essien has been at Ecobank for more than 20 years, rising to the position of Deputy Group CEO two years ago. Prior to becoming Deputy CEO, Mr. Essien was the Regional Head for the Anglophone West Africa (excluding Nigeria) and Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) regions.

According to an ETI statement, Mr. Essien’s appointment follows the departure of the current Group Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Thierry Tanoh, effectively Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

 Meanwhile, the Board of Directors of ETI also announced that in line with a directive the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria, Mrs. Laurence do Rego is reinstated as Group Executive Director of Finance and Risk with immediate effect.

During their Board meeting, the Directors reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the detailed 51-point Governance Action Plan adopted by shareholders at an Extraordinary General Meeting held at Ecobank’s Pan African Centre in Lomé on March 3, 2014.

The plan, which is expected to be implemented by the end of April 2014, aims at strengthening governance within the Ecobank Group.

Prior to becoming Deputy CEO Mr. Essien was the Regional Head for the Anglophone West Africa (excluding Nigeria) and Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) regions.

 He started his banking career in 1986 with the National Investment Bank in Accra, Ghana and joined the Corporate Banking Department of Ecobank Ghana in 1990. In 1997, he became Country Risk Manager.

Essien was appointed Deputy Managing Director in 2001 and became Managing Director in December 2002. Albert Essien has a degree in Economics from the University of Ghana and is an alumnus of the Executive Development Program of INSEAD (France / Singapore). He is also an honorary fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Ghana.

Speaking as the Board nominated him as the new Group CEO Albert Essien said, “I have been working for Ecobank for more than 20 years and I am proud of what we have achieved so far. I am committed to achieving our vision of building a world class pan-African bank which contributes to the economic development and financial integration of Africa and to our mission of providing our retail and wholesale customers with convenient, accessible and reliable financial products and services.

ETI is the parent company of the leading independent pan-African banking group, Ecobank. It currently has a presence in 35 African countries, namely: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Democratic Republic), Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Group is also represented in France through its affiliate EBI SA in Paris. ETI also has representative offices in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, London, UK and Beijing, China. ETI is listed on the stock exchanges in Lagos, Accra, and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) – the BRVM. The Group has more than 600,000 local and international institutional and individual shareholders. The Group employs 19,200 people from 40 different countries in 1,250 branches and offices.

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