Liberia: Delaney Outlines Vision for the New LBDI

... “As part of my priorities, I will endeavor to prioritize the strengthening of the Bank’s balance sheet, particularly with a robust non-performing loan recovery plan,” he said.

The new president of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), Deo Delaney, says he will prioritize several strategies that would bring about the expansion of the LBDI for the improvement of the Liberian economy.

He named the strengthening of the bank’s balance sheet, corporate governance, digitalization and economic inclusion, climate finance, infrastructure, agriculture and other sectoral growth, as well as recapitalization and appropriate capital management, as some of the approaches he intends to use for economic transformation.

“As part of my priorities, I will endeavor to prioritize the strengthening of the Bank’s balance sheet, particularly with a robust non-performing loan recovery plan,” he said.

Delaney made these remarks on August 19, at a well-organized cocktail party in honor of his predecessor, John B.S. Davies, III, held in Monrovia. LBDI, which is the government-owned commercial bank, was created to finance the government’s development program in a way that is designed to support the growth and stabilization of the Liberian economy by giving greater lines of credit to small and medium-sized businesses, which act as engines of economic growth.

Currently, the government is a major shareholder of the Bank but, in times past, that share became a liability as the government was not settling its financial obligation to the Bank on time.

According to an expert, a bank’s balance sheet is a key way to draw conclusions regarding a bank’s business and the resources it uses to be able to finance lending. The volume of business of a bank is included in its balance sheet for both assets (lending) and liabilities (customer deposits or other financial instruments).

However, Delaney said no bank can function without a robust capital foundation and, as such, his goal as the bank's new CEO will concentrate more on the balance sheet and other areas.  He told the gathering that in addition to the significant backing from the Liberian government, he would strive to bring in foreign capital for LBDI, including from development finance organizations.

“I’m inspired by our collective commitment to contribute to strengthening the Liberian economy and improving the lives of average Liberians across this troubled country we love so much,” Delaney added.

Delaney, who outlined his five ambitious strategies for the bank said he is indeed fortunate to be where he is at the moment.

“I am very much grateful to you for celebrating the Bank's historical role as a cornerstone of the Liberian economy. And as you encircle me with your guidance, advice, and support I make the pledge to make Liberia’s only development finance institution the great driver of economic growth and force for good its creators commissioned it to be,” he mentioned.

Under corporate governance, according to the new LBDI president, banking is based on trust, confidence, and a set of rules.  Without these prerequisites, Delaney stated, “we will not be able to attract or make the kinds of investments that are necessary for us to realize the things we have set out to achieve.”

He further added that positioning LBDI for the future will require principled leadership and the ability to stabilize operations, inspiring trust and attracting sustainable inward investments that will benefit the Liberian economy and people.

Delaney continued, “I’m aware that in my role as CEO and President of LBDI, I am in a unique position. I’m afforded the rare opportunity to not only imagine what a stronger, more stable Liberian economy could look and feel like. I also have the authority to make determinative decisions — like expanding access to credit for unbanked and underbanked Liberians — that can make material and measurable differences in the lives of families across the country.

Going further with his vision under the digitalization and economic inclusion plan, he said, more than 65% of the people living in Liberia have access to mobile phones. Yet, only 20% of the population has bank accounts in an economy where 90% of people work in the informal sector — such as market women, pem-pem drivers, keh keh drivers, gasoline traders, etc.

This gap, according to him, represents an incredible opportunity to provide intuitive-smart technology that facilitates the small business people make every day. Regarding climate finance, the new LBDI president stressed that nearly 40% of the Upper Guinea rainforests are located right here in Liberia.

“We must take actions that not only align with Liberia’s commitments to global climate resilience but that contribute to a meaningful way to building climate resilience across the country. To that end, we are preparing to issue green bonds backed by Liberia’s forest assets,” he said.

As for infrastructure, agriculture, and other sectoral growth, Delaney said that the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, who is also LBDI’s Board Chair, recently announced that he is repositioning LBDI to be a key driver of economic growth in Liberia.

He said the decision of the minister aligns the Bank’s goals of its founding charter, especially under his leadership. 

The partnership with many of the bank’s customers or investors, either directly or through the Ministry of Finance, LBDI plans to make targeted investments and administer specialized programs that drive across-sectoral growth, including infrastructural development, agriculture, and other areas that are building blocks of Liberia’s socioeconomic development.

Speaking earlier, LBDI’s immediate past president, John B.S. Davies, III, who provided his successor with an in-depth overview of the Bank, congratulated Delaney and the current management team on the cocktail, which was intended to showcase the new LBDI vision and give the public an indication of the Bank’s services and focus.

“Certainly, we need a new vision in this era of a digital world, attention to the environment, gender advocacy, and equity across the economy,” he said. "As is customary in today’s Liberia, plaiting the new mat starts with understanding the foundation on which the old mat was plaited.

“In essence, as we celebrate the current management team’s beautiful new vision and focus, we must underscore the critical role LBDI has played as the key development stakeholder of the banking sector in particular and the Liberian economy in general.” 

He also told the participants that it was a privilege for him to serve the LBDI for 23 years, 10 of which he had the distinguished honor of serving as its CEO. Davies indicated that LBDI has been pivotal to the development of all sectors of the economy.

In manufacturing sector, Davies stated that LBDI were pivotal in the creation or establishment of Duraplast, Tiba Biscuits, Mano Manufacturing, Mano Oil Palm, Garson Steel, Vision Industries, Premier Milling, and NICOM Distilleries that are well established in the country and offer jobs to Liberians.

According to him, in the agriculture and agro-processing space, LBDI is the de facto “rubber bank”, and has been a strategic partner to this sector for over 45 years. Davies recalled that LBDI is responsible for more than 60% of the foreign exchange inflows into this sector.

Further, he said the sector value addition strategy, which has resulted in the recent commissioning of another rubber processing factory, the Nimba Rubber Industry.

“This is yet another testament to how the Bank has been critical in the generation of foreign exchange, job creation, and empowerment of more Liberians,” he explained.

“The mortgage and housing space, LBDI has impacted the possibility for Liberians to own their homes,” he added.

“As a former CEO, one of the most humbling experiences for me was when civil servants would draw my attention to how much it meant to them to finally have the keys to that building they call home. LBDI has played this role since the erstwhile National Housing Bank,” Davies bragged.

According to him, hundreds of small businesses have also benefited from various types of financing in the SME sector, which he said ranges from support to young entrepreneurs to access to finance for Liberian businesses, particularly those run by women.

“We must applaud our partners, including the CBL, MFDP, NIC, World Bank, Commerce, the Liberia Bankers Association, and the Liberia Chambers of Commerce, for all the support over the years,” Davies added.