Joshua Oigara on Thursday marked his first 100 days as the chief executive of Stanbic Bank Kenya and South Sudan.
Mr Oigara took the Stanbic job in December 2022 having previously been at KCB Group for 11 years — nine years and five months of those in the chief executive role.
He spoke to the Business Daily about his experience at Stanbic, his goals, the dollar shortage and the persistent rumours that he is on his way out of the banking sector.
How has your first 100 days at Stanbic Bank been?
There is nothing as exciting as joining one of Africa’s largest banks, with huge ambitions to grow and power the countries that we operate in.
It is a bank that is solid on fundamentals and with strong momentum and huge capabilities for both large clients and small and medium-sized enterprises.
It has been quite exciting 100 days and I am happy with the results [for the full year ended December 2022] we have announced.
We have posted strong growth in terms of top line and net profit. It has been a fantastic start for me in the bank.
Given your many years in the banking sector, your exit from KCB looked like you were on your way out of the banking sector. Did quitting banking cross your mind at that time?
I am a senior banker. Banking is what I love to do. My ambition after leaving where I was [KCB] was to join an African transnational bank that is building great opportunities for the next generation.
The Stanbic job is for me the same sector but a different set of play. For us to interconnect markets, we need a bigger player at a continental level. As a pan-Africanist, I didn’t have another choice other than Standard Bank and Stanbic Bank.
What contrasts do you draw between your previous station [KCB] and Stanbic?
In many ways, we are very much alike. It [KCB] is a bank that believed in breakthroughs, building from the ground up and digitising operations.
What we have at Stanbic Bank and Standard Bank Group is to scale up. Whereas today our footprint is growing, there are a lot of partnership opportunities to explore.
The future belongs to those banks that can collaborate to unlock opportunities for businesses in the market and that is what I see here.
Social media continues to recruit you to several key jobs, including Central Bank of Kenya governor, cabinet secretary and now Safaricom chief executive? Which of these jobs are you taking and when?
[Laughs] We have free speech in our markets today. Kenyans have got a view about what their leaders should be able to do and I think people have different views, expectations and imaginations.
I don’t have a problem with their views but I always say, from my perspective, I stick to my word. I am focused and committed to doing my work at Stanbic Bank and Standard Bank.
I can’t stop people from having their views but what is important is what I see as the opportunity here.
Look at my history—seven years at Bamburi and 11 years at KCB. I have always served organisations for a long time period and that is my commitment in this generation and the next, to serve Stanbic Bank and Standard Bank for the long haul.
Is this to say the market should not expect Mr Oigara to make another move, say in the next few months?
Yes. That (movement) is not going to happen. I stay with organisations longer. I am going to be with Stanbic Bank and Standard Bank for the rest of my contract. I am 100 percent committed to Stanbic Bank.
Have such offers to take you away from the banking sector been coming your way?
No. I am at Stanbic to stay. Perhaps what we need in Kenya is a set of new leaders that can be seen as breakthrough champions.
When I hear people link me to the government and the telecommunications sector, for me it means we need to grow more leaders. In some way, it is exciting [to be linked to multiple jobs] but one person cannot take all these jobs.
What has kept you occupied at Stanbic for the last three months?
My first 100 days were largely visiting the teams, going into the regions, seeing what is happening in the business and being able to set ambitions for this year.
I have also been meeting clients, especially our business and commercial ones. I have been to the branches to see our large pool of clients. It has been an exciting way of settling in and working with my new leadership team.
It was the best time to join. And if you look at our results, it was about finishing strong and well on target.
What have you set as your vision at Stanbic?
In the short term, we will deliver our three-year strategy this year, including excelling in customer service and value proposition.
We are looking at how we grow further. We are a big bank and the question is how to become bigger. That is our big ambition, to play in the top three bank league.
The journey we will travel in the next three years is about scaling up strongly our positioning in the market and creating stronger integration for businesses in East Africa.
Standard Bank has Liberty Holdings which offers both short-term and long-term insurance. We see such as an area of partnership.
This year, we are looking at growing a stronger partnership value between insurance and banking services and marketing them as one. We believe insurance and asset management will be a new frontier for growth.
The market is going through the challenge of a dollar shortage at a time customers’ dollar-denominated deposits have been rising. How do you explain this contrast?
This is a difficult conversation. The mismatch between supply and demand is an issue that requires markets to rebalance. It is not extraordinary from what we see in Kenya.
Because of the pressure challenges we face on imports as energy and food prices go up due to geopolitical issues, demand is strained. Normally, the market corrects itself. But it is a difficult conversation to have.
What is the situation with your South Sudan branch? Is there room to start a subsidiary in that market?
We have been in that market since 2004. Our license is still intact. The conversation we have had is if we should continue operating as a branch or start a subsidiary.
We are licensed as a branch today and that has not changed. We will continue looking at how to grow and scale up in that market in the next two to three years. In the short term, we are okay to operate as we are.
Stanbic Holdings provisioning for non-performing loans (NPLs) nearly doubled to Sh4.94 billion. What is your outlook this year especially on loans to large clients?
Last year we had one large client in the agricultural space that contributed to driving up NPLs and that normally happens when you have a big portfolio.
We are really happy with what we see in this segment of lending to larger clients. We expect the NPL ratio to come down from nine percent to seven percent.
Stanbic received approval for its risk-based loan pricing model. How does your model look like?
Our model is well within the market dynamics. We can now spread our level of appetite in terms of the risk of customers we onboard.
This allows us to discover and take in more clients and perhaps put in more risks. It is a huge upside for the market and it will be a catalyst for growth in lending this year.
We have a chance to price for much higher risks than before. Our model allows us to classify our customers in many ranges depending on the customer profile at a given point. It is not a specific rate you move to.