Who will replace Juuko at Stanbic?

Outgoing Stanbic Bank’s chief executive,Anne Juuko

What you need to know:

  • Control and ownership of commercial banks in Uganda has often been a matter of contention. Throughout most of the colonial period, most of the banks that followed were foreign-owned.

The recent promotion of Stanbic Bank Uganda CEO Anne Juuko to head parent company Standard Bank’s regional currency markets out of Nairobi has created a vacancy at the top of the biggest bank in the country – and set eyes on who the replacement will be.

 With Shs357 billion in profit after tax in 2022, the last fully reported year, Stanbic Bank was the most profitable in the country, putting a premium to one of the plumiest jobs in the local corporate scene. This was Shs108 billion more than Centenary Bank, the second most profitable bank. 
After announcing Shs200 billion in profit in the half-year to June 2023, Stanbic is expected to cross the Shs400 billion profit-after-tax number when the 2023 end-year results are published later this month, setting a record in the institution. 

While money matters in a financial institution, there is more to the job in a bank that in 2001 took over the assets of Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) which, until that point, had been the largest publicly owned local bank. Yet it was not until 2015 that Stanbic Bank appointed its first Ugandan top executive, Patrick Mweheire, to replace Philip Odera, a Kenyan national. 
Control and ownership of commercial banks in Uganda has often been a matter of contention. The first commercial bank in the country, the National Bank of India, opened its doors in 1906. Throughout most of the colonial period, most of the banks that followed were foreign-owned: Standard Chartered, Grindlays, Standard Bank, the Bank of Netherlands, Bank of Baroda, and others.

It was not until 1951 with the creation of the Uganda Credit and Savings Bank that a locally owned institution emerged. This would morph into Uganda Commercial Bank in 1969 which, when private banks were nationalised, became and remained the biggest commercial bank, at least by branch network, until the very end.
In the decade starting in 1988 the Central Bank licensed 10 private banks, most of which were locally owned. These included Nile Bank, Greenland Bank, Teefe, TransAfrica Bank, Gold Trust Bank, ICB Bank and the National Bank of Commerce. However, most were short-lived and were either acquired (such as Nile by Barclays) or closed down by the Central Bank (Teefe, Greenland, Cooperative, and others).

Although some of the banks were closed before he was appointed Governor of the Central Bank in 2001, a lot of the blame fell at the feet of Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile who, in his earlier postings in the Finance Ministry had been a key implementer of the Economic Recovery Plan and its liberalising agenda.
Within the public finance world, two schools of thought emerged. One headlined by Mutebile argued for free-market rules to force local financial institutions to shape up or ship out. The rival view’s leading proponent was and remains, Ezra Suruma, a former deputy governor at the Central Bank who also led UCB and served as Finance Minister. The latter school argued that the financial sector was too important not to have local ownership and meaningful participation, and that local financial institutions should have their hands held until they could walk on their own.

The ownership question remains open and most of the banks operating in Uganda are wholly or majority foreign-owned. However, there has been more progress on the leadership front, with more Ugandans taking the reins even at foreign-owned banks. 
In a research report released in December 2010, the Economic Policy Research Centre, a local think tank based at Makerere University, argued that foreign banks had brought strong balance sheets that strengthened the financial sector. However, they noted that “foreign banks had not passed on management skills and knowledge to the local banking system”.

The late Mutebile made a similar argument at a Bank of Uganda town hall meeting in Fort Portal in March 2019 in which he defended the Central Bank’s stewardship of the commercial banking sector. “The failure of locally owned banks is a problem that should keep many people awake at night until Ugandans master the professional skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are required by the banking industry to unlock the power of finance in making our communities prosperous,” he said. To his credit, Mutebile supported local efforts notably a chief executive officer training programme by the CEO Forum, to prepare more Ugandans to run banks in the country. 

He also urged bank boards of directors to commit to programmes to grow local talent to be able to take over the management of the institutions. Central Bank regulations set out elaborate credentials that bank management and board members must present but they do not prescribe any nationality rules.
The results of such initiatives, as well as internal mentorship and leadership programmes are beginning to show. After starting out in Ugandan hands in 1983, Centenary Bank, the largest locally owned financial institution today, went through expatriate hands until the retirement of John Giles in 2009. It has since grown exponentially under the hands of the late Simon Kagugube, and now Fabian Kasi.

Customers in a banking hall. The commercial banks ownership question remains open and most of the banks operating in Uganda are wholly or majority foreign-owned. PHOTO/FILE

Locally owned banks, or those in which the government has a stake, have tended to have local leadership like Patricia Ojangole at Uganda Development Bank, Michael Mugabi at Housing Finance, and Julius Kakeeto at Post Bank. The true cross-over appeal, however, is when foreign-owned banks put their trust in Ugandan corporate leaders to run their local operations. 

This is the case with the regional players KCB Uganda, Equity Bank, and NCBA which are now led by Ugandans: Edgar Byamah, Anthony Kituuka, and Mark Muyobo respectively.
Not all local hires are followed by similarly local appointments. In 2012 Standard Chartered Bank appointed its first Ugandan CEO Herman Kasekende. When he left three years later for a similar posting in Zambia, he was replaced by Albert Saltson, a Ghanian national, who has since been succeeded by Sanjay Rughani, a Tanzanian national. 

In 2007 DFCU Bank appointed Juma Kisaame after the departure of Iain Sturrock and Colin McComarck and the Ugandan led the bank until his retirement in 2019. He was replaced by Mathias Katamba who had previously been at Housing Finance. Mr Katamba ran the bank until he left in 2023, being replaced by Charles Mudiwa from Zimbabwe.
While the majority of bank leaders are predominantly male, female corporate executives have also been smashing through the glass ceiling. It started with Edigold Monday who, in December 2010 became the first Ugandan woman to be appointed to head a bank in Uganda when she was tapped to lead Bank of Africa. She was replaced five years later by Arthur Isiko.

 When Sarah Arapta was appointed CEO of Citibank Uganda in January 2016, she became the first woman and Ugandan to head the institution, which she continues to run. Other women running banks in Uganda include Annet Nakawunde who took over the reins at Finance Trust Bank in April 2012 when it was still a micro-finance institution and has since grown it into a fully-fledged bank.

 In August 2021 Grace Muliisa was appointed CEO at Ecobank Uganda adding to the pool of Ugandan and female top financial executives. The government-owned Uganda Development Bank is also run by a Ugandan female executive, Patricia Ojangole. Pride Microfinance, a deposit-taking institution, is also run by a Ugandan female executive, Veronicah Namagembe.

 At Stanbic, the successful tenure of Mweheire and his protégé Jjuuko, which has seen them promoted to regional positions, has shown the talent and leadership potential of Ugandan chief executives. The appointment of Francis Karuhanga, who was previously Standard Bank group head of audit to replace Andrew Mashanda, a Malawian executive, as overall head of the Ugandan operation shows the depth of Ugandan talent within the group.

 The internal candidates are believed to include Emma Mugisha, the executive director who also heads the business and commercial lending arms, and Samuel Mwogeza who heads the consumer segment and is in charge of the bank’s high-net-worth clients. Paul Muganwa, who heads corporate and investment banking, would also be a logical contender. 

 With Ms Juuko’s term winding down at the end of the month, an announcement from the bank is expected before the end of March.