Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, is not the only one who has a sharp eye for the best advisors and talents to help him fix things.
He picked Marc Holtzman, a global renown banker, formerly with Barclays Plc, ABN Amro Bank NV and Kazakhstan’s biggest private bank, to fix Rwanda’s biggest lender, Bank of Kigali.
Holtzman has since helped mold Bank of Kigali into a US$1B fortune in just a couple of years.
In 10 years, the bank has grown from US$200 million in assets to over $1 billion. “I am proud of Bank Of Kigali‘s performance,” he told Taarifa.
Now, Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has handed Holtzman troubled CBZ Holdings Ltd. to mobilise a world-class team and revive the lender before it breathes its last.
Holtzman, according to Bloomberg, “has assembled a management team that cut its teeth at lenders ranging from New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Russia’s Renaissance Capital Ltd. to British American Tobacco Plc and auditing firm Deloitte.”
This team is supposed to craft a plan that will “reignite foreign interest in its shares, and in the country.”
The veteran banker, who said he had never thought he would find himself in a place like Zimbabwe, believes there is a possibility of “an exciting turnaround” for the Harare’s biggest bank.
Holtzman was appointed in September 2019. He has assembled a new nine-member board that will be announced once the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe approves the appointments.
Nonetheless, however much strong the team is, the task ahead is daunting. They are facing one of the most challenging assignment a banker can ever undertake.
First, Zimbabwe’s economy has been hit by “rampant inflation, crippling currency and power shortages and a drought that has left half the population starving,” reports say.
This is escorted by a frightening exercise, according to Holtzman, of “convincing the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control to reduce a $385 million fine.”
Apparently, the penalty, initially $3.8 billion, was imposed on the lender in 2017 for processing 15,127 transactions on behalf of ZB Bank Ltd., which was then under sanctions.
“Prior to my coming, there was nothing really being done to address the OFAC issues,” he told Bloomberg and that he is in constant communication with a three-person team from Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, to deal with OFAC, looking into the issue.
Once all this dirt settles, some investors can begin considering exploring Zimbabwe. Otherwise, Mnangagwa’s call to do business in Zimbabwe has not yet fallen into the ears of potential suitors.
And that informs Holtzman’s appointment. Hopes on his appointment are definitely high.
At least President Mnangagwa has promised him all the necessary support.
The President has also promised him there will be no any sort of interference from politicians.
So far, over 100 staff have been laid off and six executives fired.
But that’s not enough for the job to be done.
Question is, after assessing and conducting a diagnosis into the bank and the ecosystem it operates in, will Holtzman succeed?
He told Taarifa on Saturday night that, President Kagame strongly encouraged him to take up this challenge in Zimbabwe after yielding good results with Bank of Kigali.
“President Kagame is now widely viewed across Africa and frontier markets around the world as a role model as the most admired President to emulate,” he said.
Equipped with his experience throughout turningaround Bank of Kigali in Rwanda, he hopes the notes taken will be useful.
“The Rwanda model is the envy of the world,” he said.