Banking’s blue-eyed boy signs off

SHARE   |   Monday, 20 February 2017   |   By Staff Writer
Stepping down, Lekaukau Stepping down, Lekaukau

A gentleman through and through, Moatlhodi Lekaukau faced the local battalion of business reporters a day after dropping a bombshell that he was stepping down as CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Botswana. He became the first local to become the bank’s CEO in 2012 in its 120-year history. With his board chairman Professor Bojosi Otlhogile on his side, Lekaukau faced a barrage of questions, with some bringing into question the reasons behind his departure. To some, the blue-eyed boy of Botswana’s financial sector had reached his ultimate humiliation with all that the bank was doing being a charade to mitigate the circumstances. The media contingent was not hiding its suspicions. The blight he was fighting to keep out of his swansong address however encroached nevertheless. Two weeks before his resignation, a local newspaper led with a story that an aggrieved client had reported the bank to the Banking regulator – Bank of Botswana – for over charging his company and seemingly conniving to close him out of business since some of the bank’s executives were involved a similar call centre business. The general sentiment arising was sympathetic to the underdog and hence with some almost passing judgement that Lekaukau is jumping ship at the behest of his leaders who fear the regulator’s pronouncement.

The Oseg issue
According to a report in the Botswana Gazette, CEO of Oseg Majakathata Pheko had said, “he has evidence that powerful people in the bank and a cabal of friends both inside and outside the bank were intentionally and aggressively looking for ways to weaken Oseg Group, tarnish its name, diminish its value as they were in the same competing businesses interest, in the call centre and the factoring business.” He has since reported the matter to the regulator on grounds that the bank targeted his business and refused to cooperate with other banks which could have consolidated their debts and serviced them well. Besides the Oseg issue some point to the performance of the bank, in particular the impairments suffered as a result of the closure of some of the mines which owed the bank heavily as possible grounds for which he could have been pushed. There are fears that the closure of BCL mine which is now on provisional liquidation will also dent the bank’s 2016 financial results.

Lekaukau defends himself
He refused to be drawn into discussing the Oseg issue on grounds that their relationship with any of their client remains private and could never be shared with third parties.  “We do business properly and respect our clients’ confidentiality. Our Code of Conduct is very clear about how to treat the customer. We consider rescheduling loans for those who request. We treat all fairly and we do not enter into conflicting dealings,” he insisted. There is nothing underlying my resignation, he insisted – adding that “I have been considering this move for the past five months. There is never a perfect time for resigning. I chose to leave on March 31, 2017 because that is the period in which I will have presented the 2016 financial results. I wanted to take responsibility for them,” he said. He has been weighing his options for the past five months until he decided this week to step down. “I have known even when I joined the bank that I would not want to exceed five years in this position. In recent months I have as I decided on this matter been in discussion with various stakeholders within the bank about the way forward,” he said. “There is never a perfect time for resigning. We could have chosen to delay this and looked for a perfect time but there is none. There is nothing underlying my departure. I am proud of what I have achieved. I have enjoyed myself and in the process brought an excellent team to work with. I will be going into a sabbatical to determine which way I would go. As you know great entrepreneurs and innovators have found their ideas when they on sabbatical, having given themselves more time for thinking thoroughly on projects to pursue,” he said. He switched on his lighter side when quizzed about whether he was on contract, insisting that is often between employer and employee and asking the reporter to reveal theirs. He disclosed however that he had been employed on a permanent and pensionable contract that offered a notice period for one month before leaving. Board chairman Professor Bojosi Otlhogile praised Lekaukau for a sterling job he has done since joining the bank. Among others Otlhogile hailed him for having generated over P1 billion in operating income for the bank while accelerating the localisation of executive management in the bank. When quizzed about the shareholders’ sentiment about the performance of the business, Otlhogile said shareholders are informed about the status of their business during the Annual General Meetings (AGMs) and they have been pleased by how it is being steered.

His future
Though he chose to keep his next vocation a secret, entrepreneurship is a sure bet to be attractive to him. Having been part of youthful investors with interests in media, property and related it is likely that he might be seizing an opportunity to invest in fully focusing on unlocking value from these investments. Otherwise, he will be privy to something big that is about to occur in the local business space and is a part of that or has been recruited by some of the top players in or outside Botswana. As telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwa insists, one should constantly be looking at changing their careers or at least how they do things. “Each one of us (myself included) must now change our careers at least every five years. That’s the new normal… but how many of us realise this? Changing your career does not necessarily mean changing your job or employer, but the job you do and how it’s done will change constantly or it might disappear completely! If you’ve been feeling that you’re not moving forward, or that you’re sliding backwards in your career, it may well be because you didn’t see this change happening around you. Perhaps you don’t "see" the new normal, where change is the only constant,” Masiyiwa said. This is exactly what Lekaukau appears to be doing. After working non-stop for 17 years, he feels it is time he takes his time to “just relax and chill.” This will however not be for very long.

Moatlhodi, son of the late Moses Lekaukau – the founding CEO of Botswana Communications Authority and founder of leading African micro-lender Letshego – worked for Deloitte South Africa rising to the position of partner. He worked for the accounting firm for 12 years one month, having joined as fresh graduate from the University of Cape Town where he completed a B.Com degree. He would later pursue a Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting before completing a Chartered Accountant qualification. He is now a member of South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants and is a Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant. Dubbed by some as a turnaround specialist, his skills repertoire include Corporate Finance, Auditing, Mergers & Acquisitions, Risk Management, IFRS, Valuation, Management Consulting, Due Diligence, Financial Analysis, Change Management, Business Strategy, Internal Controls, Enterprise Risk Management, Financial Reporting,  Business Transformation, Governance, Financial Modeling, Strategy, and Private Equity.