Matemera for AfrAsia Bank?

HARARE - Ex-BancABC managing director Hashmon Matemera has been linked with a move to AfrAsia Bank Limited (ABL), a move probably sparked by the troubled bank’s half year-search for a substantive head.

As well as firm indications that executives at the troubled bank had “tapped” him for the job left by Tineyi Mawocha earlier this year, the persistent links might have been spurred by the listed financial group’s search for a divisional head in line with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s regulatory demands.

“For an institution of that profile (and their state), it is not surprising that they are looking for someone like Matemera. He has the credentials and my understanding is that there have been talks, but it’s (speculation) something that has gotten ahead of time and discussions closure,” said an AfrAsia insider, adding “you will recall that AfrAsia had gone for nearly six months without an MD”.

Although ABL chief executive Lynn Mukonoweshuro says there are “still conducting interviews”, suggestions that the seasoned banker could resurface at the former Kingdom Bank have strengthened at the back of his recent exit from the pan-African BancABC — now owned by Bob Diamond’s Atlas Mara Group.

“I can confirm that there are interviews going on. And at the moment we have narrowed down to top two candidates and we will make an announcement as soon as we have gone through the final rounds of interviews, have secured RBZ approval and have an accepted offer by a chosen candidate,” she told businesslive yesterday.

“So at this stage it is premature to comment in any conclusive manner until we have finalised the process,” Mukonoweshuro added.

Norman Mataruka, the Zimbabwean central bank’s licensing and supervision head, yesterday declined to comment on the issue citing confidentiality considerations.

In the absence of a comment from Matemera at the weekend, it could not be immediately established when negotiations between the parties had started and when the ex-RBZ senior staffer was likely to take up his new Karigamombe Centre role and challenge.

While critics may point out that the former central banker had left BancABC amid rising non-performing loans — a position which saw him being seconded to a newly-created special operations unit to deal with this classified portfolio — the bank’s market share for loans actually doubled to 10 percent as at December 2013 from 4,8 percent in 2009.

Under Matemera’s reign, BancABC Zimbabwe’s total market and asset shares also rose from three percent in December 2009 to nearly 11 percent three years later, while customer deposits leapt from 3,9 percent in the same period to 9,3 percent in 2013.

As such, his pending appointment at ABL comes amid high expectations, especially for a bank looking at “repositioning itself in a very difficult financial market”.

Owned by fast-growing Mauritian behemoth AfriAsia, the group has a $2 billion balance sheet and repeatedly indicated its full support for its Zimbabwean investment.

With plans for an aggressive African mainland expansion — and where Kenya, and Mozambique are in the radar by year end — it is believed that the capture of Matemera would help these efforts given his BancABC experience.

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