On 30th April 2021, I&M Group Plc completed the acquisition process of 90 percent of Orient Bank and consequently renamed the 28-year-old Ugandan bank to I&M Bank Uganda Limited on 8th November 2021. What do the rebrand and acquisition mean for both existing and future customers of the bank, as well as how does it impact the fortunes of the bank and the industry in general? Here are the 7 Reasons why I&M Bank Uganda is the bank to watch this year and beyond.
Orient Bank’s 28-year legacy meets I&M Group’s 48-year regional experience and financial strength
I&M Bank Uganda builds on 28 years’ uninterrupted legacy of Orient Bank based on trust and personalized banking. This legacy fuses into I&M Group Plc’s 48-year legacy that has seen the group rise to over USD3.6 billion (UGX12.5 trillion) in assets as of 31st December 2021. I&M Group Plc is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and has subsidiaries in five countries- Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mauritius and now Uganda. The group aspires to be ‘Eastern Africa’s Leading Financial Partner for Growth’.
Therefore, I&M Bank Uganda is now on a journey to become Uganda’s Leading Financial Partner for Growth as alluded to by the Deputy Governor, Bank of Uganda, Dr Michael Atingi-Ego in his speech during the handover of the banking license to I&M Bank (Uganda) Limited, “we anticipate that the enhanced financial muscle and cross-border banking pedigree brought on by the I&M Group that has subsidiaries across East Africa will substantially power the bank (I&M Bank Uganda) to its next evolution.” he said.
Bigger world of possibilities for I&M Bank Uganda’s borrowing customers
Every customer needs a big bank to give their dreams more wings to fly- but local Ugandan rules demand that banks can only lend up to 80% of their deposits. There are also limits to how much can be lent to a single customer. By joining the larger and more financially solid I&M Group, customers of I&M Bank Uganda can now tap into the group’s larger lending power and expertise. As of 31st December 2021, I&M Group’s shareholder’s equity stood at USD 617.6 million (UGX2.1 trillion), which is surely a bigger pool for Ugandan entities to tap into in form of syndicated lending.
Additionally, the group has other inter-related non-banking operations such as I&M Burbidge Capital (U) Limited, a subsidiary of I&M Burbidge Capital Limited a corporate finance advisory arm of the Group, I&M Capital Ltd, a licensed fund manager by the Capital Markets Authority, I&M Realty Ltd, the real estate holding company of I&M Group as well as I&M Bancassurance Intermediary Ltd, the I&M Group Insurance arm which houses Youjays Insurance Brokers. All these are value-adding services that Ugandan customers can now tap into to grow their businesses.
According to Kumaran Pather, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of I&M Bank Uganda, the integration with I&M Bank continues to present vast opportunities for both customers and staff “We are excited about this phase where we see more opportunities to better support our staff, customers investors and other shareholders under the l&M Group. We also see more opportunities to expand our market reach and penetration in Uganda and aggressively position ourselves as a key enabler for personal and business growth. I am optimistic that we will achieve all these because as a bank we are focused on our efforts to offer every customer a seamless banking experience,”.
Suleiman Kiggundu, the bank’s Board Chairman, believes that the integration of the bank into the larger I&M Bank “will not only unlock the bank’s potential, but also enable it to reach out to more customers within Uganda, and in Eastern Africa as a whole.”
Enhanced efficiencies for customers with regional presence and or ambitions
I&M Group’s entry into Uganda is very timely. The East African Community is growing stronger and expanding, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is in the offing.
A bank that enables customers cross-border access to their money and other opportunities in EAC’s major economies and beyond, couldn’t have come at a better time.
The five countries where I&M Group has a presence, already enjoy a rich business relationship with Uganda. The import trade between Uganda and Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Mauritius in 2021 stood at USD1.6 billion, accounting for 22% of Uganda’s entire import trade (USD7.1 billion). Similarly, Ugandan exports to these four countries form a big chunk of its export earnings —USD646 million or 16.3% of the entire export earnings in 2021 (USD3.97 billion).
I&M Group also works with some of the world’s most renowned banks such as Citibank NA, Commerzbank AG, Deutsche Bank AG, ICICI Limited Mumbai, Mashreq Bank PLC (Middle East), Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered Bank NY and Bank One Ltd in Mauritius to facilitate international transactions beyond the countries where it has a presence.
“Every business and indeed every one of our customers, needs a big bank to meet their needs be it retail, SME and corporate banking at a domestic, regional and international level,” says Kumaran Pather, the bank’s Managing Director.
He adds: “At the domestic level, I&M possesses time-tested knowledge, experience, and the products to finance and facilitate our client’s dreams. These, include agro-industrialization/manufacturing; mining and natural resources, including oil & gas; tourism and hospitality; transport, energy, information and communication technology, real estate, education, and regional trade etc.”
According to Chris Low, the I&M Group Regional Director as well as Board Director for I&M Bank (Uganda) Limited “The entry into Uganda puts the l&M Group in a better position to capitalize on the rise of Eastern African economies, resulting in multiple opportunities for growth, diversification and higher shareholder value.”
He adds: “It also aligns with our strategy of operating unique and scalable businesses across the region. We believe that l&M Bank Uganda will be a key enabler in our broader quest to ensure that we fulfil the needs of all our stakeholders while promoting cross-border trade within the region.”
Great things happen when great brands mix with great people
Financial muscle, geographical footprint reach and a rich 48-year experience aside, at the heart of every brand promise and the delivery of that promise are knowledgeable and committed people. And like they say, great things happen when great brands meet great people.
Over the last two years, I&M Bank Uganda has built a strong team of experienced bankers, attracting new talent from the industry as well as resharpening and retooling the existing team. The newly reconstituted executive committee brings nearly 200 years of combined financial services experience to the table.
Leading this team is Kumaran Pather, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer who joined I&M Bank (Uganda) Limited in January 2020. A seasoned banking executive with over two decades of rich retail banking experience- spanning across, South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Bahrain, Tanzania, Mozambique and most recently Uganda.
Kumaran’s No.2, Sam Ntulume, the Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer who joined the bank in November 2021, brings to the bank a working career spanning over 28 years— 16 of these in the Financial Services Industry in the region.
Other senior executives at the bank include: Edward Gibson Nangono; Chief Business Officer (14 years’ experience); Oscar Karamagi, Head of Internal Audit (over 20 years’ experience); Andrew Ssekamwa, Chief Financial Officer (over 10 years’ experience) and Joseph Fetaa, Head of Products & Channels (17 years’ experience); Katherine .S. Turinawe, Head of Human Resources possesses over 17 years of experience; Duncan George Karugaba, Head of Operations (19 years’ experience) Charles Kiirya, Head of Credit (18 years’ experience); Denis Damba, Head of Treasury brings to the game over 13 years of banking experience; Natalie Erinah Kironde, Head of Legal and Compliance (Over 10 years of experience); Hope Lorna Nakhayenze, the Head of Risk has over 13 years’ experience and Srinallapa Kumar, the Head of IT, possesses over 16 years’ experience in the business.
A meeting of two digital-led banks
Even before the integration with the I&M Group, Orient Bank had made its digital mark on the industry.
Dr Michael Atingi-Ego, the Deputy Governor Bank of Uganda recognized Orient Bank during the occasion to hand over the banking license to I&M Bank Uganda for promoting cashless transactions in Uganda by pioneering the use of point-of-sale technology and the deployment of a rich suite of technology-driven services that included internet banking, mobile banking, Visa cards, American Express cards, Union Pay and agent banking.
“The innovative championing of digitization made Orient Bank outstanding and remains one of the most attractive aspects in a world of technology-driven banking,” the Deputy Governor said.
Similarly, the I&M Group is well known for its digital-first approach to business, and Chris Low, the I&M Group Plc Regional Director affirms that I&M would continue to invest in winning digital solutions in line with the Group’s Imara 2.0 Strategy.
“One of the pillars of the strategy focuses on radically improving operational efficiency by automating end-to-end customer processes and building centres of excellence across the region supported by a central shared service centre.”
“The I&M Group has continued to make significant investments in digital technology and innovative products that will impact all our banking segments, not only here in Uganda but across the region,” he reiterated.
One digital product worth mentioning for example is BRISK, an in-house developed money transfer service available to I&M customers in East Africa. This system allows I&M customers to operate one account across countries to transfer funds to beneficiaries located in the countries where I&M is present, without the use of Nostro accounts. This makes the service fast, efficient, cost-effective, and convenient. I&M customers are also able to make deposits, withdrawals and other transactions across the east African countries without any inconveniences. This service is available at three I&M subsidiaries in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. The same is yet to be rolled out in Uganda.
“The I&M Group is known for its innovative solutions that enhance customer convenience and efficiency – solutions that ride on our noteworthy investments in robust technological infrastructure and are part of our digital transformation journey,” emphasizes Kumaran Pather, the I&M Bank Uganda MD/CEO. “By tapping into the l&M Group’s investments in digitization, we will continue to roll out a series of innovative products and services to our customers and continuously walk with them in their financial journey.” He said.
A bank for East Africa, by East Africans; with the right global partners
I&M Group’s objective to become Eastern Africa’s leading financial partner for growth is not mere rhetoric, because East Africa is where the bank’s roots are deeply implanted. The Group was founded here and as such possesses immense regional knowledge. I&M Group is 86.07% owned by East Africans of which 75.66% is owned by private and public institutions from East African Community Partner States and 10.41% by individuals from EAC partner states. The rest, 11.2% and 2.67% is owned by non-EAC institutional and individual investors respectively.
Worth noting is that the CDC Group Plc, a development finance institution wholly owned by the government of the United Kingdom owns approximately 10.68% of I&M Group Plc, the holding company of I&M Bank Ltd. In addition, I&M Bank has a technical support agreement with International Finance Corporation for staff training, product development and risk management. The bank also enjoys medium-term foreign currency credit facilities from various Development Financial Institutions – Proparco, IFC, DEG, and responsibility.
With such a diversity of shareholder and strategic partnerships, I&M Bank Uganda’s future and that of her customers can only be more solid- and better.
Ensuring sustainable long term stakeholder value
To guarantee long-term value for its stakeholders, the I&M Group is committed to a strict Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance framework (ESG) across both its internal operations as well as the projects it finances.
Through its operations and the I&M Foundation, the Group invests in and or pays particular attention to projects and initiatives that contribute to:
Environmental conservation- the preservation, protection and restoration of the environment.
Economic empowerment – the promotion of sustainable economic growth and productive employment.
Education & skills development – ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education
Enabling giving – strengthening partnerships for sustainable community development
As such I&M Bank Uganda, has embraced the sustainability agenda.
To oversee this sustainable growth and ensure best governance practices, I&M Bank Uganda recently reconstituted its board of directors, bringing together a team of seasoned experts with remarkable experience in various fields including finance and banking, law and management.
The 9-member board is led by Suleiman Kiggundu, a Yale University-trained engineer and economist with 25 years, of leadership experience. He has served in senior leadership roles at various leading institutions, including Equator Bank, Equator Capital Partners, HSBC Bank plc and as the Regional Director for Africa at CDC Group plc.
Other board members include Ketan Morjaria, the founder and Board Member of both I&M Bank in Uganda and Credit Bank in Kenya, who is also a strategic shareholder in both institutions as well as Chris Low, the Regional Director at I&M Group Plc.
Other seasoned leaders on the I&M Bank Uganda board are Joram Kahenano, Francis Magambe Byaruhanga, Bhartesh Shah and Nicholas Ecimu, the Company Secretary.
Mr Kumaran Pather, the Managing Director and CEO as well as Mr Sam Ntulume, Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer also sit on the board.
Given the above reasons, I&M Bank Uganda and its customers can look to great times ahead. We should anticipate shared prosperity for the bank and its customers- both existing and future.