Harare - According to credible sources, Dr Lance Mambondiani is set to step down as BancABC Managing Director (MB) after being at the helm of the Zimbabwe unit since July 2019. His departure has, however, raised mixed feelings, with some peddling the narrative of him being expelled over a fallout with the bank’s board while a more refined narrative suggests the banker has been given 3-months on the realm as Atlas Mara continues its efforts to divest from the region. However, where there is smoke there is fire.
The bank’s shareholder, Atlas Mara, has lately been divesting from the region and has so far disposed of its banking assets in markets that include Rwanda, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia which has seen a subsequent exit of the respective markets’ CEOs or Managing Directors thereof. Mambondiani’s departure is also accompanied by the departure of several key executives such as Head of Information and Technology-Twaibu Seremani, Head of Retail-Hope Marere, and the Acting Chief Financial Officer-Kudzai Muchada. This further solidifies the claims that the banker is leaving office due to a change in ownership. However, they say a fruit does not fall far from its tree, and as such, speculations of the aforementioned being dismissed along with Mambondiani due to a fallout with the board have also made waves.
According to other speculations, the esteemed banker is alleged to have been placed on forced leave by the board pending investigations into issues that include malpractice, misconduct and fraudulent activities. According to social media analytics, a significant number of interested parties rode with this narrative more than the less dramatic one due to grievances that have over time been raised by the public concerning the banks that he has led, that is, Steward Bank and now BancABC. Lance Mambondiani was trained in the United Kingdom before returning to Zimbabwe in 2013 to take up a post at Steward Bank as a Business Development & Strategy Executive. The banker was then appointed Acting CEO in February 2015 and confirmed as substantive CEO in August 2015 before a fallout with the board which saw him leaving the bank in 2019 to join BancABC.
At Steward Bank, Lance was alleged to have been in a fallout with the board over claims of foreign currency mismanagement and other governance issues. The impact of the allegations continued to be felt long after his departure as the bank suffered from system failures. Banking customers have also complained of the same challenges from BancABC which either becomes a mere post-hoc fallacy or a credible aspect to ponder upon. Of note is the VISA-gate scandal where VISA card services from BancABC were down for more than 2-days.
However, the trend can be attributed to the esteemed banker’s model of high volumes and low value, with high volumes referring to a high customer base while the low value stems from the lowest cost to the customer which reflects in the low-value service delivery. His leadership and banking model at Steward Bank saw the bank accumulating the highest market share in the country in ZWL-denominated transactions and customers. When he moved to BancABC, his model saw the bank accumulating the highest market share in VISA card services. This can be attributed to the very low cost of banking with Steward Bank in local currency as well as the lowest VISA card costs seen at BancABC. A wider look at this model can be seen to pose the same challenges world-over, with Capitec Bank (one of the biggest banks in South Africa) boasting the biggest market share while customers regularly complain of the same challenges with Steward Bank and BancABC customers.
It can be seen then that Lance’s model has always been to target the less privileged with low-cost banking, and this allowed him to think outside the box. One of the notable Lance’s success stories at the helm of BancABC is the launch of the City-Hopper in September 2020, which is a local remittance service that was partnered with Pick’n’Pay. City-Hopper processed over US$10 million in less than a year, which was an applaudable milestone. Despite the domestic remittance market being saturated lately, Lance’s product has managed to stand the test of time and outwit most competitors.
Lance also flexed his innovation skills with the introduction of the Dial-A-Visa, a service that allows customers to apply for and obtain a prepaid VISA card at the comfort of their convenience. Several financial players have since replicated it or at least tried to.
Lance is professionally known for his famous quote that goes, “banking is necessary, banks are not”, and this has been reflected in his conduct over the time he has held top positions in the banking sector in Zimbabwe. May his dream live long as he sets for other prospects.
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