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The history of the Private Banking sector may be barely two decades old since the establishment of the free market economy,

 

but Nib International Bank seems determined to be ahead of the curve. This week NIB announced that its President Amerga Kassa will be stepping down from his position effective January 1, 2013. Amerga had been with the bank through difficult and prosperous times, first as a founding committee member during its formation and after its establishment as Deputy General Manager from May 1999 to May 2006 and later as President from June 2006 onwards. Amerga will be replaced by Kibru Fondja, a seasoned banker, who joined NIB in July 2010 as Vice President for Administration, Accounts and Finance.

 

Back in October 28, 1999, Ethiopia was in the middle of a bloody war with Eritrea, that ended a year later, leaving the budding private banking industry reeling from its own mini crisis, with the dissolution of the Horn International Bank which had substantial Eritrean ownership.
Quite a big step was then made by Nib International Bank Share Company (NIB) to enter the banking sector, with 27.6 million birr paid up capital, and an authorized capital of 150 million birr with 717 shareholders.
It is time now for one of the architects behind the success of NIB, its president Amerga Kassa, 65, to voluntarily step down on December 31st from the position he held since June 2006. He is to be replaced by Kibru Fondja who served the bank as Vice President of Finance and Administration for the last two years. Kibru is married and father of three children. ..
Kibru Fondja, who is now appointed acting president of the bank has big boots to fill, but brings in hefty experience having worked in the banking sector for more than 27 years, of which 25 years were spent at various levels at the state owned Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE).
Starting as a junior officer in credit department in 1985, he saw himself climbing through different levels that include 17 years in the research and planning department, then transiting to the position of deputy manager, projects monitoring and evaluation division where he worked for three years.
He ended his career at DBE on July 2010, where he was working as a Manager for Branch Operations and Project Management Department.
Kibru who earned his diploma in Plant Science and Technology from AAU in October 1976 completely changed his field and joined the Economics Department. He earned his first degree with economics from the Addis Ababa University (AAU) in November 1993 and his masters in Economic Policy Management in June 2000. 
“Kibru is a good banker, and as such will help the bank in its next phases of development without a problem. I believe he will take the bank to a greater height,” Amerga said about his successor. 
Amerga reflects on his stay and plan  
The news of Amerga’s retirement may have come as a bit of a surprise to many people including the media but he said that he wanted to retire early. “I will continue to work in other unofficial roles at the bank at any given time together with the board and the administration, in order to keep up the strength and security of the institution,” he said.
Amerga however noted that his retirement plan will not lead him to disassociate himself from activities connected with finance and banking which has taken the best part of his adult life.
“It’s a planned event, it didn’t happen at once, I put the request to the board of directors in September 2012, as part of the board’s and my desire for the transition of the position and rotation which has been worked at various levels for quite a while,” said Amerga adding that the board made its decision in mid October, but asked him to stay for three months to find a suitable replacement for the position.
Amerga Kassa spent a lot of time in banking starting at the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) the regulatory body of financial institutions, starting as a clerk and ending at a managerial position at the foreign banking department. He then moved to the private banking sector joining Awash International Bank (AIB) working for three years as vice deputy manager and member of the board of directors.
After exiting AIB he joined NIB starting from its pre-foundation stage to its status today, “giving unreserved and uninterrupted professional service, to make the bank one of the biggest private banks in the country for the last 15 years,” say his colleagues. 

“No regrets, just wishes”
On the question of post-retirement plans Amerga said, “we will cross the bridge when we reach it!” Although, he said he has no set plan to do a specific activity for now other than passing his time with his family members as well as “reading newspapers while sipping coffee, a task that will take some of his spare time,” he joked. He also said that he will assist with the bank’s activity, management, and board in his spare time.
Amerga further stated that he doesn’t have regrets over things he should have done and didn’t do. But “I would have liked if I was able to see the result of the second five year strategic plan and the completion of the construction of the joint Headquarters of NIB Bank and Insurance”.
The construction of the 33-storey NIB’s headquarters  is expected to start in 2013 on a 3,682 square meters of land around Mexico Square near Bedlu Building, with its cost expected to top more than 600 million birr.
An official of Nib International Bank said that Amerga will be remembered for his tireless devotion to his work, his fearlessness when it comes to challenges and his propensity to try novel ideas and things.
He also said the new acting bank president is expected to face task such as fulfilling the bank’s five year strategic plan, keep its profitability, sustain customer satisfaction with the bank, and strengthen and diversify its foreign exchange sources.
Amerga on his part thanked all who helped him while he was a working professional as well as during his stay with NIB for the bank’s strength and the stage it has reached today.

Kibru takes charge  
Kibru said that NIB is one of the veterans of the private banking sector and the man he’s replacing is one “who made the bank what it is today, dedicated his time, knowledge and energy unreservedly, making tangible contribution to make it become one of the most profitable private banks in the country, will not be an easy job”. 
“The next stage in the evolution of the bank will be undertaking diligently and professionally the task Amerga has left behind,” said Kibru adding that Amerga was a man who has shaped and molded NIB since its foundation and “even after his retirement, he is expected to give the necessary assistance in terms of advice.”

“Position of acting President to be looked into in the future” 
One point of interest was why the new position is noted as ‘acting’ and the consent of NBE to the new appointment.
Amerga replied that the acting president position is a decision by the board of directors as there cannot be two presidents at one time. Kibru will act as the president and NBE will be involved only when the acting position is requested to be transitioned into a permanent position.

“Challenges remain, despite progress” 
One point which both men discussed was opportunities and challenges in the coming New Year 2013; NIB and other financial institutions are expected to face fierce competition in this age of Ethiopia’s burgeoning financial industry as well as the increasingly interconnected globalized world.  
Amerga, drawing from his experience, said the challenge NIB and its local competitors face is both internal and external, with the internal one being the traditional orientation of banks that makes it difficult to modernize the financial system.
“Ethiopia’s payment system is cash based, so if you want to buy a commodity that needs a hefty amount of money, you need to take a sack full of money with you,” said Amerga adding that in other parts of the world paper money has been replaced with plastic money leading it to an efficient and fast cashless society.
In this respect the National bank of Ethiopia introduced a national payment modernization system whereby it instructed all local banks to have a core banking solution, which is essential for technological transition, for utilities such as Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and Point of Sale (POS).
NIB also played its part in making Ethiopia less of a cash dependent society. In July 2012 with two other private banks, Awash International Bank  and United Bank, it formed a consortium called Premier Switch Solution S.C (PSS), aimed at providing shared ATMs, POS, Mobile Banking and e-Commerce services on a 24/7 basis.
The company started its operation by installing 60 ATMs and 300 POS in major business districts. It also plans to install 40 ATMs and 300 POS every year for the coming five years. 
The banks had signed a contract with S2M, a Moroccan company that won the bid to create an electronic payment system in November 2011. The system developed by S2M will allow customers of any of the three banks to use their credit card to withdraw money from an ATM installed on any branch of the three banks.
It is the first time that banks have realized an integrated card payment system. The system is also expected to increase the competitive edge of the banks.
“Our country’s banking system hasn’t been fully monetized yet, and for a country the size of Ethiopia, where much of its area hasn’t been fully reached, to make its people benefit from the banking system and adopt a savings scheme is one challenge,” Amerga said explaining the challenge Ethiopia faces in this particular case.
“Saving is a prerequisite for development, and as a nation we can make development projects from savings, if we develop the culture to save. If one thinks for tomorrow and restrain from overspending, there will be savings, presumably through bank deposits, thus creating thrust in the society in a trustworthy banking system,” said Amerga.
On a different note, he further explained an external challenge the bank could face and which could affect it indirectly through its foreign correspondent banks, is the euro crisis, economic destabilization of some countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, and the anemic growth in the US. He nevertheless said the economic crisis was a blessing in disguise to Ethiopia, because the economy wasn’t totally integrated with the international financial system. 
Kibru on his part stated that bank customers nowadays expect a wide array of services, and in order to fulfill this, banks have to devise plans to advance with the technology.
“NIB is working on a plan for a new strategy, new face and with new spirit,” said Kibru adding that it is currently working on its five year strategic plan expected to be implemented from the current Ethiopian fiscal year 2012/13 to 2016/17, using an internationally recognized technology bought from the Swiss firm TEMENOS Group AG.
NIB had announced in November this year that it made a net profit of 286.2 million birr in the last Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2011/12, an increase of more than 16 percent from the previous fiscal year 2010/11.
It currently has 62 branches, two foreign exchange bureaus, more than 3,900 shareholders and 2,180 employees.