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Congratulations Dalitso Kabambe, Kwanele Ngwenya

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The Malawi News of April 22 2017 had two interesting announcements on two key appointments in the banking sector in Malawi. The first page announced the exit of Charles Chuka as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and the entry of Dalitso Kabambe as the new Governor while on page nine, there was an announcement of the appointment of Kwanele Ngwenya as the Chief Executive Officer of the NBS Bank Limited replacing Bernadette Mandoloma.

Both men come to their respective positions with impeccable curriculum vitaes. Kabambe has served the Malawi government in various positions for 19 years and Ngwenya comes with experience in the banking sector spanning over 20 years. The Nutcracker congratulates these gentlemen in their respective appointments and believes that there is something special about these gentlemen to be considered for these positions. It is quite a distinguished achievement to get into these two offices in the banking sector which has its own challenges. On the other hand, let me say fare thee well Chuka and Mandoloma, only history will judge whether your time at the helms of these two institutions were successes or failures.

On January 31 2017, this column in a piece entitle “My choice for next RBM Governor”, The Nutcracker made it clear that there were no questions about the qualifications of Chuka for the job; he came to the job with close to 24 years of working at RBM and indeed eight years’ experience as senior adviser at the World Bank in Washington DC. It would be disingenuous to claim that The Nutcracker was fan of Chuka’s policies at the central bank. It is not a secret that this column did not agree with his economic philosophies. His monetarist approach to dealing with the economic affairs of the country was the source of this lack of support for Chuka. This country does not need a conventional monetarist to run RBM.

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Kabambe is a development economist. One therefore hopes that he will be a pro-growth unlike his predecessor who focused on taming inflation rather than easing the interest rates to boost spending and investment. It is therefore logical Malawians to ask if the entry for Kabambe is the turning point towards lower interest rates? Will this mark the new chapter that will usher a pro-growth shift in Malawi’s monetary policy? Having said this, it is important to appreciate that Kabambe alone cannot produce a panacea for all of Malawi’s economic ailments. The primary duty of a central bank is to influence the flow of money and credit. RBM is also a watchdog for banks.

Talking about banks, Ngwenya will not have a happy honeymoon at the NBS Bank Limited. This is a bank that has defied all the odds and made massive losses in an environment where almost all the other banks made massive profits. However, turning things around will not be an easy thing if the attitude of some of the NBS Bank employees continues to pay no attention to customer care.

To illustrate some of the issues he will have to address to make NBS Bank compete with the others in the market, let me share my experience with NBS Bank. The Nutcracker is one of the loyal clients of the bank that has been with the bank when it was just a society. Since the bank changed the account numbers some time last year, some ATM cards could not work with the old pin code. The Nutcracker was one of those affected. As of last week, this issue has not been sorted despite the repeated complaints to the bank. What is annoying is the attitude of some members of staff in the bank (Ginnery Corner is where the account is).

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The bank has since then produced two new pin codes that do not work. Instead of solving the issue, for some unknown reason, the people in the bank keep on producing new pin codes that do not work. On Thursday 20 April, The Nutcracker was forced to wait in the bank for over an hour after the bank was closed because the frontline staff who were assisting on the issue were very helpful and referred the issue to the manager and then some IT person came and assured The Nutcracker that the issue would be sorted out the same day; promised to personally deal with it and promised to get back to me on the same day. As usual, Thursday went and nothing happened, Friday came and went and nothing happened, and on Saturday morning after making an enquiry of the issue, it was reported that the person had decided to deal with the issue on Monday. No feedback or update was provided. It is this attitude that will sink the banks in Malawi. For some reason, banks in Malawi including NBS Bank treat customers as beggars to take out their own money with long waiting times and rude staff. With this type of staff attitude, Ngwenya will have a hard time convincing frustrated customers not to move their accounts to other banks.

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