For some reason, I am not that surprised. If you’re honest, you will admit that you’re not that surprised too. It is being reported that Dr Lance Mambondiani, BancABC managing director, has been placed on forced leave pending investigations into alleged malpractices.
It is highly unlikely that he will be returning to BancABC after that ‘leave.’ The reports say Lance fell out with the BancABC board of directors “over a protracted period on issues relating to misgovernance and fraudulent practices.”
Those are serious allegations. Fraudulent practices? I did not see that coming. However, let us remember we don’t know for certain that he engaged in any fraud. This is all according to sources inside the bank and until it’s been proven in a court of law, it’s just speculation.
There are conflicting reports though. They say yes, Lance is on his way out but they say there was no fallout with the board. They say his departure may have something to do with Atlas Mara divesting from their banking assets in several African countries leading to CEOs leaving their posts.
I hope for Lance’s sake that it’s this and not the former.
Lance’s rollercoaster tenure
Dr Lance has been at the helm of BancABC since July 2019. It is unfortunate for him but some of us associate his tenure with downtimes. Who can forget the infamous VISA-gate scandal where BancABC’s VISA card services were down for more than 48 hours?
We got some crazy testimonies from BancABC customers who were left stranded in foreign lands because of it. You will remember that Dr Lance apologised for that mess but the damage was already done.
Of course, we can’t boil his tenure down to just the VISA mishap. There were other systems challenges that did not involve VISA. There was a 6-month stretch from around September 2021 to March 2022 where BancABC just couldn’t catch a break.
However, Dr Lance cannot take sole credit for BancABC systems challenges, they happened before he joined the bank too. Although, when one considers the systems challenges that Steward Bank regularly dealt with during his tenure as CEO there, one can rush to conclude he is the common denominator.
It wasn’t all bad
Okay, that’s enough of the missteps and misfortunes he faced. What Dr Lance is great at is thinking outside the box. I guess that’s what made BancABC hire him after he ‘parted ways’ with Steward Bank. Lance is not your typical banker, content with where banking is. No, he read too many Silicon Valley books and believes in disruptions.
You will remember his famous quote, “banking is necessary, banks are not.” I don’t imagine seasoned bankers took kindly to that statement. Those fatcat long-serving bank executives believe the opposite and are the reason why worldwide, banks can mess up and still count on governments to bail them out with taxpayer money.
So, I move that if we are to remember anything about Lance’s tenure as BancABC managing director, let’s remember CityHopper. The local remittance service for which they partnered with Pick’n’Pay was launched in September 2020.
After only a year, CityHopper had processed over US$10 million. That was quite the achievement. The domestic remittance space is a bit more crowded these days but CityHopper still trudges along fine.
The other example of Lance thinking outside the box was the DialAVisa service where customers could apply for and receive a prepaid VISA card at their front door. It was the perfect idea during lockdown times. It has since been copied by other banks.
A wild ride
There are more positive things that happened during his tenure. If he is to take the blame for the negatives, he should get his flowers for the positives as well.
Lance has had quite the ride in the banking industry in Zimbabwe but I fear his stint with BancABC may be his last in that sector. I don’t see any bank engaging him now after he’s been let go by two banks in the country.
I’m not worried for him though. He has his qualifications, experience and contacts. He should land on his feet.
BancABC has rubbished claims that Lance and some other executives resigned because of an impending disposal of the bank by Atlas Mara. That is NOT the case.
Lance was placed “on forced leave and resigned two days after an external firm was engaged to conduct an investigation into his malpractices which were brought to the attention of the board by whistleblowers.”
The list of malpractices he is being accused of is long;
- violating the bank’s policies and procedures related to the procurement of service providers who were engaged without following proper procedures for his (Mambondiani)’s interests
- abuse of the bank’s holiday homes and lodges at resorts centres in Kariba and Nyanga
- abuse of banking facilities
- abuse of the bank’s assets including vehicles
- governance breaches and management delinquency