Ruth Zaipuna’s One Year in Office: Reflections and Look Ahead

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One year on from her appointment as Chief Executive Officer of NMB Bank Plc., Ruth Zaipuna is excited about the journey that lies ahead for the country’s leading financial institution.

Monday August 30 2021

Dar es Salaam. One year on from her appointment as Chief Executive Officer of NMB Bank Plc., Ruth Zaipuna is excited about the journey that lies ahead for the country’s leading financial institution.

Within a few months into her reign, the Bank’s disciplined strategic execution began to become increasingly visible in the Bank’s results, with the emphasis on the key strategic pillars ensuring the Bank regained its market leading position at end of 2019. One year on, the Bank continues to demonstrate strong performance momentum off the back of a historic achievement in 2020 – where the Bank registered profitability of TZS 206 billion, the first time that any bank in the Tanzanian market crossed the TZS 200 billion profitability mark – ensuring healthy dividend returns to shareholders.

Today, the bank continues to lead in the market and demonstrates resilience in the wake of on- going COVID-19 pandemic, with the disciplined execution of the Bank’s strategic plan, enhanced customer value propositions, and a continued emphasis on efficiency driving further gains across key financial metrics and overall increased value addition to the country and the communities.

While Ruth’s stamp on NMB Bank is now more clearly drawn, where does the Bank stand under her reign, and what’s in store for the banking giant in the years ahead?

A little over a year ago, Ms. Ruth Zaipuna became the first Tanzanian CEO of NMB Bank Plc.

Her first year has been one of great transition, rich and rewarding experience for her, for the NMB team and the broader stakeholder community of NMB Bank. It has also come with challenges, tough decisions, and historic moments of great significance for the organization.

Reflecting on her first year at the helm, Ruth commented:

‘’I was humbled to have been appointed CEO of this great organization which has a rich heritage and a long history of transforming lives’’.

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“My first year as CEO of NMB Bank has deepened my respect and admiration for my colleagues, the Bank’s broader stakeholder community, and our customers whom we have the pleasure to serve. I am proud of what we have accomplished over the past year and hold great hope and expectation for the future that lies ahead.’’

Ruth added ‘‘The one word that could summarize my first year is ‘‘Grateful’’. I am grateful to all who have supported me personally and professionally in this journey. I am grateful to the amazing team at NMB, who inspire me every single day. I am grateful to our customers who have continuously challenged the Bank to be the best it can be, to think creatively and come up with unique solutions. I am grateful to our valued shareholders and stakeholders, for without them we wouldn’t be. I am grateful to my family who supports me through thick and thin. I am grateful!”

A year like no other

Indeed, it has been a year like no other.

Prior to her appointment as the CEO, Ruth Zaipuna held the position of Acting CEO from October 2019 until her formal appointment in 2020.

During the interim period, Ruth’s passionate leadership ensured stability and continued growth of the Bank through focused execution of the Bank’s key strategic pillars and good governance.

In August of 2020, following a very competitive selection process, Ruth was appointed by the Bank to be its CEO. During the Interview with the Citizen, she stated that her appointment was a great achievement that she is proud of because of the following reasons:

It is a testament of the growing riches of local talent in Tanzania.

From a gender perspective it reaffirms the commitment and belief that women are capable to achieve great things, equally as their male counterparts.

Finally, the appointment underscores her early childhood learnings that hard work pays.

Indeed, she worked hard and diligently throughout the transition period by ensuring that the Bank regains its market leadership, and that hard work was fairly rewarded through her formal appointment.

She further stated that

‘‘As the new CEO, it was gratifying to assume the helm of an organization that has a rich history, strong performance track record, a knowledgeable and dedicated staff, committed shareholders and a base of diversified clientele’’

From the onset, her vision as a CEO was------to take the Bank on a performance with purpose journey, and to leave a positive imprint on the society by playing a steering role in Tanzania’s development agenda.

One year on, her vision is truly underway as evidenced by key milestones achieved during the period:

In 2020, the Bank registered a Profit After Tax (PAT) of TZS 206 billion, the first time that any bank in the market crossed the 200 bln profitability mark. The strong performance “affirms the disciplined execution of our strategic plan, ensuring that the Bank’s customers’ needs are being addressed through relevant solutions”. She said

The Bank’s balance sheet grew 8% YoY to TZS 7,098 billion in 2020 (crossing 7 trillion mark) with a significant growth in loans and advances of 14% YoY and an increase in customer deposits of 8% YoY to TZS 5,325 billion in 2020. This success was achieved through enhanced emphasis on customer needs.

From a broad perspective, the Bank’s achievements during this short period were largely attributed to: (1) a clearly articulated and cascaded strategy that continues to be well executed, (2) a unified and dedicated team committed towards a common goal – that is delivering superior results, (3) strong leadership, and (4) an unwavering commitment towards innovation and customer centricity.

Due to strong performance achieved, the Bank provided healthy returns to shareholders, with a TZS 137 dividend per share amounting to TZS 68.5 billion total dividend payment for 2020.

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NMB House in Dar es Salaam. PHOTO | FILE

Not without challenges

Despite the significant achievements, the period under review was not without its own set of challenges.

Asked about the various challenges she encountered during the period; Ruth commented “All leaders encounter different challenges at some point in their tenures. What’s important is being able to rise to the challenges and equipping yourself with the tools to overcome them. I firmly believe in the power of leveraging the strength of your team to address challenges. As a leader, you must know the value that each of your team member brings to the table, and you must encourage others to play to their strengths well.”

Indeed, early in her tenure, the Bank contended with an exodus of senior staff to competitors, which left gaps in key leadership positions. The Bank quickly moved to fill the key vacancies by promoting from within, leveraging on the Bank’s strong talent pool which had been built through internal development programs. Ruth said, “we recognized the strong talent that was already at the Bank and provided an enabling environment for them to grow and develop their core competencies. Our talent rose to the challenge, and we’re seeing the fruit of their continued efforts in the strong results the Bank continues to deliver.”

The global COVID-19 pandemic also posed far reaching challenges across the global economy, with the Bank taking several measures to protect staff, customers, and ensuring wide availability of banking services. Ruth said “the pandemic presented a unique set of challenges that impacted all facets of society. The Bank prioritized wellness and safety of customers and staff, and wide availability of banking services during the pandemic period. She said “We invoked the Bank’s business continuity plan to ensure safety and continued provision of banking services.

We also worked very closely with our clients and supported borrowers who were adversely impacted by the pandemic in line with the Central Bank’s relief measures.

Ruth concluded, “I am grateful for the resilience, agility and adaptability demonstrated by our organization during this period. As the world continues to deal with the challenges from the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Bank is equally committed to ensuring the right level of support is given to customers and whilst continuing to emphasize continued safety and wellness of staff and customers.”

Regional plans

The Bank continues to assess both local and non-domestic opportunities for future expansion in line with long-term growth ambitions. The Tanzanian market presents attractive and viable opportunities for growth. Moreover, the Bank has in place robust regional expansion growth strategies, which are well embedded in the Bank’s strategic plan up to 2025. “We are excited about the future and are committed to ensuring we continue providing excellent customer experience through products and services that address customers’ needs, here in Tanzania, and possibly beyond our borders if the right opportunity presents itself”.

In her closing remarks, Ruth said: ‘‘Continuing the successes of the past 12 months, we hope to be able to continually build and further improve NMB Bank as the Bank of choice and a great place to work, for its clients and employees respectively. As an organization we value being forward-thinking and providing the market with progressive solutions, which involve continuous efforts across all channels’’.

‘‘While it has been a steep learning curve and there have been a few challenges, (which is a positive thing and essential for personal growth), I consider first year as the CEO of NMB Bank to be a privilege.

Looking forward to the near future, Ruth and the NMB Team is excited to build upon the successes and learnings acquired during the journey so far.