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Ex-Barclays boss Bob Diamond’s bank calls it quits on Rwandan venture

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Once a favorite with the government, Atlas Mara, owned by former Barclays boss Bob Diamond, has pulled out of Banque populaire du Rwanda.

According to the African Intelligence website, the change of ownership of Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) should not put the bank’s executive Maurice Toroitich on an unfamiliar footing. The new majority shareholder is his former employer, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB). Its CEO George Odhiambo was previously the head of development for the bank from 2014 to 2017 and worked directly with Toroitich. KCB bought a 62% share in BPR from Atlas Mara on 26 November.

Diamond’s Rwandan networks

For Atlas Mara’s founder, Bob Diamond, the sale of its BPR shares closes the chapter on his Rwandan adventure. The Anglo-American banker’s group acquired the 62% interest in BPR in 2015. Although he stepped down as chair of Atlas Mara in February 2019, Diamond has kept one foot in the door as a board member. The businessman was introduced to Paul Kagame by his friend, US financier Marc Holtzman, now chairman of the country’s largest bank, Bank of Kigali. Diamond, who once led the British banking giant Barclays, enjoyed good relations with the Rwandan government.

A leg up from Rwanda Development Board

The Rwanda Development Board gave Diamond his first business opportunity in Rwanda, selling him two-thirds of its corporate banking activities in Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) in 2014. At the time, Atlas Mara planned to create the largest bank in the country by merging BRD with BPR.

In 2016, Diamond picked Sanjeev Anand, a banker of Indian origin living in Rwanda, to first run the Rwandan bank and then all of Atlas Mara’s banking activities. Anand only stayed with the group for two years. He is currently chairman of the Rwandan sovereign fund Agaciro Development Fund, launched by Kagame in August 2012. Prior to joining BPR at the time, Diamond was in charge, the banker was director of another leading Rwandan financial institution, I & M Bank.

(Source: African Intelligence)

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