Sunday, January 21, 2018

The only viable step for First Citizens board


unenviable position: Larry Howai

Mark Fraser

 On this Holy Easter weekend as Chris­ti­ans worldwide celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I am indeed saddened the First Citizens bank’s board of directors has, to date, not found the courage or the decency to do the honourable thing by resigning. 

Don’t they get it? Don’t they understand the public has lost confidence in them and, as such, it is untenable for them to continue in office? 

Don’t they understand the time has come for the Augean stables to be cleansed of the unsuitable and the unworthy while, at the same time, the Finance Minister, Larry Howai, must be afforded a free hand (devoid of political interference) to select a new board of his choice? The public is not stupid and everyone is waiting with bated breath. 

I hope I am pre-empting them and maybe, just maybe, they are waiting until the annual meeting on May 12 to bow out gracefully (en mass?). Whatever the reason for their reticence, should they have other ideas, it seems to me the Finance Minis­ter, as corpo­ration sole, along with the bank’s other 12,000-plus minority shareholders, will have no choice but to vote them out.

According to the bank’s website, “Commitment to Integrity” is one of its core values. It states, “Integrity is the cornerstone of our business. We conduct our affairs in a manner consistent with the highest ethical standards. To meet this commitment, we communicate in an honest, factual and accurate manner...and show respect for each other and the communities we serve.”

Clearly, this has not been borne out of the events of the past few weeks. I believe it was the late 16th century, English poet and playwright William Shakes­peare who once wrote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. But omitted, and the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries”—an unmista­kable reference to a confluence of events or one of the many crossroads of life that we all encounter from time to time, very similar to what this present FCB board is now facing. The question is therefore: “Quo vadis?” or, loosely translated, “Where do we go from here?” 

Truth be told, we need a whole new management team, one that demonstrates moral and ethical leadership and truly puts its customers, shareholders and, not some but all, its employees first—leadership that is based on integrity and candour, has an appreciation for honesty of thought and action, and a steadfast devotion to principle and fundamental soundness. 

I must admit I do not envy the position in which Mr Howai now finds himself, given his former incarnation as bank’s CEO, his pre­sent role as the board’s line minister and Minister of Finance, and the urgent need to satisfy the legitimate concerns of a politically unforgiving public. 

However, like many of us, I am sure Mr Howai must recognise by now that this is the only viable step for restoring confidence and trust, those twin intangibles that you cannot put your finger on but you know when they aren’t there.

Peter Permell

Minority shareholder rights advocate

via e-mail