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NCB hunting for new CEO

The search is on for a new CEO at Jamaica's largest bank, the National Commercial Bank (NCB).

This comes after yesterday evening's announcement that Septimus 'Bob' Blake has tendered his resignation.

The outgoing CEO told a stunned gathering, during a special press conference called by NCB, that he would be leaving of his own volition and that he was not pushed.

His last day of work will be tomorrow.

Blake's departure follows that of NCB Group CEO Patrick Hylton and CFO Dennis Cohen. The Gleaner understands that NCB Capital Markets CEO Steven Gooden has also handed in his resignation, and that his departure is to be announced in the coming days.

Blake resigned late Wednesday and indicated during the press conference that he would be exiting the NCB Group after a frank discussion with Chairman Michael Lee-Chin.

Seated beside Lee-Chin yesterday evening, he said he told the chairman that, after 21 years and seven months on the job at NCB, and after five years in the top job, it was time to allow for the smooth flow of the ongoing change process at Jamaica's most profitable bank.

“I told the chairman that, after that period of time, I felt that the time is right to step aside and give him room to do a total reset. I was convinced that this time is the right time. I felt that, with the changes in the organisation, it deserved an opportunity to evolve and move on,” Blake said.

Both men dismissed talk of any animosity.

At its annual general meeting in July, the Jamaica Bankers' Association (JBA) unanimously re-elected Blake as president. He said, in due course, he would be stepping down from that post.

The shock announcement came as preparations were under way for the hastily called press conference with Lee-Chin.

Former Scotiabank CEO Bruce Bowen will act as interim CEO for NCB, effective October 1.

Bowen had been brought in as special consultant to the NCB Board in mid-July, following the sudden departures of NCB Group CEO Patrick Hylton and CFO Dennis Cohen. The two men are still locked in tough negotiations surrounding a reported $13.8-billion payout.

Lee-Chin said they have not concluded all the outstanding items and that "the process is moving very slowly".

He said the bank has been focusing on a change management programme dubbed Efficiency, Governance and Customer Service (EGC). He said this will involve "delayering the organisation so that it will become closer to the customers while driving efficiency".

Pressed on whether this will mean another round of job redundancies at NCB, Lee-Chin answered in the affirmative but would not give specifics.

He said that, so far, the bank has selected 30 persons from various levels within NCB to act as EGC Champions, with a view to driving the change process at the bank.

“They weren't necessarily selected from the top tier but rather the middle and lower levels. What we did was to give them a voice in the system and power in the marketplace,” Lee-Chin said, adding that, while the search for a new NCB CEO will be global, there are already suitable candidates available internally.