John Janes ‘retires’ to Kabul
His forte is providing banking services for businesses and individuals in what, as he puts it, “are euphemistically called challenging markets.”
His forte is providing banking services for businesses and individuals in what, as he puts it, “are euphemistically called challenging markets.” In the 1980s John Janes manned Standard Chartered’s outpost in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In 1992 he launched the bank’s operation in Cambodia, while Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were still roaming the local jungles.
StanChart deployed Janes in 1993 to manage its activities in Sierra Leone, which was torn by civil war; he recalls flying by helicopter into besieged towns to collect deposits from ner-vous merchants. In 1996 he had to shut the bank down and flee the capital, Freetown, just before it fell to rebels. Janes spent the next six years running Standard Chartered Zambia out of Lusaka and retired from the bank in 2002.
So how is this intrepid banker spending his well-deserved leisure years? The 53-year-old Briton has accepted a temporary assignment from his old employer to open up a StanChart office in Kabul -- the first foreign bank to open a true branch in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led coalition routed the Taliban in December 2001. Set in the relatively well-to-do Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, the office has ten employees, three teller windows, one ATM and about $1 million in new deposits.
The Mombasa, Kenyaborn Janes plans to spend a year getting the branch established. After that he and his wife, Kathy, intend to return to Zambia, where he runs Hurford Investments, a consulting firm focused on emerging markets, and serves as chairman of the Lusaka Stock Exchange. The “old bush banker,” as he calls himself, says: “I get huge satisfaction out of completing something in difficult circumstances, and I sincerely hope I can help improve the quality of life in Afghanistan by introducing quality banking. But I am a bit impatient to return home and just go sailing.”