Larry Kalala started his banking career with Grindlays which was taken over by the Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ) in 1985; but it would appear that ANZ was principally interested in Grindlays' India and Pacific region. The sad fact was that, back in the mid-1980s, few saw the potential that Africa's financial sector represented. The ANZ group, more or less, left its newly acquired Africa division to fend for itself. In Kalala's words, they treated Africa "like an orphaned child or a poor relation".
Things changed in 1991 when South Africa attained its democratic dispensation and Zambia's then president, Frederick Chiluba, liberalised the country's economy.
That allowed Standard Bank of South Africa to buy ANZ's Africa division in 1992--including its Zambian operations--and Kalala found himself employed by Standard Bank Group. At that time he was working in the UK, looking after ANZ's corporate clients headquartered in the UK with operations in Africa, but the new owners soon recalled him from London to Lusaka since there was no longer any connection between ANZ and Standard Bank. Moreover, Standard Bank was already established in London.
That represented something of a shock--suddenly his salary reverted to local conditions of service, something like one tenth of his remuneration in the UK. "You know, it's easy to adjust to a salary increase," Kalala observes with a laugh, "but when it falls so quickly, that's a different matter."
It was these circumstances that made an offer from the Lusaka-headquartered Meridien International Bank to join them as director of marketing and credit almost too good to turn down. "They gave me a forex salary that went straight into my London account to cover the children's school fees and gave me a nice car as well as covering my expenses in Zambia, so it was extremely attractive," he says.
But barely had he got his feet under his new desk in 1993 when there was a run on the bank, in 1995, and the bank had to be liquidated, amidst allegations of high level fraud involving some $95m in misappropriated deposits.
Following Meridien's closure, and after Kalala completed a two year interlude at First Alliance and Cavmont Merchant Bank, Standard Bank's Africa division head, Tony Wright, asked him to rejoin Stanbic Zambia. Offering Kalala the post of deputy MD, Wright said "you've been naughty and left us, but we don't want you working for any more funny banks. Come back home ..."