Leadership through the M&A Mirage Sagicor Bank’s Challenge

merging 1Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is a feature of the free enterprise landscape. The reasons for this activity are diverse; from strategic to operational, from stabilizing an industry to satisfying the ego of a CEO, M&A activities are prevalent.

Whether it’s the embattled acquisition of Time Warner by Comcast, or two small real-estate businesses merging in a slowing economy, the issues in an M&A are complex and the odds in favor of success are slim.merging II

The recent acquisition of Royal Bank of Canada’s Jamaican operations by Sagicor Group Jamaica is of particular consequence because of its size and potential impact on customers and investors alike.

What eventually became RBC Royal Bank Jamaica Limited emerged from a series of mergers and acquisitions. Sagicor now steps to the wicket and will seek to succeed where many before have failed.

M&A Failure

Succeeding in M&A is difficult business. A leading global expert of M&A, Orit Gadiesh, now Chairman of consulting firm Bain and Company has pointed out that “50-70% of the acquisitions actually destroy shareholder value”. She identified five root causes of M&A failure; 1) poor understanding of the strategic levers, 2) overpayment for the acquisition, 3) inadequate integration planning and execution, 4) a void in executive leadership and strategic communication, and 5) a severe cultural mismatch.

M&A Success

Gadiesh explains further in her article, ‘The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of merger success’ factors necessary for a successful M&A.

  1. Setting rationale: 6 key rationales are active investing, growing scale, building adjacencies, broadening scope, redefining business, and redefining industry.
  2. Letting the ‘why’ inform the ‘how’: the right strategic rationale will inform the preparation and valuation of the merger, what leadership and communication style to adopt, and how to plan for post-merger integration.
  3. Fusing at full speed: set clear milestones, require active management to achieve these milestones, act fast. A sense of urgency is essential during the early stage.
  4. Keeping customers in the forefront: teams from both sides of the transaction must work together to develop a new marketing plan for the combined company.
  5. Communicating the vision: executives need to communicate forcefully the new company’s vision, and motivate people to channel their energies in the direction desired.
  6. Managing three phases of integration: 1- Set the stage, 2- Design the new company, 3- Make the integration happen.


Success of an M&A relies heavily on leadership.

MA Pyramid

Jean-Pierre Garnier, former executive director and CEO of GlaxoSmithKline pointed that “In any merger or acquisition, investment banks and equity analysts will provide you with a plethora of figures quantifying the synergistic strategic benefits of the union. Yet what determines whether a merger succeeds or fails is really its people.’ Leadership is at the heart of getting people to work together towards a common objective.

A useful framework for improving leadership capabilities during an M&A is the Six Domains of Leadership model proposed by Sim Sitkin ,Allan Lind of Duke University and Christopher P. Long of Washington University, St. Louis

Six Domains of Leadership

Personal: Enhance and project your leadership capability. Be authentic and demonstrate dedication.
Relational: Show that you respect and understand your team.
Contextual: Build team identity and purpose.
Inspirational: Cultivate a team mindset for excellence and innovation.
Supportive: Protect your people from political minefields.
Responsible: Take responsibility as a leader.

Early and continuous communication is critical in any M&A. You cannot over-communicate, but you must be consistent and stay on message. Whisperings and rumors have a life of their own and are mortal enemies to the successful M&A. Know whom MA Leadershipyour internal conspiracy theorists are and make an extra effort to be clear and direct with them. Group meetings should definitely be an integral part of your communication plan. Let as many people hear the same thing as possible. Create an opportunity for the parking lot speculation to be addressed directly. If you don’t know something say you don’t know, trust me, staff knows when you don’t know. Establishing and maintaining your credibility is essential.

Be very careful not to try to give too much comfort since it is likely that not everyone in the room is going to be retained after the merger. People give their energy and commitment to the organization. Treat them with honor and respect, and if they have to go, invest in preparing and supporting them for the exit. It will enhance the confidence of those who remain. People know, same knife that stick sheep stick goat.

Sagicor Bank

Beautiful rebranding notwithstanding, the outcome of the Sagicor Group acquisition is to be seen. Will we end up with the Blah experience of RBC or the Ahhh experience of Sagicor? Will the new bank be able to clear a plot beneath the feet of the twin colossi of NCB and Scotiabank, get some sunshine, and against the odds, grow profitably? Whatever the challenges, leadership will make the difference.

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