Bob Diamond Hires Vitalo From Barclays as CEO for Atlas Mara

Apr 08, 2014 8:27 am ET

(Updates with Vitalo’s career in fifth paragraph.)

April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Robert Diamond named former Barclays Plc colleague John Vitalo as chief executive officer of his African financial-services company, Atlas Mara Co-Nvest Ltd.

Vitalo, 49, has been Barclays’s Middle East and North Africa CEO since 2009, Atlas Mara said in a statement today. Before joining Barclays, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Vitalo ran Absa Capital, the investment-banking arm of the South African lender Barclays bought control of in 2005.

Diamond, who quit as Barclays’s CEO in 2012 after the U.K. bank was fined for manipulating benchmark interest rates, put $20 million of his own money into the firm as Atlas Mara raised $325 million in an initial public offering in December. The company said yesterday it was buying a stake in state-owned Development Bank of Rwanda after last week agreeing to acquire BancABC for as much as $265 million.

“As we continue to grow and attract more great assets, his ability to drive synergies and operational efficiencies will be invaluable,” Diamond said of Vitalo in the statement. “He is a business builder, deeply knowledgeable in the critical areas of technology and risk.”

Combat Ribbon

Vitalo joined Barclays Capital in 2002 as chief operating officer of global emerging markets, before taking the same position at the investment bank’s Rates business, according to information published by Absa. The Georgetown University graduate held a number of positions at Credit Suisse First Boston, including proprietary trader for the emerging markets group, before joining Barclays, it said.

Vitalo also served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1982 to 1986 and was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon while in Beirut, according to Absa.

Vitalo will lead Atlas Mara’s group executive committee, which also includes the firm’s head of strategy, Jyrki Koskelo, and Doug Munatsi, CEO of BancABC. No decision has been taken on where Vitalo, who worked in Dubai with Barclays, will be based, Atlas Mara said.

Diamond said BancABC, which offers financial services in Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, will provide a springboard for further acquisitions.

During his time at Barclays, Diamond was the part of the executive team that sought to boost the bank’s profitability by combining its African operations with those of South Africa’s Absa Group Ltd.

Atlas Mara also plans to sell securitized corporate loans in sub-Saharan Africa to international investors, Diamond said on April 2. Securitizing loans will open up one of the fastest- growing regions in the world to institutional investors and provide capital to businesses operating in Africa, he said.