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Mandiri and the necessity of reinvention

Euromoney spent a day in February in Jakarta with Bank Mandiri executives past and present as they approach the bank’s 20th year of existence. In our own 50th anniversary year, it was a useful reminder of just how much things can change in a relatively short space of time.

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It is easy to forget just how drastic the Asian financial crisis was in Indonesia. History has it that the crisis started in Thailand, which is true, but Indonesia took the hardest hit, the sharpest devaluation. In mid 1997, a dollar bought 2,600 rupiah; there were days in the subsequent months that the rate hit 14,000. By May 2008 there were riots in the streets of Jakarta. Suharto, the ultimate strongman, fell after 31 years as president.

It was in the midst of this carnage that the newly minted Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, IBRA, hit upon the idea of wedging four troubled state-owned banks together to create a new one. It was the most miserable genesis of a bank imaginable. All four were in trouble for one reason or another; they had little obvious synergy in combination; and the new bank was launched into the teeth of a gale, with corporate balance sheets wrecked, the economy in pieces, exchange rates pinballing around from one day to the next and the whole country undergoing the greatest political change in its history.

It didn’t work straight away, and mis-steps as well as successes have followed, but last month Mandiri announced a 21% increase in its 2018 net profit to Rp25 trillion ($1.78

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