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Kim launches first World Bank restructuring salvo

12 February 2013


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After winning over staff and shareholders in his first six months as World Bank president (see Update 83), Jim Yong Kim launched a publicly unexplained reorganisation of senior management at the Bank in late December, ahead of an expected strategy overhaul and deeper restructuring.

Contrary to usual practice with management changes, the only public announcement of the pre-Christmas moves was a change of titles on an online Bank senior management list. A leaked copy of a staff memo, posted publicly by US NGO Bank Information Center, shows that Kim has side-lined former managing director Mahmoud Mohieldin. He has been made the Bank’s special envoy on the UN millennium development goals and financial development, which relieves him of any oversight of the Bank’s operational or functional units. Sources close to the Bank said Mohieldin, who served as investment minister under Egypt’s deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak (see Update 77, 72), showed little interest in the Bank’s mission.

With the relegation of Mohieldin, the Bank is left with just two managing directors, British national Caroline Anstey and Indonesian Sri Mulyani Indrawati. The leaked memo describes how Kim has formed a new senior management team which will meet weekly. It includes the managing directors along with the chief economist, the heads of the Bank’s two private sector arms, the Bank’s general counsel and corporate secretaries, and the newly appointed senior vice president for change management Pamela Cox.

Cox, a US national who has had a 32 year career in the Bank, was most recently East Asia and Pacific regional vice president, having previously spent seven years as vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean. Sources close to the Bank said that speculation about the reasons for her appointment had three main themes. Some cited her links to the US Democratic party – her husband is a senior party staffer in the US Congress – and implied that Kim may be trying to reward the Democratic party for his own appointment to the Bank presidency. Another theme was that she is liked by the US Treasury because of her ability to get things done within the Bank. Finally, some pointed to Cox’s pending retirement in 18 months, which would put a hard cap on the time Kim’s restructuring will take. It also provides an easy out should Cox’s stewardship of change within the Bank falter. Cox did not respond to requests for her opinion on the Bank’s restructuring process.

Further changes in middle-management

The changes to senior management prefigure a larger restructuring exercise. After the annual meetings announcements of new strategic directions, Kim has worked on a series of internal processes with management consultants Michael Porter and McKinsey & Company, including an institution wide “organisational health survey” to get staff input and a series of management meetings involving middle and upper management. It was reportedly the first time that the Bank Group has ever held a single meeting that involved all 47 staff with the title vice president and above.

The coming changes may prove contentious. By end January the full results of the organisational health survey had yet to be shared with all staff or even all middle management, let alone the public, though summary ‘storyboards’ were on display. Sources close to the Bank say that a cull of some vice presidents is expected as Kim seeks to streamline Bank procedures and bureaucracy. Already it has been announced internally that Kim has engaged a search firm to replace Tamar Manuelyan Atinc as the vice president in charge of human development. Rumours circulated that Kim may even seek to appoint his former colleague at NGO Partners in Health, Paul Farmer, to the role.

The Bank did make one public change in December when it announced that French national Bertrand Badré would take the role of managing director for finance and chief financial officer. Badré is currently serving as the chief financial officer at private commercial bank Société Générale, having previously worked at US investment bank Lazard and the French National Audit Office. He will join the World Bank in March, and join the senior management team. In early February the Bank also publicly announced the move of Joachim von Amsburg from head of operational policy and country services to vice president of concessional finance and global partnerships, another move that was internally revealed in the leaked December memo.

More changes in personnel are expected when the Bank comes to the implementation of the as yet undefined strategy for ending poverty by a specific date (see Update 83). Already some Bank staff appear to have lost their admiration for Kim because of the supposed heavy-handed approach to the restructuring. Complaints have also continued over the failure of the Bank to promote diversity in senior management (see Update 83, 66). A letter from the executive committee of the group Justice for Blacks, a group of current and former Bank staff, to US president Barack Obama outlines: “The fact that black vice presidents are always relegated to Africa region, corporate secretary or some other unit such as Institutional Integrity shows the Bank’s intractable racial discrimination problem. Not a single black has been VP for the Bank’s network or operational vice presidential units where the Bank’s strategic policies are formulated. Not a single black African has been appointed regional chief economist for Africa or for any other region.” Kim’s restructuring so far has done nothing to address their concerns.