Financial ExpertSpeak: Barclays Mauritius to serve as enabler for Africa’s economies
Ravin Dajee, Managing Director of Barclays, Mauritius, shared his views with AfricaMoney on significant opportunities in the African continent and highlighted the synergies that make Mauritius a creditable international financial center. (Image : IONNEWS)
Ravin Dajee, Managing Director of Barclays, Mauritius, spoke to AfricaMoney of the bank’s endeavor to provide customers a seamless and memorable banking experience. Our financial expert also highlighted that the incorporation of the bank represents one of the highest Foreign Direct Investment influxes into Mauritius. Moreover, he also shared his views regarding significant opportunities in the African continent and highlighted the synergies that make Mauritius a creditable international financial center.
Ravin Dajee sits on the Barclays Africa Executive Committee Board and has held previous responsibilities in Seychelles, Tanzania, Mozambique and Namibia.
Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview with AfricaMoney:
Can you tell us more about the remote account opening facility started by Barclays earlier this year?
At Barclays, we are driven by the pursuit of servicing our customer’s needs in the most convenient and efficient way possible, so that our customers have a seamless and memorable banking experience – at every point of interaction with Barclays. Remote Account opening, which we introduced in January this year, is one of the tangible ways we are revolutionising the entire account opening process which has historically been tedious and time consuming across the industry.
Remote Account opening involves our front line relationship colleagues being empowered with iPads which are used in a safe and secure manner to open client accounts, at a time and place driven by the customer’s needs and circumstances.
There are several benefits to this innovative approach which Barclays is pioneering in the local market. Firstly, customers can meet with their RM’s at a time and place that suits them. Secondly, the entire process of remote account opening is rendered paperless via the new technology. Finally, remote account opening is expedient and quick.
Whilst this new account opening system may look deceptively simple, the service required substantial investment and technical resources and is one of the examples of how Barclays, leveraging on our global presence and brand, is harnessing technology improving customer services.
As one of the 5 banks indicated by the Bank of Mauritius as systemically important to the Mauritius, what are the steps that Barclays is taking in view of its enhanced responsibility towards the island economy?
The emphasis on the systemic importance of banks is an international trend. In furtherance of this, the Bank of Mauritius has requested additional capital requirements to take effect from 2016.
For its part, Barclays Bank Mauritius Limited has been proactive and has worked closely with regulators locally and abroad to ensure the right balance. Barclays is in a very strong position in terms of capitalisation, largely as a result of the substantial injection of capital made for the incorporation of Barclays Bank Mauritius Limited in 2013 – which still represents one of the highest Foreign Direct Investments in Mauritius.
Barclays states its ambition to position itself as the bank of choice in the African continent. What is your long-term vision for Africa?
There is no doubt that Africa represents a considerable opportunity across many sectors and industries, and banking is no different. No other continent offers opportunities on such a grand scale, as Africa does. Africa’s potential is significant, and this has considerable implications for businesses and investors. However, despite the opportunities across Africa, there are also challenges that abound, and Barclays is in a prime position to assist business to counter these challenges, given its geographical footprint across Africa. For several decades, colleagues across Africa know the markets; they know the opportunities and the pitfalls. When one combines the Barclays brand with the extensive footprint we have across Africa, it is obvious that Africa is central to our ambitions, which ambition is aligned to a majority of our clients and customers.
In Africa, business opportunities are available across 54 diverse markets, and most with their own regulatory, political and tax regimes. This can pose a challenge, but change is happening. However opportunities are greater, as with the rise of a middle class over 300 million people, Africa’s fast moving consumer goods sector is on the rise, creating further investment opportunities in the FMCG sector.
In the retail segment, the opportunity for the banking industry in Africa lies both in the large unbanked population but also in emerging middle class segments as respective economies grow across the continent.
Barclays, goes beyond providing the ecosystem for enabling firm wanting to start business in Africa. Our focus is also towards being an enabler of Africa’s future as the socio-economic land of opportunities.
As one of the pioneers in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility in Mauritius, can you comment on the various initiatives of the bank in this sphere?
The impact we have on the communities in which we operate as a bank – and the wider society – is one of the key elements of how we assess our performance. Our Citizenship agenda and the focus on uplifting those in need and growing local economies, feature prominently in how we go about our business. I am proud of the strides Barclays Mauritius has made over the years to make a positive contribution to supporting the local community and growing the economy.
Finance and banking can play a critical role as a key enabler of social and economic progress when undertaken in the right way and our first Citizenship Report shows that Barclays is a stronger business with better prospects than at any time since the financial crisis, creating value for customers and clients, colleagues, and wider society. For Barclays, citizenship means we consider the impact of our day-to-day decisions on society, and act in a way that is positive for our customers and clients, shareholders, employees and communities – in the long term.
As regards Barclays Bank Mauritius Limited, throughout 2014, colleagues across the organisation have put their heart and soul into giving back to the community in record numbers. The central pillar of our Citizenship agenda is our annual Colours of Life initiative whereby Barclays partners with NGOs in Mauritius to make a positive difference to those in need.
As Mauritius is evolving as an International Financial Centre, what is the way forward for the island and what are your views on the Mauritian banking sector?
My view is that there has not been much progress in the past years around the IFC concept. I humbly believe that stakeholders must get together to rethink the fundamentals as it is important that we reshape the IFC concept by retaining things that make sense and doing away with some others.
Improvement is also needed in terms of the synergies and concerted approaches between operators and authorities. This coordination is particularly important to eliminate this unfair perception that Mauritius is a tax haven and this is what the banking industry has been promoting. The message is and should remain clear: Mauritius IS NOT a tax haven! We have around 10,000 global business companies registered in the entire island jurisdiction while there are more than 200,000 global businesses registered at only one address in Delaware as underlined by the New York Times. Yet, the easy targets remain the small IFCs and I think that it is high time that the Government, the BOI, regulators and industry players unite to fight back these attacks and make Mauritius stand out as a credible platform, on par with Singapore.
It is also important that we leverage the friendly relationships that we have with major economies. In this context, the recent optimistic announcement around the GARR agreement made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Mauritius in March show the importance of economic diplomacy and strengthening relationships. With regard to strategy and positioning, I think that we must capitalise on our potential as an investment corridor and showcase Mauritius as a platform through which investment can flow between China, Asia, Europe and Africa. We should also consider opening our corridor strategy to include other geographies like South America and tap new segments like those of commodity markets.
As regards the Mauritian banking sector, the industry is a well regulated one and local banks have a good repute. Local banks are somewhat more ‘flexible’ than international ones which have to comply with stricter regulations within the Basel framework. Other foreign banks should be encouraged to come to Mauritius but ensure that licenses are given to credible entities.
One last comment around the banking industry is that we should take advantage of the fact that the Mauritian banking industry has not yet become an overly complex one so that commercial banking activities are separated from investment banking activities. This will avoid putting depositories at risk.
- By Wazna Gunga
About Barclays Mauritius:
Barclays Mauritius provides a range of banking services to personal and corporate customers. Personal services include a range of current and savings accounts, foreign currency accounts, loans. Business services include lending products, trade and export finance and many specialist services such as treasury, foreign exchange and capital markets capability.