In FY19, the Consumer Banking Cluster had a productive year with a much-improved results as compared to FY18. Our liabilities book increased by 16% (5% in Current and Savings accounts and 33% in Fixed Deposits) while our assets book increased by 35%.
This performance is primarily due to the shift in focus for FY19. Our strategy was focused around rebuilding our brand image through increased proximity with the High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) community.
With this as our objective, we organised some lifestyle events, like customer cocktails, golf games, among many more. The AfrAsia Mauritius Golf Open 2018 was an opportunity for our high-end clients to interact with high profile world professional golfers such as Romain Langasque, Mathieu Pavon and Marcel Siem during private events get-together.
Internally, we had more cross-selling opportunities across the Bank. We also worked on the turnaround time for loan applications, which reduced considerably in the last FY giving ABL a competitive edge in the market while still maintaining the rigorous KYC process. Moreover, a more rigorous approach for the daily management of arrears and excesses by Relationship Managers (RMs) were implemented, resulting in a significant drop in downgrading of accounts to Non-Performing Assets (NPA). Furthermore, the Bank revitalized and launched its credit card loyalty programme “XtraMiles”.
During FY19, our sales team was reorganised in order to better serve our clients. Hence, a new mentoring and RM pairing programme was introduced whereby junior staff started being mentored by the senior RMs. Consequently, significant improvement has been recognised in our customer service delivery.
Our focus to upskill our team members probably is the main reason for the very good results that Consumer Banking reaped in its employee engagement score in Staff Engagement Survey 2018. With a score of 71%, Consumer Banking was above amongst the best engagement of the Bank; this is testament to the team spirit within Consumer Banking. This was achieved through a high level staff motivation across the business. Much efforts were spent on having team bonding events, be it among ourselves and jointly with colleagues from other departments.
Furthermore, due to internal issues faced by some of our main competitors, we saw a number of their valuable clients moving their accounts to ABL due to the level of affiliation between the RMs and their clients. Our RMs were quick to respond by proposing a dedicated service and ready to offer tailor-made solutions to prospective customers.
On a final note, ABL is actively attracting Wealth Management Business from the region, mainly by local RMs visiting and targeting clients in Madagascar with our South African Representative Office (SAREPO) exploiting the Sub-Sahara Africa region.
The Corporate Banking Division primarily acts as a debt house and originator of assets in foreign currency focused on providing lending solutions ranging from short-term lending, term lending, debt advisory products to corporate syndications. On the domestic front, the division acts as the custodian of the entire client relationship providing a full suite of products across transactional banking, trade finance, debt advisory, lending and forex solutions.
Our efforts and initiatives to continuously strengthen and grow our existing business was underscored by the recognition received from Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Finance as the ‘Best Investment Bank 2018’ in Mauritius (MRU). The award demonstrates our unwavering commitment to a strategy that revolves around our clients and delivering upon the innovative ideas of our people “A truly differentiated banking experience”.
Despite a challenging global environment and the provisioning increases from the adoption of IFRS 9 – “Financial Instruments’’, NII earned from customers served by this division grew by 1%. In order to position ourselves for growth, it has been critical for us to maintain constant vigilance on the risk profile of our asset book and also ensure effective risk management of our NPA.
During the course of the year, we took various initiatives to grow new businesses and expand our market reach. We were a key sponsor and participant to the 2018 Africa Down Under Conference held in Australia, with the aim to benefit our client coverage. As we look ahead, our focus is geared towards deepening our relationships with existing clients on the local market whilst diversifying our asset exposure across emerging markets in Africa and Asia on the international front.
The performance of the Global Business Desk for the year under review was underpinned by sustained efforts to deploy its business expansion strategy in servicing the financial intermediaries and strengthening its position with the existing relationships. The desk has essentially sharpened its leading banking position in the Global Business scene in Mauritius. In addition, it pursued its international market diversification agenda across reputable International Financial Centres (IFC).
Leveraging on Mauritius as an IFC of repute and substance, the Bank has broadened its exposures vis-à-vis Global Business entities. The market development initiatives have been supported by the delivery of customized solutions and enhanced client interactions.
Interactions with External Asset Managers (EAM) have expanded as we provided them with enhanced trading, safekeeping and transactional services.
The Bank has focused in improving the quality of its value proposition and achieve closer proximity with its clients.
During the year under review, the desk supported several high-profile events and business meetings of the Bank and actively participated in key events and road shows. It continued to be involved in local and international forums with a view to promote its value proposition.
Global Business Banking is considered as the main provider of funds to the Bank, contributing to 78% of Bank’s deposit base. The total deposits have grown year-on-year as illustrated below:
It is worth noting the deposits funding by the Global business desk expanded by 17% to attain MUR 102.0bn as at 30 June 2019.
Deposits of ABL’s Global Business segment represents 15% of the total deposits of all Banks in Mauritius for 2019 (Segment B only) compared to 14% for the year 2018, gaining a 1% market share for the year under review.
(Source: Bank of Mauritius monthly bulletin March 2019- Banks’ Foreign Currency Deposit)
Clients’ behaviour is changing at a quick pace insofar as new technologies and digitalisation are concerned. This implies that the focus will, in the years to come, remain on financial solutions to be quickly available and suitably delivered across digital channels.
During the year, the desk revised some of its processes and procedures, upgraded some of the information systems and provided training to employees in targeted areas.
In terms of the regulatory and legal framework and new substance requirements for Global Business entities, we expect to see stricter regulatory rules and norms to be adopted by all IFCs.
The Bank has the necessary risk management and compliance capabilities to ensure strict adherence to the regulatory framework in Mauritius. The US Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Common Reporting Standards (CRS) reporting was effectively carried out during the year. Anti-money laundering and countering of terrorism financing programs are also in place at the Bank.
Looking ahead, the Desk is confident to pursue its business growth and to sustain its good performance. Whilst there is no doubt that new digitalisation practices will drive the future of banking globally and force financial institutions to invest heavily in this segment, at the same time, implies new opportunities for ABL to upgrade its information systems and processes in order to improve customer service quality and enhance competitiveness.
The Global Business Desk will continue to provide increasingly adapted products and services while innovating its digital channels, adopting a proactive approach to the changing dynamics of the Global business landscape, focusing on risk controls and consistently improving its risk control and mitigation framework.
The four key pillars within the Treasury and Markets cluster are Treasury, Financial Institutions (FI), Custody & Securities Services and Debt Capital Markets.
Our goal is to ensure that our client facing and support functions are aligned to consistently provide our clients with best in class services.
Treasury and Markets’ prerogative is to provide clients with tailored solutions by reinforcing ABL’s position as the market makers for foreign exchange, interest rate, debt, and other structured derivatives.
ABL further consolidates its stance as an innovative Financial Markets service provider catering not only to Mauritian demands but also effectively meeting financial requirements in the regional compass.
The treasury unit serves a wide customer base including large domestic and international corporates; Trading companies, International Management Companies; Banks and Financial Institutions; Asset Management Companies and family offices; Fund Managers; Investment Funds; Financial Intermediaries; SMEs; Local and International HNWIs and External Asset Managers as well as government and parastatal institutions.
Whether the execution needs are driven by a transactional, hedging or investment strategy, the treasury unit offers a full range of solutions, both standard and customized, to help our clients navigate the various challenges of continuously changing financial markets.
In a bid to continuously enhance our product offering and customer centric approach coupled with bringing a consummate level of sophistication to our services, the treasury team is designed as follows:
Our specialist team of dealers and traders work towards finding innovative solutions that facilitate the management and repackaging of risk exposures in foreign exchange, interest rates, and commodity markets. This enables us to respond to our customer’s investment and hedging strategies, with the overall aim of being the preferred provider of treasury services and make a positive difference to our clients and their businesses.
Our product suite includes:
Our FI unit’s key roles involve broadening and excavating ABL relationships with banks in targeted strategic markets, notably Africa, India, South East Asia and the Middle East, enhancing participation in trade-flows between Africa and Asia, as well as acting as lead arrangers for financial institutions by building and leveraging on our relationship network remain our key priorities.
Our FI team also acts as a facilitator by actively engaging in cross-selling of treasury products to our partner banks – therefore perfectly integrating into the Treasury and Markets cluster.
More importantly, our FI team acts as a gateway for the Bank to gain key insights in our main and target markets, which enables ABL to access African and Asian Tier 1 Corporates
The Debt Capital Markets desk advises both local and international clients on structures to raise debt for acquisitions, refinancing and restructuring of existing debts.
The Debt Capital Markets team works with clients to organize borrowing and to help provide access to a global pool of investors who are looking for opportunities.
The Custody and Securities desk enables clients to trade in equities, bonds, structured products, exchange-traded funds, unlisted securities, mutual funds and physical certificates, whilst also ensuring settlement and safekeeping of these assets.
We offer Custody Services in over 50 markets worldwide, including major markets across Europe, Asia, US, Australia, Africa, India as well as in exotic markets.
In terms of performance, our strategy has been constantly delivering excellent results and this year was no different.
Trading Income performance was at a robust MUR 916.9m as at the close of FY19, a 12% growth year-on-year.
Strong performance was noted on the FX Trading Desk, the Money Markets and Fixed Income Desk, delivering on the strategy formulated for the year. Growth on each desk stood at 69% and 53% respectively.
However, the FX Sales Desk and the Structuring Desk enduring tough years with income shrinking by 2% and 73% respectively.
On the FX Sales side, local market condition remained tough with lessening margins in light of added competition from banks. On the Structuring side, FX hedging flows from two major clients dried up due to a reduced hedging appetite from these clients.
In terms of FX turnover, our domestic banking volume firmly stood at USD 1.2bn, representing a 14% market share in the local market – cementing our robust position on the market.
Gross Net Interest Income closed at MUR 2.0bn as at FY19, experiencing growth of 60% year-on-year. Growth was particularly enabled by driving balance sheet growth, particularly in the interbank placement space, loans to financial institutions and investment in securities.
This is testament to our growing FI business. Indeed, there has been a constant drive to diversify and grow our network of banking counterparts, all within a clear and defined risk appetite. This is demonstrated by a robust growth in interbank placements and circa USD 90m of disbursement on the Financial Institutions loans side.
This, coupled with significant work performed in shoring up our tactical liquidity management has brought in more efficiency from a balance sheet perspective.
The Liquidity Management and Assets and Liabilities Monitoring desks have worked closely together to also maximize the benefits of the rising interest rate environment.
Fee Income was down 87% year-on-year, with performance ending at MUR 2.0m as at FY19. This was on the back of no DCM mandates being bagged by the desk.
Custody and Securities Trading related income also shrunk by 22% year-on-year, closing at MUR 111.9m as at FY19. The overall downturn in the custody performance can primarily be attributed to plummeting stock market indices and an upheaval in competitive pressures during the year. It should however be noted that 196 new custody accounts were opened during the year at competitive tariffs to reinforce our stance in the market and custody expenses were curtailed by 61% across the year driven by the desk renegotiating tariff agreements with brokers.
ACM, the investment management arm of the ABL Group, offers a full range of investment management services ranging from execution, discretionary management, 7 in-house Collective Investment Scheme (CIS) funds to a wide range of tailor-made investment solutions.
ACM’s target is to help a selected group of valued clients, comprising of a diverse mix of institutional and retail clients to meet their financial goals and prepare for the future. As the world evolves, so do the needs of its clientele. Given its extensive experience in the local market coupled with a sound understanding of global macroeconomics, ACM has a philosophy of adapting early to shifts in market dynamics and product demands while tailoring our investment solutions to what matters most to our valued clients.
In that vein, ACM believes in delivering superior outcomes by knowing and understanding clients, their aspirations, their risk appetites and their financial needs, and following up with relevant, actively-managed offerings to assist them in furthering their wealth. In addition to an efficient risk profiling and client on boarding process, to facilitate the most seamless entry of the client to the full suite of our services, our investment toolkit facilitates investment into most of the world’s leading economies across equities, bonds and alternative asset classes. We have an open architecture platform which allows dynamic and flexible investment whilst collaborating with the world’s best performing asset managers.
ACM differentiates itself via its long-term approach of investing in the future growth of the business, developing talent and building client relationships. Alongside a sound understanding of its clients, supported by data-driven market intelligence (Bloomberg, Morningstar Direct) and insights from our foreign partners, ACM has been able to establish a range of strategic capabilities which englobe the investment universe and provide outcomes that are suitable to the clients across market cycles.
The ongoing improvement of the business has been primarily driven by the people. Diversity of thoughts and innovation are encouraged with a clear focus on developing the business for the benefit of both our clients and our Group. ACM remains committed to nurturing its pool of talent by providing an environment that is accessible and collaborative, where everyone has the opportunity to deliver to their best ability and potential.
ACM remains committed to placing its clients at the heart of the business, developing and maintaining long-standing relationships which is based on trust.
The previous year and the current one have allowed ACM to build a powerful combination of components to meet and anticipate clients’ needs. The focus remains to bring these components closer together and integrating the company more deeply into our clients’ ecosystems.
Improving synergies with the Bank allows ACM to leverage the full capabilities of the Group’s platform with broader participation across the investment environment. This include continuing engagement and enhancement of efficiency between the custodians and the business, growing our digital presence and reaching out to more clients.
With its extensive network and years of market knowledge and experience in Southern and East Africa, the SAREPO continues to play a key role representing AfrAsia in these markets.
South Africa went to the polls in May 2019 and the ruling African National Congress party was re-elected into power with Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa as the President. Over this period Mr Ramaphosa has made some key appointments (including new heads of the National Prosecuting Authority and SA Revenue Services) aimed at strengthening these portfolios. As reported previously, he has also embarked on an ambitious project to raise USD 100bn in new investments into South Africa. Several state-owned enterprises, however, remain a headache for the authorities, as well as ongoing revelations of the corruption that flourished under the previous regime.
It is believed that this is the commencement of a clean-up process which together with various other measures, including unbundling the state-owned power utility, will produce the ambient economic growth necessary to set South Africa on a path to growth and prosperity. It is crucial to the fortunes of the region and the continent that South Africa exceeds the World Bank’s conservative GDP growth forecasts of 1.3% in 2019 and 1.7% in 2020.
The AfrAsia Bank South African Wealth Report 2019, revealed total wealth in South Africa rose by 13.0% to USD 649bn over the past 10 years. A relatively modest performance not helped by a torrid 2018 which saw the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (one of the world’s 20 largest stock exchanges) lose 29.0% in USD terms. The local equity market has however bounced back in 2019 to rise some 13.0% in USD terms by mid-year. The report further predicts a healthy 30.0% growth in total wealth to USD 844bn for the next 10 years.
The wealth report also indicated that South African HNWIs have moved towards increased foreign asset allocations over the past 10 years. There is also increased interest and activity amongst the South African-based corporate and fund management sectors to explore international markets, with a focus on the African continent, over the same period. Furthermore, it is predicted that these trends will gather momentum over the next 10 years. Based in the international financial centre of Mauritius with a representative office in Johannesburg, AfrAsia Bank continues to be well-positioned to capitalise on these developments.
The representative office in South Africa also addresses the East African region, with an emphasis on Kenya. With economic growth projected at 6.0% in 2019 and 6.1% in 2020 (driven by growth in agriculture, completion of ongoing infrastructure projects and continued macroeconomic stability), Kenya is a key economic hub on the continent offering a range of private and global banking opportunities.
The Bank’s team based in South Africa actively promotes AfrAsia to corporates, fund managers, private individuals and financial institutions in the Southern and Eastern African regions as well as other international markets.