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ITW: Hervé Boyer, CEO Stanbic Bank Cote d’Ivoire. Francophone Africa is an important part of the puzzle

By Nicholas Norbrook in Abidjan
Posted on Tuesday, 12 June 2018 10:24

Standard Bank – South Africa’s and Africa’s largest bank – has been slowly moving towards Francophone Africa. Operating under the Stanbic brand and throwing a big party at the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan on 9 April, the bank will now be lending to blue-chip customers in Côte d’Ivoire – and ultimately hopes to expand into the French-speaking sub-region.

TAR: What was the attraction of going into Francophone Africa?
Hervé Boyer: The Standard Bank Group was not at all implicated in Francophone countries until recently. It opened its representative office on 26 December 2013 here in Côte d’Ivoire, and it did so because it was missing an important part of the puzzle. We touched Anglophone and Lusophone countries, but not Francophone. How could we say that we are the leading bank in Africa when there is a whole chunk that we don’t reach?

Were you pulled by your clients?
Yes. We do follow our clients. But beyond that, when you look at the map, there was a significant hole. We liked what we saw, so we decided to transform this representative office into a subsidiary of the group. That permit was granted in July 2016, with a year given to start operations, which we respected, launching in July 2017.

Why was Côte d’Ivoire your first Francophone stop?
We had to start somewhere, and Côte d’Ivoire is 40% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Francophone West Africa’s economic zone. We hope to modify our licence to reach all eight members of the Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (UEMOA), which is possible due to the harmonised business laws the bloc has created. The advantages of being in the bloc are the stable inflation rates of 1-2%, relatively low interest rates, economies based on the euro, growth of 7% – we have all the ingredients for success.

What kind of clients are you looking for?
The current clients of the bank, which are large multinationals for now, are our primary clients. So we have a corporate and investment banking focus, which will develop over the next few years. For now, we don’t bank small and medium-sized companies, and we don’t bank individuals. We are active in many domains: agriculture, energy, oil. And we will be looking to get involved in infrastructure, especially because we have a significant partner, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), [which owns 20% of Standard Bank]. What we like about Côte d’Ivoire is that it is a very diversified economy, unlike say Nigeria, where everything revolves around oil. It allows us to reach every sector and guarantee a certain level of growth.

Standard Bank has recentred its operations on Africa. Is this expansion in Francophone Africa a natural extension of that?
After the financial crisis, Standard Bank repositioned itself as the leading bank in Africa […]. Our Africa turnover outside of South Africa is around 30% of our revenue, which used to be 5%. I can see a future where the rest of Africa represents at least half.

Do you see improved competitiveness in the West African space, with Nigerian banks starting to look at expansion and Moroccan banks also strong south of the Sahara?
We are not fighting for this market at the moment because we already have our client base. So if you are already our client in one of the 19 other countries in which we are present in Africa, we will be able to help you.

From the April 2018 print edition

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