Absa committed to supporting economic growth |16 September 2022
Absa Bank, one of the leading banking institutions in Seychelles and on the African continent, remains committed to forge ahead with its digitisation agenda, and towards supporting Seychelles’ transition towards a digital economy.
Executives from the pan-African bank, namely, chief executive of Absa Africa Regional Operations, Saviour Chibiya and the new managing director for Absa Bank Seychelles, Nazim Mahmood, called on President Wavel Ramkalawan at State House yesterday morning.
Accompanied by the newly appointed chairman of the Absa Bank Seychelles board Marc Houareau, and outgoing managing director Johan Van Schalkwyk, the meet was an important opportunity to discuss the institution's grand plans for the local market.
Discussions centred on the company’s efforts to digitise banking, towards improving productivity, accessibility, and affordability of such services, and the various strategies and programmes through which Absa in partnership with government can foster economic growth and development in Seychelles.
Mr Chibiya highlighted the importance of human capital development and the means by which to bridge the financing gap, in order to fuel growth.
“In order to grow any economy, human capital is very important. Therefore, it is part of our agenda in partnering with the countries that we operate in, in terms of how we invest in the skills of not just bankers, but even young people across the economy. To develop that human capital it is important that we have the skills and expertise, so that we have innovation driving, productivity increasing, in order to drive economic growth.
“We also discussed having affordable funding for businesses and individuals, and the role that our bank can play as a group to ensure that we continue to build on the existing products. We have more products available for funding in terms of capital, as well as just bridging the working capital financing, trade financing that is required for businesses to be able to have the support they need from the financial sector,” Mr Chibiya stated.
Protection of the environment, as well as contributing positively to the social fabric in the fifteen countries in which it operates, rank among the group's top priorities. Through its Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) programme, the company strives for sustainability, and within the social context, supporting the development of the market through financial literacy education, as well as just building the capacity for small, medium enterprises, to be able to succeed.
“We believe that the country at this point in time is coming from a very difficult place because of the Covid pandemic, which is happening everywhere in the world. But the stability that we are beginning to see in areas such as, or indicators such as inflation, economic growth this year being stronger than it was over the last few years, gives us promise that there is a lot of opportunity for us to operate in this country, and to continue to grow. And as we grow, we create more jobs, and we help our customers create more jobs, and that’s what leads to prosperity,” Mr Chibiya further added.
Improving services and attracting new customers
In a bid to further improve its service and product offering, Absa Seychelles intends to introduce more self-serve channels, and to encourage the adoption and use of its existing digital channels by ‘walking customers through the process’ as they familiarise themselves with the digital services.
As economies emerge from the pandemic, Absa intends to continuously grow the local business, by strengthening the role of the local population in entrepreneurship, and delivering on its important responsibility of inculcating the spirit of entrepreneurship in the youngsters.
Performance and positioning amid pandemic and rife competition
Despite the uncertainties and economic decline resulting from the pandemic, the banking institution’s prudency to safeguard the business and protect capital has paid off, Mr Mahmood remarked, with the level of impairment less than expected from the small domestic market.
Government interventions aimed at supporting businesses and making funds available to them during the peak of the pandemic have been instrumental.
“Therefore, what we are seeing is that some of our customers who were pretty badly hit, have actually come out of this, or are in the process of coming out of this quite gradually. And, therefore, the level of impairment that we thought we would end up having is actually much less. So, the resilience of the people, the resilience of the economy overall, and the help provided by the government has really helped bring this up,” Mr Mahmood highlighted.
With the enforcement of moratorium on loans at a time when cash flows had dried up for both companies and individuals, the institution managed to build stronger partnerships with customers.
As a pan-African bank, it does however have certain constraints, with some decisions having to be approved overseas.
The banking group was nonetheless commended by President Ramkalawan for strict adherence to local legislation and regulations, especially relating to Know-Your-Customer (KYC) requirements.
“One of the key points we discussed with the President was risk, and the President commended us as far as the bank being probably the best bank in Seychelles when it comes to things like money-laundering, and making sure that the KYC process is done. That is very important, as the fight against drugs and against dirty money is a huge fight that is going on in Seychelles right now. In fact, I think we are one of the most stringent banks in the country when it comes to making sure the KYC process goes well,” Mr Houareau added.
Absa is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.