When Barclays divested its final stake in South African bank Absa, some people may have mistakenly thought that it was exiting Africa for good. But even as that final stake was being sold, Barclays was proactively strategising on rebuilding its African presence.
Rather than focusing on retail banking, it would focus on servicing the Private Banking needs of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals and their global families.
Amol Prabhu, Country CEO: South Africa and Market Head: Africa for Barclays, says the gains it’s made and the plans it’s laid out for the future, show that it’s a new chapter in the Barclays story on the continent.
Getting to that point has meant being clear about its African target market and how it can provide real value to clients.
“We’re no ordinary Private Bank. We’re not here to provide everything, for everyone, everywhere.”
That means focusing on UHNW families who hold investable assets of £10 million+, particularly in Anglophone countries. As Prabhu points out, there’s a very strategic reason for this strict focus.
“Most Anglophone African countries retain strong ties to the UK,” he says. “Those ties can be particularly strong for families, who may have gone to university in the UK and may have worked there at one point. They likely want the same opportunities for their children and hold UK real estate- particularly in London. Because we’re headquartered there, we act as the primary corridor to the UK.”
As he points out, UNHW families are increasingly global and it’s feasible for grandparents to reside in South Africa or Kenya, while one child lives in the UK, another in the Middle East, with extended family residing in India.
Despite the global nature of such clients, Barclays’ services remain highly personalised. Having Private Banker coverage across these locations allows the bank to really understand the family dynamics and be able to bank each individual in their location as well as support the family holistically.”
“Around 90% of client meetings take place in their homes. That’s because the topics being discussed are private and a relaxed home environment, helps open frank dialogue amongst family members, often across multiple generations.”
That means Barclays has to be innovative with the kinds of investment offerings it gives its clients. With overseas real estate, for example, it provides mortgages off the back of local earnings, something that few other banks do. It allows for global investments in multi-asset portfolios through direct stock selection, resulting in lower fees for customers, and its Private Assets programme makes it easier for clients to invest in high-growth startups and opportunities that are not available in the public markets.
“Many of our clients are entrepreneurs and are keen to invest in the sectors they built their wealth in,” says Prabhu.
That embrace of innovation is also part of why Barclays is so committed to Africa.
“Growth in Africa leads to global growth,” says Prabhu. “We’ve seen that through helping families who head up African ventures to expand into markets like the UK, Middle East, and India. Having a strong presence in Africa also allows us to connect families in Africa with other global families for joint ventures and investments.”
Further evidence of Barclays’ commitment to Africa can be seen in its Referral Agreement with Credit Suisse that enabled Credit Suisse to refer its private banking clients in Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) to Barclays.
“That single referral opportunity is equivalent to five years’ worth of organic growth,” he says.
Barclays is also working hard to ensure that it can help its clients to do good across the continent.
“For a lot of younger people it’s about finding ways to marry scenarios where they’re making money while doing good,” he says. “Here, our global expertise in impact investing as well as impact Philanthropy can be incredibly helpful.”
Prabhu says Barclays’ new approach to Africa can be summed up as one that’s cognizant of the bank’s long history on the continent but which is optimised to provide the best possible experience for its client.
“Our customers know how critical it is that the institution holding their money is trusted, stable and independent and we will never compromise on that.”
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