In October 2019, during the tenth Africa Forward Together (AFT) forum in Mauritius and spearheaded by Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) a special workshop aptly called “Meeting of Minds” session leveraged the insight and brainpower of over 35 C-level and senior banking leaders across the African region and beyond.
The aim of the session was to identify and prioritise the main challenges faced by their banks in five distinct but interlinked areas that were purposefully scoped to look beyond numbers:, Expertise, people, operational efficiency, risk and corporate Sustainability
Further to the “Meeting of Minds” workshop, a report probing into discussions has been published this week by MCB. It identifies five main challenges facing African banks and financial institutions, as follows: Lack of technical expertise amidst the increased cybersecurity risk, Know Your Corporate (KYC) issues hampering financial inclusion, talent management, retention and development, customers’ education and staff skills gap, IT & digitalisation and transformation programme and expertise
In the editorial of the report, MCB Group CEO, Pierre-Guy Noël speaks of an alignment of African banks and institutions on the key issues they have to face. “Considering the relative heterogeneity of African markets in terms of distinct characteristics and level of maturity in consumer behaviour, there was a remarkable alignment on the challenges facing the region’s financial institutions,” he said.
On the main threat posed by cybesecurity, MCB Group CEO observed : “Additionally, there is a lack of appropriate risk assessment and framework that caters for the exigencies arising from the use and adoption of new digital solutions. The rise of cybersecurity attacks and other cyber frauds were therefore highlighted as the most significant challenge, compounded by the lack of technical expertise and familiarity at senior levels in these fields (…) In parallel across the rest of most institutions, is the significant shortage of technical expertise and know-how in IT, digitalisation and related transformation programmes…”
The lack of KYC and other compliance frameworks “to facilitate the on-boarding of unbanked segments remain a key obstacle for regional banks to further financial inclusion. This challenge emerged in many discussions”, added Mr. Noël, who also stresses upon the challenge of developing solutions from customer segments that are distinct and sometimes unrelated (urban customers with high digital literacy vs rural unbanked segments requiring traditional supports and channels).
Last but not least, sustainable development and the necessity to embed its principles into corporate DNA are also issues highlighted by Mr. Noël. “The alignment of long-term value to stakeholders with corporate sustainability requires a considerable strategic push, a deep adjustment of corporate culture and a more measured risk-management mindset. This adjustment will have to take place sooner than later, because a trusted bank with a wider positive impact is increasingly being upheld as the minimum standard vis-à-vis stakeholders ranging from our own customers and central banks, to providers of lines of credit”.
MCB’s CEO insists on the fact that the insights of the report can help prioritise strategies for the future and promote awareness “that collaboration and partnership within the region has potential to address many of the common challenges facing African banking and financial services today”.
Based in Mauritius, MCB Group is currently ranked 1st in East Africa, 19th in Africa and 613th among the Top 1000 Banks in terms of Tier 1 capital. The Group is investment grade- rated by Moody’s and Fitch, and currently ranks 31st in Africa in terms of assets (Jeune Afrique Top 200 Banks, The Africa Report, September 2019) and 81st on the African continent in terms of market capitalisation (African Business Top 250 Companies, May 2019).