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Reflections on Africa

David Jackson

What attracted you to the role at Standard Bank?

Having built up a wealth of experience over more than 30 years with North American and European multinational corporations (MNCs) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, I was keen to leverage this experience in new ways, which the opportunity at Standard Bank provided. Africa offers enormous potential as a strategic growth market for MNCs in many industries, which is only now starting to flourish, so it was an ideal time to join the bank which has such an important role to play in facilitating corporate expansion, enabling economic development and fuelling poverty reduction.

Standard Bank itself is an exciting place to work, not least due to the diversity and reach of the markets in which we operate and the range of activities in which we are engaged. We have a presence in 18 African countries with 1,249 branches. We employ approximately 49,000 people across retail, corporate and investment banking and wealth management. All our branches are part of the Standard Bank Group, but the ownership in each country can vary between 100% and 51% depending on local shareholding requirements in each country. This is quite a new experience for me, but it is also the experience shared by our multinational clients operating in Africa.

How do client demands of their banking partners in Africa differ from requirements in other parts of the world?

Some requirements will inevitably be the same everywhere in the world: credit quality, geographic coverage, quality of solutions and services, and reliability of processing. Typically, treasurers will turn to their lending banks first to ascertain whether they can support their requirements in specific countries in Africa. This is often difficult in practice however, where global banks have a presence at all in an African country, this is often limited to a single branch. When working in Africa, MNCs are not simply seeking a bank that has a branch in the country, they need their bank to have a considerable depth of coverage and detailed understanding of the cultural, regulatory and market conditions that exist. Consequently, they will look to banks with particular strengths in Africa such as Standard Bank.