The Port Louis-based SBM Group has had a very busy past two years. Leaving little doubt, it is now clear that the group is on overdrive to establish itself as a pan-African bank, having recently expanded its presence in Kenya and India, with talk of new ventures in Ivory Coast and Ghana. Today, SBM is the only bank in Mauritius to hold an investment banking license, the first local partner of Alibaba’s Alipay, and the only African bank to enable the listing of African Export–Import Bank’s Depository Receipts on the Stock Exchange of Mauritius. The nation’s second top bank with total assets of $5.8 billion as of late 2017, SBM has set its focus on showing the world how Africa, as Chairman Kee Chong LI KWONG WING notes, “is the real opportunity for growth, technological breakthrough and higher returns.”
What are SBM’s expansion strategy goals, and some recent achievements made in this area?
SBM is emerging as a major financial institution in the Africa-Asia corridor, facilitating investment from Asia towards Africa and accompanying our clients across frontiers. In August 2017, we became the first-ever foreign bank to be granted a wholly owned subsidiary license in India. Just a few months earlier, SBM acquired Fidelity Commercial Bank in Kenya in May 2017. We also acquired a license to establish a presence in the Seychelles, and made further expansions to our branch network in Madagascar. In August 2018, we completed the acquisition of carved-out assets and the assumptions of specific liabilities of Chase Bank (Kenya) Ltd (In Receivership) through our subsidiary SBM Bank (Kenya) Ltd.
How are efforts to develop the non-banking arm playing out?
SBM aims to offer more customized financial solutions. Since 2017, our non-banking financial department has been playing a more important role in the growth of SBM Group in an effort to boost our revenue base. It is important to note that SBM was the first financial institution in Mauritius to be granted an investment-banking license, which has given us first-mover advantage in handling debt and capital raising, mergers and acquisitions, and general transaction advisory services. In this context, SBM has explored new avenues in financial services, and in 2017 we made financial history in Africa by managing the issuance and listing of the African Export–Import Bank’s Depository Receipts on the Mauritian Stock Exchange. Today, we remain the only Mauritian company to have successfully achieved such a transaction.
Can you provide some examples of how your innovation campaign is unfolding?
We are establishing a larger focus on the e-payment front. In this regard, we have become the first Mauritian financial institution to partner with the China’s Alipay, the online and mobile payment platform under the tech giant Alibaba Group. We also launched the Mobile Banking App and many online services which are increasingly digitalizing our bank.
How has all of this internal development and expansion affected performance?
As SBM expands throughout the region, we are expecting to generate higher returns. In the medium-term, our expansion into East Africa, and future expansion that could take place in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, will support our objective of doubling assets by 2020 compared to our baseline 2015 position.
Why is SBM so bullish about Africa?
Africa is today the world’s real opportunity for growth, introducing technological breakthroughs and achieving higher returns. Above all, African economies need more sustainable investments that can bestow better connectivity. Recently, we have seen a retrenchment of major international banks, particularly European ones, from Africa. It leaves us African banks to cater for the financing needs of the continent. If we enter the market now, we will be able to accumulate a consistent competitive advantage. In 15 years, the population of Africa will be bigger than that of China or India, and the demand for development is becoming more pressing. Opportunities in Africa are numerous, and Mauritius is already a main player that acts as a financial and business platform for investment into Africa.