One of the largest commercial banks in Mauritius, today the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) has become an increasingly regional brand, receiving almost half its profits from abroad with plans on increasing this share as it expands into Africa. This ratcheting up of income will partially come by tapping the continent’s lucrative energy and commodities industries, underpinned by MCB’s network of correspondent banks and representative offices in Africa. CEO of MCB Alain Law Min explains his expansion strategy, how digitalization has transformed how his customers do business, the economic impact of the banking sector, and where he believes his country is heading next.
What are MCB’s expansion plans and what industries are you targeting for investment to help power this growth?
MCB already does business with an extensive range of countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean region, including Ghana, Senegal, Zambia, Nigeria, Togo, the Seychelles and the Maldives. Now we are aiming to increase our share of foreign-sourced income – which was around 49% of net profit during FY 2017/18 – and help position the Group as a financial hub in Africa. Looking ahead, a key strategic orientation of MCB is to broaden its frontiers. Amongst our key focus areas, we notably aspire to deepen our energy and commodities activities on the continent. MCB is also planning to further tap into the Group’s presence in the Seychelles, Madagascar, the Maldives and Mozambique. Moreover, we plan to leverage our representative offices in Johannesburg and Nairobi, as well as our wide network of around 1,300 correspondent banks globally, which include some 225 in Africa.
Can you give us an example of how rapid digitization is influencing your business?
Today, some 90% of transfers by individual customers are carried out via digital channels. They include our ‘Juice’ mobile banking service, which notably allows card-less ATM transactions, transfers to any Visa cardholder worldwide, and access to selected PayPal services. In reaction to digitization trends, MCB recently launched its Digital Factory, an incubator tasked to improve customer experience and redesign tech solutions. Overall, new technology initiatives like these that are being put into place will enable the MCB to firmly embed automation and technology in all of its operations.
How would you gauge the impact of the finance sector in Mauritius today?
In 2017, the industry made up 6.9% of our GDP. By virtue of its size, the sector plays a meaningful role in supporting our economy and promoting the well-being of our communities via the banks’ CSR programmes. During the past five years, the banking industry posted an average annual real growth rate of around 6% in value-added services. The industry is well capitalised as per Basel III rules: overall capital adequacy ratio stood at 17.2% as at June 2018, which is well above the regulatory requirement. The industry’s gross non-performing loans ratio stood at 6.7% as at March 2018. Mauritius is today ranked 25th worldwide with respect to its financial system, as per the latest Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum. It is well positioned to play a more prominent role in Africa, leveraging the positioning of Mauritius as a gateway for channelling trade and investments between the African and Asian continents.
After achieving so much, what would you prescribe that Mauritius needs to do to maintain its reputation as an “economic miracle”?
For Mauritius to realize its socio-economic ambitions, it is imperative to adopt the necessary economic policies that will enable our economy to tackle structural bottlenecks, be more productive and enhance its international competitiveness. Major emphasis should be laid on encouraging our businesses to embrace high-end technologies and digitalization. All supporting economic initiatives should also be geared towards entrenching a robust institutional and legal environment, aspects that Mauritius needs to continue to excel at. Looking abroad, Mauritian businesses have much to benefit from our greater openness to contracting foreign talent and expertise amongst others. We need to further encourage members of the Mauritian diaspora to contribute meaningfully to value creation in their homeland; this would be a major step forward for the nation. Mauritius should also be able to further diversify its markets, with key focus on pursuing its Africa strategy. With these items in mind, Mauritius can increasingly position itself as a vibrant regional economic hub and an International Financial Centre of repute that is ideal for channelling trade and investment flows between Asia and Africa.