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Interview with Robin Smither, Senior Executive, Head of Corporate Banking, AfrAsia Bank
Robin Smither, Senior Executive, Head of Corporate Banking

Interview with Robin Smither, Senior Executive, Head of Corporate Banking, AfrAsia Bank

Published on
February 11, 2021
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Has the extension of the moratoria granted to economic operators, including small and medium-sized enterprises, under its Covid-19 support programme, boosted the capability of commercial banks to relieve operators in financial distress?


Yes, the forbearance provided by the Bank of Mauritius and Government, in addition to the MIC funding, has allowed the Banks to boost their capability of relieving operators particularly in the Tourism industry, of their financial distress. AfrAsia Bank has abided by this guidance.


GBCs, who are increasingly threatening of leaving blacklisted Mauritius hold 1.8% of total deposits while loans and advances to these companies averaged 10%. Faced with the risk of an exodus of capital from the GBCs, how do banks envisage the diversification of their banking solutions?


Mauritius has been on the EU Black List since October 2020 and the potential blacklisting was laid out as far back as 7 May 2020. Thus far the blacklisting has not created significant operational issues nor been linked with a massive exodus of deposits in AfrAsia. For the quarter ending September 2020, our deposit base grew by 4% to reach MUR 158Bn.


On the other hand, we should be mindful that, amidst this COVID recessionary period, where interest rates and yields are going down, investors are very cautious about investment.  The focus today is more on asset protection rather than growth and yield; now more than ever, we are faced with a need for financial security in an unstable market. Today, investors are more risk-averse and it goes without saying that globally, the level of investment is probably at its lowest and that uncertainty can have long-lasting negative impact.


What are the latest innovations, in terms of product offering, for the corporate sector?


With the birth of the Fintech sector post the global crisis of 2007/2008, banks have been strongly promoting digital capabilities, but the pandemic crisis has propelled the issue to the forefront. It leaves no doubt that COVID made businesses more reliant on digital banking than ever before. Prioritizing innovation today will be the key to unlocking post-crisis growth.  Customer onboarding, online document submission, and e-signature tools remain important areas to progress efficiency and agility amidst this pandemic crisis.


Looking at our innovation roadmap, I believe AfrAsia had a head start on this front. The stepping up of our digitalisation programme should enable us to roll out new or complementary offerings rapidly and engage with our customers more safely.


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