Sanjiv Bhasin, CEO of AfrAsia Bank: “To predict the future was a challenge and now we have to create a future.”
1. How would you rate the financial performance for 2017?
The year ended June 2017 was marked by solid achievements. The growth in income and Net Profit After Tax at MUR 2.5 bn and MUR 804.7 m recorded a remarkable increase of 32% and 86% over the previous year respectively. This result is satisfying as it reflects growth in all income lines, and especially after taking significant provisions on our impaired assets, and improving our coverage ratio from 25% to 34%. Initiatives put in place to improve the quality of our assets by superior skill sets, processes and systems are clearly showing signs of significant benefits. Our investments in technology, reorganisation and design of workplace to break silos and foster teamwork are promising. Governance and control have been improved and will remain at the core of how we run our business.
2. AfrAsia has been a success story and demonstrated remarkable growth during the last years and is now one of the key banking institutions in the country, what do you think has contributed to its success?
Well the question you have asked suggests that Afrasia has been a success story. Before I attempt to answer your question I must thank you for affording us a Success Status. I sincerely appreciate that positioning from your end.
Banking as you know is a regulated industry and also very competitive at least in the Mauritius jurisdiction. Our success has been largely driven by keeping our focus on Customer, Designing a solution to their requirements , and on the hand ensuring that we have a service oriented team and a robust operating platform to ensure that our service delivery meets customer expectations. This strategy lays the foundations for success but we also need to be constantly innovating to be needing customer expectations and have a team composition which has the passion for service and the ability to accept and imbibe change. This is an ongoing journey and we wish to be on this path and be constantly exceeding customer expectations. However should we slip, we need to be ready to accept apologize and move forward.
Whilst above is the overarching principal of the strategy, in specific as our name suggests we have concentrated for trade and investment flows between Asia and Africa. Both continents have been growing faster than other regions. Additionally UK, European, And US Capital has been focusing on growing their presence in these two continents and being in Mauritius which enjoys special privileges with various African and Asian economies we have been able to develop a global customer connectivity on a small scale . This has helped us to grow in an expanding market which you will agree is easier but has to be achieved.
To be recognized and accepted in the competitive landscape we also need recognition to be able to reach the customer’s door step. For that we have attempted to improve our knowledge of the customer’s operations. We also believe in knowing in detail the markets in which we operate .This constantly expanding knowledge base helps us in identifying areas where we could add value to our client base. This we believe gives us the entry into the customer door. Thereafter we are committed to ensure that our service standards are ahead of customer expectations. This approach assists us in expanding and deepening customer relationships.
Alongside the above we have launched a well-planned brand building program which conveys that we are Bank Different and wish to be perceived as customer and employee caring organization.
3. What are the key factors of this performance?
During the year, we realized that if we are to build a franchise on the three founding principles we identified last year which are Customer Focus, Teamwork and Innovation, then we must also reshape our corporate culture in a way it becomes an integral part of our DNA. We therefore embarked on a detailed exercise, spearheaded by team members, to design, launch and sustain the effort in creating the correct environment to grow our commitment to the principles of customer excellence and the values we wish to encourage. A successful launch but that will need to be consolidated over time for more enhanced integration. It will take time, but we are already seeing a change in behavior and the excitement it creates is infectious.
Innovation and relevant technologies are critical to the growth of the business. The challenge is to meet the evolving needs of the customer while ensuring that our internal team develops a comfort in using new technology. Building on technology allows us to better understand the needs of our customers, generate the confidence in people who will use it to deliver the service and, ultimately keep us at the forefront of innovation. Being "different" is in our promise; a promise that we never lose sight of, no matter what the task is. We are constantly seeking to better understand this dynamic environment by experimenting and creating focus groups. Such steps enable us to learn, establish a connection with the customer and hopefully develop the customer/bank bond, which we believe will be the backbone to sustainable success.
4. How are new digital technologies positively affecting your business?
Our strategic initiatives are based on driving a culture of customer focus and use of appropriate technology to transform our customer experience ecosystem globally – from products design, automation, business processes to sales, straight-through processing among others. It needs a collaborative teamwork and comfort with innovation and change. New ways of doing things, doing different things and being recognised for that will help us in our road map to success. We have therefore built our expenditure program for technology improvements and the security enhancements in our plan. At the same time, cybersecurity is a challenge that needs solutions and investments spanning across the bank’s different business functions such as operations, risk management, legal, compliance and ICT. To meet evolving customer expectations, our technological investments are also geared towards accelerating and modernising our business processes and data models to ensure operational excellence and to derive analytics for better customer insights.
5. You have also attracted leading institutions among the shareholding. How the relationship between the different shareholders helped the Bank to produce these good results?
We believe that success is sustainable once all stakeholders are completely aligned to the organization’s strategic Goals and Vision.
It is not abnormal that amongst the stakeholders Customers and Employees find a far greater mention when you are attempting to explain the success story. Our shareholders have been participative in our strategy building and supportive of its success. Their guidance has been very instrumental in our achievements till date. Goal congruence between the management and the shareholders has been of the order which has enabled us to be recognized as a success in this market maybe quicker than usual.
The shareholders have always been willing to provide Capital for growth. They have helped in ensuring that the Bank remains committed to high governance standards. They have guided us in business growth, quality asset selection and of course making certain that our investments are valuable be in systems or human capital. A large part of our success has been the collective strength IBL, National Bank of Canada (NBC) and Intrasia Capital, our key institutional shareholders bring with them. This is also an opportunity for us to thank and admire IBL who have to be accredited with seeding AfrAsia and bringing it to a very recognizable standard during the early days. IBL is one of the leading conglomerates based in Mauritius with presence locally and overseas in multiple sectors of the economy. NBC is the sixth largest bank in Canada incorporated in Quebec. Intrasia Capital is one of the larger institutional investors in Asia. The diversity of the key shareholders and other major shareholders have been very encouraging and supportive of our strategy and have helped us in our journey. The diversity of our shareholders has brought us the encouragement to be Different.
6. What are your next challenges and projects?
We are in a dynamic environment which is expected to witness changes as a result of Regulations, Technology and Client Expectations. Alongside the skill sets needed to manage and lead those changes will in fact be dramatically different than what has been experienced by this industry in the past. To remain successful in the ever evolving environment is a challenge. To predict the future was a challenge and now we have to create a future.
Being creative is important. Leading a creation to a commercial success is now the call of the hour. Cashless society, managing wealth on internet, crowd funding, block chain technology, research data availability on the internet, IBM Watson usage in wealth management, and host of disruptive technologies have to be followed assessed and adopted quickly to sustain some competitive advantage.
The traditional pattern of budgets will have to change. People will have to be more adaptive to change. Being flexible and agile to take advantage of the opportunities will have to be interwoven in our technology platforms. Alongside these developments exposure to heightened cybercrime has to remain in the forefront. To summarize it’s not only a focus on business development to expand your revenues, it’s the ability to design your future in this ever evolving market we need to be concerned about and we are preparing ourselves fo