Barclays Africa keen to rebound

Written by Vernon Cheung

February 18, 2014

On the continent, South Africa remains Barclays Africa’s biggest market. Maria Ramos, Chief Executive Officer of Barclays Africa Group (BAG), says the bank’s primary focus is the corporate and retail banking sectors.

Since the merge of Absa Group and Barclays Africa Group, Ramos has come under much criticism about company performance – or, as many would see, lack-there-of. From 2009 to 2013, the share prices simply could not match those of its competitors. Standard Bank share price grew 85 percent to about R115, Nedbank’s by 165 percent to roughly R191, and FirstRand’s over 213% to about R30, Barclays Africa compared with a weaker 65% growth to about R137.

Bloomberg analysts don’t consider the financial service provider as a selling stock. Five recommend a “buy” and 11 a “hold.” However, even with the stock expecting a continued recovery – which should create value for investors – Barclays Africa is still experiencing a drop in share-holders.

Ramos, as the first woman and non-banker to run one of the world’s biggest retail banks, is still confident that the market’s sentiments about her the company will be proven wrong. She identifies four, main focus areas that Barclays Africa is concentrating on to transform the business. “I have no doubt we’ve got the right team and the right focus, and we are executing to the plan.”

The plan is to expand the retail and business banking franchise to the rest of Africa and making it as successful on the continent as it is in South Africa at the moment. Secondly, Barclays Africa Group wants to invest more into corporate banking so that it reaches further out into the continent. Its third area of focus will be its wealth and investment management business, which it hopes to see grow. Finally, the bank will be increasing funding for the development of that talent. Thus far, Ramos has allocated roughly R3 trillion for these four areas and has said that one-third of that amount will go towards larger projects.

Despite all the negative sentiments from the current markets, and looking-past all the critique received by Ramos, Barclays Africa Group is determined to up customer service, focus on investments throughout Africa and return to its top spot in South Africa.


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