ICB Banking Group spreads its wings in Africa

Published: 24-MAY-05

Why did you choose Eastern Europe and Africa to launch your businesses?

We launched into Eastern Europe and Africa a decade ago as a result of the opportunities that presented themselves at the time. Malaysian entrepreneurs were being encouraged to expand their horizons and set their sights on global opportunities, and the opening of these particular markets and changes in the investment environment provided an opportunity for the ICB Banking Group.

In which African countries do you operate, and how have those businesses performed?

We are in six African countries: Ghana, Republic of Guinea, Tanzania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Gambia. We have 15 retail outlets in Africa and a clear strategy for opening further retail outlets in each of the markets we are in. In 2004 alone, some of our Banks saw asset growth of up to 60%. Therefore we are very optimistic about the future prospects of the banks in Africa and we are keen to expand the business further.

What is so attractive about African Banking?

The returns on investment in Africa are relatively good if one can manage risk. However, the most compelling reason for our presence in Africa is that it is the place where investments are needed. There is great satisfaction among our shareholders when they can see how their investments are making a difference in the host countries and how our banks actually provide a meaningful service to our customers.

How would you describe your customer profile in the African market?

Our customer profile depends on the type of market we are in. Generally we concentrate on commercial banking and we have a full range of banking services from deposits and loans to foreign exchange and trade financing. We have a special focus on small and medium-sized businesses, but there is a growing group of middle-income individuals which has enabled the banks to introduce consumer-type loans ranging from housing to personal loans. This is our other area of focus.

Give us an idea of your future prospects and growth strategies.

We expect to expand our Banking operations to another five African countries during the next three years. Furthermore, we intend to continue to horizontally expand our presence by opening new retail outlets in each of the markets we are in. Growth has been mainly organic but we have now started looking at acquisitions, particularly where we have been established for a number of years.

Your investment holding company is based in Zurich, yet your management is based in Kuala Lumpur. Why is that and how does that affect your operations?

Switzerland is an established financial centre with strong ratings and is in a time zone that is suitable for our African and European Banks. It also provides favourable conditions for companies that choose to establishtheir Holding Companies there.

Management of each individual Bank is based in the country in which it operates. There is an experienced and competent management team running the operations of each bank.

Technical support is provided by a team under the auspices of ICB Global Management which is based in Kuala Lumpur. To further strengthen our support structure, we have set up a Regional Centre in West Africa.

What would you tell international investors, including Malaysians, about prospects for investment in Africa?

We believe that Africa provides exciting opportunities for investors who are looking for new markets and believe in long-term investment.

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