Societe Generale in Africa
Alexandre Maymat, you are Head of the Africa region at Societe Generale. How would you describe Societe Generale’s dynamic activity in Africa?
The last months have been very intense for all the teams working in Africa. First of all, we continued to reinforce our presence on the continent. Even though French banks overall are seeing their positions in Africa weaken, we continued to develop our set-up with the creation of Societe Generale Togo last June, and the acquisition of a majority stake in MCB Mozambique, which led to the creation of Societe Generale Mozambique.
The Group is now present in 18 countries, with nearly 1,000 branches, 11,000 employees, and over 3.3 million clients including 150,000 African companies. Societe Generale is therefore one of the Top 3 international banks in Africa.
Concerning the Corporate business, we continued to focus our efforts on key subjects to help our development. I will quickly mention the work accomplished in order to upgrade our cash management offer to international standards; we also worked on creating a regional cash pooling solution and extended our specific factoring and leasing solutions for SMEs. 40% of our subsidiaries reinforced their set-up and trade finance offer thanks to the Trade joint-venture between the International Banking and Financial Services Division and the Global Transaction & Payment Services Division. We are also creating a regional trading floor in Abidjan, as well as regional structured financing platforms in Casablanca and Abidjan. We are continuing to develop business synergies between our African subsidiaries and SG China, as well as with GBIS's sales teams.
These actions reflect our commitment to continually increase our contribution to the economies of the countries in which we are present, by taking part in projects that are fundamental to their development. 2015 was a very busy year when it comes to the diversity of the projects financed through our local banks, which always strive to allow our local and international clients to benefit from our financing expertise.
Societe Generale also actively supported the development of SMEs by financing their projects in collaboration with international financial institutions (such as the French Development Agency AFD and its subsidiary Proparco, the World Bank via IFC, etc.).
Societe Generale is more committed to Africa than ever before...
Africa is changing fast. While we do need to be cautious, African growth is a reality and it will remain strong in the years to come. As proof of our commitment to the continent, Societe Generale Group appointed Cathia Lawson Senior Banker for Africa last spring. Her work and influence were recognised by the French economic daily La Tribune's Women's Awards in December. Our success is based on the quality of our employees. In Africa, just like anywhere else, there are no good and bad banks, only good and bad bankers. This is why we initiated a project dedicated to Africa, aiming to empower African employees and continuously improve their skills, making them more involved in the satisfaction of our clients. For example, for the teams in charge of corporate clients, we set up a programme called CAP Afrique, designed to bring all of our employees working for corporate customers (from the Front Office to the Back Office via risk management) to the same standard of quality and expertise. By the end of 2016, all employees in that business line will have followed this training course.
In terms of image and communications, to promote our commitment on the continent, in April we launched a corporate communications campaign aimed at African entrepreneurs. This pan-African advertising campaign was designed to convey a unique and coherent image of the Group across the entire continent, while backing up our subsidiaries' local campaigns. The video was broadcast on pan-African TV channels, on the internet and in the press.
The individual retail banking business in Africa is gradually developing its own dynamic, with very contrasted and changing levels in the use of banking services in the different countries. We are continually reinforcing our local marketing expertise and are innovating, testing new types of branches or payment methods. We are also starting new initiatives, such as the pan-African mobile banking solution, which will allow some of our subsidiaries to be the first banks on the market to offer individual customers in Africa the opportunity to carry out their banking operations using a mobile app. We are extending our insurance private banking services to other countries, including Sub-Saharan Africa, and are developing new types of branches (mobile truck branches, etc.).
Societe Generale has set up an innovation lab in Dakar. What are its goals?
This new structure is designed to boost and accelerate innovation in all our Sub-Saharan subsidiaries. Clearly Africa is a land of innovation and we are determined to be at the forefront of innovation on the continent! The market is not a mature one yet, and we must establish ourselves as pioneers. Our role is to facilitate, and even anticipate, all the changes that digital brings in terms of how banking services are consumed, and to deliver now the techniques and tools that our clients will ask for tomorrow.
What is the outlook for the future? Are you confident for the months ahead?
Africa is a continent of growth and opportunities, it is more stable than it was in previous decades and more resilient economically. It is a supply market: we must encourage the development of new needs and new habits among our clients! Africa is therefore an ideal place for us to show what Societe Generale's DNA is made up of: our strong local foothold which allows us to fully understand how the market is developing, based on our own markers, and to identify local players to work with; our international expertise, developed over the last 150 years in more mature markets which, now more than ever, we need to put to work in economies in which banking needs are becoming more sophisticated; our innovation capabilities in digital solutions and new distribution models.
We will stay the course in Africa, with enthusiasm and energy!