World Finance speaks to Dr Ibraímo Ibraímo about the case for investing in the country’s business environment
The Governor of the Central Bank of Mozambique, Ernesto Gove, has given quite a positive view of the macroeconomic state of the country over the last five years: “Mozambique has a healthy and stable financial system as well as economy.” Can you comment on the Central Bank governor’s words? What is your assessment of the current state of Mozambique’s financial system?
Without a doubt Mozambique has quite a healthy financial sector, more so if we compare it to some other countries in the continent. The good health of our financial system is not a coincidence; it is actually due to the mature and transparent behaviour of the main agents – the banks. Moreover, the strict way in which the Central Bank of Mozambique supervises the system has played a key role in the maturity and strengthening of the system.
The financial sector is the pillar of the economy of any country; therefore, it is our outmost importance to have a strong financial system in order to have a strong and healthy economy.
What do you think are the main challenges Mozambique’s financial sector must overcome in order to fully develop?
Mozambique’s financial sector needs to become the pillar of economic development. BCI has taken this challenge as its own and contributes to make it a reality. It is of outmost importance for Mozambique to facilitate the access to a bank account for a large majority of the population in order to formalise the economy; more so to SMEs. This will obviously generate more wealth and more jobs.
Created in 1996 by Mozambican investors, BCI is considered the most trustworthy bank in Mozambique and one of the main banking institutions in the region. Can you briefly describe BCI?
BCI is today a universal bank operating in the Mozambican market. We are involved in all segments of the business from private banking and corporate banking, to retail banking. Retail banking has helped the bank change its positioning, as in its early beginnings it was specialised in corporate banking. This new positioning of BCI has been welcomed by the market, and thus helped the bank’s sustainable and strong growth, and also reinforced the trust of our clients.
As the leader of an institution that is constantly expanding its operations, can you share with us your priorities and expansions plans for 2011/2012?
In 2012 BCI will continue with the expansion of its branch network and in the reinforcement of the ATM and POS network in order to give a better service to our clients across the national territory. Furthermore, we will continue to expand our BCI Corporate Centres in the main capital cities of some of the provinces. We have already opened centres specialised in big corporations both local and foreign in the cities of Maputo and Nampula, Beira, Nacala and soon we are going to be also in Tete, dedicated to this key segment of the market.
One of the new expansion plans of BCI is to increase its market share in retail banking, especially in rural areas which currently have limited access to banking services. Can you expand on this strategy?
We are proud to be the first bank to accept the challenge of the Central Bank of Mozambique (BM) to open branches in rural areas which had no access to banking institutions in the past. In 2008 we started an ambitious branch expansion which will continue over the coming years in a balanced way between rural and urban areas that will allow us to fulfil our final target: to make BCI a universal bank, and bring it closer to our clients.
What would you say are the main services that make BCI such a trustworthy and strong institution?
BCI has a value proposition for each of the principal segments of the market. Such proposition helps BCI to give quality service to current and potential clients. Besides the BCI Private Centre in Maputo and the six BCI Corporate Centers which I mentioned before, we have, in our branches, services for affluent clients (BCI Exclusivo) and for small and medium enterprises (BCI Negócios). In those centres our clients enjoy the personalised service of a member of our staff who is designated to follow up closely with them on their needs.
Why would American investors looking at Mozambique choose BCI as their partner?
Mozambique is seen today as a country with high growth potential in various sectors such as mining, renewable energy, tourism and agriculture, among others, and BCI is the perfect financial partner for foreign companies that want to invest in the country. Not just because we know the country, but because we have been the financial partner for several successful initiatives in those sectors. Finally, we have a solid structure and a commercial network which is constantly growing closely with our clients.
BCI introduces itself today as a modern bank, not only through the change of the brand image (orange being the main new colour), but also by the new dynamic in the management of the bank and the organisation of the commercial network. What was the impact of the rebranding strategy?
The need of transmitting to the market the new position of BCI as a universal bank obliged us to adopt a new brand image and a new style of communication with the clients: that of a more modern Mozambican bank that is closer to its clients in all segments. This is work that we’ve been doing since 2008, and that has changed the way the clients see us today.
What would be your message about Mozambique and BCI?
Mozambique is a country with solid economic growth, political stability and a young population that offers investors various investment opportunities in numerous areas. In addition, Mozambique offers a strategic geographic position, as the country is the gateway to southern Africa and several others countries such as Malawi, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
In this context the country plays a key role in the logistics and transportation of products into its neighbouring nations; for that reason, there are several ambitious projects to have more efficiency in the local ports and higher trade within the region.
Of course, this represents a major opportunity for international companies looking to enter Mozambique and further expand into other countries in the region. Moreover, there are quite a few international studies that have revealed that the business environment in Mozambique has been improving year after year; that is a clear indicator of the good conditions the country offers to foreign companies looking forward to investing and doing business here. BCI is here to be the partner of choice for those interested in investing here and that are looking forward to meeting with a banking institution with the highest standards and an extended knowledge of the market.
Dr Ibraímo Ibraímo is CEO of Banco BCI