Africa is a great source of growth, says Standard Bank CIB's Victor Williams
As the head of Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) for Africa at Standard Bank, Victor Williams is responsible for corporate and investment banking in the 19 countries – excluding South Africa – that comprise the Africa Regions. He says the bank serves corporate, sovereign and institutional clients (local corporates and multinationals) in those markets, providing them with global markets, transactional banking and investment banking services. “In each of the markets in which we are present we are looking to build the leading corporate and investment banking franchise in that market,” he says.
What trends are you seeing in your area of expertise that finance leaders should be aware of?
"Africa continues to be a source of growth and we are seeing an increased focus on developing diversified economies. Africa has been challenged recently by a decline in commodity prices, so I think in response to that, governments and corporate organisations have turned with renewed focus to diversifying the economy, which places emphasis on manufacturing, consumer markets and consumer goods, and agriculture and agri-processing."
"There continues to be investment in infrastructure - especially in power and roads, as well as rail and ports, to increase the continent's capacity. I think that intra-African trade continues to grow, too. Increasingly we are seeing both multinationals and African companies looking to expand across their particular region or more broadly, into neighbouring markets."
"Leaders continue to work to build companies with an improved focus on governance and corporate best practices to enhance both the quality of management in the company and also, as a way of ensuring the companies are better positioned to take in external capital, be that listing on the public markets, issuing corporate bonds or taking in capital from a strategic partner or private equity fund."
How are you helping your clients with these challenges?
"In terms of diversification, we have a particular focus on sectors that are linked to the domestic economy, such as the consumer sector, which includes consumer goods and agriculture. This is one of our fastest-growing segments. We are working to acquire new clients in this space and to direct more of our resources, capital and loans into that space. We are seeing the results of this effort reflected in our portfolio in terms of the contribution coming from the consumer sector."
"We continue to be a strong supporter of infrastructure growth on the continent. So, we are looking at power, for example, or roads. We are also seeing markets that traditionally haven't been corporate markets, such as healthcare, beginning to receive corporate attention. We are thus working with clients to provide medical devices into hospital sectors, as well as helping hospital chains grow and acquire new strategic partners."
"Regarding corporate governance, we want to be an example of good corporate governance in the countries we operate in, and a supporter of initiatives led by business groups, as well as by regulators, to improve corporate governance in those markets."
What should CFOs expect over the next 12 to 18 months?
"Africa is a dynamic and changing continent, so CFOs should expect change. Markets which seem to be going well today can become the markets that slowdown in the future, and markets that are struggling today can quickly find their feet and continue to provide growth opportunities."
"I think there is a continuous need for high quality CFOs; who can really lead initiatives that help businesses to become more efficient, and which position their companies for growth. In an environment that is challenging but where there is still growth, people want to capture the growth that is available but they also want to grow as efficiently as possible."
"In general, people will look to CFOs to lead these efficiencies and productivity drives in order to improve a company's ability to grow sustainably."
"There are a number of regulatory changes coming down the pipe such as greater adoption of Basel 3 and IFRS 9. And people will look to CFO's to provide guidance in order to help their organizations to adapt to these regulatory changes."