CFOs can expect continued volatility in our markets, says CIB's Sun? Brugman


“At Standard Bank, we focus on business opportunities that help our clients grow financially and socially, in all the countries in which we operate,” says Sun? Brugman, chief risk officer for Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) at Standard Bank. “Equally, we aim to bring new business and investment into Africa by connecting the major markets outside of Africa to the continent.”

In her role, Brugman is responsible for credit and equity risk, country risk, market risk, operational risk and recoveries globally across Standard Bank's CIB operations. This includes understanding the risk portfolio and customer base, setting risk appetite, finding opportunities for growth, and protecting the bank's shareholders and depositors by ensuring that the bank is making the right risk decisions and acting responsibly and within regulation.

What trends are you seeing in your area of expertise that finance leaders should be aware of?
"I would say the trends centre around four key themes, namely identifiable strategy, client centricity, digitisation, and regulation. I'll discuss each in turn."
"As far as identifiable strategy is concerned, Standard Bank, as a group, has a strategy that both explains what we want to be as an organisation and which gives our people and our clients a vision that we can aspire to."

"As an organisation, we believe that 'Africa is our home, we drive her growth'. This powerful statement highlights our key focus on Africa and gives a sense of purpose to our people. We don't just talk about this, we have operations throughout Sub-Saharan Africa where we have local people with local expertise running our businesses. This is critical to ensure that we can deliver the right services to our clients that are endorsed by real local knowledge."

"One example of this purpose can be seen in the recent banking license awarded to us for Cote d'Ivoire. This will give us access to the growing WAEMU market, the West African Economic and Monetary Union market, where we can continue to expand into these new markets and, more importantly, assist our existing clients as they move into these new markets."
"With regards to client centricity, our strategy also explains how we put our clients at the heart of everything we do. Client centricity is a trend that we are seeing, across the industry both globally and locally, as well as in other client service industries. Our services and our actions should all be aligned to what the client wants and needs and what will add the most value to our clients. By delivering on these, we would hope to see continued positive growth through returning business as well as new business from new clients who recognise our ability to assist them."

"We should be developing solutions and products driven from a client perspective rather than a bank perspective, and in so doing, partnering our client as they grow, rather than being opportunistic in our dealings."

"As far as digitisation goes, we are seeing great lengths of digitisation and modernisation of the banking industry. In our market, it has been far more prevalent in the retail space but it is starting to grow legs in the corporate space. Customers, irrespective of segment, are getting used to a world where things happen faster and with less error. Modernising though, is not just about automating existing processes, it's about making use of technology as we transform to improve our analytical and decision-making capability, our ability to offer new products and accelerate them to market, and ultimately offer a better client experience."

"Digitisation has the ability to improve processing and decision-making while reducing operational risk. Together with innovation and, through partnering with FinTechs, it will be exciting to be a part of the transformation of the industry over the next five to ten years."

"Regarding regulation, we have not seen a slowdown in changing regulation and governance and we don't expect it to slow down any time soon. Understandably, as banks become more complex, geographically spread and have the ability to offer a wider set of products, regulation needs to ensure that all stakeholders are considered and protected. The test for banks will be their ability to understand, on board and adapt quickly to new and expected regulation so that they can continue to create new business and opportunities."

How are you helping your clients with these challenges?
"Our strategy, local teams and expertise allow us to understand the markets in which our clients operate. We can also build necessary, real, relationships with our clients. Being able to commit and have this deep understanding allows us to have sustainable growth relationships that not only grow businesses but also communities around our clients, as we have seen with renewable energy in Kenya, shopping malls in Uganda, and oil companies in Nigeria."

"As risk managers, our job is as much about protecting depositors and shareholders as it is about finding opportunity for business growth, and having appropriate risk appetite to steer our business partners in building client relationships and finding new clients. Our group's reach, product suite and ability to understand the entire value chain across retail, corporate and wealth allow us to really partner our clients and ensure that they are coming out best. By putting them first, we can respond to their needs more commercially, pragmatically and with urgency."

"We have the ability to understand global trends and bring these to our customers through appropriate digital platforms. These can assist in reducing cost and errors, while also reducing turnaround times and increasing risk appetite by embracing technology to better analyse our risk. We are working on solutions, and as we work closer with our clients, we aim to use these capabilities to enhance our client service and improve their experience."
"Our legacy and brand has been built on a foundation of trust and integrity. We have also built good and healthy relationships with our regulators in all of the markets in which we operate. Both of these help us expect changes in regulation, adapt to them and ensure that our clients continue to enjoy their service with as little interruption as possible, and minimal change."

What should CFOs expect over the next 12 to 18 months?
"CFOs can expect to see continued volatility in our markets. They can, however, also continue to look to their banking partners to help them navigate the volatility and to support them with appropriate products and financing. We hope to see even more expansion into the continent from our local companies as they seek new business growth as well as continued growth and offerings in South Africa from both international companies and hopefully more African companies. South Africa will continue to be an important gateway onto the continent and our local businesses are well placed to take advantage of this."

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