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“There will not be a gap left just because some are leaving," says CEO Henri-Claude Oyima

Wednesday, 22 May 2024 19:28
“There will not be a gap left just because some are leaving," says CEO Henri-Claude Oyima

(Ecofin Agency) - At the end of 2023, BGFIBank surpassed 5,000 billion CFA francs in total assets and nearly reached 100 billion CFA francs in net profit, solidifying its position as the leading banking group in Central Africa. In an interview with Business in Cameroon (IC) and EcoMatin (EM), the CEO of this Libreville-based institution, Henri-Claude Oyima, revealed the secrets behind this success, explained the bank's customer positioning, and discussed the group's expansion strategy at a time when some Western banks are exiting Africa. Oyima also discussed the impressive performance of the Cameroonian subsidiary, whose net profit has nearly quadrupled in four years.

Amina Malloum (EcoMatin): BGFIBank reported a net profit of CFA96 billion for 2023, up 55% year-over-year. What’s behind this performance?

Henri-Claude Oyima:  Since 2010, and even as early as 2005, BGFIBank has been implementing five-year plans. Our current plan, Dynamic 2025, shapes our development strategy around five main pillars: governance, human capital, resource management, risk control, and development. This plan provided clear guidelines for achieving total assets, risk management, and net results. For instance, our 2023 net profit of CFA96 billion in consolidated terms, and over 101 billion in combined terms, exactly matched our projections. So, this achievement didn't surprise us.

Dynamic 2025 has been full of pleasant surprises. When we launched it in 2020, we set a target of CFA5,000 billion in total assets by 2025. To our delight, we surpassed this goal by December 31, 2023, with assets reaching CFA5,300 billion.

AM (EM): How would you evaluate your current progress in achieving the goals outlined in the Dynamic 2025 strategic plan?

HCO:  The Dynamic 2025 plan has indeed surprised us positively. We exceeded our initial total asset target of CFA5,000 billion for 2025 by the end of 2023, reaching CFA5,300 billion. Consequently, we've revised our goal upward; our new target is now CFA6,000 billion in total assets. Moreover, we aim for a net profit exceeding CFA150 billion, up from the initial goal of under CFA100 billion. Our staff is aware of this new vision.

AM (EM): You announced dividend distribution for 2023. How do you balance a generous dividend policy with regulatory constraints?

HCO:  We have set a solvency ratio, crucial in our industry to ensure our capacity to extend credit. Based on this ratio, we determine the annual dividend payout. For 2023, we plan to propose a dividend of CFA11,000 per share at our upcoming general meeting on June 27. While this might seem lower than the CFA15,000 CFA share distributed last year, it's important to remember that last year’s dividend included compensation for three years when dividend distribution was prohibited by the banking commission due to COVID-19. If you divide 15,000 CFA francs by three, it equates to 5,000 CFA francs per year. Therefore, the 2023 dividend is actually almost double that of the previous year, which will undoubtedly please our shareholders.

AM (EM): You attended the board meeting of BGFIBank Cameroon on May 15. What were the key decisions made?

HCO:  During the board meeting, three significant decisions were made. Firstly, we approved a dividend distribution of CFA8.3 billion to our shareholders. Secondly, Mr. Mahamat Abakal was reappointed as the General Manager for another five-year term. Thirdly, I was appointed Chairman of the Board, succeeding Mr. Richard Lowe, to whom I pay tribute for his remarkable work over the twelve years of our presence in Cameroon.

Aboudi Ottou (IC): What is the roadmap set for the General Manager's new five-year term?

HCO:  The group operates on a five-year plan, and each subsidiary, including BGFIBank Cameroon, follows a three-year plan aligned with our strategic indicators. This plan includes several main axes: ensuring good governance in line with regulatory standards, transforming human capital, effectively managing all resources—financial, material, and human—with great precision.

We are very satisfied with the progress of BGFIBank Cameroon, one of our main growth hubs. Our goal is to position ourselves among the top financial institutions in the country, becoming a key partner for the state in supporting structural projects and a reliable partner for businesses and individuals.

The fourth axis involves risk management. Given the multiple risks in our operating environment, it is essential that all credits we grant and operations we handle are managed by a string risk control tool. The final axis is development: the board has authorized the expansion of our customer base and the strengthening of our market presence. Our goal is to establish branches everywhere and seize every opportunity to reinforce our presence in the country. We aim to position BGFIBank Cameroon among the top five banks in the country within three years, or even among the top two or three.

AM (EM): Your Cameroonian subsidiary's activities have grown, particularly in the credit segment, with an increase of nearly 20%. How do you view this subsidiary's evolution?

HCO:  We are very pleased with BGFIBank Cameroon's development, which is one of our key growth areas. Our objective is to become one of the leading financial institutions in the country, partnering with the state in structural projects and being a reliable partner for businesses and individuals. We want our distribution network to be more proximity-oriented. We also plan to vigorously develop our four main businesses: commercial banking, corporate banking, private banking, and asset management, along with specialized financial services and insurance.

AO (IC): Several of your subsidiaries are actively developing retail banking. What is BGFIBank’s current customer positioning?

HCO:  BGFIBank is a financial portal catering to the diverse needs of its clientele with services tailored to each regional context. We position ourselves as a universal bank, accessible to all, adapting our strategies to the unique characteristics of each country and market requirements.

We closely observe the withdrawal of certain banks from the continent and are gradually seizing the opportunities created by their departure. Rest assured, there won't be a void because some are leaving. There will be complementarity and opportunities for African banks.

In countries with high populations, we emphasize retail banking; in those with a strong entrepreneurial fabric, we prioritize corporate banking; and in areas with a wealthier population, we focus on private banking. Where these characteristics overlap, we offer specialized financial services. BGFIBank is not a bank for the rich but a bank for everyone.

 AO (IC): In Cameroon, we notice a strengthening of teams in wealth management. Does this mean there are more wealthy people in Cameroon today than in the past?

HCO:  (Laughs) Cameroon is a rich country, not only because of its population but also its natural resources. It’s natural for the country to have wealthy individuals. As bankers, it's our responsibility to manage this clientele. Although currently mixed with regular commercial clients, this clientele deserves special attention and tailored products. That’s why we’ve developed our private bank, specifically aimed at meeting their needs. Our goal is to ensure every client finds a suitable solution with us, ranging from retail banking to private banking.

AO (IC): Have you conducted a market study for this segment? How do you estimate this market in Cameroon and the sub-region?

HCO:  We don’t approach the issue that way. We first ask if there is a clientele for this specific service. The answer is yes in our sub-region. The real question for private banking is determining where to set the threshold. Thus, we have an affluent clientele needing services tailored to their needs.

AO (IC): Two years ago, you launched the construction of the new headquarters for the Cameroon subsidiary, with completion scheduled for 2024. How is the work progressing?

HCO:  The construction is progressing according to plan. The new headquarters will be inaugurated in the fourth quarter of 2024, as scheduled.

AO (IC): With Western banks withdrawing from Africa, do you believe African banking groups like BGFIBank can take the ground left by these institutions?

HCO:  Absolutely. The current volumes of financing we provide to our states and businesses demonstrate our capacity. At BGFIBank, we closely monitor the withdrawal of these banks and seize the opportunities created by their departure.

For example, in Congo, we have already started the process to take over Société Générale's subsidiary. We are currently waiting for the banking commission's approval to finalize these operations, although the agreements are already in place.

Moreover, we are actively exploring other opportunities within our growth hubs. Our strategy includes both acquisitions and internal expansions, depending on market opportunities. Rest assured, there won't be a gap left just because some are leaving. There will be complementarity and opportunities for African banks.

AO (IC): With the acquisition of Société Générale's assets in Congo, how significant will Congo's contribution be to BGFIBank's overall performance?

HCO:  BGFIBank Congo is already the leading bank in the country, holding nearly 40% market share. By acquiring Société Générale's subsidiary, we aim to solidify this dominant position. This acquisition makes Congo one of our main growth hubs, and we expect it to contribute significantly to the group's overall performance.

Currently, Congo is our second-largest contributor after Gabon, with a net profit of CFA22.7 billion in 2023 compared to CFA33 billion for Gabon. However, it’s important to note that we don’t compare our subsidiaries against each other but against their specific market conditions and objectives.

AO (IC): Société Générale is also selling subsidiaries in Cameroon, Ghana, and Tunisia. Is this an opportunity for BGFIBank to expand in the Cemac region or even into the Maghreb?

HCO:  Our development follows a strategy tailored to our business, independent of others. Currently, the Maghreb is not part of our strategic plan. Even if an opportunity arises in that region, we would choose not to pursue it because it doesn’t align with our established strategy. We prefer to strengthen our presence in countries we have carefully selected and fully understand in terms of ecosystem and environment. Thus, we focus on movements in countries where we are already established and adhere to our long-term strategy.

AM (EM): In Cameroon, the state has initiated the process to sell its majority stake in Commercial Bank Cameroon (CBC). Are you interested in acquiring CBC?

HCO:  CBC is not part of our current strategic options. This might be seen as a missed opportunity, but we have consciously chosen not to explore this path. However, we remain open to opportunities that align with our strategy.

Interview conducted by Aboudi Ottou (IC) and Amina Malloum (EM)



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ECOFIN AGENCY offers a selection of articles translated from AGENCE ECOFIN. Founded in 2011, Agence Ecofin is a leader in Francophone Pan-African economic news, particularly in West and Central Africa. The agency publishes daily news on nine African economic sectors: Public Management, Finance, ICT, Agribusiness, Energy, Mining, Transport & Logistics, Communication, and Training.

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