Chief executive officer Samuel Matsekete is determined to use the re-branding of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe to First Capital Bank Limited (FCB) as a springboard to broaden its offering and provide meaningful solutions to its local and regional customers.
While it was never said before, being part of a bigger global brand, Matsekete said, was stifling the group in terms of responding to opportunities in a much faster way.
In the past, approvals for new ventures among other things had to be sought and for Barclays, the decisions had to be in line with Barclay’s Plc’s heritage of doing things of 106 years.
Following the shareholder changes, Matsekete said, Barclays is looking forward to the future as a regional bank.
It presents opportunities to be closer to clients in terms of understanding and responding to requirements, Matsekete explained.
“When you come closer to the market, I think that responsiveness to opportunities is one of the things that you will start to see evolve . . . we would do that but still respecting our risk management heritage.”
The FCB boss told Business Weekly, soon after the unveiling of the new name and brand at the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, that from being regional bank and also coming into the market with a re-energised brand presents opportunities for being closer to clients in terms of understanding and responding to their requirements.
“I have always said that it’s easier if focus is also much closer to the geography where you operate and that’s basically what we are looking forward to, and we have already started to see the product range broadening.
“When you are going through a change like this it’s actually an opportunity to look at what else you can remodel around your operations so there is quite a low that’s in the pipeline, which we should be seeing coming through in the short period of time.”
No change in lending policy
“Our lending policy will continue to respect the discipline of our risk management, so that we protect the quality of the loan book that we have always sustained, but even as we do that we want to ensure that we grow and grow into various segments that we serve,” Matsekete said.
He said the bank will continue to serve different types of segments, including SMEs and the retail segment but in all this the bank lend for the revenue and also lend to recover and protect depositors’ funds.
Matsekete said the lending policy will also be guided by changes in the market and priorities that are there and can be supported at a macro level.
“But talking to lending generally, our results for the first half show that there has been growth in our lending book, there is always challenges that are macro and around appetite to borrow, the rate at which clients will utilise the facilities.
“In terms of priorities the economy is chasing after, I think there has been movement, if you are upgrading some of your plant, if you are doing refurbishments, and if you are in the sectors where you are actually substituting imports, or you are growing exports, those areas we have actually seen growth and movement in terms of utilising facilities, so those will continue,” explained the FCB boss.
He talked of the bank’s involvement in the agricultural sector and said there is always more to be done in that space and provides lots of opportunities.
“We have been participating in the agriculture sector whether it’s to a primary agriculture player, through to the secondary agriculture player and value chains around those, there is more to be done in that space,” Matsekete said.
“Similarly, I think mining has opportunities for some of the transactions that we would want to participate in as a bank, not necessarily lending but it could be advisory services, fund raising efforts, capital raising efforts, or in just the efforts to optimise the business.”
He said the two sector are just examples in terms of where the new entity is planning to do a lot more than it has done in the past. We view ourselves not as just a bank but to a point as advisors or partners to our clients, and offer advice and insights that will be useful in terms of their business, Matsekete said.
Market interest rates not constraining
He also took time to explain why there is low appetite for loan uptake touching on how this can be affected by interest rates as well as the limited availability for foreign currency.
“The discussion around interest rates is also one that hinges on the overall monetary policy for the economy and how we see fundamentals being addressed in the economy.”
But I would like to say the interest rates generally in this market, and again by support of policies that we have, have been designed to ensure that they are optimal to those that are in the productive sector, so if you are borrowing to produce it shouldn’t become a constraint that you are now finding in the regime of low interest rates, said Matsekete.
“I wouldn’t say interest rates is an inhibition to the levels of borrowing, I think it’s more of finding the projects that are suitable and designing them such that we can access funding.
“The final point is that as market we also at a stage where we should evolve in terms of how we finance projects, we have come from a recent past where everyone that wants to do a project thinks a bank borrowing is the only source of funding, where maybe venture capital is more suitable or where capital itself in form of equity and so forth becomes more suitable. In this economy we need more patient money, which takes various forms rather than just short term bank borrowings, and First Capital Bank will actually be playing its part in ensuring that the market starts to access some of those alternative sources of funding,” said Matsekete.