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Interviews

Absa Bank: Achieving Benchmark Status in Mozambique

IMG 1268 - Global Banking | Finance

Absa Bank: Achieving Benchmark Status in Mozambique

Pedro Carvalho - Global Banking | Finance

Pedro Carvalho
CEO, Absa Bank Moçambique

Mozambique, with its abundant development opportunities and undeniable agricultural potential, is a strategic focus for various financial groups in Africa. Geographically, it serves as a crucial logistics hub on both national and regional levels and offers extensive investment possibilities, spanning public infrastructure, industrial production, mechanised agriculture, the oil and gas sector, and more.

Following Mozambique’s independence in 1975, Absa emerged as the primary banking force in the country. Throughout its history, the bank has consistently evolved, retaining its core values of quality, excellence, responsibility, integrity, and professionalism.

Through its dedication to these values, Absa is positioned to play a pivotal role in Mozambique’s continued economic advancement by providing services that support key sectors vital to the country’s development. In this dynamic landscape, Absa’s commitment extends beyond borders, as it remains an eligible partner for international companies seeking opportunities in Mozambique. Notably, Absa is among the few banks with a presence in all of Mozambique’s 11 provinces.

With over 30 years of experience in the banking industry, Pedro Carvalho has been the Chief Executive Officer of Absa Bank Moçambique since September 2022. He joined Absa in Mozambique, then under the Barclays brand, in 2014 as the Chief Operating Officer. In 2018, he was appointed as the Director of Retail and Business Banking, a role that he assumed until being designated CEO.

When Pedro spoke to Global Banking & Finance Review, he provided significant insight into the strength of the infrastructure within which the bank operates and the emphasis it places on leadership and a positive work culture.

“When it comes to guiding our actions and behaviours at Absa Bank Moçambique, we take our institutional values very seriously: trust, resourcefulness, stewardship, inclusion and courage,” he revealed. “We proudly position ourselves as champions of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Our commitment is evident through various projects that encourage co-creation across different business units, bringing diverse perspectives to the table.”

While this collaborative approach provides a way to ensure that all the bank’s services are designed to meet clients’ unique needs, it also extends to the internal team. “Before addressing client needs, we prioritise adding value to our employees’ lives through a work culture that emphasises well-being and sustainable production. As a financial institution, we take pride in maintaining a hybrid work model, allowing employees to disconnect from the corporate environment and work from home, thus fostering flexibility, productivity and employee satisfaction. Regular surveys are conducted to gauge employee sentiment and identify areas that are essential to their satisfaction and growth.”

Pedro credits this strong emphasis on work-life balance as a significant contributor to Absa’s institutional growth as well as to the creation of a conducive space for its employees’ development.

“Our ongoing efforts are geared towards promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment, caring for both the mental and physical health of our team, and fostering a healthy balance between personal and professional life. As a universal bank in Mozambique, we provide ample opportunities for individual and collective growth through career progression programs, a non-discriminatory policy, and seamless mobility within the internal sectors of the bank.”

Initiatives such as the ICAS program (mental, economical, and legal counsel to all staff) and Sports After Work have been created and implemented to enhance employee well-being, while the bank’s main offices feature designated spaces for meditation and prayer, complemented by flexible working policies designed to reduce stress in the corporate environment. “Throughout all business areas, leadership initiatives abound to encourage team interactions,” Pedro said. “From team-building activities to social gatherings, these efforts strengthen employee connections and have a positive impact on overall productivity.”

“While we continue to champion work-life balance, we also recognise the importance of metrics. Employee surveys, productivity statistics, and testimonials affirm the success of these programs in enhancing satisfaction and productivity, further solidifying our commitment to a thriving and balanced workplace.”

Given that talent acquisition and development play such a crucial role in the banking sector, Pedro explained that transparency ranks high as a priority in the bank’s selection processes in order to foster trust, promote equal opportunities, and draw the best talent.

“At Absa Bank Moçambique, we recognise the paramount importance of a robust talent attraction and retention policy. Renowned as a hub for cultivating excellence, we take pride in our role as educators, training and nurturing outstanding professionals. In our commitment to retention, we endeavour to instil in each professional the core values and a positive perception of leadership positions. We provide the necessary support for their work, offer ample development opportunities, and maintain an organisational structure and processes that facilitate an agile and efficient workflow.”

In terms of community involvement and corporate social responsibility, Absa Bank Moçambique has shown itself to be dedicated to making a meaningful contribution to the communities it serves. “Our commitment to CSR is deeply ingrained, and we actively support social, environmental, educational, and cultural initiatives in Mozambique, aligning with our broader citizenship strategy,” Pedro said. “One notable initiative is our support for local artists, whereby we provide them with a platform in the market and promote their work through various cultural programs across the country.”

Other CSR-led endeavours include support for national blood banks, orphanages, and other impactful community actions. “Our contributions are designed to positively impact the lives of individuals in the communities we serve. Furthermore, we encourage and finance initiatives led by our staff, promoting social engagement and support within those communities. Our overarching purpose, ‘Empowering Africa’s tomorrow, together… one story at a time,’ reflects our commitment to sustainable development. As we move forward, Absa Bank Moçambique remains steadfast in its dedication to community development and making a positive impact, one initiative at a time.”

In line with Absa Bank Moçambique’s robust efforts towards diversity and inclusion in the organisation, and the financial sector as a whole, Pedro described gender equality and women’s empowerment as “paramount priorities,” evidenced by its proactive initiatives to create an inclusive workplace. “We go beyond mere rhetoric, offering equal opportunities internally and achieving commendable figures that position us as advocates for gender balance,” he explained. “At the core of our commitment is a 50-50 gender representation on our Country Management Committee, a tangible example of our dedication to diversity and inclusion. Our commitment extends beyond structural representation, with numerous women ascending to prestigious positions based on their work, dedication, and merit.”

He cites the increasing presence of women in decision-making roles as being central to the bank’s initiatives, a focus that has led to the assurance of pay parity between genders and the availability of flexible work options. “We champion partial or full home office options, particularly for women and mothers, to facilitate a better balance between their personal and professional lives.”

Actively listening to employees to understand their needs and challenges has been a major factor in developing the balanced working environment the bank enjoys today. “Active listening is ingrained in our culture, allowing us to adapt and respond to the evolving needs of our workforce,” Pedro went on. “Our commitment to gender equality is not just a statement; it’s a lived reality, and our success is reflected in the growing prominence of women in leadership positions at Absa Bank Moçambique.”

Equally important to the organisation is the nurturing of young talent in the financial sector. Absa Bank Moçambique’s commitment to youth development is demonstrable through its Ready to Work and Graduate Program initiatives, which serve as catalysts for knowledge and know-how, offering opportunities to enhance the employability prospects of young individuals in a competitive market. These programs exemplify Absa’s dedication to preparing the next generation for success, and Pedro spoke about the transformative impact they have had.

“These programs have experienced consistent annual growth in applications, a testament to the invaluable contribution they make to human capital development and the training of young minds,” he reported. “Rooted in principles related to self-growth and financial education, Absa Bank’s initiatives continue to shape a promising future for the next generation.”

“The Graduate Program serves as a powerful tool, providing young individuals with a gateway to the corporate world. It equips them with practical skills, an understanding of banking operations, and the development of professional abilities. Similarly, the Ready to Work program focuses on training young people in essential skills and techniques for active job searching, along with behavioural skills crucial to employability and career progression.”

“Recognised across the country, these programs are regarded as effective employability tools that extend beyond training,” he continued. “They offer vital support during the critical transition from academic life to the professional world. Numerous young participants have not only acquired skills but have also successfully joined the ranks of Absa Bank Moçambique’s staff. Beyond our organisation, these initiatives empower young individuals to pursue diverse job opportunities in the market, encompassing technical, professional, and behavioural components.”

“The success stories emerging from these programs underscore the profound impact they have on youth development, paving the way for a future generation that’s well-equipped for the demands of the financial sector.”

Another pivotal consideration in modern banking is sustainability, and Absa Bank Moçambique has shown itself to be at the forefront of integrating environmentally-conscious practices into operations to contribute to the sustainable development of the country.

“Embracing the belief that the future of Mozambique should be intertwined with innovation and sustainability, Absa Bank Moçambique has made substantial strides in this direction,” Pedro said. “This year , we demonstrated our commitment to the planet’s future by inaugurating our first environmentally-friendly branches, harnessing solar energy to power our operations across various locations. Within our work environment, we are intensifying our commitment to digitalisation, aiming to significantly reduce paper usage.”

“Our focus on small businesses and emerging sectors, particularly renewable energies, is designed to stimulate creativity while respecting the ecological balance of a continent rich in natural resources.”

Guided by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, he revealed, Absa Bank Moçambique aspires to become the ‘greenest’ bank in the country in the coming years. “Sustainability is not just an external commitment but is intrinsic to our operations and has been a focal point for several years. The principles we champion include clean transport, rational use of water resources, sustainable exploitation of natural resources, energy cost reduction, digitalisation to minimise paper consumption, mechanised agriculture, sustainable environmental management, promotion of clean energies, and carbon emission reduction.”

“We also recognise the importance of considering environmental metrics in financing decisions, ensuring projects align with sustainability goals,” he added. “Absa Bank Moçambique remains dedicated to preserving and caring for the environment at every level of our operations, with a vision to lead the financial sector in sustainable practices for the benefit of Mozambique and its future generations.”

When looking ahead to the coming years, while Absa Bank Moçambique anticipates the continuous development of the national economy, its strategic objectives are rooted in not only keeping pace with this progress but also in aligning with the evolving needs of its communities.

“Our foremost commitment is to continue delivering innovative solutions, particularly in the digital realm, to ensure a higher quality of service for our customers,” Pedro explained. “As we embark on this journey, our strategic objectives encompass a comprehensive vision that goes beyond mere adaptation. We aim to set quantifiable goals, leveraging our position in the financial sector to contribute meaningfully to the well-being of our customers and communities.”

“We envision expanding our reach and influence, introducing new products and services, and embracing digital advancements to enhance the overall banking experience,” he went on. “Our commitment to social impact remains integral to these objectives as we strive to make a positive difference in the lives of our stakeholders.”

“As we navigate the future, our optimism is driven by the belief that our strategic initiatives will not only elevate the banking experience for our customers but also contribute to the broader social and economic development of Mozambique.”

With the banking industry undergoing constant evolution, Pedro also provided his predictions regarding the challenges and opportunities he foresees, underscoring the bank’s unwavering belief in the potential of Africans and their small businesses.

“Our vision is centred on leveraging the lives of Mozambicans, especially the youth, by empowering them to innovate in their investments with the Absa Group as their trusted partner,” he said. “A primary challenge and opportunity lie in our commitment to expanding our influence, not only within Mozambique but also across the African continent. Our focus is on offering practical solutions tailored to the emerging needs of each client, solidifying our presence through plans, projects, products, and services designed to elevate our position in the region.”

In closing, he accredited digitalisation as the cornerstone of the bank’s strategy moving forward. “Acknowledging the role of new technologies in shaping the future, we are steadfast in expanding our digital channels. Our dedication to digital excellence was recognised in 2021 when we were honoured as the Best Digital Bank in Mozambique at the Global Banking & Finance Awards. Strengthening our digital channels became crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling us to maintain seamless service provision while ensuring the safety of our customers through physical distancing.”

“Our modern and completely digital branches, coupled with an expansion plan covering all provinces of Mozambique, reflect our commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. We aspire to make every Mozambican citizen part of this digital transformation, positioning ourselves as the partner of choice in this new reality.”

Global Banking & Finance Review

 

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