Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Stockbrokers Limited, Mrs. Titi Ogungbesan, spoke to Global Banking and Finance on her firm’s consistent leading performance at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, since 2006, in terms of recording the highest transaction value, plans for the future, the inroads made by the capital market, and the role of market operators in attracting more investments to the market, among other issues…
According to the latest broker performance report from 2 January, 2018 to 31 October, 2018, Stanbic IBTC Stockbrokers Limited (SISL) led the top 10 brokers’ chart. SISL accounted for equities transaction valued at N419.021 billion, representing 19.66 percent of the total value of stock traded on the NSE in the 10 months period. To what will you attribute this impressive performance?
I would attribute this to clients’ confidence in SISL’s execution capabilities, sales, research and other efficient services in helping to achieve their investment objectives regarding trades on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and our ability to generate and match block flows. Adding value to clients is a top priority for us and this has helped us to generate and maintain very strong and lasting relationships with them and in turn, positioned us in good standing to get considerable portion of their trades.
Our affiliation with our parent company, Standard Bank group, with offices in different parts of the world is also an advantage as it creates for us a vast global network of relationships and clients for whom we execute trades.
Stanbic IBTC’s reputation for big ticket financing deals in Nigeria, debt and infrastructure financing, is quite remarkable. Stanbic IBTC was involved in Dangote Cement’s N150 billion commercial paper issuance, the federal government’s oversubscribed Eurobond and similar deals. What would you say is behind the confidence corporates and even the federal government repose in Stanbic IBTC when it comes to debt or equity transactions in Nigeria?
I would attribute this to our reputation for excellence, professionalism, expertise, quality service and integrity – all factors which are imperative for client confidence, enabling our client base both domestic and international investors, to entrust us with the big ticket transactions.
Your banking arm, Stanbic IBTC Bank, has for two years led other commercial banks in the country in terms of capital importation into the economy. This year, Stanbic IBTC Bank accounted for more than half of the total capital importation figure. Remarkably, of the three banks that led the pack, Stanbic IBTC is the only local or African bank. What in your opinion makes foreign investors trust you with their investments?
Across the group, we have key business units who deal with these international clients and are leaders in the various finance sub sectors. For example, our custodian business is the largest in the country, SISL is the leading brokerage firm and our Global markets desk is a top participant in the industry also. In addition, our investment banking team has facilitated large primary market transactions in the capital and money market spaces. We are therefore able to offer holistic solutions delivered with high level of efficiency and integrity to clients, which goes a long way in engendering confidence/ trust for repeat business and even referrals.
Still on the subject of foreign investment, as the year winds down and we take stock of the economic performance, how would you say the economy has fared compared to last year – specifically in terms of capital importation, whether as equity investment (FDI and portfolio investment) or directly into different economic sectors?
You would recall that the economy got out of recession in 2017 and there was a lot of optimism about the growth trajectory. However, this growth has been stifled by external and internal headwinds this year. For example, Nigeria was affected by the emerging market sell-offs, which highlighted the risks of investing in emerging and frontier markets and caused foreign investors to be more cautious. The increase in the anchor rate by the Fed Reserve Bank also encouraged them to invest more in the US (considering safety). The risk aversion typically associated with pre-election years has also been a factor. Internally, the continued challenge with the farmers/herdsmen clashes, perceived private sector challenges with regulators and stifled consumer spending have also led to more caution and reduced foreign investment.
This year’s Nigeria Economic Summit, the 24th edition was themed “Poverty to Prosperity: Making Governance and Institutions to Work”. The theme clearly indicates a need for structural changes that would unlock Nigeria’s capacity to attain her potential. As one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, how are you contributing to the critical sectors and helping to position the Nigerian economy for sustainable growth and development?
SISL as a major player in the capital market carries out its business in an ethical way. This has helped boost a lot of confidence from investors both locally and internationally and helped in ensuring Nigeria remains a top destination for foreign portfolio investments. We are always working with stakeholders to ensure the promotion of savings culture among Nigerians.
Other emerging economies in Africa like South Africa and Ghana are giving Nigeria a run for her money in terms of attracting investors. As a key player and stakeholder in the nation’s economy, what are you doing to raise investor confidence and what in your opinion, should we be doing now to attract investors?
As a company, we organize an annual flagship conference, the Standard Bank West Africa Investors’ conference, which is a foremost conference in Nigeria designed to connect Nigerian corporates with investors, both foreign and domestic, with the intention of attracting investment into the country. Our parent group also organizes an annual Africa Conference, which Nigeria is a significant part of. Over the years, we have recorded considerable success with these and other initiatives we undertake in playing our part in the Nigerian project.
As a nation, we should continue to enact policies that will aid ease of doing business and encourage diversification of the economy.
What advice will you have for someone who wishes to invest in Nigeria now?
Without doubt, opportunities abound in Nigeria but proper due diligence should be undertaken before investment. Investors should seek to partner with credible local stakeholders that would assist them in achieving their objectives. With our experience which spans several decades, we are willing and able to hold our clients’ and other prospective investors’ hands to guide them through the process.
The recently concluded chief executive’s innovation challenge was meant to address three business focus areas and subsidiaries, with strategic focus on digitisation, customer centricity within Stanbic IBTC Group and improved efficiencies in businesses, one of which is the stockbroking business. Coincidentally, the eventual winner was one that proffered a solution for SISL. What are your expectations regarding improving the customer trading experience through the creation of a simplified trading platform for your teeming stockbroking clients?
We are constantly working to improve our customers’ experience. We have an online portal which provides direct market access to all our clients. This enables them view their portfolio positions and have online real time access to the trading portal. It affords them the opportunity to trade directly from the comfort of their homes and offices. The just concluded chief executive’s innovation challenge is a testament to the fact that our industry is evolving and technology will play a major role in achieving customer satisfaction.
The latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index ranked Nigeria 146th out of 190 countries. In the 2017 edition of the report, Nigeria moved 24 places from its 2016 spot of 169 to 145. The federal government has set a target of being in the top 100 by 2020. Is this realistic or ambitious?
We believe this is achievable considering the successes that have been recorded already within the period of implementation. Although we slid by one place based on the latest ranking, we consider this just a temporary setback considering the will of the government in making sure that we realise the target.
How would you appraise the regulatory environment?
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) have always been relentless in improving capital market operations which has improved the practice. A lot is being done in the area of compliance with Know Your Customers (KYC), Anti Money Laundering / Combating Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT). More regulatory oversights are being upheld and there has been improved communication/information dissemination to all stakeholders. There has been more emphasis on investors’ protection as well with initiatives like e-dividend crediting and direct cash settlement.
How significant would you say such reports like the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index are in terms of how investors view the country in their decision-making process?
Quite significant as it sends a strong message to investors on the potential viability of their investments in Nigeria; it helps them to reappraise their expectations, plan and take decisions accordingly.
How effective was the capital market in helping government finance a huge budget deficit and how well can the market support government’s financing efforts?
The capital market serves as an avenue to access funds utilized in closing the deficit in financing the budget. There has been a lot of initiatives by the current government in accessing funds through the capital market like Sukuk Bond issuance, FGN Savings Bond, Green Bonds and others.
SISL is the leading stockbroking firm in Nigeria. What goals and targets are you setting for yourself over the next two to three years?
We plan to maintain our leadership position in the industry by providing stellar service to our existing and potential clients. We are working with corporates and other stakeholders to encourage more participation in the capital market especially in the area of new listings such as IPO, Right Issues, Mergers & Acquisitions, etc. We will continue to collaborate with regulators in developing new initiatives and products. And also embrace technology to encourage financial inclusion.
Q&A with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder, Centropy PR
Clare George-Hilley is the co-founder of Centropy PR
Global Banking and Finance Magazine recently caught up with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder of fintech and financial services specialist PR agency Centropy, as the company toasts to three years of trading. We asked Clare about what life is like running an agency in the city, the trends she is seeing in the financial services space and what the future holds following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Why did you decide to set up Centropy PR?
I was looking for an opportunity to launch my own agency, both my husband and I had been in the public affairs and public relations industry for over a decade and we thought the time was right to go out on our own.
We could see that the financial services industry was surging, with challenger brands and new technology transforming traditional banks and setting new standards of customer service. There was a huge market opportunity to create and launch a PR agency that could provider first class comms support, alongside a deep understanding of complex regulations such as AML, KYC, and the GDPR. Likewise, many traditional technology firms are diversifying their offerings, to tap into the growing market opportunity posed by the fintech boom.
So, we worked on a business plan, designed a strategy for winning clients and officially launched in September 2017. Within a few months we had a growing portfolio of clients and a thriving business, since that point, we have never looked back!
How is Centropy doing now and what are you plans for growth?
The last three years have flown by and our client portfolio has grown and diversified quickly. We now manage PR campaigns for clients on everything from cryptocurrency, wealth management to payments and trading software.
We’ve also hosted parliamentary debates with key industry figures, including Members of Parliament (MPs) on topics such as the future of the financial services industry and the impact of challenger banks on traditional providers. The team is expanding quickly and we’re investing heavily in the latest training and support to ensure our team members are equipped to reach their full potential.
How do you see the next 12 months?
The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the economy, forcing millions of people to work from home due to the very serious health risks. The knock-on effect of this crisis will lead to companies cutting costs where possible to save jobs, so tech will play a vital role in ensuring many businesses stay afloat.
We are already working with contactless payments specialists and other fintech companies that offer solutions to help companies survive and thrive despite the inevitable challenges ahead.
We aim to continue building our portfolio of expertise, testing ourselves with new challenges and delivering the best possible service to clients
This is a Sponsored Feature.
Lessons from past recessions and advice for business owners during the coronavirus pandemic
By Neil Davis, managing director and co-founder of Sterling Networks
What is Sterling Networks?
“Sterling Networks is a professional organisation founded in 2014 which facilitates networking events for businesses across the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and the South West. Over 300 members attend our fortnightly breakfast and lunchtime meetings.”
What is your background prior to establishing Sterling Networks?
“During the 1990s, I worked in the corporate team for Halifax. My wife, Tracey, and I went onto own a manufacturing business, which was also called Sterling, and produced a range of gifts, merchandise and promotional items.
“We soon realised tradeshows were a great way to meet distributors and clients. From there, the business grew exponentially, and we managed to build a network of around 500 distributors. Eventually, we became ground down by the manufacturing business – in part because the local manufacturing sector was being devastated by competition from China – and took the decision to sell the business and relocate to Spain.
“After spending several years living abroad, we moved back to the UK to set up Sterling Integrity (EXPO’S) & Sterling Networks (Networking) We were inspired by a desire to help businesses make meaningful connections with one another, and we haven’t looked back since.”
The UK has recently entered a recession, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. What have you learned from past recessions and how are these experiences helping you to navigate the current crisis?
“I’ve lived through a number of recessions and have seen the pain that insolvency causes companies on a large scale. It’s taught me that there are those who win and sadly those who lose, and that businesses must adapt to a rise in demand for certain products or services at a time of financial crisis.
“Given the nature of what Sterling Networks offers [an opportunity for business owners to connect and grow together] I decided we could build upon the brand due to the demand for new business during the pandemic. We therefore moved our networking events from face-to-face to virtual via tools like Zoom and have gained a steady stream of new members in recent months, reaching an overall total of well over 300.
“On top of that, we’ve taken new staff on during the crisis and have launched a number of new regional groups across the country. I was determined that Sterling should come out of the pandemic with a head start, so my attitude to the recession has been much more positive than those who are forecasting nothing but doom and gloom.
“We can’t pretend high street retail wasn’t suffering long before the pandemic came along, and thousands of new businesses are sure to start up to meet the demand for the products and services that people require at a time such as this. In order to develop and grow businesses need to focus on where changes need to be made to meet this demand.”
Sterling Networks has been providing emotional support to its members throughout the pandemic. What advice have you been giving to members that could be useful to other business owners?
“I try not to be too opinionated and respect other people’s views when giving advice to members, as there are always two sides to every circumstance. I’ve been careful not to say to people that they should be doing one thing or another, as I don’t know their business and its needs quite like they do. The only thing that I have been telling members is the importance of setting up one-to-ones with one another. By doing so, they can listen to the needs and concerns of other, like-minded business owners and work out ways that they might be able to help one another.
“The pandemic has meant we all have a bit more time on our hands, so the advice I would give to people is to use this extra time wisely. Not having to travel physically from one meeting to another means there is a greater opportunity to connect with more people. It’s important to remember that individuals outside of your business can be just as valuable as those within it.”
What makes you hopeful for the future and are there any words of encouragement you can give to budding entrepreneurs?
“The key events that have happened to this country during my lifetime – whether wars, recessions, or the pandemic – have enabled me to take stock of things. While these experiences are certainly challenging, we all become stronger for living through them, and it gives me great confidence that the world will ultimately improve as a result of the pandemic.
“The whole world is effectively rebooting right now, as is the business community. I like to think entrepreneurs will recognise this opportunity to take better care of their peers, and this translates to greater collaboration between organisations. Speak to as many people as you can, ask all the questions that you need to and do your homework. This might well be a difficult time for us all but planning for the future must start now if it is to become as prosperous as I know it can be.”
Exclusive Interview with Ugo Loser, CEO of ARCA Fondi SGR
Arca Fondi SGR is a mid-sized Italian active asset management company. Founded in 1983 by a consortium made up of 12 regional banks, the company has grown in time, expanding its network of distributors and its client base. Nowadays Arca manages Mutual Funds, Pension Funds and Institutional Accounts with total AUM exceeding 30 € bln, reaching more than 100 banks and financial institutions and serving more than 800,000 final clients.
What are the key contributors to ARCA Fondi SGR’s success over the past 35 years?
Arca has always put clients and distributors first. That is to say we have always privileged fair pricing for funds and developing high quality products and services for our customers. This requires constant innovation as an objective and looking for people’s talent to be free to produce its effect
Why are people the founding element of ARCA Fondi SGR and how have you sustained this vision over the years?
We work in small teams, people are young and motivated and can perform duties with a high level of autonomy and responsibility. Innovation is asked to everyone, everyday
What makes Arca Fondi SGR different from other asset management firms in Italy?
Arca is a company focused on doing what it can do very well, that is to say mutual and pension funds, services for clients and banks. We never follow short term trends but always look for long lasting impact on the industry, like we’ve done may times in the past
What products/services has ARCA Fondi SGR pioneered?
Arca has been the inventor of “Arca Cedola”, fixed-horizon, coupon paying funds, which have been with no doubt the greatest product innovation of the past 12 years on the Italian market. This type of funds, at first strictly based on bonds and later as a balanced product, has encountered an enormous success both with clients and distributors due to its simple and effective value proposition. Arca is a market leader also in the “PIR” segment of funds, a range of product focused on mid and small sized companies, that have been the best performers in the Italian stock market for the last few years. In services, Arca is a leader in technology applied to asset management. Our website, app and digital services for clients and banks are award winning, state of the art combination of data, technology and channels, and the best is yet to come on this side.
What strategies do you have in place to sustain your market position and withstand professional competition in the country?
As I mentioned, we do not waste resources on projects with dubious results, instead we constantly invest on people, products and services. The high level of profitability that Arca has been able to maintain even in difficult years for the markets of the banking sector is a further testimony that this strategy works very well
How do you use technology to create meaningful experiences for your customers?
First of all, we have created a whole new division, Arca InnovAction Lab, dedicated to technology, data and processes. This ensures projects are delivered quickly and they are free to leave bad past practices behind. Arcaonline.it, Arca’s website, provides distributors with detailed information on clients’ portfolios, asset under management and subscription/redemption requests. It monitors aggregate selling data offering to our partners a suite functions and analytics to track commercial campaigns. And if the banks branches need assistance, they may ask Sara, our digital chatbot. A broad and timely multimedia production, covering exclusive reports, comments, presentations, videos, webinars and newsletters is also available on the website.
Customers, subscribing Arca’s funds through its distributors’ network, may access Arcaclick, a dedicated area on Arcaonline.it. With Arcaclick the client can easily browse through her portfolio of funds, analyze its characteristics, view transactions and historical funds’ performance in customizable views. Arcaclick is also a powerful source of information on Arca product range: Prospectus, KIIDs and other literature is easily accessible along with news, comments and reports. Arcaclick may also be accessed via Arca Fondi App, a free application for mobiles and tables, running on both iOS and Android. Available 24/7 and in mobility, Arcaclick gives clients the opportunity access information, news and details of their personal portfolio anytime and anywhere.
What key trends will drive pension growth in 2020 and beyond?
The Italian market for pension funds is still very small and therefore there is a great opportunity to grow. Arca Fondi manages the biggest open ended Italian pension fund and it’s been constantly at the top of its rankings. As people and workers are looking for yield and to weather short term volatility, the pension fund is very well poised to profit from this trend.
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