With a degree in Engineering from ENSTA-Paris, Mohamed El Kettani began his banking career in 1984 when he joined the Banque Commerciale du Maroc (BCM). In 2007, he became CEO of the Attijariwafa Bank Group and has since led its national and regional development to make it the leading bank in the Maghreb and the seventh best bank in Africa. He is an Officer of the Order of the Throne of HM King Mohammed and an Officer of the Order of Legion of Honor of the French Republic. In 2019, he was promoted to the rank of Commander of the National Order of Côte d’Ivoire by the Grand Chancellor of the National Order of Côte d’Ivoire.
Attijariwafa Bank is the largest bank in Morocco and one of the largest in Africa. The bank employs more than 20,583 people, has nearly 10.6 million customers, and operates in 26 countries. The bank had total assets of $61 billion and profits of $630 million as of the end of 2021. In March 2022, Attijariwafa bank and the Moroccan Agency for Energy Efficiency signed an MoU to boost energy efficiency cooperation and green economy financing.
In an exclusive interview with Capital Markets in Africa. He shared with us his personal life experiences and leadership style as well as Attijariwaja bank’s long-term strategic plans to maximize profitability and enhance shareholders’ value. In addition, Mohamed viewed that Moroccan banking sector has achieved an impressive transformation over the two last decades, thanks to aggressive investment strategies in terms of branches network expansion and retail marketing that has led to banking penetration ratios at levels exceeding 60%
Can you tell our life experiences have influenced your leadership style and what is the most rewarding and challenging aspect of your job?
Let me first thank you for this opportunity to share our experience as a global pan-African bank. I have started my career in Banque Commerciale du Maroc (former name of Attijariwafa bank) 34 years ago at a time when our operations were mainly domestic, and the competition was relatively moderate. Since then, Attijariwafa bank has successfully engaged in a deep transformation, extending successfully its operations in 26 countries and upgrading its business model and profitability in every market of presence.
My personal belief is that leadership is a matter of attitude over the long run. I have always considered that the impossible can be achieved if we combine constant engagement, long term view, highly committed teams, and attention to details. More specifically, the most rewarding and challenging aspect of my job is to help our teams being fully empowered and make them « internal entrepreneurs » full of positive energy and boldness throughout the organization.
You champion the south-south cooperation, to catalyse opportunities for trade and investment on the continent you convey an annual International Africa Development Forum. What is the motivation behind the initiative and what are the achievements since its inception, please?
Since 2005, our group has engaged into an international strategy in order to grow our business in the Maghreb region and also francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to the strong support of our strategic shareholder, the pan-African investment Fund, Al Mada. It is also important to mention that the Moroccan private sector as a whole, has benefited from the vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI in favour of the south-to-south cooperation, which has enabled many Moroccan companies to grow successfully their business in sub-Saharan Africa.
Our strategy has been successfully implemented in a timely manner and resulted in the acquisition of fourteen banks during the 2005 2016 period. Since then, we have started the second phase of our strategic-, which is to grow our positions in anglophone Africa, and have initiated the first move thanks to the acquisition of Barclays Egypt (now AWB Egypt).
The vision behind this growth strategy is that Africa offers tremendous opportunities related to various factors: demography and urbanization that translates into the emergence of a sizeable middle class, need for infrastructure and in particular in energy – transports – logistics sectors, industrialization imperative with opportunities to upgrade value chains. But Africa does also desperately need enhanced integration in terms of trade and investment, that may offer investors larger markets and economies of scale.
As a pan-African bank, we value all these opportunities and help our clients achieve growth scenarios in new territories, by putting ahead our capabilities in corporate and investment banking as well as in retail banking, and also provide investors tailored-made business platforms such as Africa Development Forum, which has gathered during the 2019 edition more than 2000 companies from 34 countries in order to seize business opportunities.
As a result, various success stories have emerged in renewable energy, infrastructure, industry, agribusiness among other sectors, with valuable impacts on local economies trade, and jobs creation.
In an interview with oxford business group to discuss finance in Africa he had this to say;
What can be done to improve access to finance and banking services in rural areas?
In Côte d’Ivoire the decade-long political crisis negatively impacted the banking sector, leaving market players with little room to grow. Nonetheless, the country is back on track and considerable progress has been made. However, when it comes to access to finance, it is still a question of supply rather than demand. Despite a wide array of financial institutions and a credit worthy customer base, banks have failed to design their distribution models with a view to steadily improving access to finance. As banking services are financial products at heart, access can only be increased through the adaptation and improvement of distribution models. Clearly, whether seen through a bank assets-to-GDP ratio or in terms of population per branch, there is still a way to go. Indeed, we know there is a problem when the revenue growth of banks depends upon such a small percentage of the population.
Increasing the rural population’s access to banking services is, before anything else, a question of geographic planning. Despite rapid urbanisation across Africa, many people still live in the countryside. As such, bankers must carefully follow urban planning in order to best assess opportunities for branches in remote areas.
What obstacles must small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa overcome in order to gain access to long-term financing?
Improving SMEs’ access to financing is a global issue, even when SMEs create wealth and jobs. Unfortunately, issues with financial accountability and the high cost of long-term resources are common to many sub-Saharan African countries. In terms of financing, SMEs are often confronted with good governance and transparency issues. To alleviate said problems, there is a strong need to foster a managerial and entrepreneurial culture in the younger generation. Indeed, education and other training systems are not keeping pace. What matters most to bankers is confidence in the ability of SMEs to sufficiently control the future and thus to meet their commitments and honour their engagements. It is a question of the quality and rigour of management. While public policies can help increase the participation of local SMEs in the real economy, those measures must also be progressive and in line with the banking sector in order to fully succeed.
How can banks structure their assets and liabilities with a view to mitigating risk?
Without going into too much detail, one can easily understand that short-term resources (deposits) can, by definition, be quickly withdrawn from banks’ reserves (total assets). However, retail banks, within the scope of their financial intermediation services, use their clients’ short-term resources to provide long-term loans. When banks lend money long-term, they are likewise reimbursed long-term; however, clients retain the ability to withdraw their short-term deposits at any given time. So, long story short, banks are naturally exposed to imbalances between their short-term assets and their long-term liabilities. That said, banks are prepared for this dilemma and many mechanisms exist to mitigate potential issues. Real problems come into play when exogenous shocks, such as socio-political or financial crises, affect the system as a whole.
How can Côte d’Ivoire work to reduce the ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the country?
While the NPL ratio is a key measure of bad credit, one must not forget the crucial role that a clean business environment plays in addressing and reducing the quantity of bad loans. This is largely dependent on variables outside the financial system. For the banking sector itself, better risk control is needed to guarantee effective operations management and governance. Commercial decisions should be kept from unduly influencing risk assessments. To that end, the banking sector typically uses the “four eyes principle“as a precaution. The survival of the bank is at stake.
Source: oxfordbusinessgroup.com / capitalmarketsinafrica.com / forbesmiddleeast.com