Mozambique Banking Sector: António Correia Talks About Banco Único’s Success Story

António Correia presents Banco Único and talks about the bank’s success story in Mozambique. In just two years and a half, Banco Único rapidly came from the 18th position to become the country’s 6th biggest bank.

Interview with António Correia, CEO of Banco Único

António Correia, CEO of Banco Único

Could you give us an overview of the bank’s history in Mozambique, as well as its strengths?

I think Banco Único is a success story in Mozambique. We are the newest bank in the market, but we very rapidly came from the 18th position to become the country’s 6th biggest bank, in just two years and a half. More recently, we have been concentrating more on sustainable growth and not just growing as we had at the beginning.

I think what we had to offer was a very good concept, which was very well accepted by the market. The first thing that was crucial for us to start with was the team. We had to have a very experienced team, not just in terms of the banking system, but also in terms of the Mozambique market. Secondly, there was the thinking we brought to the bank. At that time, we found there was a gap in the market in terms of service quality. That was the key focus we developed. Lastly, the relationship with clients and the relationship with the market led us to focus on service quality. I believe those three pillars, namely (1) a very strong team, (2) the focus on building strong added value relationships with our clients and (3) the quality service have been the key to our big success.

Let me stress that the name Banco Único is not because we think we are unique in the market, but because we want to treat each customer as unique, given that each customer has his or her own needs. And we try to build relationships with our clients through understanding their needs, and trying to tailor-make the way we operate with each client, according to what he or she really needs. I believe that was very well accepted by the market.

Only yesterday, I was talking to one of our new clients, who just came onto the market and has been in Mozambique for about six months. He told me that when he approached the market, he enquired where he should open a bank account and someone asked him what he needed from the bank. He said he needed attention, so wondered what bank would offer him the best attention, and everyone told him that it was Banco Único.

Banco Único: a new bank in the mozambican market
Banco Único is one of the newest banks in the market

What does it mean concretely to your clients to have a quality service?

You can’t just talk about service if you don’t have products. Of course, clients always care about service, but you also need products. In terms of service, as I mentioned, it’s all about looking at the client and sensing their needs and understanding they deserve what they really need. This simply arises from the relationship you create with clients, in order to understand their needs. Sometimes they never tell you directly. It’s up to us, as the banking system and given our experience, to know how to arrive at the best solutions. So they often come to us with a given problem, but they don’t know the solution. We have to create the solution, which can take the form of a specific service or a specific product. And often this requires being very close to the client. Sometimes just a call to one of our account managers can take care of their problem, and at other times it’s not just a problem in the bank or the banking service. For instance, it can be a problem with the Central Bank to register their investment. If we feel we can start a partnership, we take them to the Central Bank and help them register. We don’t have to do that, since their lawyer could do it, for example. But we would also help them, if that was the main problem. This is what we call quality service, which is not just about products or banking services, but it’s also any other complementary service that we can help the client with.

The main dream we have is to be a bank of reference for all our stakeholders. Our objective is not necessarily to achieve huge growth, but we aim to keep growing as we have done, in a more sustainable way, yet never forgetting our core concepts and values, such as innovation, relationships and a quality service.

You have achieved a number of awards, which in a way are also an expression of how fast you have moved forward and why. Can you tell us about the different awards you have received?

The main awards we have received have to do with our internet banking service, 9 in total. We are considered to have the best internet banking in the market, which is the result of a large investment we made. At a certain stage, we felt that our customers give an added importance to internet banking, and I’ll come back to it in more detail. But, in answer to your question, we have the best internet banking, and most of the awards were for our personal and corporate internet banking. But we also received the award of best bank in Mozambique recently from Euromoney and we have the best growing retail banking in the country. Two years ago, we received the award of the best CEO in the market, for our former CEO. So it’s not just a single award. As you mentioned, we are one of the most awarded Mozambican banks in the market internationally, which show that we are well recognized, not just at the national level but also worldwide.

What does internet banking mean to you? What are the strengths you have achieved from having developed your IT solutions? What does it mean for the client?

Again, it’s about focusing on the service. We are here, available to clients at any time if they need us. That’s the relationship part of it; but then the service is also about the quick solutions that we create. And what we have done with our internet banking is to develop ever greater functionalities that clients are able to use while sitting in their office. But functionalities are not enough. When you bank, you also need to trust the bank, which involves security. So we have created products with the proper level of security that clients can trust. They can do as much as they want to, from the comfort of their office. However, if they need us, we will also be there for them. This was a great solution for most clients, especially for companies: SMEs and corporate clients. But we have also paid attention to the personal banking market. Mozambique has a very young population and an increasing number of people are digitally-savvy and value digital solutions. For example, we are set to launch our mobile banking platform soon, which we also expect to be a success. We have done all the testing and look forward to offering our mobile solution, following on from our investment in IT solutions.

Where do you want to focus the most and pay more close attention: retail banking, SMEs, corporate banking, international companies, or do you aim to deal with all of them? What is your strategy?

We want to be a universal bank and cater to the entire market. Of course, to begin with, we started off with corporate clients that gave us the necessary balance sheet size. But now the main focus is on retail and SMEs, which I think represent Mozambique’s future. SMEs are currently our fastest growing market, but we are equally mindful of our personal banking market. Again, it’s not just about the top clients or the high-end market. We give importance to the medium level and particularly the medium-low portion of that segment that has been growing very rapidly in Mozambique. Meanwhile, Mozambique still has low banking penetration rates, which means there is a great deal that remains to be done in terms of that portion of the market.

Do you have any interest in partnering with international banks or to develop any other international affiliations?

We were interested in doing that from the outset, so we started the bank as a local team. The main shareholders were Portugal’s Grupo Amorim and Visabeira, along with local shareholders. But very recently, based on our success, there has been interest from international banks in buying shares. The bank that came into an agreement with our major shareholder was Nedbank, which is one of South Africa’s largest banks and has already bought the shares. At the moment, they own around 38% of the shares, but there is an agreement in place for them to become the major shareholder very soon. This means we already have a link with the South African market, as well as covering the broader African market through Nedbank, because they are also present across Africa. But at the same time, we are still keeping the major shareholder we have at the moment, which is Grupo Amorim and Visabeira, which allows us to keep our link with Portugal. We also have an agreement with Banco Santander in Portugal, which enables us to represent them in Mozambique. It’s a partnership benefitting their clients. They don’t have a share of our capital, but we still partner with them, since they do not have a direct presence here.

What is your vision for the bank’s development over the next couple of years? What do you want to achieve in terms of results?

The main dream we have is to be a bank of reference for all our stakeholders. Our objective is not necessarily to achieve huge growth, but we aim to keep growing as we have done, in a more sustainable way, yet never forgetting our core concepts and values, such as innovation, relationships and a quality service. Our aim then is to achieve sustainable growth, increase the bank’s profitability, which at the moment is still very small, and become a reference mainly for our clients and those working with us, but also for the world market.

Banco Único focuses on being unique
Banco Único’s motto: “being unique changes everything”

To achieve that, you need to recruit and train. More generally, can you tell me what are the major challenges you are facing?

The major challenge is people. That was the main resource that brought our success. We started off with a very strong and experienced team, and the major challenge at the moment is to keep growing without losing our team’s quality, which means we have to invest heavily in HR. It’s not just training, but also recruitment. Everything starts with having a very good recruitment process. If you don’t have good CVs to start with, it’s more difficult to train people. Also, given the way we operate and our emphasis on relationships, it’s not so easy to train. It has to come from people themselves, from their culture, from their home. Obviously, you can train people in terms of products, in terms of what we do, but it’s difficult when it comes to their attitude. This means we have to ensure very selective recruitment. We are known as a very selective bank in the market when it comes to recruitment, where the rate of success from the number of interviews we conduct is very small. We have to conduct a far greater number of interviews to select people, but we understand this as one of the main investments we need to make. This doesn’t mean that we don’t invest in people once they’re with us. We have to invest in them in terms of the training we provide and keeping them always geared to our values, which is permanent work. So the main challenge is to keep growing without losing our values, which is imperative and we will never give up.

Our main goal as a bank of reference in the market is excellence. We should never forget that, and all our team members need to bear this in mind.

What is your assessment of the economy in Mozambique, as well as the role you play in this economy?

I think that Mozambique is certainly a country with great potential, in terms of growth. Mozambique is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Of course, this is from a very low base, but even now that we’re going through a very difficult phase, like other economies in Sub-Saharan Africa or even worldwide, we are still able to continue growing at great speed. I think there is a huge potential to continue being one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Mozambique benefits from huge resources – not just oil and gas – along with a very advantageous geographic location. There is also huge potential in agriculture, with vast expanses of land still virgin, never before used, which means investment costs are normally smaller to begin with. There is potential for tourism too. Oil and gas are important, along with other types of natural resources. Infrastructure also needs to be developed. So it’s pretty much everything. The market offers significant opportunities and I’m sure that, given the stability Mozambique has enjoyed, it will continue to attract international investments. Our challenge as a bank, and not just for Banco Único but for the system at large, is how to be best prepared for all this growth and keep supporting the economy, which is one of our functions. And continuing to support the economy is not just about providing finance, but also about partnerships with Mozambique’s new players, which is what we are trying to do. Most of them are international players, who do not know the rules or the language. We have to be ready to partner with them and support their operations in Mozambique. So it’s basically everything, from having a proper balance sheet to be able to support growth, to having the proper attitude to partner with clients. Something else we can never forget is ensuring we have the best procedures in place to manage the risk and capital allocation involved. It’s not a question of taking risks, because that’s what we’re about, but it’s about understanding well the risks that we’re taking, while seeking to mitigate them to the maximum degree possible.

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