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‘Aligning our strategies to the environment critical’

BARCLAYS Bank Managing Director, George Guvamatanga believes any business should have the ability to put in place strategies that speak to and resonate with any operating environment.

This week businessdigest chief business reporter Paul Nyakazeya caught up with Guvamatanga who spoke about the bank’s indigenisation submissions, politics and business and what makes Barclays different from other banks.
Nyakazeya: How would you describe the banking sector at the moment?
Guvamatanga: The banking sector is a mirror of the overall performance of the economy. The performance of the banking sector is progressing in line with the rest of the economy following dollarisation.
Nyakazeya: Although the political situation plays a very important role in business performance,what do you think business and banks should do to improve their earnings if the current political environment does not change in the coming 12 months?
Guvamatanga: One of the key success factors of any business is the ability to put in place strategies that speak to and resonate with any operating environment. Continuous refinement and realignment of the strategies to the operating environment is critical to the success and growth of any business regardless of size or sector.
Nyakazeya: Can you clarify on Barclays Bank Zimbabwe’s position with regards to the indigenisation regulations?
Guvamatanga: Barclays has already made its submissions to the respective minister in line with the requirements of the law.
Nyakazeya: What makes Barclays Bank different from other banks?
Guvamatanga: Barclays has a solid risk management framework which is underpinned by good corporate governance. Barclays has a strong heritage spanning almost 100 years. Our customers are at the core of everything that we do. With a wide branch and ATM network, we have the ability to provide convenience to the banking public. Our ATM offering brings financial solutions not only to locals through local debit cards but to foreign nationals through the Visa and MasterCard facility at our ATMs.
Nyakazeya: What have been the bank’s major income drivers?
Guvamatanga: As we continue to enhance our loan book, Barclays’ major income driver has been non-funded income. Barclays launched four new products and services this year as part of initiatives to further support income in line with customer needs.
Nyakazeya: Barclays Bank was not affected between 2003/4 when a number of banks were closed. How did you feel about the developments and should banks have been closed down in 2004?
Guvamatanga: Barclays Bank is guided by laws and regulations issued by the relevant government and regulatory bodies.
Nyakazeya: The local deposit base is said to have been stagnant at around US$1,5 billion since the beginning of the year. What do you attribute this to and what is Barclays sitting on at the end of the first quarter?
Guvamatanga: Currently deposits are at US$1,7 billion. As of end of April, Barclays was sitting on US$111,6 billion. The performance of Barclays Zimbabwe is modest as can be expected in a recovering economy. We expect that as the operating environment continues to improve, our deposits will also improve.
Nyakazeya: Among some of the controversies surrounding Barclays Bank across the globe are the involvement with South Africa under apartheid, accusations of money laundering, tax avoidance, links to the arms trade and financial support for the government of Zimbabwe. What do you say to such allegations?
Guvamatanga: Barclays has operated in Zimbabwe since 1912, serving the interests of the Zimbabwean people, under successive governments, in a way that we believe to be responsible and ethical. We believe our presence has brought benefits to the community that we operate in. We have a responsibility to our colleagues and pensioners whose livelihoods depend on the continued operation of Barclays. Many of our 117 000 customers rely upon us for their day–to-day banking needs, or to keep their businesses running, bringing wider benefits to connected businesses and the community as a whole.
Nyakazeya: What have been Barclays Bank’s major social responsibility activities?
Guvamatanga: Barclays has recently partnered with Kaite Trust, an NGO dedicated to teaching rural farmers, organic farming methods that drastically reduce inputs but positively impact overall return. In addition, Barclays is in a three year partnership with Junior Achievement Zimbabwe where over 10 schools, with more than 300 children, participate in entrepreneurial programmes.  Annually, Barclays participates in various community initiatives through the Make a difference day (MADD) with 56 community projects having been supported in 2009.
Nyakazeya: How has been the response to e-banking in the industry?
Guvamatanga: The industry has responded to e-banking as evidenced by the various initiatives and developments in the economy 
Nyakazeya: How many branches and staff do you have at present?
Guvamatanga: We currently have 40 branches, including retail, prestige, premier and corporate service centres. Barclays has a current staff complement of 907 colleagues.
Nyakazeya: What was your loan to deposit ratio as at April 30 2010 and what is your comment on the figures?
Guvamatanga: Barclays Loans to Deposit ratio has improved to
levels of 22% and is still improving. This shows that we are supporting our customers. Barclays will continue to lend to customers who meet the requirements of our credit risk assessment processes and in a manner that is sustainable.
Nyakazeya: How far true is that you have always been at the top of your class since basic education to “A” level?
Guvamatanga: I have always been a high achiever throughout my academic history.  Indeed, this often came with being at the head of the class.

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