Africa’s growth story may have been hampered by COVID-19, and whilst challenges remain, there are still investment opportunities and wealth creation taking place. There are, at present, around 136,000 high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) living in Africa, with total private wealth held on the continent amounting to 2 trillion USD. Those numbers are expected to keep growing too. In fact, the number of HNWIs in Nigeria alone is expected to grow 40% over the next decade.
That means private banking on the continent, and in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, will only become more important. Recent reports suggest that wealth in Africa is poised to grow at a stronger level than many other regions around the world. But, as the number of people needing private banking services grows, these services will also have to adjust to their changing wants and needs. Among other things, that means helping clients with tangible investments diversifying away from their local markets, offering Discretionary Portfolio Management, and balancing traditional and digital banking services.
According to Amol Prabhu, Market Head: Africa at Barclays, families within these brackets, especially those with established wealth, are also looking for access to global networks and corridors, the ability to invest in other entrepreneurs on the continent and globally, and ways to ensure that their children can be educated overseas.
‘Not Just Private Banking’
Prabhu notes that providing access to those global networks often means going above and beyond traditional private banking expertise.
By way of example, he says, “We’ve got a family based in Nigeria who are in the goods trading business. The entire family – parents, all three children and their spouses – bank with us. Their business is headquartered in Nigeria but extends across the corridor to Dubai and India, where it is managed by their extended family who happen also to bank with us. Having the ability to support these global families in every location as well as both individually and holistically is critical.”
“Also, as the client’s business grows, their needs change over time and we are well positioned through our Corporate and Investment Banking offering to provide this support. It’s the ability to provide clients with coverage that’s not just multi-location but also multi-business, multi-product and multi-generational that’s important,” he adds. “These types of clients have got complex, global needs, so that’s where real value can be added. Few banks provide this coverage and even fewer do it very well.”
According to Prabhu, another specific area that African clients look for help with is prime and super prime UK real estate.
“That can be people wanting to have a second home in London and spend more time there or wanting London properties as part of their investment portfolio,” he says. “And generally, because people are spending more time in these houses, they want bigger properties too.”
This attraction to the UK, he says, is overlaid by the fact that many clients expect that their children will live, work, or study in the UK at some point in their lives, as many of them have done.
The Rush for Direct Assets
Another significant trend, Prabhu points out, is the growing demand for direct assets.
“What that means is that entrepreneurial families like to invest in other entrepreneurs,” he says. “It can be high-growth technology companies: fintech, medtech, agritech or ones focused on climate change and other issues.” The number of African tech start-ups receiving funding grew six times faster (46%) than the global average (8%), between 2015 and 2020, demonstrating the interest in this sector.
“These kinds of companies are typically looking for funding anywhere from US$1 million to US$200 million and we open it up to our ultra-high net-worth and global families within the Private Bank to give them the opportunity to invest.”
Crucially, these companies are all private, meaning that these investments are not open to the general, public market. By facilitating these investments, Barclays Private Bank not only helps their clients make more meaningful investments on the continent but also help grow the continent’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Classic Portfolio Management
While those trends will undoubtedly shape private banking in Africa for some time to come, Prabhu points out that there’s still significant value in classic asset and portfolio management. The key, however, is to have managers and methodologies that can thrive even during periods of global political and economic uncertainty.
“If you’re sitting in Lagos and you’ve got a portfolio in the UK or Switzerland, you are literally thousands of miles away from your hard-earned money,” he says. “You have got to have real trust in the institution, the portfolio team and their underlying methodology that your money is being managed properly.”
Talent Development is Crucial
In order to ensure that all those needs are fulfilled, however, the right level of talent is essential.
“A high-quality talent bench is vital,” says Prabhu. “And to service African private banking clients effectively, they should either be from Africa, have lived on the continent, or have a decade+ of Africa private banking experience. Having that deep experience and a high-quality service mentality is critically important to show and deliver value.”
Ultimately, he points out, you are helping people who are typically very good at what they do but may have very little banking and investment knowledge and / or time to look into these things.
“At the end of the day, our role is to help and guide clients to make the right kinds of decisions in the financial context,” he says. “And having the right talent and skills on-hand as well as a quality institution behind you is crucial to that.”
As the number of high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals in Africa continues to grow, having the right partners with those skills and knowledge will only become more important.