Barclays enters crucial phase of change

A Barclays Bank of Kenya branch. file photo | nmg
A Barclays Bank of Kenya branch. file photo | nmg 

It is only a matter of time before Barclays #ticker:BBK becomes Absa in Africa. This follows an announcement last week by Group CEO Maria Ramos that after careful consideration a decision had been made for the parent company to change its corporate name from Barclays Africa Group Limited to Absa Group Limited in June once regulatory approvals are obtained.

Following this announcement, I had an interview with Jeremy Awori, the local chief executive of Barclays.

He said: “We understand just how attached our stakeholders are to the Barclays brand. It is a brand that has been in the hearts of Africans for 100 years, and of course Barclays Plc still retains 14.9 per cent of our Group’s shares.

We’d like to assure all our stakeholders that we have worked hard in coming to these naming decisions and that we will undertake this transition with care.”

It is, however, important to note that Barclays Africa’s operations will not require to change their name at the same time when the holding company changes its name.


The change will happen gradually over time and choose the most appropriate timing. Since they have until June 2020, the process will not be rushed.

I gathered that Absa is not just taking over. They come with a new value proposition and a promise to restore market leadership that its predecessors enjoyed for years.

Their strategy is basically to use the separation from Plc as an opportunity to fundamentally re-set their digital capability and pursue inorganic growth opportunities through mergers and acquisitions and leverage on strategic partnerships.

Absa is not new to Barclays. It is currently the brand of the Barclays Africa Group’s South African business.

The Absa brand has substantial equity as one of the largest banks in South Africa and enjoys recognition in many of the countries in which Barclays Africa operates under the Barclays brand currently.

Awori further reiterated that this isn’t a new business, “it’s simply a new name. And a recommitment to Africa.

We will build on the proud heritage we all have. We will take with us the strengths we have already built. But we will challenge ourselves to unlock more possibility; to be bigger and better than ever before.

This is an exciting new chapter in our unfolding destiny.”

As a group, they are separately listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with a balance sheet of close to $100 billion.

They are fortunate to have both an outstanding legacy and strong platform to build upon, including more than 1,200 branches and 42,000 staff in Africa.

There is no doubt that the bank will resolutely build on this legacy and leverage the outstanding credentials of the group across the continent.
Like every other bank, they face an uncertain future fraught with far-reaching disruptions.

Already the way we bank, pay for goods and services or simply check out our bank balances is changing rapidly and as smart phones become ubiquitous, change is certain.

I get the feeling that Absa Barclays know that the industry is at the verge of major disruption.

That perhaps explains why the bank is expanding their corporate and investment banking unit to certain international jurisdictions, with offices set to open in London and later in New York, trading as Absa Securities, and offering opportunities for their clients to financial markets offshore, and providing access to corporates and institutions seeking to invest in Africa.

Their survival in the days to come depends on how creatively they destroy themselves and re-create to capture the emerging digital opportunities as the fourth industrial revolution beckons.

I have no doubt that the bank will unleash the entrepreneurial zeal that exists inside their business.

Encourage the agile minds, the innovators and free thinkers to help them face the future audaciously.