THE BEST, NOT THE BIGGEST

Mozambique 2016 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rui Barros, CEO and Executive Board Member of Barclays Mozambique, on innovation and the company's unique offers for customers in Mozambique.

Rui Barros
BIOGRAPHY
Rui Barros, currently the CEO and Executive Board Member of Barclays Mozambique, has held executive positions as Head of Risk at Standard Bank in Mozambique and also at Atlântico Europa, the Lisbon-based operation of the Angolan banking group. Barros also served as Director of Structured Finance for Lehman Brothers and as credit analyst at Fitch Ratings. He worked in capital markets and lectured in financial markets at several Portuguese universities. Barros graduated with a Degree in Economics from UTAS in Portugal, and holds a Master’s in Finance from the Catholic University of Portugal. He also studied and conducted research at Arizona State University, and more recently completed the Advanced Management Program at INSEAD in Singapore.

What were the highlights for Barclays in 2015?

We had two main goals for 2015. One of these was to build and expand our brand. We reshaped our strategy at the beginning of 2014, and one of the ideas that emerged from that was to position our brand in a different and unique way in this market. Last year was really the first complete year of this new strategy. Our other goal was more related to redesigning our financial operations, given that in recent years our operation was not as profitable as before; therefore, it became critical for us to create a more sustainable business model. We have succeeded in both of these goals. According to the midterm results, and our end of year projections, we have returned to fourth position in the sector, when measured by total revenue, which is our benchmark. Our revenue line is growing faster than the market average, and we are gaining business in sectors and places where we were not that competitive before. We have what we call a corporate-led strategy, and our franchise is in fact quite strong, and certainly ready to continue growing in the coming years.

What is the role of innovation at Barclays, and how do you assess the receptiveness of the Mozambican market to new technologies?

There is innovation that is visible to the customer but also innovation that we introduce to gain more efficiency and eventually to provide a more convenient service to our customers. Banks are increasingly exploring the potential of digital services. Mozambique is growing so fast that there is a lot of competition in chasing new business and retaining existing business. Throughout 2014, we introduced a number of digital platforms and some quite interesting innovations that we were still busy rolling out in 2015. The one that is unique is an ATM with deposit taking functionalities. No other bank in the country offers that. We have seen a lot of uptake from customers, though it did take a little while. In the fourth quarter, we also looked at rolling out more products and unique initiatives, such as the World Miles Platinum Credit Card, which Barclays has been introducing around the world. There are also some other sophisticated platforms that we are bringing to corporate customers, but they are not so evident in the marketplace. We have brought in BARX, which is a trading platform for foreign currency, wherein large corporates can trade different currencies online from their offices, linked to the Barclays systems. Other solutions are very much designed to meet the needs of large corporates where, for example, it integrates with SAP on clients' accounting systems, in which orders introduced in the banking system will be reflected in their own accounting systems. This is a major convenience for organizations that have millions of transactions and manage treasury functions centrally.

What are Barclays' goals for the coming year?

Our goal is clear—we want to be the best bank in Mozambique, not the largest. It is important to know how we measure ourselves, and not just focus on the market challenges and competition. We want to affirm our presence as a truly local, regional, and global bank, as we understand the country and believe we offer services at the same quality level, if not better, than all of our competitors in the market, especially in the corporate and investment sectors and toward our affluent customers. We have gained of a lot from the knowledge about specific sectors and markets from which we operate. We really want to make 2016 the year in which we consolidate this ambition for corporate and investment banking, for commercial clients, and for premier and prestige clients. We are on the right track and I have no doubt that we will be able to fulfill our vision.