(Bloomberg) — Barclays Plc doubled its private banking business in Africa as the UK lender added ultra-wealthy clients in the past year from Credit Suisse through a referral agreement, according to Amol Prabhu, the bank’s head of African markets.
Under the deal, a team of 20 employees based in Dubai, Zurich and London also joined the African private banking unit. Growth in the region has been about 30% year-on-year, Prabhu said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office.
The move by Credit Suisse private bank clients has “been significant for us from a private bank perspective,” Prabhu said. The African unit consists of private, corporate and investment banking. That’s after it exited retail as the lender disposed of its entire holding in Absa Group Ltd. in August last year.
Barclays’ pivot to service African billionaires and wealthy individuals and families brings its focus to South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, said Prabhu. Private deals have recently included sectors such as agritech and fintech, he said.
Wealth, and the corporate and investment banking needs that flow from rich families, are concentrated in a few countries on the continent, and within those, in a few families. South Africa has 37,800 high-net-worth individuals, according to data-platform Statistica. In Nigeria, which vies with South Africa as Africa’s largest economy, there are 9,800 millionaires.
Cross-country access and mobility are increasingly viewed as an insurance policy against economic and political uncertainties in the current precarious global landscape, according to Henley & Partners’ 2023 Africa Wealth Report. It predicts a 42% increase in high-net-worth individuals on the continent in the next decade.
The British lender has also seen a pickup in deal activity as more mergers and acquisitions come through in South Africa, said Prabhu. These are mostly in sectors such as health care, telecommunications, renewable energy, consumer goods, and industrials, he said.
Transactions that Barclays has most recently been involved with include South Africa’s Life Healthcare Group Holdings Ltd. sale of its UK-based diagnostics business Alliance Medical Group for £910 million ($1.1 billion) and a stake sale in South Africa’s high-speed rail called the Gautrain.
“South Africa is a multi sector economy that foreign investors are interested in looking at,” Prabhu said. “The devil being in the detail when it comes to valuation, opportunity and returns.”
In Africa, Barclays aims to provide a range of services clients would need to operate between their home country and the UK — from a prime London property, M&A and life insurance to succession advice, credit and UK retail accounts, Annabelle Bryde, head of UK private bank and Crown dependencies, said in the same interview.
“Our private banking clients from Africa are heavily focused on diversification,” said Bryde. “We have been speaking with a number of wealthy families, specifically also in South Africa in recent weeks, to help them set up a presence in the UK.”
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