Five years of providing world class financial services in Mauritius
Mauritius is a prosperous island that has consistently ranked high for investors in the continent. In this interview, Mr. Sanjit Chowdhry, the Chief Executive Officer, Banyantree Bank Limited, Mauritius, talks about the Banks operations in the last five years, its contribution to the country’s economic growth and the opportunities available for discerning investors. Excerpts:
You have over 24-year experience predominantly in the financial services sector. Please tell us about yourself and your career journey so far.
I started my journey in Financial Services as a Deal and Relationship Originator with a global bank. Understanding customer needs and providing timely customized solutions across areas of Lending, Trade Finance, Cash Management and Global Markets were critical and very early taught me the importance of client servicing.
After having managed clients across different geographies and segments in India, I moved into a strategic role to look at whitespace for growth and analyze management information for trends and strategic use. This phase gave me an opportunity to be involved in product launches and also launch of a new business segment.
After having completed over 13 years in client facing roles, I was selected to move into a Risk Management role that helped me become a complete banker. The next 10 years saw me move from managing credit risk for one segment across half of the Indian subcontinent to heading the Wholesale Risk function for both a global and privately-owned bank in India covering all aspects of risk – Credit, Market, Operational, Regulatory and Reputation and areas of Credit Operations, Compliance and Recoveries. This period helped me look at client segments ranging from Large Corporates to Small business and oversee aspects of Retail Risk and Agricultural Financing. For nearly a decade, I have been a part of Senior Leadership teams of banks and have worked on their transformational journey. Have been fortunate to be able to manage and handle the complexities of high growth transformational organizations and work and learn in well-structured global banks. Mentoring teams, managing change, quality of customer service and quick turnaround time have been my biggest learnings and continue on this journey.
Your bank started its operations on 18 February 2013. Kindly tell us your bank’s success story in the Mauritius market?
BanyanTree Bank is promoted by finance professionals with over three decades of banking experience and have partnered with well-known Mauritian and global financial investors to establish a full- service bank in Mauritius since 2013. The Bank over these years has built itself around offering products and customized solutions that are cost effective coupled with quick turnaround times and exemplary customer service in the areas of lending, investment management, trade finance and payments.
I am just listing some of the achievements of the bank over the last 5 years: The first bank in Mauritius to have obtained a local rating of A minus for our Fixed Deposit Programme by CARE Ratings(Africa) Private Limited, a Credit Rang Agency licensed by the Financial Services Commission of Mauritius. The bank has held this rating for the last two years.
* The first bank in Mauritius to have opened a Representative Office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority) in 2015.
* The only bank in Mauritius to have worked on a pilot Doorstep Banking Project along with the Regulator for Financial Inclusion. Has developed a technology and service platform for the same.
* Nearly doubled its equity since infusion and drawn several new high-quality shareholders. Capital adequacy at over 17 %.
* Growth in the correspondent banking network.
All of the above has been possible and each and every team member has been trained in delivering exceptional client experience and superior value through technology. They are focused on building long-lasting relationships while ensuring high standards of internal governance and KYC norms. They are always in touch with our clients to provide them with constant advice to grow their wealth and business and live up to the commitments we have made. Technology and low cost infrastructure have helped the bank deliver superior returns to customers. Fast and responsive teams, a relationship building approach, quick account opening, attractive rates on deposits, affordable and timely international remittances and quick decision making has helped the bank grow over these 5 years. Over the years, the bank has offered advanced banking solutions – tailor made solutions to its clients in liquidity and wealth management and even lending such as Mortgage in London, Dubai other than Mauritius and other bespoke solutions to address specific requirements across geographies. We have clients across the US, UK, the Middle East, Europe, India, Mauritius and parts of Africa. Going forward we would be focusing on Africa amongst other geographies to offer wealth management solutions, attractive returns on investments and within a short time span provide Custodial and Investment advisory services to all our clients operating their accounts out of Mauritius.
Financial Inclusion and access to finance have been a major challenge faced in Africa. Please tell us more about your efforts towards financial inclusion?
Financial Inclusion has been a big challenge across Asia and Africa. In my previous roles I have worked on financing solutions for Microfinance organizations who in turn provided funding to the financially unserved population and small businesses set up by self-help groups. While financing is the second step, a large number of people don’t have access to basic banking or bank accounts given their remote locations or branch timings. As mentioned earlier, we at BanyanTree Bank worked on a pilot project to provide doorstep banking in one district in Mauritius. This enabled us provide basic banking to people through handheld machines. The bank has tested the technology, processes and controls and would be ready to roll out. A large percentage of population in Mauritius has access to the banking network given the geography, however this would be very relevant in a lot of African countries. Legislation around data protection, biometrics etc. would need to be worked upon together by several agencies. It is clearly something which is important for the bank and hence we invested in the technology.
How has your bank embraced digitalization and innovative electronic banking in its approaches?
Technology has been the backbone to our strategy for growth, reach and delivering superior and low-cost solutions to our customers. A solid internet banking platform with strong transactional capabilities was the first step It allows customers access from across the globe and allows transaction in different currencies within prescribed parameters. As we move forward is working towards digitizing all its records, documents which would allow controlled but seamless access. Account opening and customer interface would be taken up and safety of data and systems will always remain a top priority.
How do you give back to the society?
I personally feel quite strongly about conserving nature and wild life and have spent my growing up time visiting several jungles and doing my bit. I have seen the habitat and surroundings change and every bit done to respect nature and people/communities would help. As an organization, growing local talent and improving financial literacy are important for us and Mauritius. We would work along with the Mauritius Bankers Association and the regulators to further this cause in the current year. The project on financial inclusion was also done by the bank with no profit objective