The resource-rich African continent remains as one of the last frontiers of exciting business opportunities. While some countries are more developed than others, and some have in fact a sophisticated corporate environment, there continue to be some nations whose economies are just now hatching. Equatorial Guinea is one such state. Visitors here can virtually see the growth taking place both physically in terms of infrastructure and housing, for example, and industrially in terms of business, commerce and trade.
As a relatively young country, at least as far as business is concerned, Equatorial Guinea has a rather small banking and finance sector. One of the banks present, ranked third in size and market share, is BGFIBank Equatorial Guinea.
A subsidiary of the Gabon-based BGFIBank Group, BGFIBank E.G. opened its local headquarters in Malabo in June 2001. This was the first time the multinational financial group had entered a Spanish-speaking country. Five years later, a branch was opened in Bata.
“BGFIBank must accompany the development of the country by bringing the bank to the populations that need it.”
“in 2010, we decided to adopt a new approach and adapt to each different situation, be it working with SMEs or SMIs, or individuals.”
Christophe Mounguengui, Director General and Vice-President of BGFIBank Equatorial Guinea
“It was an incredible experience because it was an achievement since we were only established in French-speaking countries previously,” recalls Christophe Mounguengui, Director General and Vice-President.
The language difference hasn’t posed too many problems for the bank, however, as French is also commonly spoken in Equatorial Guinea. Thus, the bank is essentially bilingual. “We recruited a local French-speaking workforce. It wasn’t too hard to find. We sent them to Gabon for training. We also translate our texts as we go along to be able to have both languages available,” explains Mr. Mounguengui.
Since its launch 11 years ago, the bank has seen its market share grow and its position improve thanks to a series of initiatives, which include a renewed focus on sales and marketing, a new credit policy, and an increasingly innovative selection of products such as BGFI Online for remote banking; Carte Salaire for secure salary payments; Credit Flash, a line of credit that customers can access within 72 hours; and Credit Rentrée Scolaire, a special back-to-school loan. BGFIBank E.G. also marked its territory in the national banking sector when it became the first to introduce electronic tellers.
A 2010 partnership with Western Union allowed BGFI to even further expand its ATM network in the country.
A decision to segment services was yet another successful scheme the bank undertook to advance its position in the country and better serve its customers.
“The bank in Equatorial Guinea had seen difficult times, which led us to review the position of the bank a little. Each branch outside of Equatorial Guinea must be able to define itself according to the markets, be it retail, private or business. You have to segment,” says Mr. Mounguengui.
“This wasn’t always the case here in this country, and until 2010 we did everything. That year, we decided to adopt a new approach and adapt to each different situation, be it working with SMEs or SMIs, or individuals. We have considerably improved our balance sheets, our net banking income and our results. Market shares have increased.”
Today, BGFIBank E.G. is divided into Retail Banking, Private Banking, and Financing and Investment Banking. This has in large part enabled the bank to make better connections with the oil-sector majors operating in Equatorial Guinea, and allowed it to double its social capital from XAF5 billion to XAF10 billion in 2010 and increase deposits by 60% to more than XAF1 trillion.
The mother group of BGFI (the French acronym for International Gabonese and French Bank) can trace its origins back to Paribas, explains the Vice-President. “It was an old subsidiary of Paribas in Gabon and when Paribas decided to leave Africa, we decided to recapitalize. We worked with the Credit Commercial de France and other correspondents in Europe.”
In line with its view to continue expanding internationally 2010, the group began operating BGFI International, with offices in Paris. In its first year, it made its mark in several countries, through such activities as financing the cocoa harvest in Ghana, assisting in the operation of three Angolan oil wells, participating in a cotton harvest in Benin, and financing a supranational African bank. These sophisticated international financing operations demonstrate the responsiveness and innovation enabled by its shareholders’ equity, its organization and the synergies with BGFIBank Group.
Aside from its presence in Gabon, France and G.E., the group also has subsidiaries and branches in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Benin, Cameroon, and Sao Tome and Principe. This is just the beginning, however, as the group’s goal is to have a presence in at least 18 countries by 2015, converting it into a leading African financial group. It currently has its sights set on English speaking countries of Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia. “We are also considering South Sudan,” says Mr. Mounguengui.
Already, BGFI has proven its worth when it was granted ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001 certification, becoming the first bank in Africa to do so. Mr. Mounguengui says that the bank’s focus on achieving excellence in customer service not only brings international acknowledgement, it is also essential for elevating professional standards in banking.
Another testament to the group’s commitment to providing top-notch customer service throughout its network is the BGFI Business School (BBS), founded in 2008.
“To be able to ensure the continuity of our activity, to have the same fundamentals and the same work base, we have to train our workforce. That is why we created the BBS. At the beginning it was to be able to have in-house training, but we progressed towards creating diplomas,” explains Mr. Mounguengui. Overall, roughly 60% of BBS graduates go on to work at BGFI banks.
Last year, 17 handpicked Equator-Guineans were sent to the BBS in Libreville. Upon their return, they went to work for the BGFIBank E.G.’s newly opened branches in Malabo, Anisok, and Ebibeyin.
Sede Social Banapa, Malabo. Apartado 749