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BAI, Angola’s largest bank by deposits, looks abroad for further growth

Article - January 5, 2012
Banco Africano de Investimentos has performed outstandingly within Angola and is now expanding overseas
Banco Africano de Investi-mentos (BAI) is a financial institution that is evolving rapidly as it grows. The lender began operations in 1996 with the goal of becoming Angola’s go-to bank for businesses in need of investment banking services. Over the years, BAI’s management moved the bank into new segments of the market as it saw opportunities and it continues to adapt quickly and effectively to new situations as they arise.

Last year, London-based World Finance magazine awarded BAI as the Best Commercial and Investment Bank in Angola. It is already well on its way to becoming a universal bank. BAI provides services to individual account holders, lends to small and medium-sized businesses and handles big corporate clients, in addition to carrying out its original mission of being Angola’s main investment bank.

“BAI started as an investment bank but in fact very soon we realised that we had to take a different route if we wanted to have an active approach in promoting the development of the Angolan economy. So we elected the corporate segment, which now represents about 80 per cent of the turnover of the institution,” says Jose de Lima Massano, who was chairman of BAI until October 2010, when he left to become Governor of the National Bank of Angola, the country’s central bank.

BAI’s management is dedicated to using the skills, technology and highly trained personnel to contribute as much as possible to Angola’s economic growth and to job creation. The bank works constantly to get closer to its clients, both physically through its expanding network of branches and by offering key business advice and other services customers need, in addition to lending them money.

In May, BAI opened its first centre designed specifically to serve large enterprises in Lobito City, which provides extra services for investors in Benguela province. Countrywide, BAI has grown to more than 70 branches and can be found in each of the republic’s provinces.

According to Mr Massano, BAI is “an interventionist bank in promoting entrepreneurship initiative; it knows the risks and opportunities of the market, and is therefore one of the banks that gives more loans to the economy.”

One of the many ways BAI is able to provide top-notch service is through its electronic and telephone services. Clients can make use of either method of managing their money just as securely as by going to a branch, as well as gaining maximum convenience when they do so. The services, which include checking bank balances, obtaining information and carrying out a wide range of operations, are available at no extra cost.

BAI has been an innovator in the Angolan market since it opened 15 years ago, introducing cash points, credit and debit cards and other services that encourage people to entrust their savings to banks. A new service permits clients to check their balance by sending a text message to the bank.

Naturally, the bank’s insistence on excellence has permitted it to grow its business rapidly. For example, credit granted to customers increased 74 per cent in 2009 – during the world economic crisis – to $3.04 billion (about £1.89 billion) from $1.75 billion in 2008. This reinforces BAI’s commitment to support companies, even during times of economic deceleration.

As with most financial institutions around the world, the global economic slowdown did affect the bank’s results in 2009: BAI’s liquid assets, for example, only grew about 9 per cent that year, compared with an increase of 109 per cent in 2008.

However, BAI ended 2010 with net assets of over $8.38 billion, representing a rise of 1 per cent over 2009. It also posted a net profit of $228 million. In addition, the number of employees at the bank rose by around 12 per cent in 2010 to 1,046 and the number of customers rose 9 per cent.

Even with the strong growth in Angola, BAI is still constantly looking for new opportunities outside the country, a stance that has led it to expand into nearby countries and into other territories that share the Portuguese language. BAI is present in Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde and Sao Tome. In April 2010 it opened an office in Johannesburg to expand operations in one of Angola’s most important trading partners.

The bank insists on having the best employees available. BAI hires from within Angola and also from abroad when necessary, and makes a big effort to improve the country’s pool of skills through its training programmes.

BAI’s management understands the importance of looking beyond the financial sector in its activities. The company sponsors various cultural events including dance and musical performances, art exhibitions and traditional story telling. They are all part of the many ways that BAI and its employees help contribute to the wellbeing of their country, its economy and its people.