Mentioned for almost a year by the international economic press, the change of reference shareholder in BICIS (Banque internationale pour le commerce et l’Industrie du Sénégal) has just been recorded with the sale of the Senegalese subsidiary of BNP to an insurer, the Sunu Assurance Group created and managed by the Senegalese Pathé Dione.

This is a reason for joy for the fact that a compatriot, familiar with the world of finance, took the risk of acquiring the majority of the shares of BICIS, the leading bank in the banking landscape of our country and subsidiary of one of the most important banks. groups around the world. His interview with Financial Afrik allowed us to learn more about this business leader who seems to combine hard work, a sense of opportunity and humility. His group, Sunu, was created in 1998 and includes 28 insurance companies after having absorbed 6 Allianz branches, a bank (SUNU Bank Togo), a microfinance company, a health management company.

It is present in 15 French and English speaking sub-Saharan African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal , Togo and its total consolidated balance sheet would be approximately 852 billion CFA francs.

This sale to the SUNU group was preceded by a long partnership with BNP in Africa in the field of bancassurance, in particular in the Ivory Coast, a country where the Pathé Dione group is the insurer in charge of BICICI, of which it owns 18% of the capital. social, and where it would be the leader in life insurance with a market share of more than 30%.

The SUNU group was also announced as a favorite for the acquisition of BNP’s shares in BICICI, which could be a good omen for an economic model whose purpose is to use the banking channel, which is well stocked with potential customers, to distribute bancassurance. most competitive products on the African market.

“Our first goal is to offer complete financial solutions with a network of banks and insurance companies that are closer to businesses and populations. The International Bank for Trade and Industry of Senegal is a great opportunity to realize this ambition in Senegal and in the sub-region ”, specifies the buyer in this regard.

This is done in an evolving context. Indeed, banking is changing rapidly and competition is fierce. The observed speed of change is linked to the needs of a young and connected clientele. The time has come for online banks with almost non-existent physical and personal networks.

Fintechs using new financial technologies compete with banks on traditional services, namely opening accounts, paying bills and national and international money transfer (sending and receiving).

Ties have even been established between banks and Fintechs (Wave / UBA) for the benefit of the same customer, leaving the contours of tomorrow’s bank in Africa to be traced.

As far as BICIS is concerned, it cannot be said that it has so far pursued a policy of expanding its branch network as has happened for Société Générale.

It has always appeared as a bank focused on a portfolio of large customers and merchants and individuals with large account movements, unlike Société Générale de Banque and the former Crédit Lyonnais and CBAO acquired by the Moroccan group Attijari, which are more focused on the collection of deposits through an extensive network of branches.

We find it useful to remember that private investment in the banking sector is no different from investing in any other sector. The objective pursued remains the same: “making it profitable” to generate margins capable of covering expenses and guaranteeing a return on investment. However, banks are subject to different types of controls.

The control over the progress of the activity and the annual results obtained is carried out internally and, ultimately, by the boards of directors on behalf of the shareholders.

Banks receive deposits from their customers, which they partially transform into credit, lending them to economic operators, thus receiving an intermediation margin constituting their turnover (without taking into account the various commissions collected for the numerous services rendered).

The transformation risk can manifest itself through bad loans and lead to potential operational losses. Managers are therefore sensitive to the fate of the loans granted because they are decisive for the rest of their career.

The multi-recognized equation of SME financing

There is also state control due to the impact of this brokerage activity on the economy as a whole. This control is exercised by the Central Bank (BCEAO for West Africa), in particular as regards the distribution of loans, with a view to protecting depositors and the free functioning of the economy.

From this double control, it follows that bank managers are responsible for the results of their management vis-à-vis their shareholders but also vis-à-vis central banks in relation to the established management standards.

The new Basel 3 standards imposed on European banks since the financial crisis of 2007/2008 testify to the gradual tightening of banking regulation on credit, with the need for additional capital in relation to risks.

Adopted by African central banks, the BCEAO in particular, without banks currently being exposed to liquidity and solvency risk, they have the negative effect of further crowding small and medium-sized enterprises from bank credit, without them, such as European ones. , can turn to other sources of funding.

The effect of this enhanced control is that banks are progressively moving towards investments of liquidity deemed “safe” and liquid, in this case the acquisition of government bonds (government bonds and other Treasury bills), loans to employees and working capital financing.

This is to say that the financing of African SMEs through the private banking sector is an equation with several unknowns due to the aversion of banks to this risk and the mechanisms to control them by our central banks, while the financing must be linked to the stage of development of the economies are different.

In the face of a restricted banking market and proven competition, the new needs of an evolving market but also reinforced prudential standards, it is understandable to see the gradual withdrawal of European banks and the arrival of new African banks led by professionals.

It can in fact be noted that of the French banks of the 1980s, namely Crédit Lyonnais, BIAO, BICIS, SGBS, only SGS (formerly SGBS) remains and that since then no European bank branch has asked for approval to set up in our country.

If this withdrawal could lead to more risk-taking, it would be beneficial to our SMEs. It would therefore be up to our central banks to loosen their grip by being less “prudential”.

Finally, the prospect of bank failure must be seen as the side of a proactive corporate finance policy.

After the subprime mortgage crisis and after Lehman Brothers, nearly 400 banks went bankrupt in the United States. Despite this, the American banking system continues to function.

Consequently, in the current regulatory framework, the creation of new banks or the acquisition of foreign banks by nationals cannot solve the question of financing the economy.

SUNU Bank is a private entity that has a specific business model that plans to strengthen its margins and business. We couldn’t ask for more.

This does not make us any less militant than the involvement of our compatriots in the creation of banks like the capitalists of other countries.

We therefore wish SUNU Groupe good luck in this risk-taking, as we call on states to put in place sustainable mechanisms for financing African SMEs.

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