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“We believe in the prospects and opportunities in Africa”

In an interview with BIZWEEK, Ashvin Deena, Head of Global and International Corporates (GIC) at the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), discusses the pivotal role of the GIC in delivering comprehensive corporate banking services to investment funds, large African corporates, and multinational companies across Africa. Their services encompass corporate balance sheet lending, trade finance, acquisition finance, and more. Additionally, the GIC supports business operations in Asia through the Mauritius International Financial Centre. Ashvin Deena shares his insights on MCB’s strategic initiatives in Africa, the bank’s unique market positioning, and the GIC team’s role in fostering growth opportunities across the continent.

Ashvin Deena, Head of Global and International Corporates (GIC) at MCB
Ashvin Deena, Head of Global and International Corporates (GIC) at MCB

Let’s start by trying to know more about your current position and the role of the Global and International Corporates (GIC) at the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB).

I head the Global and International Corporates (GIC) team at MCB. I have been in this role for the last three and a half years, and with MCB for nine years. We are a coverage team of professionals serving three main client segments: investment funds in Africa (private equity funds, private credit funds and listed funds), large African corporates, and multinational corporates doing business in Africa. We service them throughout the spectrum of their corporate banking needs, including corporate balance sheet lending, trade finance solutions, acquisition finance, project finance, foreign exchange, hedging, cash management solutions, as well as any other transactional banking needs. From a transactional banking perspective, we also service corporates and investment funds carrying out business in Asia whilst capitalizing on the Mauritius International Financial Centre. Additionally, at the broader level of the MCB group, we can support our clients by providing non-banking financial solutions such as M&A advisory, debt capital markets, and equity capital markets advisory services.

Furthermore, MCB’s international operations extend beyond the above-mentioned segments to cover players in the oil and gas business in Africa, projects in the power and infrastructure segment, and services to various banks across Africa. Our Private Banking and Wealth Management team also serves a growing number of private high-net-worth customers on the African continent. We leverage our investment-grade rating by Moody’s Investors Services to provide comfort to our clients on our levels of safety and reliability.


Much has been made of going to Africa, and about Mauritius being the gateway to Africa. We are now witnessing a group – a Mauritian player on the African continent – walking the talk. What is your assessment of the African experience so far?

Our experience in Africa has been successful because of our niche and specialist positioning in the market, serving the above-mentioned client segments as well as regional corporates with aspirations to become Pan-African. We position ourselves as a bank complementary to local African banks, providing depth to our clients’ growth ambitions. By focusing on specific niche segments like private equity funds, African corporates, multinational corporates, the oil and gas segment, banks and private banking clients in Africa, MCB’s specialist teams have developed significant expertise. Our execution capability has become our ‘prized’ asset, creating brand awareness and visibility. We have also acted incrementally, taking small steps over time as part of our broader African strategy. Our crucial partnerships and collaboration with African bank counterparts have been based on sharing knowledge and working together for the common good of our clients.

Our model does not involve setting up subsidiaries across different countries; instead, our execution happens from Mauritius. We have mobile teams and representative offices in Johannesburg, Nairobi, Lagos, Paris, and an advisory office in Dubai, to stay close to our clients, whilst allowing us to have a more in-depth understanding of the economic landscape in these regions.


We’ve heard a lot about the Global and International Corporates (GIC) department of MCB lately, through the GIC Business Series. It would be good for our readers to know more about it. What’s it all about? What’s its function? And what’s its objective?

GIC’s objective is to be a reference bank for investment funds doing business in Africa, large African corporate groups, and multinationals. We collaborate with intermediaries and partners globally to promote what the Mauritius International Financial Centre (MIFC) has to offer. 

The MIFC has much more to offer than fiscal incentives in terms of its attractiveness to corporates and funds. The MIFC, today, has a number of service providers such as lawyers, accounting firms, corporate finance advisors, corporate administrators and banks which are providing value-add services. Our appetite to serve African players is a strong contributor of substance for clients in Mauritius. 

Our focus is on adding value to our clients through financing, cash management solutions, investment products, financial markets, and custody services. We serve both the Anglophone and Francophone African markets, leveraging our bilingual capabilities and our understanding of diverse legal frameworks, as well as our knowledge of the economic landscape.

The main aims of the GIC Business Series are to showcase our credentials, product and value offerings, expert knowledge, and ability to tailor unique solutions for client needs. The Business Series also allows us to reaffirm our commitment to adding value to clients, whilst offering a platform to hear the evolution of client needs. This promotes MCB and the MIFC as enablers of business growth in Africa.



We have an important role in encouraging clients to optimise the MIFC’s value proposition



The GIC Business Series was also held in Dubai. Can you tell us more about the event that was hosted in Dubai? Why was Dubai a destination? Why was it strategic for MCB? And what’s the plan?

The event in Dubai was part of the MCB Business Series, with this being the second edition. The first edition focused on how effective treasury solutions can be a significant enabler for business growth in Africa. For the second event, we chose Dubai for several reasons. Firstly, Dubai is an important IFC for Africa, and we have an advisory office there to cover the Middle East-Africa corridor. Secondly, many of our clients’ management teams are based in Dubai, making it strategic for us to be closer to them. Thirdly, Dubai is well-banked, but not all banks are geared to serve Africa, creating an opportunity for MCB to add value.

The second Business Series focused on how optimal treasury management, trade settlement and payment solutions can contribute to achieve business growth. We discussed a number of challenges, such as the shortage of dollars in various African economies, the depreciation of African currencies, inflationary pressures, and high interest rate environments. Our objective was to showcase how our products and services can assist clients in overcoming these challenges to some extent. 


You also have the GIFT of India. Is this also of interest to you?

Our model does not involve setting up banking licences in different countries. Instead, we bring our coverage teams closer to clients through representative offices in strategic hubs, as mentioned above. We look at these hubs as gateways to broader regions, rather than focusing on single countries. We may consider additional hubs in the future, depending on the most effective strategy to be closer to our clients. I should also mention that we have been serving clients investing into or trading with Asia, including India, and it is our firm intention to find the most effective ways to continue supporting these clients according to their specific requirements.


Do you have any specific success stories or feedback from participants at your events, be it in Dubai or Mauritius?

Our events aim at: (1) communicating our risk appetite and specialist product offerings to clients, (2) facilitating discussions between clients and prospects, (3) renewing our commitment to Africa and our market segments, and (4) generating business opportunities. The events, which were very well attended, have been successful on all these counts. What was also extremely interesting is that many of our partners in Mauritius decided to participate in the event in Dubai. 

Our CEO, Thierry Hebraud, who attended the event in Dubai, reiterated our commitment to finding solutions for our clients in Africa by leveraging on our expertise acquired from the MIFC.

If you follow the African landscape today, you will see that many international banks have been exiting the continent. Recently, some international banks, like Société Générale, have sold some of their subsidiaries in very specific territories such as Morocco, which was quite a sizeable business. They are making those moves for reasons of their own, which I can understand from their perspective. But certainly, from our perspective, we believe in Africa. We believe in the prospects and opportunities in Africa. And certainly, when we do these events, another measure of success for us is to what degree our clients are aware of our commitment towards helping them in their African businesses. Based on the above yardsticks, we believe that these events have been extremely successful. The feedback from our clients and partners has generally been overwhelmingly positive and promising for the future.


Are there any particular initiatives coming up that you would like to highlight?

We will continue our commitment to Africa by scaling up our existing hubs and serving our niche clients with more resources. We want to grow the breadth and depth of expertise in our offices abroad. 

MCB’s strong balance sheet and investment-grade rating position us to support our clients in their African endeavours. If you look at MCB’s balance sheet today, it’s an $18 billion total asset base, with a $1.9 billion equity position. This helps us to do more with our anchor clients, i.e. the clients to whom we have deployed a broad range of solutions, and at the same time, to build relationships with new customers. It’s really about scaling up our existing business whilst ensuring continuity in the highest level of customer service. It’s about putting together the building blocks needed to be more and more impactful for our relevant client segments.  


How do you see GIC evolving in the coming years? Would you like to share anything else with our readers about GIC?

GIC has been, and will likely remain, an important growth segment for the MCB group. We will continue building lasting relationships with clients and partners for our mutual benefit. We have an important focus on recruiting and nurturing human talent, our main resource, so as to deliver best-in-class client services. And we will continue playing a pivotal role in the broader ecosystem of the Mauritius International Financial Centre.

MCB is one of the largest employers in Mauritius, and we want to attract more talent, whether locally or from the international diaspora. For members of the Mauritian diaspora looking to get back to their roots, we will endeavour to offer interesting career opportunities, and the possibility to grow as professionals. 

We strongly believe in what the MIFC has to offer to our clients, but we also feel that we have an important role in encouraging clients to optimise the MIFC’s value proposition. This will eventually have a significant positive impact on the performance of the Mauritian economy.

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