The MCB Group is Mauritius' largest listed company. The banking arm of the group, the Mauritius Commercial Bank, or MCB as it is known, accounts for 85% of its assets and profits. We spoke to Antony Withers, CEO of MCB.
Antony Withers is an experienced banker. He has been CEO at MCB for 10 years, having joined the bank in April 2006. Previously he worked in London at Lloyds Bank under Eric Daniels, one of the great bankers of his time.
Interestingly, Lloyds and MCB go back a long way. MCB was founded in 1838 and in 1839, one of the then directors of the board, James Blyth, set sail for London to look for a corresponding bank for the newly established MCB. He lighted on a bank called C. Hoare & Co, which was taken over by Lloyds in 1884. So to this day, it's the oldest corresponding bank relationship on both sides for both Lloyds and for MCB.
MCB is the biggest bank in Mauritius by a long margin. It has 40% market share and its listing represents 25% of the market capitalisation of the main board of the Stock Exchange of Mauritius. Today the bank generates 40% of its revenues from its retail arm, another 40% of its business from its corporate arm, with the remaining 20% from its international operations--a part of the business Withers expects will continue growing.
Mauritius has become an increasingly important international financial centre. It benefits from some of the strongest regulatory frameworks, not only in Africa but internationally, and its banks are Basel III compliant.
Mauritius, at one point, had a bad reputation as a financial tax haven, but it has managed to clean up this image and is today on the white list of G20 countries and fully compliant with new OECD regulation in terms of exchange of information. The government has also signed numerous bilateral agreements and double taxation agreements with a large number of countries in Africa and Asia.
As a result, many fund managers route their international investments into India, China and a number of African countries through global business companies in Mauritius. And this is one line of business that Withers would like to see MCB develop further, especially with the increasing capital flows going into Asia and Africa.
"Traditionally, the main beneficiaries of handling these flows from a banking perspective have been the international banks so we've been upping our dialogue with the local management companies that are required to service these...