Neil Harvey of Renaissance Capital: Africa is the new Russia.

Author:Yedder, Omar Ben
Position:STAR INTERVIEW - Interview

Renaissance Capital is a relatively new entity to Africa. It made a name for itself in Russia and the CIS in the late 1990s and the 2000s becoming one of the region's biggest deal makers and most influential investment banks. Its founder and CEO, Stephen Jennings says that if Russia was the opportunity of a lifetime, Africa is the second opportunity of a lifetime. But the reception to Renaissance has been mixed with some accusing it of being too aggressive. It has also ruffled the feathers of the more established foreign finance houses and alarmed one of Africa's major multinational banks. How does the balance sheet on Renaissance read? Omar Ben Yedder tries to uncover the real Renaissance in this interview with Neil Harvey, CEO, Africa & Middle East of Renaissance Capital.


African Banker: What is your role at Renaissance Capital and Renaissance Group?

Neil Harvey: I sit on the board of the main Renaissance Group, and I also run the group's businesses in Africa and the Middle East. Also, I have some global responsibilities, global being for us Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Central Asia, Ukraine, Middle East and Africa; that is our world, as it were.

We also have distribution centres in London, New York and Dubai. I have some responsibilities in terms of the liquidity, funding and risk on a global basis for the investment bank, Renaissance Capital, but most of my time is spent on running the group in Africa.

African Banker: Is there a Renaissance way of doing things; a Renaissance model?

Neil Harvey: There is a business model which works in emerging markets. We are headquartered in an emerging market; we are not headquartered in London or New York, and that is the big difference. We started in emerging markets--we didn't take a business model that worked in the US or Europe and adapted it to emerging markets; we actually built our business model in emerging markets. We are able to originate, execute research and structure on the ground--and that makes a big difference.

We do delegate authority, so the businesses we are building in Africa aren't going to be run out of Moscow but out of Lagos, our headquarters for the region. That is a different business model.

Being on the ground is very, very important. If you are researching a company from New York or London you can never really do it in the same way as if you're on the ground and close to the company, close to the market and close to the regulators. So I think that does make a difference.

The fact that we invest our own capital alongside the investment bank, through Renaissance Partners--our principal investment arm--enables us to leverage a lot of the contacts and insights that we have to make profitable, principled investments.

We've also got the best people. Look at our board in Africa and compare that to Goldman's or Deutsche Bank's.

We don't have people who go to the African markets just to retire. We have attracted the best local talents in those markets.

In Africa, we went from zero staff to 100 in 11 months. Very few organisations can move that quickly. The facts are that we can take...

To continue reading