2022 has been my first full year as Chair of Bank One. I would like to thank Sandra my predecessor for her nine years of stewardship of the Bank. Bank One has made great strides during her time first as an independent director and then Chairperson. I would also like to recognise the welcome and support of my other directors and the management team.
On the economic front I am running out of negative superlatives to describe the events of the last 12 months. After two very difficult years of Covid both the World and Mauritius were hoping for a period of stability to be able to absorb the impact of the past 24 months. Unfortunately there has been little respite and the challenges of Covid have been replaced by the challenges of inflation, interest rates and the cost of living crisis.
Quarter four indicators suggest slower growth as central banks continue to increase interest rates to tackle inflation. The underlying drivers of inflation remain energy prices (impacted by the war in Ukraine) and continuing Covid related logistic challenges. During 2022 inflation hit 40+ year highs in the US (9.1%) and the UK (11.1%).
There are however signs in some of the key global markets of a softening in inflation rates (oil and gas prices are down from highs). This in turn may impact the rate of Central Bank policy adjustments in 2023.
Covid related logistic difficulties appear to be slowly unwinding with the New York Federal Reserve Global Supply Chain Pressure Index down from above 4.0 in December 2021 to around 1.0 in Q4 2022. This may further improve with the opening up of China after the recent lifting of zero Covid policy.
Global food prices however remain stubbornly high and still one third higher than pre-war or pre-pandemic levels. Despite an initial easing, the global cost of living crisis remains a real factor in many countries and consumer confidence is low.
On a brighter side, the opening up of China is positive and global unemployment rates remain low. In addition to this, at the recent January meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the IMF indicated that it will upgrade its economic forecast. Instead of predicting a “tougher” 2023, the IMF will now project “improvement” in the second half of the year and into 2024.
In Mauritius the local economy has continued its recovery with GDP up by 7.4% in the third quarter. The Bank of Mauritius (BOM) has retained its projection for 2022 of 7% GDP growth driven by manufacturing, financial service and the hotel sector. BOM has however tempered its projections for 2023 to 5% as a result of global economic headwinds.
Inflation on the island continues to be a challenge and in Q4, the CPI rose by over 12%. Partially to combat inflation but also to address the interest rate gap with the USD, the Bank of Mauritius Monetary Policy Committee unanimously agreed to raise the Key Repo Rate by 50 basis points to 4.5% in December. In 2022, the Monetary Policy Committee has raised the Key Repo Rate by 265 basis points.
Despite the tightening interest rate environment, the economy continues to respond positively to the pick-up in key business sectors, in particular tourism where just under one million tourists visited the island during the year. The revival of tourism has had a positive spill-over impact on the whole economy.
Progress at Bank One
I am pleased to say that despite difficult trading conditions, Bank One has continued to produce good results with PAT up to 19% and asset growth of 2% in 2022.
The Bank remains very focused on delivering against its sub-Saharan strategy. Despite the recognized challenges, both growth and opportunities in the region remain exciting and the presence of the two shareholders, CIEL Finance and I&M Group, provide a very competitive advantage.
The business continues to invest in the future and has rolled out a new internet banking and mobile banking platforms for personal and corporate clients. In addition to this, in conjunction with Master Card, Bank One has launched an exciting new card programme for its customers and re-carded the entire customer base of debit and credit cards.
Capital and liquidity at the Bank remain robust and non-performing loans are well controlled.
During 2022 the Bank was awarded the following five awards;
Outstanding Digital CX – Payments 2022: award from the Digital Banker recognising the outstanding efforts of Bank One in its digital transformation journey.
Mortgage Product of the Year 2022: award from the Digital Banker for setting new benchmarks in service delivery, product innovation and customer experience for mortgages in the local market.
Best SME Bank (Mauritius) 2022: awarded by Global Finance Magazine.
Best International Services (Indian Ocean) 2022: awarded by CFI.co UK for the strong commitment of Bank One to support individuals and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa whilst positioning itself as a thought leader on continental Africa.
Best Private Bank (Mauritius) 2022: awarded by Global Finance Magazine for Bank One’s strong custody service offering, open architecture investment solutions and sustained innovation approach in delivering value for its customers and the expansion of its footprint within new territories in sub-Saharan Africa.
While driving its business forward, Bank One has remained committed to the Mauritius community. During the year, the Bank and its staff have undertaken re-forestation initiatives in the Valley de Ferney. Bank One is excited by its new partnership with a number of education institutions in Pointe Aux Sables where the focus is on supporting school materials and ensuring an excellent work environment for the children.
Changes at the Board
In March 2022, Nikhil Treebhoohun stepped down from the Board after four years. I would like to recognise and thank Nikhil for his support to Bank One over the years.
In May 2022, Marc Israel joined the Board. Marc has a strong background in technology. I look forward to working with Marc over the coming years as Bank One progresses along its crucial technology transformation journey.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our shareholders, my fellow directors, the Bank One team, our external auditors and our regulators for their excellent support in 2022. It has been a difficult year but I am pleased with the progress that has been made at the Bank. 2023 is likely to throw up its own range of challenges but we will address these together and continue to drive the business forward.
Guillaume Passebecq is an International School of Management (IDRAC) graduate who has spent his entire career in the banking sector. He started off as a Portfolio Manager at B* capital Paris, the BNP Paribas brokerage house in 1999. In 2007, he was appointed as Head of Sales at BNP Paribas Personal Investors Luxembourg. He joined AfrAsia Bank in 2014 and was subsequently appointed as Head of Private Banking.
Guillaume joined Bank One as the Head of Private Banking in March 2017. He brought along the needed expertise to uplift the Private Banking offer. Following the setting up of the International Custody Platform, Securities Services and the External Wealth Managers Desk, our clients, both high-net-worth and institutional now have the tools for their wealth management experience. The Bank’s array of clients has also been widened to accommodate Asset Managers, Investment Funds, Pension Funds, Family Offices and Financial Intermediaries through a one stop shop and open architecture model.