Into Africa, with care
PROFILE: Barclays Africa’s Nomkhita Nqweni
Having easily overcome hurdles along the great march into the continent, she is best placed to expand the business into countries to the north of SA
Nomkhita Nqweni: Barclays Africa CEO for wealth, investment management & insurance.
Nomkhita Nqweni oozes confidence, and has the appearance of a manager completely in charge. She is Barclays Africa’s CEO for wealth, investment management and insurance, making her responsible for over 4m policies.
Nqweni maintains an open-door policy for the 4,000 people that she’s responsible for.
These staff of Barclays Africa are the people who make up its asset management and insurance business. It also includes the stockbroking unit. It’s a significant business, comprising about 10% of the value of Barclays Africa, even though it has a presence in only five of the nine African countries in which the group operates.
"Part of our growth plan is to mimic the growth path that the group has into Africa," says Nqweni.
The unit manages about R340bn in assets on behalf of clients. In the latest reporting period, Nqweni’s unit delivered a 24% return on equity.
One of the major markets that the unit has not yet covered is Ghana, says Nqweni. Should the wealth unit start operations there, it would fit neatly into the group strategy, as Barclays Africa already has operations in that country.
"Ghana is a sophisticated and fairly well-developed market and would give us a presence in West Africa, and would fit perfectly in the group strategy for the region," says Nqweni.
The group has also applied for an operating licence in Nigeria.
Nqweni is careful not to charge into Africa, guns blazing. "There is almost a scramble for assets in the continent, so one has to be perceptive in how one enters the market. We’ve learnt that we need to make sure we do our due diligence properly."
In her considered approach, Nqweni knows she can rely on colleague Peter Matlare, deputy group CE who heads the Africa operations.
Matlare’s experience and contacts in the continent were sharpened when he headed Tiger Brands, which expanded into markets such as Ethiopia and Nigeria. That Matlare’s ventures on the continent didn’t end well makes him the perfect person to spearhead Barclays’ Africa operations.
"He has a lot of experience and we work collaboratively as a team. Tough experiences in particular are what shape and mould a great leader," says Nqweni.
Nqweni seems to have easily overcome her own tough tests in Kenya, where Barclays acquired a general insurance and a life assurance business. Insiders says she has panel-beaten the units into great shape, in the face of resistance from men who are not used to having female bosses.
The training and her successes there would put her in a great position should there be an opportunity for higher office for the 42-year-old.
"I don’t know about that," Nqweni says with a smile.
"All I know is that we work as a collective and we will work as a team that will really redefine itself as a pan-African player."