End of an era for iconic century old Barclays Kenya brand

By Otiato Guguyu | Published Tue, June 6th 2017 at 10:10, Updated June 6th 2017 at 10:12 GMT +3

Almost 100 years after the Barclays Bank brand set foot in Mombasa in 1925, the blue eagle emblem is on its way out.

But even as uncertainty of the Pan African lender’s restructuring looms, the Africa Group CEO acknowledges that outside South Africa, withdrawing the Barclays Bank brand will be unsettling.

Barclays Africa Group operates in 12 countries and only in South Africa does the lender operate under a different name, the Absa Bank. “We have been in places like Kenya for almost 100 years and we know it is going to be difficult when we make a big change of the name and dislocation of the brand will be tricky,” Barclays Africa Group Chief Executive Maria Ramos said.

Barclays Africa Group was formed through combining Absa Group Ltd and Barclays’ African operations on July 31, 2013 and the British lender, Barclays PLC controlled 62 per cent stake.

Ms Ramos said they missed an opportunity then to demonstrate that this move had significantly changed the lender from its century’s presence in Africa and may be even considered the brand name at the time.

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“It is the Group and not Barclays Plc that owns our businesses across the country. Maybe we should have made a bigger deal when we bought the units in 2013 which we did not,” Ms Ramos said in South Africa.

Owing to requirements imposed on banks post the 2008 financial crisis which required financial institutions to have more capital on their exposures, Barclays Plc saw it better to reduce its global presence so that they would not have to provision colossal sums of money for their global footprints.

They decided to bring their shareholding in African business to under 20 per cent, selling off 12 per cent last year and a subsequent 23 per cent last week. The British bank will eventually divest to 16.4 per cent after the total sell down.

This effectively triggers the clock for rebranding since the Pan African lender and its British shareholder agreed that from the date on which Barclays PLC reduces its shareholding in BAGL to below 50 per cent, BAGL can continue to use the Barclays brand in the rest of Africa for three years only.

“The Barclays brand has deep roots in Africa; we will make any changes based on thorough research, and we will undertake the transition with care while keeping our customers updated,” Ms Ramos said. “We will have up to three years to build a strong, Africa focused brand, which we believe is a massive opportunity.” Barclays Bank Kenya had 833,268 customers by last year.

Loyal customers

Barclays clients who spoke to Financial Standard said there was need to be kept updated, noting that they would remain loyal customers of the bank even with the name change as long as the lender keeps up the service and benefits of the Barclays outfit.

Barclays on their part said they will offer even more in terms of integrating technology, offering more partnerships unlike the past where they would have done all deals through the global Bar-clays partners. “We will have more products and access to everyone in the market and are now in control of our destiny. We can work with any partners in the Africa and outside,” Peter Matlare BAGL Deputy CEO for rest of Africa said.

Kenya is no stranger to rebranding, having recently witnessed the change of names in several banks in the last three years. K Rep Bank rebranded to Sidian Bank in 2016 after Centum Investment Company completed acquisition of a majority stake in the bank.

Last year, Equatorial Commercial Bank was also rebranded as Spire Bank while Oriental Bank was rebranded M-Orient Bank. Fidelity Bank has only recently changed names to SBM Bank following acquisition by the Mauritius lenders.

Barclays management said they will offer loans in shorter periods since the process will not take weeks going to London for approvals and invest in streamlining their core banking system across the subsidiaries on the continent.

Barclays Head of Research Jeff Gable said they will be able to actively engage clients and the public with more debt research given that under Plc they were not allowed to share some of this information.