Clement May Blogs

The Drive For Talented Bankers For Africa

There is a great need for real talent in the African banking sector, and although there are some recruitment firms that focus on Africa, it is a very underdeveloped market in terms of quality. Up until last year, the active players in the markets of Sub-Saharan Africa were mainly African players – both South African and Sub Saharan. That has changed. More and more international “bulge bracket” banks are eyeing up Africa and including it in their growth strategies.

Stock exchanges on the African continent are improving their services through collaboration with the big international exchanges and improved technology. Local banks are commanding a bigger portion of the volume going through the system and it seems this development is on the rise. As international bulge bracket interest in Africa is on the rise, the share in market volume that these banks can win is dwindling due to the rise of local players. Global banks are taking a very active interest across disciplines. While the primary markets have gained in strength over the last number of years, the real evidence of increased activity is in the secondary markets. Liquidity has improved immensely over the last year or so and trading in African equities has also increased significantly, both on the ground in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world. More and more Hedge Funds focus on SSA. More international Asset Managers increase the portion of funds invested in SSA. More local fund houses are opening up. The appetite for SSA investments is growing exponentially as a result.

As the international bulge bracket banks are expanding their businesses, jobs are available on the ground and in the hubs (i.e. Johannesburg, London, Hong Kong and New York). This in turn is spurring greater hiring activity by local banks as well, and so on.

Origination and execution teams are in growth mode and I anticipate there being a surge in Sales, Sales Trading and Trading hires next year. Most of these jobs will be based in London, Johannesburg and New York servicing the international institutional client base. But there are also many headcount needed for positions on the ground in SSA. Of these, most are in Nigeria, then Kenya.

There is a huge community of very well-educated Africans around the world. Whereas, only a couple of years ago, very few of them would consider a return to their home country, these days, more and more are actively seeking to return, in order to contribute to their home countries with their education and experience. This is obviously connected to the increased activity in the banking sector, and the remuneration packages now available.

The banks are mostly looking for natives of the country in which the hiring is taking place. Only for very senior positions will foreign candidates be considered. This does not stem from immigration policy only (although that can also be a consideration as visas become harder to obtain), but also from a desire to have fully culturally assimilated staff in place. Needless to say, jobs in the hubs of London, New York and others focusing on SSA are being filled by candidates from across the spectrum and regardless of nationality.