April 21, 2024

The rise of the mass affluent in Africa and how banks can best respond to their needs

5 min read

The purchasing power of Africa’s middle-class is expected to grow significantly in the coming years: The continent’s middle-class is expected to spend US$2.1 trillion by 2025 and US$2.5 trillion by 2030, thus creating a further upward momentum in the demand for goods and services.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone (excluding South Africa), a 2018 estimate reported over 100 million middle-class individuals with a total purchasing power of over US$400 million per day – with financial services, especially around wealth management and investments, expected to receive a boost from the massive growth in disposable incomes.

Surprisingly then, Capgemini’s 2022 wealth management executive survey found that only 27% of wealth management firms currently serve mass affluent clients, and only 36% firms are even exploring mass affluent services. No wonder then that banks believe the mass affluent segment, representing those with investable assets more than US$50 000   and less than US$5 million in wealth, is both undervalued, underinvested and underserved.

What does a typical mass affluent customer look like?

At the outset, it is important to note that this segment is financially and digitally savvy, is fee-sensitive, and likes to shop around for various options, not hesitating to spread their assets across providers.

Apart from these generic characteristics that are true of the mass affluent in all parts of the world, Bank One’s experience of sub-Saharan Africa’s mass affluent segment shows us that a broad customer profile spans across any one or a combination of the following characteristics:

  • An individual who has bought properties and secure, low-yield assets such as treasury bonds within their shores, but now wishes to diversify their investments across other jurisdictions;
  • An individual who has children studying abroad or family living overseas and wishes to obtain a return on assets in such economies that offsets their expenses in the same jurisdictions;
  • An individual at a C-suite or senior management level in a company in Africa – who could currently be in Mauritius but may find themselves looking at a next posting in Kenya or Nigeria – and needs an offshore account that can move with them;
  • Such an individual could also be a business owner in a part of Africa that exports to different geographies across the region and is eyeing investments in those locations to offset expenses in these jurisdictions;
  • An individual who works in jurisdictions like the DRC or Nigeria where there are constraints on movement of foreign currency and who would prefer to invest in a jurisdiction where foreign currency can move more freely.

Needless to say, an individual who identifies with the above descriptions and aspirations would be considering banks in jurisdictions that support offshore banking, be it Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong at a global level or a Mauritius and Seychelles at a regional level.

Why Bank One is in a prime position to serve the banking needs of the mass affluent

While traditional banks in sub-Saharan Africa do see the promise of this emerging segment, they are simply not sure how to approach it. At Bank One, we have already crossed the first hurdle – that of definitively acknowledging that this segment exists in our region of operation – and have moved on to carving out a value proposition around their specific needs for banking services that Bank One is uniquely positioned to meet.

Indeed, Bank One considers itself to be in a prime position to deliver such services from our headquarters in Mauritius. We have rolled out our offerings for the mass affluent segment in the East African market since 2020 – taking advantage of the significant presence of our shareholders, I&M Holdings PLC and CIEL Group – and are currently targeting the western and southern African territories based on our acquired experience from East Africa.

As the business grew, we decided to set up permanent resources in Kenya and Uganda alongside our seamless digital onboarding process, in adherence to the prevailing legal and regulatory requirements, which has endeared our solutions and made them more accessible to our clients.

We understand that we need to be proactive in serving the everchanging needs of mass affluent clients by providing banking solutions that resonate with their phase of life whilst helping them safeguard, invest and grow their assets.

With their rapid adoption of digital-first channels and self-service capabilities, this segment embarked on their first financial journey with fintech firms that are thriving across the region. Hence, the mass affluent expect firms at a more mature stage of their financial planning, such as traditional banks, to offer personalised solutions and unique insights in order to see the value in such services. It is also evident that financial planning is of critical importance for this segment that also shows a keen response to incentives to bring about a holistic relationship – for example, offering better rates on mortgages if they maintain a certain threshold in assets under management with the same bank.

Finally, this segment values, above all, a consolidated and insightful view of their end-to-end financial situation, with technology touchpoints providing data-backed advice on how their assets should be managed. As a bank that wants to be successful in providing solutions and proactively managing clients in this market, these key considerations are cemented into our business strategy and ably executed by trusted advisors in the form of our dedicated relationship managers.

At a more holistic level, we recognise the importance of a customised approach to successfully provide banking and wealth products to mass affluent clients. Indeed, such value add could be as simple as helping them to understand how our offerings bring certain key benefits in their wake, which can help them achieve, and exceed, their financial goals – and acting as a partner in achieving their aspirations that are in turn fuelling the growth of the region at large.

As a self-described ‘From Africa, For Africa’ banking institution, Bank One aims to unlock a world of opportunity for such upwardly mobile clients. For instance, our mass affluent clients are now able to access personalised offshore banking services – which was an offering previously available exclusively to high net-worth individuals until recently. We have also proudly opened our doors to support such individuals in gaining access to global investment markets.

Margaret Soi

Head of Offshore Banking

Bank One Limited

Leave a Reply