Banking for all
Much of the growth of the Moroccan banking system is due to increased access to banking services. Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP), Morocco’s second largest bank, explains their success.
Several factors contribute to increased banking penetration. The first is undeniably the densification of the banking network and its extension to remote areas that had witnessed low banking usage levels. Proximity is a key lever for banking services. To increase this closeness-to-the-customer factor, several banks set up so-called lightweight agencies, to reduce investment costs, while simultaneously introducing other technology-intensive solutions.
Another key growth driver was provided by changes in the regulatory environment. For a long time, the minimum income requrements set for opening an account was a major obstacle, since much of the population was excluded. The impulse given by the Moroccan Central Bank (Bank Al Maghrib) for low income banking in 2010 made access to banking services much broader.
More specifically at BCP, the emphasis has always been on increasing the number of account holders, the depth of penetration. Banking agencies have been established in far-flung, remoter areas of the country, be it in the less accessible mountainous areas of the Atlas chain or in the deep south. Unlike other banks, the BCP network is principally outside of the major urban centers.
In addition to this traditional agency structure, there have been four innovative programs that have proven successful for BCP: the low income banking program dedicated to a broad segment of the population; a program of banking services for retirees, stuctured via the two largest national pension funds CNSS and CIMR; the launch of Souk Bank, a initiative of mobile branches that crisscross the souks (open-air markets) of the Kingdom for rural banking; and finally, the involvement of the Banque Populaire Foundation for the development of micro-credit lending, in parallel to new bank account creations.
Growth from the Moroccan diaspora
The Moroccan diaspora has always been an important part of the business of BCP Banque Populaire. BCP currently holds a more than 50% market share in this important banking segment, since remittances from overseas Moroccans represent almost 10% of national GDP.
BCP has pioneered this field since the late 1960s, catering to the more than three million Moroccans located throughout the world (see sidebar on page 43). After obtaining a full banking license for its French subsidiary, BCP established antennae in the main EU countries. In parallel, clientele offerings were expanded to eventually encompass not only the standard portfolio (savings, investment and assistance products) but also new innovations. Islamic financial products are increasingly requested by this community abroad. ●
What are the strengths that have made Morocco second-ranked in Africa in terms of FDI?
Many factors are contributing to my country’s attractiveness. Good economic growth rates. A structured set of government initiatives that are bearing fruit. Low debt levels. The financial sector in Morocco is healthy and plays a key role in funding projects in key industries. Let me cite tourism, energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, real estate and finally agriculture as examples.
What is the role of BCP within the various government sector plans?
We play an important role, formalized by various conventions signed between BCP and the government, and bolstered by the fact that BCP is the only bank in Morocco to be rated “investment grade” by Standard & Poor’s. Our key role in real estate deserves mention: we were leaders in setting up “Fonciere Emergence”, an fund that owns various industrial assets and logistics platforms, and then rents them to tenant companies. This reduces their capital needs.
BCP is actually part of Groupe Banque Populaire. Tell us more about the usefulness of your regional branches.
Structured as a cooperative bank, we have BCP as the central hub and ten regional banks as spokes around it. This gives us a nationwide footprint, and a deep understanding of regional competitive advantages. In turn, this has helped many a foreign direct investor.