With 10 years experience in the banking industry, Absa Bank Botswana Head of Markets, James Nthoyi takes Voice Money’s KABELO ADAMSON into the world of trading and details how his department plays a key role in the bank subsequently delivering its core business.
Q. Briefly explain what your role as Absa Head of Markets entails?
My core responsibility is to drive the bank’s pan African strategy of providing bespoke financial market products to our clients.
To give some context, the Markets division serves as the gateway for clients looking to engage in both global trade and access the local and foreign capital markets.
As such we provide solutions that minimize the cost fluctuations that tend to occur due to volatility in Foreign Exchange (FX) Rates, Interest Rates, and Commodity Prices.
In so doing we take the hassle out of global markets to enable our clients to focus on their core businesses of selling goods and services.
To bring it closer to home, one of the key daily functions that we perform is assisting local companies that procure inventory from foreign territories (e.g. China) manage the risk of cost escalations due to the Pula weakening relative to foreign currencies.
Q. So when did you assume the role and what were you doing before that?
I assumed the role of Head of Markets in 2018.
Prior to that, I was the Head of Trading within the markets division in Absa Bank Botswana (Barclays Bank Botswana at the time).
Q. Briefly take us through your journey in the banking industry.
My banking career started 10 years ago with a short stint in the retail segment at a competitor bank.
I subsequently proceeded to the commercial banking segment for a few more months, within that same bank, before settling as a Fixed Income and Currency trader in the treasury division in 2011.
I held that role for approximately three years before moving on to Barclays Bank Botswana (now Absa) as a trader.
Shortly after joining Barclays Bank Botswana, I was assigned to work with the Global Markets team at Absa Capital in Johannesburg.
I subsequently returned to Botswana to head up the trading business and a few years later I was promoted to my current role as Head of Markets.
Q. A decade on the rise! And how would you describe your journey in the industry?
My journey has been fulfilling albeit challenging at times.
I was fortunate to land up in a career that I not only found exciting but also challenged me to continually reinvent myself.
Furthermore, I was equally fortunate in finding the progressive employer that is Absa, very early on in my career, where I was exposed to dynamic and visionary leaders that valued meritocracy [selected based on merit] above all else.
So in a nutshell, my journey has had its ups and downs.
But if I could turn back time, I would not change any of the hardships or learnings that I have come across thus far.
Q. How critical is your department in the overall profitability of the business?
The Markets division is a small cog in the big machine known as Absa Bank Botswana.
However, as previously mentioned, we assist our clients with their risk management requirements from an FX, Interest rate and commodity risk perspective.
Furthermore, the income that we generate contributes directly to the Non-Interest Revenue line, which is a key focus area for the bank.
Q. How has the outbreak of Covid-19 affected the bank’s Corporate Investment Banking?
The advent of Covid-19 has undoubtedly disrupted our ways of life and business in a manner that is yet to be fully reconciled.
However, as the old adage goes ‘every cloud has its silver lining’ and that turned out to be true not only for the Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) business but for the bank at large during these unprecedented times.
For instance, when some of the opportunities that we had previously identified were rendered unviable by the new abnormal, we were able to unearth new opportunities, partnerships, and clients.
We were also able to accelerate our digitization agenda and test the relevance of our strategy.
As such the CIB business and the bank is a lot more resilient and better suited to bring our customer’s possibilities to life.
Q. What new opportunities were unearthed?
The bank adopted a multifaceted response to the outbreak that included accelerating digital adoption, driving operational efficiencies and forging new partnerships.
It is worth noting that over the past few months we have revamped the look and feel of our banking app, launched the ‘chatbot’ – a virtual banking assistant – and Novo FX: the mobile cross border foreign exchange remittance app.
Q. Finishing on a personal note, what would you say are your biggest achievements so far in the industry?
When you have been fortunate to work with some of the sharpest minds in the industry it is a challenge to name any particular achievement as your own.
However, over the years my team and I have launched innovative new products, structured sizeable risk management hedges for our clients and won numerous awards.
That said, the achievement that is closest to my heart was being part of the deal team that facilitated the listing of the International Finance Corporation’s P250 million inaugural Kgalagadi bond on the Botswana Stock Exchange.