Absa Group, one of Africa’s largest financial services providers, is celebrating substantial completion of its separation programme from Barclays PLC, three years after the start.
The separation, one of the largest and most complex corporate programmes of its kind, followed Barclays PLC’s 2016 decision to reduce its shareholding in the African group to a minority position. Barclays became the majority shareholder in Absa in 2005 and the two groups subsequently integrated systems, processes and policies over time.
“We are closing an important chapter in the more-than-100-year history of the Absa Group as we wind up the last few elements of separation,” said Absa Group Chief Executive Daniel Mminele. “We emerge from this chapter as a proudly independent African bank, strengthened and enriched by our experience as part of the UK group. We have a great foundation to build on and full control to make the decisions that are in the best interest of our customers and other stakeholders across all the African markets we operate in.”
Barclays PLC contributed R12.6 billion (approximately $1 billion at the time) in 2017 towards the three-year separation programme, which comprised mainly IT and brand projects, and which commenced on 6 June 2017.
A total of 270 projects have been delivered as part of the separation programme, and all technical solutions have been built. Six projects will be concluded in the next few months, including three minor ‘mop-up’ activity projects.
The separation required the replacement or rebranding of millions of assets in 12 countries, including technology solutions. The programme involved, among others, the largest single data and system migration in Africa as customers in nine countries were switched to a new online banking platform, improving customer experience through greater stability and upgraded user interfaces in several countries.
More than 1,000 branches, 10,000 ATMs, close to 16,000 email addresses, several million customer cards, as well as thousands of uniforms, signage, forms, buildings and stationery were rebranded. At its peak, nearly 1,300 employees and contractors were dedicated to the separation programme.
“The initiatives undertaken have fundamentally improved Absa’s resilience, systems and capabilities, benefitting both employees and customers alike,” said Mminele. “I have been extremely impressed with how diligently and disciplined the colleagues have carried out this mammoth of a project, unparalleled on the continent in terms of size and complexity. We take great pride in having substantially completed the separation from Barclays PLC within budget and inside agreed time lines.”
“The programme carried material risks, including potential large-scale banking system failures and customer attrition,” said Absa Engineering Services CE Paul O’Flaherty, who leads the separation programme “We worked closely with stakeholders including regulators across our presence markets to mitigate risk. We are proud to say that separation has been substantially completed in a safe and successful way.”
History of Absa Group’s association with Barclays PLC since 2005
2005 Barclays PLC acquires 55.5% of Absa Group Ltd.
2013 Most Barclays PLC businesses in Africa are combined with Absa Group Ltd to create Barclays Africa Group Ltd. The transaction increases Barclays PLC’s stake in Barclays Africa Group to 62.3%.
2016 Barclays PLC starts reducing its shareholding in Barclays Africa Group after changes in international regulations - subsequent to the 2008 global financial crisis - made it less attractive to own stakes in large banks abroad.
2017 Barclays PLC reduces its shareholding in Barclays Africa Group to a minority stake of 14.9% and separation commences.
2018 Barclays Africa Group is renamed Absa Group on 11 July 2018 and a refreshed brand is rolled out across South Africa.
Feb 2020 The rebranding of Barclays-branded banks as ‘Absa’ in Africa is completed.
June 2020 Absa achieves substantial separation from Barclays.