SECTOR EXPERTISE | 14 NOVEMBER 2022

Opening the Eastern
Cape to the World

Absa-CIB-Author

Jules Shefer

Relationship Executive,
Global Corporates at Absa CIB

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The Eastern Cape sits at the gateway between Africa and the rest of the world. For Absa CIB’s Eastern Cape regional team, that means creating locally relevant solutions with a global outlook

Don’t be fooled by the Eastern Cape’s small-town reputation. The region’s two major ports – Gqeberha’s harbour and the deep-water Port of Ngqura – are gateways for expanding markets, linking major global players to a vibrant local supply chain.

“We have a lot of agriculture, automotive exports and imports, food, beverage and pharmaceuticals…,” says Jules Shefer, Relationship Executive in the Global Corporate Coverage team at Absa CIB, running off a list of diverse industries. “And when you got these larger-sized businesses, you need a support structure. Their supplier bases are globally appointed but with a local presence, so that they have less risk from a supply chain perspective.”

She adds that, in order to undertake investment into Africa, clients have to invest in a great deal of research around the various regulatory and economic environments. “As a strategic, long-term partner, we provide up-to-date macroeconomic research on our presence countries, as well as on-the-ground assistance with exchange control and other regulatory applications,” she says.

Local meets global

That blend of local and global reflects Absa CIB’s Global Corporate (GC) relationship model, which covers both the local subsidiaries as well as their global parents. “While we are a client-led organisation, we are centre-enabled, having the capability to service our clients in the region through support and enablement from the Centre across product coverage and operations to deliver solutions regionally,” says Shefer. “This gives us the ability to be more responsive and accountable through our active engagement with our GC clients locally and at an HQ Treasury level.”

That enables distributed leadership, where Shefer and her Eastern Cape regional colleagues can provide tailor-made solutions for those clients, knowing that they have the in-house expertise to deliver. “We have a relationship model with a single point of contact, so if I see a client and they require, for example, asset finance or trade finance, when I get back to the office I’ll bring in the relevant specialist and we’ll prepare an application,” she says.

All of that is underpinned by deeply entrenched, long-term client relationships – many of which span decades. “We’ve retained those relationships by remaining relevant,” says Shefer, “and we’ve remained relevant through ongoing engagement, knowing what our clients’ requirements are, understanding their challenges and tailoring solutions to meet those requirements.”

It also comes with the years of experience that one finds in smaller areas like the Eastern Cape, where the regional team has a wealth of local, on-the-ground experience. “We’re like a family,” says Shefer. “My Portfolio Manager Janine Benjamin and I have been working together for more than 20 years, and our Trade Specialist Azeeza Abrahams has been with the bank for as long as I can remember. Our combined experience is quite incredible.”

Client-led solutions

That experience has enabled the team to offer innovative solutions to the supply chain issues – related to the COVID-19 crisis and to the war in Ukraine – that have affected clients in the Eastern Cape.

“We have been able to assist our clients to manage these challenges by providing tailored working capital solutions and commodity hedges,” says Shefer. “Load shedding is another challenge, with many of our clients looking for alternative energy sources. We can assist them here as well – not only from a term funding perspective, but from an [environmental, social and governance] perspective as well. We need to make sure that we are lending responsibly and that our funds are not going to be used to harm the environment or create social injustices in any way.”

And – as in Absa’s other Coastal Regions – Shefer and the Eastern Cape team are focused on working with clients to provide solutions that align with their clients’ specific needs, and that work best in their unique part of the world.

Absa-CIB-Author
Jules Shefer

Relationship Executive, Global Corporates at Absa CIB

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