Investec is setting up a new trade finance team in South Africa, GTR can reveal, with the banking and wealth management firm looking to expand into new areas and strengthen its African presence.

The new team will be part of the financial products team within Investec’s corporate and institutional bank in South Africa, and will work closely with fully owned subsidiary Investec Bank Mauritius.

It is headed by George Wilson, who joins after more than 11 years at Absa, most recently as a director and head of institutional trade. The team also includes Derryn Faure, Michael Liversage and Burger Müller, all of whom also join from Absa.

Lourens van Rensburg, Investec’s head of corporate and institutional banking in South Africa, says the company has historically had a limited offering in African markets, focusing on “quite specific, specialised areas”.

“As we’ve been building, it has become clear to us that trade finance is a product set we have to get involved with if we want to expand our African footprint,” he tells GTR.

“African activity is built on the back of trade, and we therefore view this as a highly attractive asset class.”

The continent’s trade finance gap is estimated to stand at more than US$80bn, having decreased from around US$120bn in 2011.

However, a 2020 report from the African Development Bank and the African Export-Import Bank found that trade finance rejection rates for SMEs have been rising over the past decade.

Van Rensburg says the new Investec team will work with banks across the continent, focusing on any trade corridors and sectors relevant to those banks’ activities.

“We have strong capital and strong liquidity, and are looking to use that to grow into new markets and new product sets,” he adds.

“With this additional functionality we think we can bring a more comprehensive product set into these markets, and into other markets as well.”

Investec’s financial products team already operates in the lending market, as well as in distribution and funding.