Specialist intelligence company Exx Africa has launched a new stream to its suite of business risk intelligence products. Insight Banking Risk now joins Insight Security Planning and Insight Political Risk, which all form part of the company’s online portal providing specialised and commercially-relevant risk intelligence.

“This is the first and only service on the market that analyses political, contract, and reputational risks to the banking sector in all African countries,” reads a statement on the Exx Africa website. “The Banking Risk service provides political, reputational and contract risk intelligence on African banks and other financial institutions to support due diligence and KYC requirements, as well as reputational and political counter-party risk assessments. The service focuses on corrupt practices, political decisions, regulatory changes and contract risks affecting the African banking sector, as well as key economic, sovereign and financial risks.”

The service has already been launched in the major African markets of South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco. It will eventually be rolled out in all 54 African countries, with the final 20 smaller countries due to be added in the next two to three weeks.

GTR caught up with Exx Africa executive director Robert Besseling at last week’s GTR West Africa Trade & Export Finance conference in Lagos, to discuss the launch of the service:

GTR: Who provides the content for this service?

Besseling: It comes from a variety of contributing analysts and local sources. We have a network of several hundred sources across the African continent. Some have country or regional expertise; some have a thematic expertise, and these people range from all sorts of backgrounds. They can be academics, former government or former military; they can be members of insurgency groups and quite a few investigative journalists or political risk analysts and, of course, industry professionals as well.

GTR: Why Africa?

Besseling: Opportunity aplenty, obviously, but very little knowledge. When coming to places like Lagos and Johannesburg, there is a lot of information around, but there are many lesser-known places out there about which there is very little information and very little understanding, and counterparty risk is one of the major contributing factors for people when assessing their risk for exposure in these kinds of markets. That is what we are trying to provide: a better understanding of countries, as well as counterparties, whether it is banks, companies, public institutions or governments, as well as the variety of political and economic risk perils.

GTR: What makes the product unique?

Besseling: There is not a single product like this on the market and no one provides analysis on all those risk perils I just mentioned for all 54 African countries. It is also driven by local intelligence and is not just a regurgitation of Bloomberg and Reuters, etc. It is commercially relevant, forward-looking, always making a forecast, and crucially it is cost-effective.

GTR: What has been the interest in Exx Africa’s services since its launch at the end of last year?

Besseling: The Security Planning product has had a lot of uptake from corporate security teams from major multinationals, so we are talking about major aviation and defence companies, major IT companies, and major pharmaceutical companies. They are all blue chip companies.

GTR: Are you planning on expanding the team?

Besseling: That’s correct; there is a partnership in place already. Some of the people who have jumped on board are going to be running the Political Risk and Security Planning side, while I will be focusing on more of an umbrella management role. Similarly, we will be hiring some auditors as well, so essentially looking at the content and the content management.

The other partners are essentially anywhere. Some are based in London, some are in Johannesburg and some are in New York. I think a key point to make there is that we run an office-less infrastructure. We are a risk advisory, a consultancy and we have absolutely no need for offices. Everything is done over email, over conference chats, or if a client wants to see us we go to them or we meet up somewhere, and that keeps our overheads down. A lot of the bigger consultancies or risk advisories out there spend a lot of money on employees, big swanky offices trying to impress clients, and that is not how we run our business plan. We really want to focus on local, high-quality intelligence at a lower cost than many of the big risk advisories out there.

GTR: How else will you be expanding the business over the short term?

Besseling: We are going to be adding a database, particularly for the Security Planning side of the business. We will be adding a database of security incidents since about 1992, based on reporting by international media, local media, social media as well as witness accounts of security incidents around the continent. That is going to give us a massive database for risk mapping and heat mapping as well as graphs of particular incidents, and it is all going to be categorised according to peril, such as war, terrorism, kidnap and ransom, as well as who it affects: does it affect you as NGO workers? Does it affect expats? Does it affect oil workers? That will give a real insight into historical trends in how political violence has developed on the continent and will therefore be a great tool to start forecasting based on the data. Of course, we can then match that with our quantitative and qualitative analysis.