John Vowell, FBN Bank UK’s director of structured trade commodity finance (STCF) has moved from the bank’s London office to Abu Dhabi.

Although Vowell’s title hasn’t changed and he continues to be responsible for structured trade finance deals in Sub-Saharan Africa, his remit now also includes the Middle East.

Rosemary Etim, executive director of business development at FBN UK, tells GTR that Vowell’s move is a result of the bank’s new strategy in the Middle East. FBN UK says it has come to their attention that its clients in the region over the last three to four years have migrated their businesses to the Middle East. The bank hopes that by expanding its existing representative office in Abu Dhabi, its business in the region will be boosted and it will open up opportunities to engage with new clients in the commodity finance arena.

Commenting on Vowell’s move, Etim tells GTR: “John started a successful structured trade commodity finance desk in London a few years ago, so it’s only natural to expand this business area and replicate what we have achieved in London in other jurisdictions. Hence, the desk in Abu Dhabi; to serve as a bridge to emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Moving John there is the first of a series of steps that the bank plans to make to ensure it remains close to its highly valued current and prospective client base located in the region.”

Vowell was hired in 2008 to head the bank’s newly created STCF team and support commodity traders and producers in the financing of their supply chain from origin to destination. Under Vowell’s leadership, the team has predominantly supported Sub-Saharan African trade flows. Vowell joined the bank from Nedbank where he was director of structured trade and finance.

While the bank says it remains an African focussed business, it has over the years opened representative offices outside of Africa to transform it into more of a global bank. FBN UK opened a branch in Paris in 2008 and the bank’s parent company First Bank Nigeria opened a branch in Beijing the following year.

FBN UK wants to develop its portfolio to include more metals and a good spread of soft commodities and will be pursing commodity traders, producers and manufacturers for these deals.

Further commenting on the importance of being based in the Middle East, Vowell adds: “I’ve been talking to customers and banks here and a lot of people still haven’t got their heads around Africa and they still don’t really like financing African deals. So for us to have an African appetite in terms of financing goods from origin by lifting goods out of Africa, if we can finance further up the supply chain to bring in those goods out of Africa, we get a competitive advantage over banks looking to do it from safer parts of the supply chain. By coming here, we’re going to tap into hopefully a new set of clients that will want to partner with a bank that’s got an African appetite.”

There are no immediate plans to move any of Vowell’s STCF team from London to join him.