FBN Bank (UK)’s new CEO, Paul Cardoen, has told GTR about his plans for the future of the bank, including the growth of its presence in the Middle East and the reinforcement of its Paris branch.

Cardoen, who has been with the bank as a senior advisor since October 2015, and took over the reins as CEO at the start of April, has big plans for reviewing the bank’s business and operational strategy, going “deeper as opposed to wider” into its key markets.

“Our aim is to be a top five African player, and number one for Nigerian trade and investment,” he tells GTR. “It is clear that we are benefiting a little bit from the fact that some banks have retreated from Africa. And I think we’re benefiting even more from the fact that some banks that are not retreating are not committed: they’re dipping in and out. And we can communicate clearly that as a group that has been around for 122 years, we are here to stay for the long term. Africa is big enough for us to do only Africa.”

FBN Bank (UK) is set to expand its teams, not only on the front line, but also by hiring people in its risk distribution unit to assist in originating deals, underwriting them and then risk sharing them with other banks, as the bank moves away from its historical “book and hold” structure.

In this regard, Cardoen envisages partnering a lot more with DFIs and Middle Eastern banks, the latter which have traditionally been wary of entering some Sub-Saharan African markets. “We’re going to be a gateway for them. So we’re going to source the deals, partner with them on a long-term basis and create another channel of liquidity for Africa,” he says.

In order to fulfil this mandate, the bank is in the process of applying for a licence in Dubai. (It already has a representative office in Abu Dhabi.)

Additional hires will be made to the bank’s Paris branch, where it has reportedly hired a “top senior banker from a world-class organisation” to head up the office from early June, and is set to hire two or three more members of staff later this year. The expanded branch will primarily look to capitalise on the strong Francophone links between France and West Africa, he says.

As a measure of the bank’s success globally, Cardoen’s hope is that in the future, FBN Bank would become an employer of choice for talented people looking for a firm with a strong sense of purpose and set of values.  “It’s not just about profits, it’s about leading sustainable growth in Africa,” he says.

Before joining FBN Bank (UK) Cardoen worked as managing director and deputy general manager at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, and before that as a managing director at BNP Paribas Fortis. Prior to that he was CEO of The Trust Bank in Ghana and also held senior positions at Bank Belgolaise and Fortis Bank.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Cardoen’s core capability is to “lead cross-cultural teams through strategic change, turnaround or M&A activity”. “Over his career, he has built and expanded businesses in the banking, asset finance and wealth space, all of which resulted in significant growth, enhanced profitability and operational performance,” he writes.