World’s Best Private Banks 2021: Africa

Resilience has long defined the private banking industry in Africa, and 2020 is no exception. With the Covid pandemic raging and the global economy sagging, African banks have been among the hardest hit. From 2012 through 2019, according to McKinsey & Co, banks in Africa enjoyed a sustained period of stability and surging profitability.

This year, by contrast, all indicators are pointing south.

Yet it is perhaps in troubled times that wealth advisers are needed most. The top ranks of wealth management providers in Africa aim to maintain strong personal relationships with their clients by continuing the tradition of dedicated attention to client service, without letting tradition stand in the way of deploying a full panoply of up-to-date digital tools and remote access.

Methodology: Behind the Rankings

Global Finance staff select winners for these awards based on entries submitted by banks, company documents and public filings. No proprietary information was sought or shared in the awards process. We consider local market knowledge, global footprint and investment breadth and sophistication. Because metrics are rarely public in this sensitive corner of finance, we incorporate perspective from analysts and consultants. Performance data are also drawn from industry sources including Scorpio Partnership’s annual Global Private Banking Benchmark and Asian Private Banker magazine’s regional league tables. Size and growth are a factor, but Global Finance also considered creativity, uniqueness of offering and dedication to private banking as a core business either globally or regionally.



“It has been the most difficult six months in living memory,” said Sim Tshabalala, Standard Bank’s chief executive, when half-year results were released in August. Africa’s biggest lender by assets posted a 44% decline in profitability and a substantial 8.5% plunge in ROE from 16.2% in same period last year. Standard nevertheless maintains a strong footprint, with operations in 20 countries offering holistic wealth management services ranging from banking and investment to insurance.

Standard Bank offers wealth and investment services to about 20,000 clients, with assets under management standing at $6.7 billion in 2019. It personalizes its service for Africa’s modern and networked wealthy investors—engaging customers in WhatsApp conversations, for example, and offering robo-advisory. Despite the shaking it has received this year, Standard Bank maintains strong capital and liquidity positions for a post-Covid rebound.



Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Nigeria’s biggest lender by market value with operations in 10 countries outside its home market, is a whirlwind of activity. GTB is a leader in digital banking, focusing particularly on entrepreneurs—including traders and importers—with seamless services. Small and medium size enterprises have emerged as an important cog in the bank’s growth strategy; it extended a loan moratorium after the pandemic struck to help them through the crisis.

“Our focus is not just to survive this pandemic, but to thrive beyond it,” CEO Segun Agbaje said in September.



Absa Bank, which completed a tricky rebranding from Barclays Africa Group last year, remains a preferred banker for big-money players such as corporate entities and institutional customers, as well as HNWIs. With roots in South Africa, Absa operates in 12 markets, with particular strength in Botswana, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda.

The bank aims to deepen its ties to clients in each geographic region, building connectivity for global clients and leveraging value-added strategic partnerships. It is prioritizing trade and working capital solutions for business owners while offering them a full suite of cash management, payments, foreign exchange and liquidity solutions. Absa is prioritizing digital innovations that entrench remote access and address client needs for enhanced security of personal information.



Even before Covid-19, State Bank of Mauritius (SMB) built a reputation for strong client service. This went up a notch after the pandemic hit as the bank swiftly set up a dedicated client service unit for business continuity management while prioritizing the safety of its 1,500 employees. 

With Covid-19 forcing clients to move more transactions to mobile and Internet platforms, SBM developed a new e-commerce application dubbed SBM Easypay to address the increase in online payments. It also launched a new application for processing loans. However, the disruption in physical contact has not brought SBM to drop its profile as a relationship bank with close client contact; it is adapting by relying on heavier use of virtual communication platforms.