Can the local banks hold on?
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Can the local banks hold on?

When their country was isolated by sanctions, South African banks had it easy. Now foreign competitors are eating away at their share of the most profitable business. Sam Swiss reports.

The world's their oyster

Focus is the buzzword

Manuel takes the long view

South Africa's biggest local banks are under attack. They still dominate the retail market but mergers have increased competition and they are at varying stages of rationalization to achieve sharper focus. At the high end of the market ­ corporate, investment and private banking they are losing market share to foreign banks and niche players.

Says Terry Davidson, general manager of Citibank: "Three years ago the big four [Standard, Nedcor, FNB and Absa] had 80% to 85% of market share and dominated in every area. Today they are losing market share." Grant Dunnington, general manager at First National Bank, agrees: "Ten years ago the market share of the big four was 90%. Now it has fallen to 76%."

The foreign banks are the biggest threat. They have been pouring into South Africa in the past six and a half years and around 75 now have a presence. At the end of 1997 the South African Banking Council estimated that foreign banks held 6.7% of the total assets of all banks doing business in South Africa. That market share was worth R37 billion ($5.9

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