There is a significant need to rethink the way in which procurement engages with the supply chain, particularly in the African banking sector. As financial organisations take a greater look at the products they procure, their source of origin and the difference they can provide to customers, technology is also playing a leading role in enabling the procurement and supply chain to become better aligned and support businesses more effectively.
“Procurement should not be looked at in isolation, especially with technology taking the lead. This way of thinking in procurement has helped me to really make a difference instead of being in the back seat,” states Vinay Bachoonum, Head of Strategic Sourcing at Barclays Bank Mauritius. “The right procurement specialists and expertise is increasingly vital. As a procurement specialist on the island I have been active in making sure that we really make a difference. In this challenging environment we have technologies taking over exponentially.”
Noting that procurement has previously gained a negative perception, recent improvements in legislation surrounding anti-bribery and corruption laws across Africa have fully transformed the banking landscape in relation to public procurement. Undertaking independent review panels, where procurement decisions can be challenged, as well as bid openings in public sector procurement, as well as the online submission of bids has reignited conversations as to how procurement can better support the financial sector as it continues to be transformed through digitisation. “I think we should now be moving towards online actions and applying a consortium approach to buying common goods for the government, ensuring that we spend more time on strategic procurement, for example. When it comes to Barclays, there has been significant improvement,” adds Bachoonum.
Throughout his decade long tenure at Barclays Bank Mauritius, Bachoonum has witnessed the procurement industry shift from being reactive to an increasingly proactive and agile division, ensuring that businesses remain resilient amidst the ever-changing demands of its customers. However, against such seachange, Bachoonum explains that unlike many other supply chain leaders, his career has been one which has been meticulously planned out, becoming a member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) back in the early 2000s. With the ambition to become a professional buyer and supply chain specialist, he remarks that while many find this position to be somewhat thorny, it is one which enables individuals to orbit within organisations and gain a greater understanding of the internal customer, the external supply base and the supplier community.
“It’s ensuring a balance between what organisations are looking for and how to get things executed from the supplier community. The supply chain comes with procure, supply management, cost reductions, due diligence and negotiation. If you look at the bigger picture in logistics and supply chain, it is a huge pipeline of value adding services so that it becomes very exciting,” he says. “The role touches every part of the economy, from logistics, distribution and production, to manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). It is exciting and formed part of my thought process when I wanted to build a career in supply chain management.”
Throughout its procurement operations, Barclays Bank Mauritius has worked to implement robust governance around its buying processes, and has enhanced its privacy tools and embedded new policies and standards. Establishing a new way of buying and enforcing clear segregation between buying and the supply management functions has also provided a number of advantages in building strong relationships between teams. Additionally, from a technology standpoint, accessing advanced data analytics has seen the business gain essential insight into various trends in the market, where sophisticated processes and electronic request (ERFx) solutions are now used not only for bidding but also as a bidding solution.
“The system will also be used to execute E-auctions for certain types of goods and services in the near future at Barclays Bank Mauritius,” says Bachoonum. “This has been a gradual move. Being an island, the level of sophistication and the readiness of the supplier community is important. We should be pushing things that are aligned to the readiness and the culture that lies within the supplier base, which mainly constitutes small to medium-sized organisations. However, we also work with large multinationals for specific hardware and supplies.”
By improving its spend management and analysis through technology, Barclays Bank Mauritius has taken a greater look at its suppliers in order to source ways to unlock greater efficiencies. “We are investing heavily in the right tools, making sure that we can extract data from the systems both from spend analysis perspective, but also from supply management perspective,” adds Bachoonum. “Spend analysis is done on a monthly basis so that we can see whether we have any spend that is outside the normal procure process. All data generated can be shared and we can show the factions where money is going. It’s important to have the relevant data to trigger the right decisions as to whether we outsource or bring solutions in-house.”
Such technological focus has also extended towards the company’s investment in a system which has enabled the creation of a central data repository, enabling automated reporting of high-quality regulatory data which is sent to the Central Bank. With all information remaining increasingly time sensitive, the system has reduced ongoing risks of fines and incorrect submissions and poor-quality data being sent. “We had to invest in a solution, where we went through a selection process. Nelito Systems proposed a solution and has ensured that we are able to capture the right data, in the right format and in an automatic manner to the regulator,” says Bachoonum.
“I’ve been heavily involved in the negotiation of the contract to ensure the bank is protected in terms of key attributes and requirements. These solutions can then be used across the organisation. However, it is challenging in the sense that we are negotiating with a supplier that has credentials for delivering projects outside of the country, but not in the country,” he adds. “Due diligence was quite strong to ensure that they could build a customised solution, and we could also agree on expectations on both sides.”
Procuring for a global bank with such a strong reputation as Barclays has no doubt led to increased pressures across the procurement and supply chain. To counteract this, Bachoonum has sought to support its limited supply base across Mauritius and support them in remaining compliant within all regulations and standards.
“With regards to data privacy, for example, we need to educate suppliers. I have been involved in influencing suppliers, looking at what this investment in processes would provide as a yield, which will enable them to deliver similar goods and services to other high level organisations. There is a need to implement a proper way of measuring performance, and if things go wrong how to easily recover,” explains Bachoonum. “Some suppliers felt it was over-engineering, but I presented it as an investment that would greatly improve the way they deliver.”
The business is continuing to grow in leaps and bounds, yet the company has revealed that it is set to become part of one of Africa’s largest diversified financial services group in 2020. Decoupling from Barclays after a century will see the business become fully part of Absa Group, one of the largest financial institutions in South Africa, which will lead to further advantages for the business.
“We’re very proud of the Barclays brand, and were aware that there would be a transition period,” notes Bachoonum. “It is a chance for us to become a regional bank instead of a global one. It’s a great opportunity for us to become a completely African driven bank. The business is very confident and is embracing the Absa brand. We need to create opportunities for our customers.”
Set to become a completely different franchise, the organisation remains passionate in reinforcing its strong roots within Mauritius. Bachoonum is incredibly positive on what the future holds for the organisation, where it will remain active on the main continent, look at new customer-led innovations, such as the mobile wallet, and explore further territories as part of its five-year plan. “We want to really mark ourselves in the local market but also in the offshore market,” he concludes. “We have a plan, and we are moving steadily in the right direction to achieve our goals.”