“The good news in emerging markets like in Africa or Central Europe or even in Russia is that we can go directly to e.g. mobile banking which is exactly what we do and we are offering to our clients directly the digital offering,” he added.
The lender’s growing reliance on its retail operations in overseas markets was demonstrated by the International Retail Banking & Financial Services division making the largest contribution of the bank’s three core divisions to both quarterly and first half net profit. The trend towards pursuing opportunities in markets such as Africa, Russia and central and eastern Europe is set to persist, according to Cabannes.
“In the future, it’s the area where the growth potential is bigger and we will allocate scarce resources to that part, of course,” he revealed.
This despite the more fragile geopolitical and economic backdrops in such emerging markets which the deputy CEO acknowledged could create heightened uncertainties. Cabannes noted that it was still too early to tell what the increased U.S. sanctions would mean for its business in Russia – which currently constitutes around 10 percent of operations – but that it would create an “additional complexity to manage.”
The bank’s previously announced four-year plan – to reduce branches and headcount as a result of the digitalization and automation drive – is still “completely on track” according to Cabannes.
With regards to further headcount shuffling due to Brexit, the French banking veteran said that Societe Generale had the luxury of not being forced to make drastic decisions before receiving more clarity on the final outcome given it benefits from having hubs in both Paris and London.
“We are not in a hurry to decide that but the order of magnitude of the number of people in the hard Brexit scenario is this number between 300 and 400 from London to Paris,” he said, confirming the potential staffing changes alluded to by CEO Frederic Oudea last month.