Charl Bruyns

Charl Bruyns discusses building the largest transaction bank in a wholesale banking franchise in Africa, and why the transforming custody space makes it an exciting time for the securities services industry.
Inducted: 2021

Richard Schwartz: Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you joined Standard Bank and how you got into this industry? 

Charl Bruyns: Thanks Richard and thanks for the award. It’s been just over a decade since I rejoined Standard Bank and actually, before that, I also spent time at the asset management business called Stanlib. After I qualified as a chartered accountant and finished doing my articles, I joined a business called Liberty Collective Investment Schemes, which became part of Stanlib. I think that’s where it started. That’s where my passion for asset servicing in capital markets transpired from. 

RS: Since you’ve been in the area of asset servicing and capital markets, what have been your proudest achievements? Is there anything that stands out? 

CB: I would start by saying, putting five businesses together in the asset manager space, combining those businesses and then rationalising them into a client-ready solution, which was a very complex project. Landing that successfully was great for me, a great learning curve, but also a great opportunity.  

Next I would say is being able to work in Africa. We built the largest transaction bank in a wholesale banking franchise in Africa, in a matter of five years. Through that journey I also led the investor services business end to end and also built the largest asset servicing business in Africa, as part of that journey. With that came the opportunity to open new markets and partner certain markets that didn’t have proper regulation and certain markets that didn’t have proper infrastructure. So, partnering, from the ground level up, enabling capital markets.  

RS: So how many markets are you in now and how many of them have you entered since you took responsibility? 

CB: We are currently in 15 markets in Africa. The markets we’ve opened up under my watch were two specifically, Angola and Côte d’Ivoire. The other markets were already there when I joined. There were also markets where we’ve launched product sets, being first in the market. One was securities lending in Nigeria and another was derivatives clearing in Kenya. 

RS: Is there anything that, with the benefit of hindsight, you would have done differently? 

CB: That is a tough question because it makes you reflect on your journey. I think there are many tactical things I would do differently. At the end of the day, it’s all about how we deliver some of our capability quicker and more seamlessly. There are some changes that I would do differently today, but I would say in aggregate, there’s not much I would want to turn back on the journey. 

RS: What are the changes you’d identify as the most impactful, or the biggest changes that you’ve seen in your career to the securities services industry as a whole? 

CB: I would say between 2010 and 2015/2016, the whole market and the industry revolved around compliance and regulation. That was dominating our landscape.  Since then, there’s been a lot more focus on business development, linking client value chains, linking product sets and then moving into disruption. 

RS: Talking about disruption, what do you see down the pipe that you expect to make a big difference to the way things work? 

CB: In the next five years, it could look very different. I think your trading venues will be fragmented and diverse. How do I support the multiple trading venues through a settlement model? That’s one thing that’s going to change significantly. Then I think the expansion of asset classes to a much wider asset class spectrum including digital assets will lead to disruption in the settlement model with more use of distributed ledgers. That will disrupt some of the basic market infrastructures such as CSDs. Then of course, there’s the question of how we regulate that environment 

The next point is the move from offering a product to offering a client experience. Businesses like ours are moving more into the front office space of the asset owner or asset manager, and that’s going to take off rapidly. I do think you’ll have businesses that will struggle to follow that from an investment and capital perspective. That’s where I think you’ll have consolidation. 

Finally is the issue of data analytics. The question is always how do you monetise it across the spectrum? We sit on so much data in our environments that we actually don’t use for the purpose we could, and it’s finding the right use case and solutions for these datasets in serving clients.  

RS: Bringing it back to the personal and your day-to-day business life, what are the kinds of things that make you think at the end of the day ‘Now that was a good day’s work’? 

CB: Easy one. For me spending time with clients. So, when I spend time with clients either advising them on their strategy, collaborating with them, unpicking pain points and finding solutions and then see them actually taking it on and growing their businesses. You know, at the end of the day, the passion I have for Africa, and you know the value we can add in Africa to see these capital markets develop is through our clients. And being part of that journey and partnering with clients on that is exciting and fulfilling.  

RS: Thank you very much Charl and once again congratulations on the award. Do you have any final comments you’d like to make? 

CB: Yes, I’ll just say that, in the past, some people would look at custody and securities services and see it as boring. I would say it’s an exciting space currently and it’s a really exciting industry to be part of as we see things transform.