Another surprise was Zimbabwe, where deVere established an office three years ago despite a chorus of cynicism being expressed by others in the industry. “Everyone said to me, ‘why would you potentially even think about opening up in Zimbabwe? There is no money in Zimbabwe. It’s been stolen,’… but last year Zimbabwe was our third most profitable office. So there are phenomenal opportunities that exist for companies that are really prepared to get out there and explore and get involved in the local demographics and environment.”
Ghana is another market that Featherby has identified huge potential in. The deVere group opened an office in Accra just over 14 months ago, and the firm has further expansion plans for the country. “I know in 2012 Ghana was rated the fastest growing economy in the world,” he added. “We were literally totally surprised about the opportunity that exists there.”
Expansion plans for the continent
The deVere Group is in the process of establishing a Lagos office and officially entering Nigeria, a market with a “monstrous” opportunity, according to Featherby.
“If you look at the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, if you look at the population, if you look at the fact that there are zero competitors doing exactly what we are doing, one can argue, why didn’t we go to Nigeria two years ago?”
Featherby said that deVere had somewhat put-off the Nigerian market until the firm had sufficient experience behind them in dealing with African economies. When the group first decided to venture into West Africa, they chose Ghana. “Just for the ease of a soft landing,” explained Featherby. “But we now feel that we have sufficient experience to really get into the environment and take advantage of what the country offers.”
Furthermore, deVere is trying to get their Kenyan operation up and running again after a joint venture was disbanded following six months of trading under a licence approved by the Capital Markets Authority. Featherby said that this can be one of the potential challenges to doing business in some African markets. “All of a sudden the Capital Markets Authority changed the goal posts and they asked us to disband the joint venture and actually operate on a single-handed basis… I would say we are about 90% there in the granting of the final licence in Kenya, under deVere’s name.”
The group is also planning on recruiting another 100 advisors to be split between their Cape Town and Johannesburg offices in South Africa. In addition, Featherby added that they are looking into opening offices in Cairo, Egypt – a market he believes holds opportunities for deVere’s business growth.