[Interview] Mahesh Doorgakant, Chairman, Mauritius Finance
The Chairperson of Mauritius Finance, Mahesh Doorgakant, shares his views on the future of the financial sector on the island and how Mauritius Finance has an integral role to play in supporting innovation, promotion and training to propel the jurisdiction to even greater heights.
Over the last two decades, Mauritius has been extremely successful in achieving rapid growth and substantial diversification of its economy, establishing a relatively large and well-developed domestic financial system, and a vibrant global business and professional services sector.
How would you describe the development of the Mauritius International Financial Centre (IFC) to date? What more can Mauritius do to strengthen its offer in terms of value-added services and a diversified product offering to showcase globally?
Mauritius has been one of the ‘newer’ IFCs which has really taken prominence in the past 20 years. It started up on the simple premise of being an open economy with the clichés which need to be repeated: an ideal time zone, political and social stability, modern legislation and a network of treaties and investment promotion agreements. Above all, Mauritius has a world class level of human resource. As opposed to other IFCs which rely on a high level of expatriates, Mauritius has relied on its own people to a very large extent.
As Mauritius has grown, so has the local expertise. The input of the expatriates who have come to the island has been invaluable and has helped us grow our capacity to service more complex financial products.
While, initially, our expertise was more on the corporate service and simple banking side, we now have resources to service more advanced financial products ranging from fund administration, wealth management, custodian, foundations, and REITs to mention just a few. We need to continue extending our range of products and service offers. We have now reached the point where we will need to have a more open policy about bringing in the foreign talent to supplement and hone the expertise of our local talents.
What has been the impact of the global economic crisis, triggered by the pandemic, on the Mauritian market? How has the industry been adapting to new ways of working?
The sector has in fact reacted very well and adapted to the situation created by the pandemic. At all levels, from operation to regulatory and support, the sector has learned to operate within the ‘new normal’. Many operators have successfully moved into the work from home mode while maintaining the high standards of service level. We have to say that Mauritius has been most agile at getting this done. The use of technology has also been enhanced and this will be very positive once we move past the pandemic phase.
With its strategic position, Mauritius is seen as connecting the world. How can the financial services sector in Mauritius leverage upon the new agreements on CECPA, AfCFTA and the China-Mauritius FTA?
The new agreements will undoubtedly reinforce the position of Mauritius by creating a conducive platform for exchange between Africa, India and China. The sophistication of our financial sector; characterised by the absence of exchange controls, a wide range of corporate structures, a solid technological set up and advanced banking products; puts us in a position whereby those wishing to avail of the agreements already have the relevant tools available in country.
To what extent should the financial sector in Mauritius embrace innovation and FinTech as part of its diversified offer? Are there other new areas which should be explored?
FinTech, digitalisation or anything which is to do with innovation is capital in our development. It goes without saying that we have to fully embrace that area if we are to stay at the forefront of global trends.
Banking is one of the key areas where this is more visible to all and where everyone already uses FinTech to a certain extent and where we see the continuous improvement and upgrades. However, what we don’t see as part of the equation is how this links into the systems of operators and vice versa as well as to a lot of other applications already in place. Without a doubt, this is on the agenda of each and everyone.
How can Mauritius reinforce its role as an investment hub, to attract more DFIs and international players?
First and foremost, it is about adherence to international standards and best practice. While Mauritius has always strived to be at the forefront, we have unfortunately been identified by the FATF to be a Jurisdiction under Increased Monitoring.
All public and private stakeholders of the financial services sector are working relentlessly to get out of the list, and we are confident that this will happen soon.
Once past that, we need to continue working hard to ensure that we stay at the forefront of international standards and best practice. DFIs and international players perform a lot of checks and scrutiny before they use a country. Mauritius is approved and will stay as such as long as we maintain and enhance our standards.
What is the main focus of Mauritius Finance in bringing together local and international players in the financial services landscape?
The two associations have been very active in helping the sector and although they had different priorities at various stages, in the past few years, their objectives have started aligning. As such, it made sense to come together to combine our strengths.
We have also continued efforts in working and collaborating with the authorities for the benefit of our members and the economy of Mauritius as a whole. Going forward, we will also be focusing on two aspects – training and PR.
Training is very important in the financial sector and the requirements of the global business sector tend to be a bit more bespoke. Mauritius Finance will ensure that the focus is clearly laid on our sector’s specific needs. On the PR side, we want to be more proactive in our communication to promote the jurisdiction.
We often see unwarranted and unfounded articles in various media platforms which we need to rebut. But we also want to be forward thinking about all that; that will be the target of a strong PR plan.
What are the main challenges facing the Mauritius International Financial Centre and how can Mauritius Finance, as a single voice, help to overcome these?
Human resource is one of the key factors that has helped our success. However, it is a limited resource and we need to ensure that we continuously train our people. With our training programme, we are confident in our capacity to contribute to that objective. At the same time, we are working with government to devise a strategy that will help us expand our expatriate population to bring in the right level of talent.
We also have competitors who are coming up – such as Kigali Financial Centre and GIFT City. Again, we continuously work with the authorities to keep on reinventing our offering, our products and our skillset to stay ahead of the curve.
How do you see the outlook for the Mauritius IFC and for Mauritius Finance?
We feel that the Mauritius IFC needs to go on a strong marketing and promotion campaign once we are out of the FATF list – even before.
We need to remind everyone of how we are a world class financial centre and how we have kept on progressing to get to the levels we are at now. We also need to showcase how we are at the forefront of adopting international standards, best practice and the latest technological developments among other things.
Investors and international players realise this, but we need to be constantly reminding people of our efforts and best practice. With all this, the way ahead for the Mauritius IFC will be bright, and Mauritius Finance will decisively contribute to its success.
FinTech, digitalisation or anything which is to do with innovation is capital in our development.