What’s the story behind your business?
In 2015, we repositioned our SME business in the bank as part of our broader effort to sharpen our strategic focus and exit non-strategic businesses, including those where increased regulatory costs would undermine their economic viability.
We have retained a select number of clients from this segment who are now serviced under our newly created Commercial Banking (CB) segment, which looks at banking mid-sized enterprises. CB was formed to ensure we bring the best of our bank to rapidly growing and internationalising corporates across our footprint.
What are your key business priorities?
I have three top priorities for this year. 1) Deepen client relationships, 2) To make our bank an easier place to do business by integrating infrastructure and improving TAT, 3) Helping our clients grow by leveraging our international network.
What has been the progress made in your business since the repositioning?
We have made significant progress. By increasing client engagement and simplifying on-boarding processes, we have regained lost market share. Improvements in controls and conduct across the business are also key highlights for us.
How have your clients reacted to the changes?
Our clients have been very supportive and have been part of our progress. The strength of our brand, supported by our network capabilities and longstanding relationships have certainly made a difference. Supporting our clients, may they be African, Chinese or Indian, in setting up regional treasury centres/procurement arms in Dubai is highly valued.
Where do you see it going in the next five years? The next decade?
2016 was a year of consolidation for commercial banking in terms of enhancing our client due diligence (CDD ) platforms and laying the foundation for sustainable growth following a low cost, low risk model.
Our strategy is to grow by focussing on trade corridors, banking the ecosystem (financing suppliers and distributors of our existing larger clients) and extending our private bank capabilities to our clients.
Our emphasis will be on growing revenues on a sustainable basis, managing costs tightly and focussing on loan recoveries.
What’s the single biggest challenge facing your industry today?
The changing regulatory and political landscape and new non-banking entrants with mobile payment solutions are two big developments necessitating the need to adapt continuously.
Where do great ideas come from in your organisation?
We have a flat organisation structure and our staff are encouraged to come up with new ideas all the time to improve all aspects of our processes and policies. These include process efficiencies, reducing duplications, improving client experience and maximising synergies across the bank. We have a culture of idea generation and recognising creativity.
What is the most important/biggest decision you’ve ever had to make for your business?
Banking is predominantly about people and technology. During the formation of commercial banking, we had to make difficult decisions on people issues, some of which were not popular. However, I am now convinced that the decisions were right both in terms of improving financial performance and staff morale.
When faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
I look at the willingness and attitude of the person. These attributes are most important to me. Technical skills can be improved but attitude is something which is an integral part of a person’s character. I do not believe in having superstars in the team but rather build a high-performing team.
What did you want to be growing up?
My aspirations have kept changing. At one point, I was very interested in the equity markets and used to follow market trends actively. Becoming an equity fund manager was my dream job for some time.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I don’t think many people know about my interest in comic books. It connects me with my kids outside of work. The adventures of Tintin has to be one of my all-time favourites.
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