National Bank of Bahrain could close some branches

CEO Jean-Christophe Durand forecasts seven percent growth for 2017

The review is expected to commence within the next 18 months, Durand told Arabian Business.

The review is expected to commence within the next 18 months, Durand told Arabian Business.

National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) is preparing to conduct a review of its branch network that could see closures in some locations and openings in others, its new CEO has said.

Jean-Christophe Durand, who joined the bank on December 1, said one of the his first tasks in the job was to put together a new strategy for growth, identifying efficiencies and untapped opportunities.

This will involve a roots-and-branch review of the banks’ bricks and mortar network to save costs, and ensure NBB maintains its visibility as new districts spring up in Bahrain.

The review is expected to commence within the next 18 months, Durand told Arabian Business in his first in-depth interview since taking the reins of the state-backed bank.

He declined to reveal anticipated numbers of branch closures or whether there will be any job losses, and insisted that the assessment is likely to result in new openings as well as potential closures.

“I don’t think bricks and mortar can disappear from one day to the next because we have a strong client base and they are used to [specific branches],” he said.

“But when I talk about redesigning the network – let’s say optimising the network – there are new areas being built in Bahrain, so should we be there? Under which format?

“There may be some other areas that are declining, so the same thing: should we be there? Should we stay there instead of moving to a new residential area or business district? There could be new branch types, too, for example the famous bank branches without tellers.

“It’s too early to say, but it’s important we’re agile enough to follow our clients and catch the new generation, which is much more demanding.”

Durand’s growth strategy could also involve enhancing NBB’s digital operations, with an as-yet unsigned partnership with a technology firm to provide a new online banking platform, and rebranding the bank to serve wealthy ‘millennials’.

He said he expects an improved financial performance when compared to 2016, targeting a net profit rise of around 7 percent compared to 2016’s 5.4 percent.

Loan demand is set to pick up off the back of new infrastructure projects in Bahrain, Durand said, while deposit growth will be “slightly better than last year” amid improving economic conditions.

To read the full interview with Jean-Christophe Durand, click here.

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