AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
I will work to develop a universal bank with a boutique flavor. At a boutique you can give very personal service. After I arrived, we worked on developing a five-year business plan with this boutique plan in mind. We achieved our targets set for 2013 in 2010.
We are almost a billion dollar bank, and our ROE is about 4%, which is significantly better than it was before I arrived. Our loan portfolio is similar to most Lebanese banks—it is around one-third cash, one-third securities, and one-third loans. We then have 10% fixed and intangible assets. This is the structure of almost every bank in the sector.
EYE ON PERFORMANCE
The industry average for non-performing loans (NPLs) is around 10%. Most lending in Lebanon takes place on a secure basis. This security can come in two ways: through a mortgage and real property, or personal guarantees. In the last two years there has been a boom in real estate and we have increased our exposure to project finance.
RIAD B. OBEGI
The biggest sector for lending is the public sector. There is a large public debt, and part of it is in the hands of the banking sector. Another large sector is general trade, followed by real estate, and of course industry and agriculture receive some lending.
FOR THE POUND
The Lebanese pound has been extremely stable for almost 20 years because of excellent management and sound fundamentals. The fact that the Banque du Liban owns quite large reserves is also significant.
WHAT WE DO BEST
Our strategy is to specialize in corporate and private banking. We believe that, given our size, this is what we can do best. We can provide enough expertise for large institutions and high net worth individuals, who often happen to own or manage large institutions.
GHASSAN T. ASSAF
Deposit growth has been driven by interest as people keep their money in the country. Non-residents also continue to make remittances to the country, and this went up by 9% in the first seven months of 2011. The lending activity of the bank has also been aggressive this year, and that has also contributed to deposit growth.
We are keeping in line with everything that is being offered in the market in terms of consumer and corporate lending, accounts, cards, and so forth. We also try to differentiate ourselves by being modern in terms of technology, yet we remain traditional with how we communicate with our clients with the aim of building genuine long-lasting relationships with them and in accordance with our core value “Care,” which is embedded in our culture and manifested in our
slogan “Your Caring Bank.”
We are number 10 in terms of deposits, number 10 in terms of branches, and in terms of ratios we have one of the best liquidity ratings. This goes with our philosophy of being conservative during these tough times.
© The Business Year