How has the operational strategy of AUBK changed under your leadership?
When I came to Kuwait in April 2015, the Board of Directors had recently approved a new five-year strategy for the bank. The strategy concentrates on business growth in Kuwait. We are traditionally viewed as a strongly corporate bank but have a growing retail banking presence comprising almost 40 branches across Kuwait. Private banking and treasury services are also important businesses for us. Over the past 15 months, the operational model has been changed for both business and support functions. Businesswise, a review has been conducted on the products and services offered to our clients with each being carefully and considered for either enhancement or replacement. Consideration has been given to customer focus and needs, greater use of technology, cost-effectiveness, compliance with the regulatory environment, and, of course, sharia compliance. The infrastructure of the bank and its channels network has been considered for a major upgrade to accommodate our customers and their business, including those with special needs under the required level of protection. Offering such services will give a greater access for the bank to this segment and hence attract more businesses and contribute to the nation's initiatives toward humanitarian support and welfare. In addition, our branch concept and design has been reviewed to reflect the new size and design required to change the retail business modeling by converting the classical branch staff roles to be sales-focused workforce and service ambassadors. Equally, we have increased our alternative channels through enhanced internet and mobile banking services. From the operational modelling perspective, the bank has moved toward operations excellence and efficiency. Process reengineering tasks have been undertaken for remodeling different operations and credit policies and processes within the bank.
To what extent is AUBK involved in infrastructure and construction projects?
We are involved in some major projects in the oil sector for the production of clean fuel in addition to public projects for water desalination and purification. Ahli United Bank has been also part of the major syndicated transactions and consortiums formed to finance large construction and contracting projects in Kuwait. Historically, over its 75 year history in Kuwait the bank has been involved in financing many significant building and infrastructure projects.
What are your expectations and outlook for the upcoming year?
The coming year is expected to continue under the pressure of low oil prices and regional geopolitical uncertainty. It is therefore prudent to remain conservative and cautious but we will continue to seek fresh opportunities and support bankable business ventures and projects. Kuwait offers a stable investment climate with significant sovereign reserves and internationally well-regarded and admired institutions. Ahli United Bank will continue its growth by maintaining its position as the second largest Islamic Bank in Kuwait on a sustainable basis.
What do you consider to be the most important change your company will implement in the medium term?
Not so much a change, but a considered response to the regulatory environment with Basel III, IFRS9, and local regulatory requirements. The regulatory environment post 2007-8 has been challenging for banks internationally and Kuwait is no exception. However, we welcome the regulatory changes that ensure the continued soundness of the banking system and that offer improved transparency and protection for customers and other stakeholders.