What was the rationale behind Alizz Islamic Bank's merger with Oman Arab Bank?
The merger is the first of its kind in the region, and we have two main reasons for the merger. First, Alizz was facing challenges in the market through its capital, asset quality, liquidity etc. Given the situation that the bank was in, along with the market conditions and with the intense competition, hardly the Bank could have survived. The Bank was looking for an opportunity to consolidate with another bank. Secondly, Oman Arab Bank was not a listed bank in the capital market. The two entities became a perfect fit for each other. And with the acquisition, the latter was listed and Alizz became a full subsidiary of Oman Arab Bank.
Are you planning to strengthen your Islamic banking offering?
We are the smallest bank in Oman both in terms of capital, number of customers, and balance sheet; therefore, the question is, how we can do things that will make us visible in the market? The Islamic economy is so big and if we approach it right, the sky is the limit. For example, halal meat has become a trillion-dollar industry all over the globe, and the same way, Islamic banking could also become a huge industry. In Oman, for example, we have endowments in every town, some of which are in the form of land and farms that could be developed. This is where we see the potential of creating opportunities. We like to position ourselves as parallel as possible with what conventional banks can do, as long as it is not against our principles, whether it is in corporate, retail, or investment banking.
What would be your main growth priorities over the next year?
Our main objective is to come out of the intensive care unit, because in 2020 we were on life support. Now, we are trying to understand what will happen post-COVID, and it is extremely critical to study this scientifically. Some companies are suffering and may not be able to pay. Some companies were not disciplined financially and might have difficulties. There are others that reduced their costs and closed down some businesses that were not profitable. We are trying to classify companies, figure out who we should work with, who we will give more time to, who we can reduce interests for, and to whom we can give the option to pay in installments.