Can you tell us about the strategies that BankDhofar has adopted to deal with the economic environment in Oman?
BankDhofar began its operations in 1990 as BankDhofar Al Omani Al Fransi, and later acquired the assets and liabilities of Bank Paribas, commencing with two branches in the Sultanate of Oman—one in Salalah and another in Muscat. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions over the next decade, the bank expanded its network and we solidified our presence in the market. From the inception of BankDhofar, we have taken the strategic decision to accelerate our growth through organic and non-organic growth while focusing on sustained performance. Over time, we have in effect grown both organically and non-organically as there have been several mergers and acquisitions to reach and grow to our current size. Today, BankDhofar is ranked among the top banks in the country in terms of size.
How would you assess your performance in 2014?
We have a clear business plan, and we are implementing our 2014 business plan with focus on sustained growth and consistent performance. To give some perspective to our performance, from June 2013 to June 2014 in terms of total assets, we have grown by about 21.29% and in terms of deposits we have grown 26.07% YoY over the same period. In terms of net loans and advances we have grown by 20.75%, and in equity we have grown by 7.49%. Therefore, our assets and liabilities are growing, and the bottom line is also growing. On the other hand, in terms of operating income we have achieved an increase of 8.76%, and in net profit after taxes and deductions we have grown by 15.12%. We have been able to manage our costs by reviewing some of our internal processes that have not previously been focused on. We are reviewing those areas to identify how we can improve our operating model, to benefit fully from all our investments in the latest technologies and other business improvement initiatives. Overall growth is strong, and we received the “Best Bank in Oman" award for 2013 in recognition of our consistent achievements and performance.
Can you share with us BankDhofar's strategy to support SMEs in Oman?
We signed an agreement with the Oman Development Bank (ODB), and while ODB will manage the financing, it would like commercial banks to participate as well. That is one of the initiatives where the government and banks partner and work together for the benefit of all parties. We started our own initiative a long time before that because we had realized that this is the future for the country, as the Omani business economy cannot rely on few large corporates—we need to develop SMEs. Therefore, one of the pillars of our five-year strategic plan, which started in 2012, is to cater to SMEs and the country's youth. We have established centers in the main regions of the country, and have also been recruiting the right expertise to cater to this kind of business because it differs from normal corporate business in terms of its requirements, size, and knowledge base.
How did BankDhofar's Islamic finance window Maisarah perform over 2013?
Islamic banking came in at the right time, and suddenly the demand for it has increased. The government responded positively and provided the service by developing the sector in terms of regulations and licensing. Like the conventional side of the business, this sector is equally competitive and most banks have Islamic windows, and new Islamic banks are being established. We started offering Islamic banking services in March 2013. From March 2013 until 3Q2014, the level of growth has been exponential to say the least. That is reflected in the awards we been receiving as we were named the best Islamic window in the country, and our portfolio is growing in terms of services provided.