BANK HOLIDAY

Iran 2017 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Aliasghar Safari, CEO & Vice Chairman of Tourism Bank, on the company's work to encourage growth in the Iranian tourism sector.

Aliasghar Safari
BIOGRAPHY
Aliashgar Safari has been the CEO and Vice Chairman of Tourism Bank since 2012 and a member of the board since 2011. He has held senior positions at Karafarin Bank and Tejarat Bank. He also served as Vice Chairman and Managing Director for Tarmita Sana Asset Management, and board member and Managing Director of Wistamehr Investment Management, among other positions. Safari holds an MBA from the Iran Center for Management Studies (ICMS), affiliated with Harvard Business School, and a bachelor’s in economics from Tehran University.

Tourism Bank offers a wide range of banking services to all Iranians. How do you differentiate yourself as a specialized bank in the tourism sector?

As the first specialized private commercial bank in Iran, Tourism Bank has targeted the tourism industry as one of its essential strategies with customer-focused services and a commitment to deliver value. Tourism Bank differentiates itself as specialized bank in tourism industry by understanding and fulfilling sector's financial needs. We set up the Tourism Club, which is designed to provide special travel and hotel services to its members. Being a member of the Tourism Club will enable individuals to receive special services such as discounts from travel agencies, hotels, recreational centers, restaurants, and shopping centers that have contracts with the club. As an agent to the Iranian Development Fund, Tourism Bank provides exclusive financing plans for hotel and other touristic facility projects. We have already financed many new hotels across the country. Iran has a lot of attraction in tourism. We have a vast capacity and potential to grow and invest. Our present aim and purpose is to provide sufficient infrastructure for tourism in Iran. So far, we have invested in establishing many hotels and tourism facilities in the country. We hope to continue this way in our future transactions.

Your bank aims to gain market share by introducing new credit and financial services and products. Could you elaborate on these innovative efforts?

Tourism Bank is a young dynamic brand with an old sense of banking. Combining flexibility and excellency is what we believe in at Tourism Bank, and offering tailor-made services to our clients is what we know as innovation. So far, we have created new banking products that may be used specifically for traveling purposes. Some of our key products are the Gardesh Card, which is a unique debit card that is provided to all members of the Tourism Club and enables the holder to enjoy spending , receive discounts from selected outlets, and collect reward points. The card enables foreign visitors to exchange their funds to Iranian rial, while using any ATM machine in the country, or to pay through POS machines in Iranian rial within the country. On the other hand, the Tour Card is meant for Iranian tourists traveling abroad. Tourism Bank has obtained all required licenses to render international services to its clients. Today, we have more than 30 corresponding bank in Europe and Asia, and this number is growing rapidly.

How will Tourism Bank capitalize on new business opportunities that go together with the investments in Iran's tourism industry to increase the number of inbound tourists?

Tourism Bank concentrates on trust, proficiency, and the highest standards of integrity. Each goal needs its own efforts and creativity to be achieved. To benefit from future inbound tourists, we intend to increase our registered capital up to USD1 billion in the next five years. This will enable the bank to improve its operational capacities. On other hand, as a member of private banking clubs we are entitled to finance large projects through syndicated loans. It is anticipated that, within five years, the number of incoming tourists will grow to more than 20 million. In order to welcome these tourists, we have to prepare a lot of infrastructure and facilities. This is why we think that more than one tourism bank is required to expand this field of activity in our country. To this end, we will be trying to get the help and assistance of other banks. We are going for a kind of syndicated loan or syndicated financing for the tourism sector in our country. As far as I have discussed with the managing directors of other Iranian commercial banks, they are willing, and they have accepted our role as a leader in this field. We will prepare to handle this influx of tourists to Iran. So far, we have discussed our plans with several foreign banks and they have been eager to invest in our tourism sector as well. In addition to Iranian partners, we are also looking for foreign partners. Tourism bank presented its banking model in one of UNWTO's sessions to an international audience. They seemed to be impressed with the model. Naturally, we are prepared to collaborate with all international organizations who are interested to pursue our business model.

How do you assess the efforts taken by the Central Bank of Iran to implement Basel II and III standards in the banking system?

The Central Bank of Iran has taken serious steps to lead the Iranian banking system to adjust itself to the latest international banking rules and regulations. Anti-money-laundering statements and procedures have been approved, and risk management systems are practiced now in almost every Iranian bank. Internal audit departments are now an inseparable part of a bank's organizational chart. In order to reflect on our own capital adequacy ratio, we have started a corporate governance department. Corporate governance is taken seriously at Tourism Bank, and all departments have been set up and equipped with well-trained, young team members and latest global technology.