Iran 2017 | FINANCE | FOCUS

TBY talks to EN Bank on its role in developing Iran's banking system, its key differentiators, and staying connected to the SWIFT network.

As Iran's first private bank, how has EN Bank contributed to the diversification of the banking industry in the country?

EN Bank has had a fundamental role in the development of the Iranian banking system as the first privately owned bank in Iran. When we started in 2001, there were several state-owned banks with a large geographical network of branches. Therefore, in order to attract customers, we needed to provide new methods and services. Our newly employed and well-trained bankers under the leadership of experienced managers deployed the most attractive behavior to offer our services to clients. This was quite different from what was offered by other banks at the time. Regarding our services, we were the first Iranian bank to provide online and real-time core banking services to our clients. In this way, they could access their accounts in any of our branches throughout the country. Next to this, a new interest-bearing deposit account was introduced that was linked to the current account of customers, enabling them to pay their checks through their non-current deposits. All these new approaches were interesting for customers, so other banks adopted the procedures to compete with the new generation of private banks in the country. The banking system stepped into a new era of development, which is still going on.

What do you do to compete with other private banks?

We have tried to completely distinguish ourselves from our competitors through initiating innovative services that add value for our clients. EN Bank offers conventional, electronic, corporate, private, and domestic and international investment services. We also provide various types of banking and financial services such as insurance, leasing, investment banking, wealth management, foreign exchange, and brokerage through our affiliates. EN Bank is among the first private banks in terms of issuing letters of guarantees and opening letters of credits. It is worth mentioning that we are the only bank to have incorporated our annual budget with our executive plans in the following Iranian year. There is a surplus of private banks in Iran at the moment. We take pride in our continuous international achievements, something in which we clearly stand out compared to other private banks.

How has the lifting of sanctions benefited the banking sector so far?

In the post-JCPOA era, the Iranian banking system is determined to step into global banking and financial networks by adopting and implementing all internationally accepted rules and regulations. We have set up specialized divisions in our headquarters to comply with all obligations in the fields of anti-money laundering, risk management, internal auditing, and compliance policies. In addition, through implementation of IFRS, we are able to provide authenticated information about our position and operations in a more transparent and clear manner to all our beneficiaries. Fortunately, since JCPOA many funds have been released in different countries and the central bank is funding our correspondent banking accounts. The volume of Iran's imports has increased since the lifting of sanctions, and through our extensive correspondent relations, EN Bank has benefited from the increase in trade.

EN Bank was never cut off from the SWIFT network. Did this make it easier for the bank to re-enter the global financial arena?

We maintained relations with our correspondent banks while most Iranian banks were on the sanctions list. Since the implementation of the JCPOA, many banks and trade delegates have come to Iran, eager to extend business relations. We welcome these opportunities that could lead us back into the global markets. We are not sanctioned by any international agencies, though OFAK, which is related to the US government, sanctioned all remaining Iranian private banks in the last months before JCPOA. Our name was featured on the list released by OFAK. We remained connected to the SWIFT network during these months and were still able to exchange messages with our corresponding banks.