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Jordan 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

SGBJ is optimistic that the situation in Jordan will start to pick up and is ready to be part of upcoming opportunities.

Nadim Abawat
BIOGRAPHY
Nadim Abawat has been the General Manager of SGBJ since 2011. He joined Société Générale de Banque au Liban (SGBL) Group in 1993 and has held a series of increasingly responsible positions in risk, retail, specialized financing, business development, and corporate and investment banking. He is also the Chairman of SGBJ Leasing Company and Société Générale – Jordan Brokerage Company. Abawat is also the President of the French Foreign Trade Advisors in Jordan and a member of the board of different associations. He serves also on different juries for the selection of start-ups or micro businesses. Abawat holds a master’s degree in economic sciences from Université Saint Joseph Lebanon and in finance from École Supérieure Des Affaires France.

What is the bank's history in Jordan and its recent main achievements?

SGBJ is part of SGBL Group, the Lebanon-based regional financial services group. SGBL investment in SGBJ dates back to 1999, when the group saw Jordan, known for its political stability, as an important business hub. As part of its regional expansion, the group acquired a stake of 37% in MEIB with a management contract, progressively increasing its participation to 87%, demonstrating its strong interest and commitment to the country. We initially started as a boutique bank focusing on corporate lending for key elite clients and subsequently shifted into a universal bank offering wide array of diversified services. Today, SGBJ has 19 branches, and our services cover all segments including retail, corporate, private banking and SME clients. We also have a 100% owned brokerage subsidiary, and in 2017, we launched a leasing company as well.

What are SGBJ's expansion plans?

With the recent acquisition in mid Nov 2018, we are currently consolidating our operations. We have launched a post migration project immediately after data migration/ business integration, focusing on the retention of the business. In addition, we are working on improving our IT systems, digitalization, mobile banking, and the like. We continue to expand internally or through organic growth. In parallel, we have positioned ourselves and stand ready to react fast and efficiently to external growth opportunities as they emerge, aiming to increase our shareholders' value. Finally, we recently increased the capital of our brokerage company to JOD3 million in order to offer margin trading facilities to our clients.

What characteristics make SGBJ stand out given the fierce competition in Jordan's banking sector?

Our niche comes from being part of an international group having name recognition, adopting best practices and standards, and offering niche products tailored to clients' needs. We benefit from the professionalism of each of the group's lines. For example, in terms of asset management and private banking, we have access to our group, which is considered among the top in the world. In corporate banking, Société Générale's capabilities in trade finance are well recognized. With regard to foreign companies that are looking to invest in Jordan, they have come to work with us because we can meet their unique set of needs. Therefore, we have a big platform with a presence in Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Abu Dhabi, as well as Monaco and Paris, where the SGBL group have recently acquired a private bank. In terms of products, we have the know-how of the group and benefit from its innovations. We remain active on all fronts and offer personalized services. Our dedicated relationship manager serves as the focal point of contact to their clients on advising the appropriate facilities structure and the suitable financial product in accordance with the client's needs and expectations. We deal with clients as advisers more than simply as bankers. This is embedded in the culture of the bank and forms an essential ingredient of our strength. Finally, we have the four values of the group imbedded in our employees' culture: innovation, responsibility, teamwork, and commitment, which position us to stand out in this competitive market.

What is your outlook for the year ahead, and what specific developments is SGBJ prioritizing?

First, we want to digest and develop NBAD's business operations and clientele base. We intend to grow internally and externally as opportunities arise. In 2019, we also plan to position ourselves to be ready for the Iraqi market. Most of our clients have frozen their businesses in recent years as the economy was severely affected by the regional events in Iraq and Syria and their repercussions on trade, tourism and public finances. We are optimistic that things should start picking up now and believe the London Conference will put projects on the table. We are here to take part in these upcoming opportunities.