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Oman 2015 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Shahin Mohammed Ahmed Al Balushi, CEO of Oman ORIX Leasing Company, on how the company has refocused on the corporate and SME sector.

Shahin Mohammed Ahmed Al Balushi
BIOGRAPHY
Shahin Mohammed Ahmed Al Balushi served the government of the Sultanate of Oman for 14 years prior to joining Oman ORIX in January 1999. He has been with Oman ORIX for over 15 years, serving the organization in various key positions. Besides working in marketing and sales, he was also instrumental in reviving the recovery, legal, and credit administration functions of the organization prior to taking up the mandate of CEO in June 2013. He has a BA, ACPA, and holds an MBA from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland.

What are some of the key metrics behind Oman ORIX Leasing Company?

At present, the company's paid-up share capital is OMR23.44 million. In terms of performance, we can proudly say that growth during 2013-2014 was phenomenal. We have performed outstandingly during the past one and half years, and within the finance industry Oman ORIX reported the highest level of growth of close to 30%. The industry average was around 10%-12%. We expected to continue this trend during 2014 as well, and our half yearly results support this view. It is worthwhile to point out that even during this high growth phase the company's NPA remained in control, and Oman ORIX's portfolio is one of the best in the industry in terms of asset quality. In line with the company's strategy to recruit and nurture local talent, Oman ORIX has been continuously recruiting and training Omani youth in various positions in the company. The Omanization ratio of the company currently stands at 80%.

What factors have led to this growth?

We developed new team, new strategies, and we have utilized our expertise in SME financing into corporate segments through a cautious approach. One of our major strength in SME/corporate financing is turnaround time besides high-quality customer care. Previously, we were known to the market as a retail finance company; however, during the past one and half years we were able to make a paradigm shift in this perception of the market, and as a result the growth mainly came from these sectors.

Is there still potential within the SME segment?

There are a lot of opportunities in this segment, and I think growth will continue for the next five or six years. We don't see any downturn in the near future. The government has a lot of plans running up until 2020, and it has already started implementing many of them; I think Oman ORIX can increase its share of SME and corporate business as a result. The banks are there, but there are also opportunities, because the SME sector is internationally known to be serviced by non-banking finance companies with their flexibility to provide tailor-made finance solutions as compared to banks. We have a project in the pipeline specifically to support small companies (micro SMEs), and the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) has also shown great interest in promoting this segment for the balanced growth of the economy. We are coming up with some products that are going to inject working capital so that local firms can develop and establish their organizations on a more sound footing.

Can you tell us about you portfolio composition?

As of May 2014, we have generated almost 59% from our corporate business and 41% from our retail lines. We would like to see this company at 30% retail and 70% corporate somewhere within two years' time. We developed new teams and entered this field in the last two years. Before 2013, we used to write just a small number of corporate transactions. Today, we have separate teams writing big tickets, in the millions, and we have another team looking only after SMEs. We have divided the business into three core sectors: micro, SMEs, and corporate clients.

What distinguishes you from your competitors?

What is the main asset of a finance company or any company in this sector? It is the team that they have. Here at Oman ORIX, the culture that is being built up is a mixed culture derived from our international shareholders, which represent over 28 countries around the world. This supports us in retaining our team members. Today, we have employees that have been here for over a decade. They are now senior members, and they are the main assets of this organization. The development of the business came through the support of the major shareholders, and the mixture of these cultures helps to differentiate us from our competitors.