THE RIGHT INCENTIVES

Oman 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Building on the government's longer-term efforts to diversify the economy, Bank Muscat is lending responsibly to every crucial sector across the country.

Sheikh Waleed Al Hashar
BIOGRAPHY
In addition to being CEO of Bank Muscat, Sheikh Waleed Al Hashar is also a member of the Board of Directors of Oman Tourism Development Co. (Omran) SAOC, the Oman Center for Governance and Sustainability, the College of Banking and Financial Studies, and the Oman Banks Association. His experience over the past 27 years spans the banking as well as oil and gas sectors. Before joining Bank Muscat, he held senior positions in a number of firms in these sectors. He holds a postgraduate diploma in General Management from Harvard Business School and a BSc and an MBA from California State University.

What are some of your objectives and priorities as CEO?

Our dynamic new vision, “To serve you better, everyday" marks a clear progression of the bank's commitment to customer service excellence. The customer-centric vision, values, and strategic pillars of the bank are focused on enhancing market leadership, efficiency, productivity, innovation, and agility by offering simplified and integrated banking solutions. Bank Muscat enjoys the unique positioning of stable leadership and a competent management team committed to sustainable growth. As of July 2018, Bank Muscat leads with over 35% market share and assets worth OMR11.6 billion. By enhancing co-operation with key economic sectors in the country, we will continue the successful journey to achieve more growth. Moreover, with outstanding Omani leadership at all levels, the bank has achieved close to 95% Omanization. By developing competent human resources and adopting cutting-edge technology, the bank continues to provide a 'best in class' service, marking its differentiation with innovative digital channels and products catering to all segments. The bank will also focus on strong asset growth and innovation to improve its operational efficiency, augment revenue, reduce risk, and enhance customer experience, all in sync with fulfilling its social responsibility.

What are you doing to encourage your customers' transition to digital banking?

The digital transformation can be seen in our huge network of ATMs/CDMs, mobile banking, internet banking, and 24/7 call centers, which provide convenient and secure electronic banking services. In a short span of time, mobile and internet banking channels have recorded massive success in terms of usage and customer adoption. Bank Muscat's mBanking achieved 62% growth in registration between 2015 and 2017, while internet banking saw 55% growth in registration from 2016 to 2017. The consistently growing number of customers reflects the high popularity of banking and internet banking channels. In line with the e-governance initiatives, electronic payments are fast becoming the preferred mode of secure payment in Oman. The bank has redefined tablet banking to proactively reach out to customers at their convenience, while the bank's customer service Twitter account @bankmuscatcare reflects the latest trends in banking to facilitate real-time communication with customers. There are a number of technological solutions we are embarking on that would further enhance the digital banking experience of our customers.

From a cost-efficiency perspective, has digital replaced in-person transactions?

Customer conveniece is the key driver of our digital initiative, to which cost efficiency is merely a supplementary benefit. The share of financial transactions at branches declined from 56% in 2013 to 16% in 2017, while the corresponding electronic banking transactions rose from 39% in 2013 to 68% in 2017. Streamlining and automating processes end-to-end has led to a significant improvement in efficiency and reduced turnaround times. Automation has helped the bank reduce average processing time by 75% and achieve 12% growth in volumes of retail payments. This is part of the reason Bank Muscat is recognized within the banking community for its innovative use of technology; it remains committed to being a leader in digital banking.

Where has Bank Muscat seen the most revenue growth for its corporate banking services?

Bank Muscat's corporate banking portfolio is well diversified across every industrial sector of the Omani economy. Bank Muscat has been associated with major syndicated financing programs across various sectors. Its clients include multinational and domestic companies engaged in activities across many sectors, including contracting, trading, power, water, telecommunications, oil and gas, aviation, shipping, airport and ports, gas and petrochemicals, real estate, and international trading. In corporate finance, Bank Muscat maintains leadership enabled by its expertise, innovative structuring capabilities, and sound due diligence techniques.

What challenges do you face in extending financing to SMEs with your al Wathbah products?

The SME segment forms the foundation of industrial, trade, and services sector in Oman, which is why Bank Muscat provides the required support to the sector through a comprehensive suite of tailor-made al Wathbah finance solutions and non-financial services.