MOROCCO - Economy
Country Head & General Manager, Arab Bank
Hicham Achki has been Country Head & General Manager for Arab Bank Morocco since 2019. He spent 25 years with investment banks such as Credit Agricole CIB, Barclays Bank, and Citigroup, where he served in various senior CIB roles across the MENA region, with 18 years spent in Gulf countries. He holds an MBA in finance from Al Akhawayn University and a bachelor in business from Lille Business School.
How were you able to engage, navigate, and demonstrate solidarity during the changes presented by the health crisis?
We showed particular resilience. The banking sector was declared a priority economic activity, notably to convey financial aid to social security beneficiaries and deliver allowances to private sector employees affected in the restaurant, hotel, sports, spas, and other tourist sectors. From our business perspective, we have provided support and relief to our clients throughout the lockdown period. We also improved internal communication and succeeded in hiring selective talent as a result of local reorganization. We managed to attract few hires from international banks in Europe and regional institutions in the Gulf. They began thinking differently about the prospects in Morocco, and that made it a great opportunity for us to hire Moroccan expatriate professionals.
What is your evaluation of the digital tech space?
Morocco has been ahead of its regional peers in terms of digitalization. In 2020, we saw an acceleration of the digital transformation in Morocco. The public sector has rolled out digital channels, the tax authority is digitalizing, the government is shifting online, the judicial system came up with online digital judgments, and even the land department headed to online title deeds and real estate registration. We wanted to reduce paper processes at Arab Bank Morocco and were able to successfully roll out Arabi Connect, a transaction banking platform for the corporate world. Through this tool, customers can access account information & cash management as well as trade transaction initiation across our corporate segments. ‘In 2022, we want to replicate this for what we call the elite segment of our retail banking. The product is called Arabi Mobile, which is currently under development. In Morocco, both ArabiConnect and Arabi Mobile constitute the first wave of digitalization. The second wave would be dealing with APIs and integrators. In 2022, the entire bank intends to accelerate digital transformation beyond our home market, Kingdom of Jordan.
What might be the impact of Morocco new development model for Arab Bank and its strategy?
It will create opportunities for us. First and foremost is the implementation of the advanced regionalization plan of the country. Previously, most of the decision making in Morocco used to take place in Casablanca & Rabat, going forward the advanced regionalization provides more autonomy as budgets are allocated at the regional local level. For instance, we have a corporate branch in Agadir that would originate from the local government entity contracts related infrastructure and local financing needs. This regionalization, accelerated by the new development model, would create new requirements for us to accompany local development authorities in Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Marrakech and Agadir. The second impact is the reform of government-related entities that would lead to consolidation of entities operating in the same sectors or those complementing each other. This would allow us to have fewer interlocutors in various sectors.
What are your objectives for 2022?
We are keen to accompany Moroccan economic recovery. We are working on six strategic initiatives. The first one is “Human Capital”, which is a pillar for people’s career & development, talent hiring and retention. The second strategic initiative is “Product Offering”, launching new products, such as our transaction banking platform, and new products for corporate banking. The third initiative is “Markets”, which means accompany our core clients base and listening to what our customers are saying. We are looking at industrial acceleration zones as particular areas for development and one of the engines of Moroccan future economic growth. The fourth, fifth, and sixth pillars are “Digital Transformation”, studying a new selective “Satellite Presence”, and “Elite Banking”. Currently, we have legacy retail banking historically targeting Arab expatriates in Morocco. Arabi Mobile is one tool they can use, though we need to enhance our product offering. We are on track for most of these initiatives. However, over the next six months we plan to move forward with assessing our potential new satellite presence, elite banking and digital transformation which are the next phases after “Arabi Mobile” product is launched.
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