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Tirad Al-Mahmoud

UAE, ABU DHABI - Finance

Key Demographics

CEO, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB)

Bio

Tirad Mahmoud joined ADIB in 2008 with more than 25 years of international banking and finance experience. Since then he has led ADIB to become one of the leading Islamic banks in the world, with a network of 75 branches in the UAE and operations in Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Qatar, and the UK.

"If you are a person who likes to deal with an honest institution, then we are your bank."

How has your international experience contributed to your role with ADIB?

I worked for Citibank for 25 years before I came to ADIB, and I have worked in nine different countries and 12 cities. My last station was with the Samba Financial Group. At Samba, I was responsible for Islamic banking, while also being the head of wholesale and investment banking. There, I found that there is a window of opportunity in the Islamic banking industry that needs to be developed. The opportunity came and I joined Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) in the first quarter of 2008. Coming into a fully Islamic bank gave me the opportunity to implement the best of both worlds. I wanted to bring efficiency, customer service, and innovation to Islamic banking. There was a study done by McKinsey in 2005 that focused on service levels being an issue in Islamic banks. That is where I got the idea to take the best from both worlds.

How was service in the bank when you came here?

When I joined ADIB the bank ranked 23rd in customer service in the country; there were only 24 banks ranked in the survey at the time. The number one priority at that time was to enhance our customer service, so we established the goal of becoming the number one bank in the country in those terms. Now, we are number one, and have now been for three years running.

“If you are a person who likes to deal with an honest institution, then we are your bank.”

How was this achieved?

It sounds easy to describe, but from an implementation point of view it was challenging. We only managed it because we had everybody in the bank working on it. We created a campaign within the bank, we showed the people what the issues were, what customers felt, and what the external agency we used felt about our service. We showed them the gaps between excellent service and where we were, and then worked from there. We had to change the way we appeared and the way we served customers, including the way we spoke to them. We brought in trainers from the hospitality industry.

Was changing the mentality of your employees the most difficult part of this process?

We had to focus on their emotional needs and make them understand that this is something important. In our culture, we take enormous pride in generosity and hospitality in our homes. When a guest visits, we get the red carpet out and give them the best. Why not think of the bank as our home? If somebody visits you at the bank, why have a different personality? This approach helped our staff to understand what they were trying to achieve.

What kind of response have you received from the many non-Muslims who reside in the UAE?

At ADIB, we are positioning ourselves toward the non-Muslim community as a very competitive bank with excellent service. We speak their language and we are highly ethical. It doesn’t matter what religion you have, if you are a person who likes to deal with an honest institution, then we are your bank. If you invest with your money, we look after your money, and we have a different concept for dealing with clients with difficulties. We are required, by our charter, to demonstrate tolerance if you have a financial difficulty. If you lose your job and cannot pay an installment on time, we are patient with you until you find employment. In terms of transparency, there are no hidden charges. We promise you zero surprises when you do business with us.

Are there any products not offered by ADIB?

We don’t let you speculate on the stock market using our bank. If you are into speculation we can’t help you. These are the things we don’t do, but in general we have a full product range. We provide financing for houses, cars, SME requirements, and even education. We have wealth management products, savings schemes, insurance schemes, and we even offer retirement products and retirement savings plans.

What is the focus of your international business?

We are in seven countries in total, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Sudan, Egypt, and the UK. Our strategy is very simple; we are working to develop a strong presence in the Middle East and North Africa. We need to be seen as a regional bank able to offer a similar package of services as any international bank in the region. We look at key markets where the demographics are right and there is impressive economic activity or potential.

Why do you believe that ADIB is the banking partner of choice?

For any company that reads this and wants a financial partner in the UAE, there are fantastic opportunities for them to partner with us. We have a presence in the UAE that is very strong in all business segments. We have a strong presence in Qatar, in Iraq, in Sudan, and in Egypt, and we continue to grow. For any company that wants to be in the Middle East or an individual who is wealthy and looking to invest his or her personal wealth here in UAE, we are the right financial partners. We can arrange investments in real estate and in marketable securities and in fixed-income securities. ADIB is a strong financial partner that speaks your language.

© The Business Year – February 2014

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