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KUWAIT - Finance

Shaheen Al Ghanem

CEO, Warba Bank

Bio

Shaheen Al Ghanem holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Maastricht University and a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Kuwait University. He has a broad and long experience of more than 34 years in banking and investment. He began his career in the oil sector from 1988 to 1999, then moved to the financial and investment sector where he served as Assistant Chief Financial Officer in the International Investor Company in 1999. He moved to Kuwait Finance House in 2001 where he held several positions in various departments, the last of which was General Manager of the International Banking Department in 2012 and Acting Chief Investment Officer in 2013. He joined Warba Bank in March 2014 as Deputy CEO for Investment and Treasury then has assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer since 2016 to date.

"Here at Warba Bank, we're incredibly proud of our recent innovations like the SiDi Digital Wallet and the first drive-thru teller service in Kuwait."
TBY talks to Shaheen Al GhanemWarba Bank has been listed among the “50 Most Valuable Banks 2023” by Forbes Middle East. What core elements have been instrumental in securing this recognition for the bank, and how have they influenced its market value and expansion?

Launching first of its kind services in Kuwait to offer the clients exceptional simple and digital financial experience, resilience of our business model, focusing on Islamic digital banking services for individuals, offering Shariah-compliant services through 18 branches in Kuwait, and having large number of shareholders. All of these influenced our market value and made the Bank close to all members of society, encouraging further expansion.

With the launch of innovative services like the Digital Wallet “SiDi “ and the first drive-thru teller service in Kuwait, how does Warba Bank plan to continue its trajectory in digital banking innovation? What future digital initiatives can customers expect?

Here at Warba Bank, we’re incredibly proud of our recent innovations like the SiDi Digital Wallet and the first drive-thru teller service in Kuwait. This is just the beginning of our exciting journey to transform the way you experience banking. We have ambitious plans to keep pushing the boundaries of digital banking and offer you even more seamless, convenient, and personalized services. We are building a digital ecosystem, for example with our Digital Factory. This dedicated innovation hub is constantly churning out new and exciting digital products and services. Think beyond banking apps; imagine platforms that seamlessly integrate into your lifestyle. In terms of enhanced AI, we will offer intelligent AI assistants that understand your needs, offer personalized financial advice, and make managing your money a breeze. Imagine an AI companion reminding you about upcoming bills, suggesting saving plans based on your goals, and even optimizing your portfolio for maximum returns.

Warba Bank was awarded the “Most Sustainable Bank in Kuwait 2023”. Could you discuss the bank’s approach to integrating ESG practices into its operations? How do these practices align with the bank’s business strategy and goals?

Warba Bank is committed to fostering a positive impact on society, exemplified by its comprehensive embrace of sustainability across various issues. The bank is dedicated to serving diverse clients from all segments. Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Kuwait National Development Goal, Warba Bank has seamlessly integrated sustainability into its overarching strategy. Additionally, the bank actively engages in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that directly contribute to societal well-being. In its pursuit of sustainability, Warba Bank addresses critical issues such as climate change, the decarbonization of economic activities, and financial inclusion. These concerns form the cornerstone of the bank’s new sustainability strategy. To adhere to international standards, Warba Bank currently reports on various benchmarks, including disclosures from the Global Reporting Initiative, recommendations from the Central Bank of Kuwait, and standards set by Boursa Kuwait and the Capital Markets Authority. In a proactive move, Warba Bank is conducting a thorough assessment of the environmental impact of its current operations to establish a baseline. This baseline will serve as a crucial reference point for achieving the bank’s decarbonization target. To ensure the seamless integration of sustainability practices, the bank has instituted a specialized Sustainable Development unit. This unit is entrusted with overseeing the bank’s sustainable transformation, guaranteeing alignment with international standards in sustainability. Overall, Warba Bank is steadfast in its commitment to sustainability, embodying responsible banking practices and contributing positively to societal and environmental well-being.

Warba Bank actively participated in the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in 2023. What were the key takeaways from these meetings for the company, and how do they influence the bank’s strategic planning in global economic trends?

Discussions ranged from the prospects for a world economy weighed down by debt, inflation, and conflict to the growing wealth gap between rich and poor countries and floundering efforts to tackle climate change. Global inflation is seen dropping. Central bankers signaled readiness to end interest rate hikes if events allow, hopeful that inflation can be finally tamed without too hard a landing. The biggest structural issue is to bring inflation down. The IMF warned in its Global Financial Stability Report that high interest rates will put some borrowers in more precarious positions.

Warba Bank is commited to consolidating its role in Islamic banking. What are the bank’s strategies for enhancing its products and services in Islamic finance?

Warba Bank is committed to reinforcing its role in Islamic banking, focusing on developing innovative products and enhancing services to attract and retain the upper affluent and private banking segment. Central to this strategy is the investment in advanced digital services, which is aligned with the bank’s vision of creating unique value in banking and beyond. This approach is not only about banking; it’s about unlocking opportunities for people and businesses. We strive to deliver exceptional experiences, extending beyond traditional banking, while nurturing top talent and creating sustainable value for shareholders and society.

In recent years, Warba Bank has expanded its physical branch network and digital offerings. What are the future expansion plans for the bank, and how do you balance the growth between physical branches and digital platforms to cater to diverse customer preferences?

The bank focuses on a balanced growth strategy between enhancing our physical branch network through being more present in residential areas and advancing our digital offerings. By investing in innovative digital services, we aim to cater to the evolving needs of our customers who prefer online banking solutions, while also acknowledging the importance of physical branches for those who value face-to-face interactions.Our vision of creating unique value in banking and beyond drives our expansion plans. We are dedicated to unlocking opportunities for people and businesses, not just through traditional banking but by offering a blend of digital and physical banking experiences. This dual approach is part of our mission to deliver the best customer experience beyond the boundaries of banking, nurturing top talents, and creating sustainable value for shareholders and society.
This balanced growth between physical presence and digital innovation reflects our purpose of contributing to individuals, businesses, and society, enabling them to achieve their ambitions in an increasingly digital world.

 

 

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