IBQ to keep focusing on banking segments with a clear Qatar plan.
Bouhadiba: Generations of loyal customers. Pratap John
IBQ will keep focusing its efforts on corporate, private and retail banking with a very clear Qatar-based strategy, said bank's managing director Omar Bouhadiba. "IBQ is primarily focusing on corporate and private banking as well as retail. These are strong franchises, and we are blessed with very long-lasting client relationships," Bouhadiba said in an interview with Gulf Times. Some clients, he said, have been banking with IBQ for more than four decades. "We have situations where two or even three generations of the same family hold accounts with us. This is a strong sign of trust and a source of pride for us. We have a well-defined strategy to grow all of these three segments in a sustainable way, and believe we can offer great service with enough flexibility to our customers operating in all of those segments," Bouhadiba said. On the other side, he said, IBQ's SME portfolio is "marginal by design." It is primarily made of loyal customer relationships, which have been with the bank for many years. SMEs can be a "very attractive" market, but it requires specialised skills, and a different banking model. A few banks in the Middle East, attracted by wider margins, launched big SME strategies "without the skills or the understanding" of this very particular segment. "They mostly did well for a while, until the higher risks they booked were adversely impacted by the next economic downturn requiring drastic, sometimes expensive, action," he pointed out. On IBQ's balance sheet in the first quarter (Q1) he said, "With 4% increase year-on-year, our balance sheet has shown reasonable growth. While size matters in banking, balance sheet growth has to be balanced and supported by a strong and well-thought-out risk management. Overburdening the balance sheet to show size is often the cause of banks having to restructure and re-address their loan books. With regards to portfolio quality, we are satisfied at this stage with the bank's current loan book, which has been performing well in spite of the market uncertainties." Bouhadiba said IBQ made QR120mn net profits in the first quarter of this year, which is 14% over the same period of 2016. More importantly, the bank's operating income representing the sustainable operating revenues, excluding all exceptional items, has grown some 17% vis-a-vis 2016. "We are happy with this performance, which provides a positive indication for the rest of the year. There is more, however, to our strategy than profit growth. We are, indeed, as a bank, very much focused on the quality of our revenues and their sustainability over time," Bouhadiba said. For IBQ, good quality revenues are primarily driven by strong client relationships, yet do not entail excessive risk taking. "We firmly believe that the bank will generate sustainable revenues growth by understanding our client needs, and providing them with consistently good service. This is our real objective in the medium and long term. Our approach based on consistency and organic growth allowed us to stay competitive in the market for over 60 years now," Bouhadiba said. Page 3
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