Kuwait International Bank targets digital innovation for retail growth

KIB's Mohammad Said El Saka explains the bank's strategy to become Kuwait's Islamic bank of choice

March 28, 2018

Kuwait International Bank has been providing financial services to the country for over 40 years. In 2007 it responded to growing demand for Sharia compliant services and transformed into a full-fledged Islamic bank. How will it transform next? Mohammad Said El Saka is the bank’s deputy and acting CEO, and at the top of his agenda is digital innovation. He explains the Kuwait International Bank’s vision and strategy, and the successful year it delivered for the bank – both internally, as well as for its customers and shareholders.

World Finance: Tell me about your vision and strategy for the bank.

Mohammad Said El Saka: The main vision is to be the Islamic bank of choice in Kuwait, and we have defined three pillars to work on. One is the digitalisation, focusing on retail. The second one is to go advisors for the corporate, mid-to-large size. And the third one is one stop real estate shop.

The bank has been established back in 1973 as a specialised real estate bank, not only focusing on real estate finance, but also specialising in both property management as well as real estate appraisals. So we wanted to capitalise on this as well.

In order to achieve these three pillars, we’ve been working on five core competencies. One is digital innovation, two is service and product innovation, the third one is control efficiency, fourth one is risk management excellence, and the last one is strategic pricing.

World Finance: So how successful was this strategy in 2017?

Mohammad Said El Saka: It was very successful actually, in terms of reflecting very good results on the bottom line. We have growth on all the financial dimensions: total assets, financing receivables, operating income, and customer acquisition.

We’ve recorded almost $4bn as deposit balances end of 2017. And here is a very successful story about the strategy implementation, because we have relaunched the full suite of our deposits.

We had a product called Arzaq, it was relaunched back in early 2015, and it has recorded continuous growth for the last 12 quarters.

We’ve also launched a new long-term deposit called Al-Boushra, it’s three years that distributes on a semi-annual basis. We have re-introduced our savings accounts, changed the payment terms to be on a quarterly basis rather than on an annual basis, which actually recording one of the highest if not the highest profit returns in Kuwait.

We have also launched a similar account, but for corporates, as well as the last product is a flexible deposit end of 2017, with a magnificent impact on the market.

World Finance: Sounds like a positive year for the bank and your customers; how about your shareholders?

Mohammad Said El Saka: There was also a good reflection on the shareholders, because we have been listed in MSCI Morgan Stanley Capital Index for the small caps back in June 2017, and were also shortlisted in FTSE Russell Capital Equity index. Also cash dividends payout is one of the highest as well.

World Finance: Give me some examples of the digital innovations you’re bringing to market.

Mohammad Said El Saka: Two main products we launched in 2017. One is for the omni channel and mobile application, and the second one is the first iteration of its kind; it’s visual IVR. So we’re simply following the life of the customer, not only to have a normal routine contact centre, but it became a visual one. So it’s like, one of its kind in omni-channel product that’s launched in 2017, and we have a lot to go actually in 2018 as well.

World Finance: And all of this success has been recognised with a number of accolades over the year.

Mohammad Said El Saka: Yes; first of all we had the honour to receive the World Finance awards as the best Islamic bank in Kuwait, and best Islamic Bank in GCC, and also best customer acquisition, which reflects our deposits.

In addition, the Union of Arab Banks has recognised us as the best vision in banking strategy. Bankers Middle East has also recognised us as Best Change Management in Kuwait, and these two awards reflecting the strategic implementation and the change management that we have.

Capital Finance International as well, the fastest growing Islamic banking in 2017 MENA, and the best Sharia compliant bank. Forbes has also recognised us as one of the top 50 listed companies in Kuwait.

So it was a very successful year, and we wanted to extend our appreciation to our customers, depositors, shareholders, employees, and special thanks to the regulatory authorities, especially Central Bank of Kuwait for their guidance, supervision, instruction, and continuous support.

World Finance: Mohamed, thank you very much.

Mohammad Said El Saka: Thank you sir.