By Raymond Michaels – email@example.com
Over the past five years, the Kuwaiti economy has been undergoing a phase of substantial development. Progress has been achieved in the national political structure, and infrastructure projects have been successfully completed in increasing numbers year-on-year, with 2015 looking set to continue the trend.
Although there has been some friction over the last few years with regard to obtaining investment for vital infrastructure initiatives in areas such as education and health services, and in utilities such as electricity, water and roads, the pace has quickened, and the process for obtaining financing has eased. At the heart of this economic progress has been development in the banking and financial- services sectors. This has resulted in the availability of increasingly innovative products and solutions that better support the financial and transactional needs of individuals, families, small businesses, large corporations and government.
Gulf Bank of Kuwait is a prominent member of this banking and financial-services marketplace— providing effective and efficient solutions to retail- and commercial- banking customers nationwide.
First incorporated on November 23, 1960, Gulf Bank has grown to be one of the leading banking institutions in Kuwait and an industry-leading financial-services provider. The bank is well-regarded and particularly recognised for its high-calibre services and products that are delivered through its large network of 59 branches, strategically positioned in key locations across Kuwait. In addition, the bank employs approximately 1,500 staff members of various nationalities, with local nationals numbering more than 60 percent in the bank’s head office and more than 90 percent in the bank’s branches. With a focus on systematic and consistent growth, the bank has been extending its channel network and scope of services from the beginning. The bank focuses on customer orientation and offers a diverse and comprehensive range of products and services that addresses the needs of retail and commercial clients efficiently and effectively.
Gulf Bank now covers a wide range of banking-business sectors, including retail, commercial, treasury and international-banking product and service solutions. In recognition of its work, Gulf Bank has won numerous prestigious awards, including “Best Retail Bank in Kuwait” by The Asian Banker.
Gulf Bank’s progress has also been recognised by international credit-rating agencies. During 2014, Moody’s upgraded Gulf Bank’s long-term rating to Baa1 from Baa2 and its Standalone Bank Financial Strength Rating (BFSR) to D from D-, maintaining a positive outlook. Standard & Poor’s also affirmed the bank’s long-term credit rating at BBB+ with a positive outlook. Both agencies, in their assessments, affirmed the bank’s asset quality, capitalisation, solid revenue-generating capacity and sound risk-management systems and practices.
Gulf Bank’s retail-banking division focuses on providing customers with a comprehensive suite of solutions to meet specific needs, implementing a strategy based on offering first-class service combined with flexible bank products, sophisticated online services and a wide, convenient network across Kuwait.
Most recently, the bank reported growth of its asset portfolio at a rate that is significantly faster than the overall market, increasing by 23 percent through 2014, whilst the market grew by 6 percent. In addition, Gulf Bank’s low-cost deposits grew by 16 percent over this period—again at a rate that is faster than market growth.
Gulf Bank is also a standout player within the commercial-banking sector, offering a wide range of corporate- and institutional-banking services that includes treasury, corporate advisory, foreign exchange and other cash-management solutions. The bank refined its diversified corporate-product suite in 2011 so that it can offer clients a more comprehensive range of products and services to better serve current market needs.
As part of meeting customer needs with unique and effective products and solutions, the bank has a strong and skilled labour force that it takes care to train and manage so that it is equipped to serve customer needs most effectively. This includes placing a priority on developing its IT infrastructure and the skillset of its workforce.
Gulf Bank is committed to keeping pace with providing innovative technological solutions when it comes to serving the needs of its clients. In particular, Gulf Bank will be investing significantly in four key areas over the next three years: digital channels for retail and corporate customers, middleware integration, workflow, and data architecture and analytics. The bank’s strategy is to combine the use of these new technologies to provide customers with innovative and unique product and service propositions. These ventures have been developed after extensive customer and market research to make sure the bank creates real value for customers, rather than developing technology for its own sake. Gulf Bank has a clear vision to create a “Digital Bank” through this extensive phase of investment that will result in end-to-end automation of its core customer-facing processes. The goal of this will be to significantly improve customer experience, reduce people costs in the back office, remove ineffective manual controls and strengthen the bank’s brand.
As a key player within the Kuwaiti banking sector, Gulf Bank places a great deal of importance and resources towards corporate social responsibility. The bank has always played an active role in socially responsible endeavours and has worked in particular towards helping Kuwaiti society, providing numerous staff volunteers working with local initiatives throughout the year. The bank is particularly active in projects that promote community development, especially youth programs.
Gulf Bank also supports many internationally and locally recognized causes and awareness initiatives, such as celebrating International Children’s Day at Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice (palliative hospital for children), organizing an annual “Pink…Because We Care” breast-cancer awareness campaign, which includes discounted medical-related tests for staff and customers. Gulf Bank has also been a long-term supporter of the UN World Humanitarian Day campaign, which is dedicated to showing appreciation and gratitude to all local humanitarian heroes. Gulf Bank continues to invest in youth, entrepreneurship and talent development in the local community through its corporate social-responsibility initiatives and by participating in programs such as the INJAZ local and regional competitions, the annual gathering of the National Union of Kuwaiti Students-USA branch, as well as a wide variety of job-shadowing programs. The bank also sponsors the annual memorial journey for pearl diving, which continues to strengthen the bank’s position as an integral part of Kuwaiti society.
Gulf Bank places great value on its human resources and continuously designs initiatives to help the progress and development of its staff. As examples, the bank’s dedicated Durrat Al Khaleej training centre was launched in early 2014; in the same year, a customised Graduate Development Program, in collaboration with the Institute of Banking Studies (IBS), was also set up that focuses on the development of local talent with the aim of creating a pool of holistic bankers and leaders of the future.
In addition, as part of the bank’s ongoing commitment to supporting local economic development, Gulf Bank is taking part in the National Fund’s SME Debt Program—a program that has been launched by the Kuwait National Fund for SMEs Development (National Fund) to encourage an entrepreneurship ecosystem in Kuwait through providing different forms of support to small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Gulf Bank’s involvement reflects its strategy of assisting Kuwaiti nationals and promoting Kuwait’s business community. It also reaffirms the bank’s dedication to encouraging new ideas and developing a new generation of entrepreneurs.
The Kuwait market is highly competitive with many dynamic players, and it has recently experienced dramatic changes in the market landscape with an increasing number of Islamic banks. Gulf Bank must remain nimble and creative with its products and services so that it can continue to stand out in the marketplace. In these changing conditions, the bank is confident that its customer-centric approach in decision-making and business-strategy development will enable it to continue to beat out the competition.