BNF Bank plc, headquartered in Gzira, Malta, is a relatively new bank in its home territory, having begun operations just 10 years ago. However, during that time the bank, known as Banif Bank (Malta) plc up until a year ago, has secured its position as one of the Maltese islands’ most ambitious financial institutions. Through its 12 retail branches and Corporate and Business Banking Center, BNF Bank has set its course—based on its stated values of Ambition, Responsibility and Empathy—to expand into new frontiers, firmly planted on its promise to converse with its clients in order to fully understand their aspirations so that they can create a brighter future together.
Mr. Collis, thank you for joining us today….
About a year ago, the bank changed its name from Banif Bank (Malta) plc to BNF Bank plc. What was the main reason for this move?
In October 2016, new shareholders acquired 75 percent of the bank, which has subsequently increased to 91.1 percent through rights issues, with a vision to take the bank across new frontiers. As our name implies, BNF has evolved from our proud history and represents the values of credibility and trust that have become synonymous with our bank over the past decade. The new brand reflects our fresh outlook and re-energisesour vision to move ahead, building a new future. Although the name and the image have changed, we have retained the focus on our clients, with the intent of delivering even greater benefits and services. We recognisethat there is a generational shift in the way clients bank and do business, and we want to be at the forefront of this.
The bank’s stated values “are at the basis of everything we do: Ambition, Responsibility and Empathy”. How does BNF show empathy, and how is that reflected in the products and/or services the bank offers?
We are very close to our customers and their evolving needs throughout their lives or business cycles. We understand their requirements, and subsequently, we can provide an unparalleled level of service. We take pride in our ability to understand and identify with our personal and corporate clients through a dedicated and knowledgeable team of customer-relationship managers. We believe that we can help our customers realiseopportunities, whilst effectively balancing off exposure with the appropriate actions, according to their different risk profiles. Our suite of banking products are clear and simple to understand, built around our customers’ needs and catering to their wide array of financial requirements. We share the ambitions of our clients, continually looking for solutions. We take personal responsibility for growth and development, keeping in mind the community in which we operate. We share our knowledge and experience with our customers, who know they can count and depend on us, and who trust our word. More important is the fact that we can empathisewith their feelings and understand their needs in order to deliver quality service.
A recent statement issued by the Malta Bankers’ Association has confirmed that Malta’s banking sector remains well capitalised, highly liquid and profitable, and has continued to contribute to the local economy. What, in your opinion, are the main reasons why the sector as a whole continues to perform so well?
Malta’s banking sector’s success is down to the robust regulatory and legislative framework around which the core domestic banks build sound and prudent business models. Banks are regulated by the Banking Act, which is founded on European Union legislation compliant with the Basel Core Principles. The legislation, together with best practices, provides the required flexibility necessary for banks to thrive. Customers continue to show strong trust in financial institutions, having deposits with core domestic banks reaching a record €18.3 billion. This trust is then translated into products and services that cater to public and corporate clients, which bring the Maltese economy to lifein a strong and dynamic way. This whole value chain makes Malta what it is, and banks are at the centreof this buzzing activity.
What exactly does the bank mean by “one-stop banking”?
When clients come to BNF Bank, they can set their minds at rest that whatever their financial needs are, we can provide the appropriate products and services. Through our segmented approach, we can focus on the clients’ or businesses’ lifecycles, and we can model products combined with professional service and assistance according to the specific requirements.
What are some of the key features of BNF’s Micro-Business Account?
The Micro-Business Account is one of the most successful products within our portfolio. It is a customisedsolution that is tailor-made around the specific needs of micro and small businesses, which form the backbone of the Maltese economy. The package offers a credit line with flexible financing options at advantageous rates to key tools such as free internet banking, Visa Debit and credit cards, and trade-finance services catering to business needs from start-ups to expansion and growth prospects.
How satisfied are you currently with the bank’s internal employee-training programmes? And can you give an example of some of the specialist programmes the bank offers in this sphere?
It is through our dedicated and professional workforce that we have managed to carve our niche in the market. The team at BNF is a mix of seasoned and experienced officials together with freshly qualified and highly motivated graduates who epitomisethe bank’s innovative stance. The BNF staff enjoy conditions that suit today’s modern lifestyle, and in an equal-opportunities environment, meaning that no one feels out of place irrespective of background. Esprit de corpsis emphasisedthrough ongoing work-related and social activities. Employees engage in structured training programmes, making sure that they are kept abreast of current and upcoming regulation and legislation. The bank provides both on-the-job and specialist trainingwhile encouraging knowledge sharing and continuous professional development. All staff clock in a significant amount of training hours on various subjects relevant to their tasks and the industry in general. We also have training plans that we shall be rolling out in the coming months to ensure that our staff are equipped with the best skill-sets to drive the bank forward and achieve the ambitious targets that we are setting for ourselves.
Many of the bank’s CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives seem to be involved with supporting education, such as Rakkonti with the National Literacy Agency of the Ministry for Education and the Life Case projects through partnership with MCAST (Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology) Institute for the Creative Arts. Have there been any positive results recorded from these initiatives since the bank began its involvement with them?
The bank’s CSR initiatives revolve around culture, education and social fibre. We firmly believe in giving back to the community that surrounds us for the advancement of the wellbeing of society in general. We are also bringing together and helping people achieve their dreams and ambitions from their early years. Through Rakkonti, we are assisting the Ministry for Education in reviving and enacting in an interactive way old Maltese fables and presenting them to the younger generations at primary schools. The bank has financed the audio-visual recordings of these fables and the puppets used during the live interactive sessions, managing to bring Maltese folk stories back to the foray for young children. The bank has also collaborated with the Malta College of Arts, Science andTechnology in setting up annual exhibitions of art and photography projects undertaken by students who are following creative arts courses. Some of these artworks actually adorn our branches and head office. As we grow, our commitment to be present in the society in which we operate will not wane.
The bank’s All Ideas Matter platform sounds like an exciting innovation. Can you briefly explain what it involves, and how it encourages employee participation?
Our processes have been built with efficiency and effectiveness in mind. However, we recognisethat there is always room for improvement for more success. Our employees are constantly working through these processes and are best suited to analysethem and propose improved ways of doing things. All Ideas Matter (AIM) was launched with a view to route such proposals and ideas via one channel, creating an outlet that gives staff the opportunity to participate further in the bank’s operations. The scheme encompasses awards given based on suggestions for improving quality of service, efficiency of processes and resources, cost reduction and revenue increases, and employee health and safety, amongst others. Participation is quite high, and even more important are the improvements that we managed to put in place after such suggestions.
What is the most important objective that the bank hopes to achieve over the next 12 to 18 months?
The injection of new capital by our shareholders has been pivotal to the bank’s new strategy. Consequently, we are now able to grow our business at an accelerated pace. Our priorities for the short-term are to consolidate our position as a systemic, core banking institution, forging even closer ties to the Maltese economy. Retail banking remains our core business, while we want to ensure that corporate clients see BNF as their natural preference. Innovation is and will be the key to our success, and it will permeate to our customers from a suite of innovative, tailored products and class-topping, fresh customer service. Our commitment to invest in new state-of-the-art technology will help us achieve our objectives in the coming months. New technology will be rolled out on ATMs, card systems and other operating tools. It will provide our staff with the modern tools required to service an ever-increasing customer base, especially the younger generation, through modern technology. Most importantly, our clients will be able to get access to the bank whenever and wherever they are—whilst we are making sure that we remain strongly relevant in the future, both locally and in foreign markets servicing different market segments.
Until now, our traditional business has been our focus, but we aspire to gain a wider reach. We want to be a full-service bank, and at the most appropriate time for us, we will expand into asset management and private banking.
Mr. Collis, thank you for your time today. I am confident that BNF Bank under your leadership will achieve its forward-looking goals.