Home Banking Interview with Mr. Mohamed El Ghazi, Chief Executive Officer of Société Ivoirienne de Banque (SIB)

Interview with Mr. Mohamed El Ghazi, Chief Executive Officer of Société Ivoirienne de Banque (SIB)

by internationalbanker

 

Société Ivoirienne de Banque (SIB), headquartered in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire’s economic centre, Abidjan, has been an integral member of the Ivorian banking sector for more than 60 years, commencing as a subsidiary of Crédit Agricole S.A. Group. Today, it is a public limited company and ranks among the country’s top four banks according to various metrics, providing universal banking products and services to individuals, professionals and companies in the areas of retail, middle market, corporate and investment, and capital markets throughout the nation via its 71 branches. SIB has been a subsidiary of Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank Group, the leading banking and financial group in the Maghreb, since 2009—growing in size and reach and transitioning from a corporate-finance firm with only a few branches to a leading universal bank with nationwide coverage. Through its relationship with Attijariwafa Bank Group, SIB offers its customers integrated credit and insurance products as part of its determination to meet their varied needs. Embracing the bank’s values of ethics, responsibility, professionalism, team spirit and customer focus, SIB’s staff ensure customer satisfaction is part of each employee’s contribution.

In recognition of its commitment to enhancing its services to customers through such initiatives as its New Relationship Model (NRM) and pioneering digital solutions, SIB has received numerous awards, including the 2017 Award of Excellence for the Best Financial Institution in Côte d’Ivoire, first-place rankings in the Specialist in Treasury Securities (STS) of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA, or Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine) for Côte d’Ivoire, Bank of the Year 2018 in Côte d’Ivoire awards from The Banker and The Financial Times, and La Finance S’engage’s Innovation Award.

Maintaining strong growth while preserving financial profitability has not been easy during the turbulent economic conditions of the past few years, as Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El Ghazi discussed in our recent interview.

Mr. Mohamed El Ghazi, Chief Executive Officer, Société Ivoirienne de Banque (SIB)

Mr. El Ghazi, thank you for speaking with us today….

To what extent is SIB (Société Ivoirienne de Banque) competitive in the retail-banking sector in Côte d’Ivoire? And what is the main reason for its success compared to other banks in the local market?

SIB, part of the Attijariwafa Bank Group, has existed for 61 years and ranks among the largest banks in Côte d’Ivoire. According to recent figures (as of December 31, 2022) from the Professional Association of Banks and Financial Institutions of Côte d’Ivoire (APBEF-CI, or Association Professionnelle des Banques et Etablissements Financiers de Côte d’Ivoire), SIB is ranked as the third-largest bank in the country in terms of employment/customer-loans market share at 9 percent and is the fourth largest in customer-deposits market share at 8 percent. It’s worth noting that the local market is highly competitive, with around 30 banks and financial institutions, and less than 20 percent of the population has access to banking services. SIB’s success can be attributed to several factors:

  • An extensive network of branches, with 71 branches covering the country’s major cities.
  • A disciplined commercial strategy based on the New Relationship Model (NRM) concept. This concept, aimed at optimising the commercial approach and increasing the value added to clients, has yielded rapid results.
  • Lastly, the expertise and strength of the Attijariwafa Bank Group, a banking leader in Morocco. Leveraging its long and successful experiences in all financial sectors, the Group transformed SIB from a bank focused on corporate finance in 2009 (with only 13 branches) to a universal bank with a strong presence in retail banking (71 branches).

What are the main products and services offered by SIB’s market bank? Are you satisfied with the diversity of these offerings in the current capital market?

As a universal bank, we offer a comprehensive and evolving range of financial products to both individuals and businesses. We always aim for excellence and customer satisfaction through innovative offerings, meeting the highest international standards. For example, we take pride in our offerings in Côte d’Ivoire’s capital market. Our range of products and services is broad, covering foreign exchange (FX) and derivatives products, such as spots, forwards, FX options and commodities, as well as interest-rate products, such as treasury bills, treasury bonds, repurchase agreements and more. Since 2016, SIB has been ranked first in the Specialist in Treasury Securities (STS) rankings in Côte d’Ivoire, according to the UMOA-Titres agency, with primary- and secondary-market volumes reaching 1,001 billion FCFA (West African CFA [Communauté Financière Africaine] franc) and 921 billion FCFA, respectively, in 2022. Consequently, SIB is a preferred partner for national treasuries and regional and international investors. Furthermore, with the Attijariwafa Bank Group establishing a regional market-activities hub and its strong presence in Africa (16 countries), we can offer high-quality services and undeniable value propositions to regional and international partners looking to invest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A view of the interior of the central branch of SIB located in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in the Plateau district, Republic Boulevard, Alpha 2000 Building.

How does the bank seek to maximise customer satisfaction? Could you briefly explain the New Relationship Model?

Our goal has always been to ensure optimal customer service by meeting their expectations. To achieve this, we reinvented our commercial approach through the New Relationship Model (NRM)—developing highly detailed customer segmentation to address their needs better, redeploying our sales teams with portfolio adjustments, redesigning branch formats and revamping our product offerings. We have also empowered customers by enhancing their digital journeys and witnessed a significant increase in the use of our e-banking solutions.

What were the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the bank in 2020, and how did it react to minimise the damage? Also, how did the pandemic influence the bank’s digital transformation and accelerate its drive to provide robust digital solutions to its customers?

The COVID-19 health crisis compelled all financial institutions to reconsider how accessible their products and services were to clients. At SIB, we had to review our critical processes to ensure business continuity. These efforts materialised through updating and accelerating our Digital Roadmap, stress-testing our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and, naturally, revising our procedures catalogue. The pandemic also altered our clients’ behaviours, increasing their willingness to use the online banking solutions we offered. From 2019 to the present, the number of subscriptions has tripled and continues to grow steadily. I’m taking this opportunity to inform you that SIB recently launched a new version of its e-banking application, SIB NET, built on a technical foundation that enables the agile deployment of new features for an enhanced customer experience.

As I understand it, the bank has also invested in improving digital and cash-management solutions for its customers in recent years. Could you tell me more about these offerings?

SIB did not wait for the health crisis to invest in digital transformation. In fact, we were one of the first banks to deploy an online banking solution nationwide. High demands from our corporate clients have driven us to invest further in cash-management solutions, some of which also leverage digital technology. Among our recent offerings is SWIFT NET, which is compatible with various file formats, as well as other solutions such as SFTP(Secure File Transfer Protocol), providing multinational enterprises with secure treasury management for their subsidiaries. We also have partnerships with cash-in-transit companies, allowing us to collect nearly 600 billion FCFA in 2022. It’s important to note that we also encourage intrapreneurship (employees developing solutions and services) through annual programmes organised by the Attijariwafa Bank Group to reward the best projects developed by the Group’s employees. Beyond SIB, the entire Attijariwafa Bank Group believes in the importance of digitalisation and invests heavily to remain at the forefront of this field.

I have heard that the bank is open to forming partnerships with fintech (financial technology) companies. Do you believe collaboration with the fintech sector is an interesting approach for banks?

Technological advancements in the banking sector are numerous and accelerating each year, thanks to innovations from fintech companies. It would be a missed opportunity not to allow our clients to benefit from these technological advancements. Therefore, SIB collaborates with both local and foreign fintech companies to address specific challenges and improve our clients’ quality of service. Contracting with foreign fintechs is done collaboratively since the Attijariwafa Bank Group is also present in other African countries, such as Senegal and Morocco, known for their relevant fintech solutions. In Côte d’Ivoire, we have worked with local startups to deploy solutions in various areas, including electronic currency payments (MOBPAY), check certification and canteen management for SIB employees. One of these startups, which we have supported for several years, recently raised US$5 million. This gives us confidence in our selection process, based on tenders and international competitions organised with the support of the Attijariwafa Bank Group.

I strongly encourage banks to collaborate more with fintech companies because they can address certain challenges more efficiently. Fintechs have discovered a “blue ocean” that is also beneficial for banks, and together, we can address this new market, especially by accelerating financial inclusion and building on the ongoing initiatives of our regulators.

Members of the Management Committee. From left to right: Mrs. Cynthia AKELE, Finance Director; Mrs.
Roselyne DOGBO, Director of Operations; Mr. Ahmed HAJ-HAMOU, Director of Retail and Professional
Market; Mrs. Bibata SAWADOGO, Head of Credit Risk; Mr. Mohamed EL GHAZI, CEO of SIB; Mr. Brice OBLE,
Deputy CEO; Mrs. Kadiatou SORO, Legal Affairs Director; Mr. Bakary YEO, Corporates Director; Mr.
Cheikam SANKON, Organization and Projects Director.

If I’m not mistaken, you have been the CEO of SIB for a little over two years. During this period, what has been the most significant challenge you have faced as CEO?

The success of SIB does not rest on the efforts of one individual but on the hard work and dedication of all teams and staff members. Together, we have harnessed our skills to address the banking sector’s ever-changing challenges and comply with rigorous regulations. Thanks to our economic model, SIB has achieved excellent commercial and financial performances. Despite a slowdown in Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth and significant international inflation in 2022, SIB achieved a record performance with an 18-percent increase in net profit, placing it fourth among the country’s banks (according to APBEF figures) in terms of annual net profit as of December 31, 2022. The most significant challenge we had to overcome was maintaining strong growth while preserving financial profitability. This required continuous re-evaluations of our strategy and organisational model to adapt to changing market realities. Our commitment is to consolidate SIB’s position and ensure its sustainability to continue providing high-quality services to our clients.

The bank also seems to take employee-skills development seriously, with the recent development of online learning platforms containing more than 3,000 video modules. What are the main topics covered in these modules? Are you satisfied with the results in terms of employee performance?

Our bank emphasises developing our employees’ skills through online learning platforms with video modules covering various topics, such as leadership, management, security and more. This approach promotes autonomy among teams and their professional development. While the initial results are still modest, we are committed to continuing this digital path to support our employees and help them reach their full potentials.

An aerial view of the 305 kilograms of plastic waste collected by SIB personnel during a beach cleaning operation in the Port Bouet district. The collected waste was transported to a specialized treatment center in Abidjan for recycling.

What is the bank’s commitment to environmental sustainability, considering any ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors in its business decisions and satisfaction regarding gender promotion among its employees?

SIB strongly emphasises environmental sustainability and responsible finance, following the example of our group, by taking concrete actions to reduce our environmental footprints and support environmental-preservation initiatives. Our CSR (corporate social responsibility) approach is based on education, health, culture and the environment. Regarding gender promotion, we are proud to currently have 48-percent female representation among our employees, with positions at all hierarchical levels, including our Executive Committee (21 percent). We will continue to promote equal opportunities actively by recruiting and advancing women into leadership positions to reflect the diversity of our clientele in our decision-making.

How do you envision the evolution of retail banking in Côte d’Ivoire in the next year or two? And do you believe SIB is well positioned to face these changes and remain at the forefront of its local market?

The future of banking relies on an omnichannel relationship, a secure digital approach and simplified operations. Tomorrow’s customers will also seek advice they can trust. At SIB, we focus on quality—strengthening and expanding our communication channels to offer a better customer experience consistently. Meeting the challenge of quality will allow us to achieve our ambition: to be the reference relational bank in retail banking.

What is the most important goal for SIB in the coming year (2024)? And how do you plan to achieve it?

In 2024, at SIB, our primary goal is to meet the high expectations of our clientele in a competitive and ever-evolving banking market. Therefore, we must maintain or even accelerate the digitisation of our various services and internal processes. We aim to diversify our payment offerings by launching increasingly innovative products to enhance customer satisfaction. We are convinced that an exceptional customer experience is essential to our success, and we are committed to maintaining SIB as an indispensable financial institution in Côte d’Ivoire.

SIB is certainly achieving its ambition to provide top-notch customer experience. Thank you again for your time, Mr. El Ghazi.

 

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