The International Bank for Trade and Industry at Mali (BICIM) is a subsidiary of the BNP Paribas Group and is headquartered in Bamako, Mali. Although BICIM has operated in Mali since 1999, it underwent an extensive revamping of its activities under its new business model in 2016-17. As a result, BICIM narrowed its focus to excelling in “Prestige Retail Banking”—specifically, wealth management and corporate banking. Describing itself as “the bank for a changing world”, BICIM is dedicated to providing top-notch customer service through its team of experts to its high-level clientele; the bank seeks to maintain close relationships with its clients, who may be smaller in number than those of other banks but are a prestigious group of decision-makers and influencers. Each customer is assigned a dedicated professional associate within the bank and is provided with tailored products and services. BICIM takes its responsibility to support Mali’s economic development seriously by providing financial backing to productive sectors of the economy. It is also committed to living out its social responsibility by offering its help in a variety of consequential ways to the neediest in the community.
International Banker was recently joined by Mr. Samir Mezine, chief executive officer of BICIM, to discuss how the bank is progressing in its aim to provide customized service to its focused group of clients. Mr. Mezine, welcome….
What is the most significant way in which BICIM stands above its banking peers within the local banking market?
At BICIM, our sales officers adopt a posture adapted to each segment of clients in their portfolios. Each client has a dedicated account manager who provides a personalized client journey.
The account manager is at the client’s service to answer his expectations and support him in achieving his projects.
Thus, as soon as clients enter into relationships with us, action plans are carried out for their support, including;
- Frequent follow-up with clients;
- Visits onsite;
- Specific and adapted products or solutions (mainly related to cash management).
BICIM’s ambition is to become the bank with the closest relationships with its clients. This is why BICIM organizes interactive training sessions with its clients once a year in order to enable them to discover the bank’s global offer and the innovations to come. We make available to our clients business experts dedicated to financial wealth management, cash management, trade finance, trading room, international trade and leasing, in addition to the account managers responsible for the management of accounts, to give customers the best possible routes in our bank.
For me, the initiatives listed above are unique in Mali and make BICIM stand above our banking peers within our local banking market.
BICIM has been present in Mali since 1999. During those 20 or so years in operation, what has been the bank’s biggest highlight or success? And what has been its biggest challenge?
During our 20 years of existence, we can say that our biggest success is also our biggest challenge.
Indeed, in 2016, BICIM set up the biggest challenge that a company can face: the change of business model. The bank started focusing on a niche market, “prestige” customers and big corporate clients, by improving its offer and adjusting its sales system. This new approach resulted in the closing of six branches and several thousand accounts on our books in order to concentrate our efforts on fewer high-level clients.
Today, we can conclude that BICIM has brilliantly taken up the challenge of this new positioning in our market.
Are you satisfied with the range of retail-banking products currently being offered by BICIM? Which one product would you like to add to the bank’s suite of retail products?
Rather satisfied. Compared to the competitors’, our products are among the best on the market in terms of stability, security, reliability and performance.
A potential new product to be added to the bank’s retail product range could be a remote-assistance service. This type of service has become essential in our current world, especially with the COVID 19 health crisis that we are going through. Setting up a chatbot on our institutional websites and our social networks would assure continuity of our services 24 hours a day—for example, answering any questions from customers and offering our products and services remotely, even in the event of unavailability or inaccessibility to the bank and the account manager.
Many of BICIM’s initiatives with regard to corporate social responsibility are concerned with helping to improve living conditions for poor people in the country. What do you consider to be your single most important initiative? And do you have any hard statistics that highlight the improvements that have come about as a direct result of the bank’s contributions?
Mali is currently going through an unprecedented security crisis, which is pushing its inhabitants from the north and center to move to the south, including to the capital, Bamako. In June, we helped refugees from the cattle market in Bamako, who had previously suffered major losses of property due to a fire. We brought them food (rice, beans, oil, sugar), sunlamps, blankets, mats and reusable protective masks as part of the fight against COVID-19.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any hard statistics that can highlight the improvements due to our contributions, but this initiative is the most important in recent years because it has enabled, through our communications, several economic operators in Mali to contribute in their turn to improving the living conditions of its refugees.
As I understand, the bank places a distinct focus on what it calls “Prestige Retail Banking”. What exactly constitutes this form of banking, and how does it differ from regular retail banking?
This form of retail banking consists, first of all, in recruiting target customers within a segmentation studied and well defined by the bank by its flows and its assets. Then the bank offers to these customers support and tailor-made service that no other bank offers, such as:
- The privileged treatment of transactions, a free balance sheet, suitable financial and banking solutions, attractive and competitive loans in terms of repayment terms (rate, duration, etc.);
- Top-of-the-range services to facilitate asset management with reliable digital products, cash facilities that make it possible to deal with the unexpected;
- Advantages in a network of local partners, such as bill reductions in certain restaurants, free international withdrawals from all BNP Paribas Group ATMs (automated teller machines) and partner banks all over the world.
The bank also participates in the leisure activities of customers by offering invitations to the events and shows it organizes as part of its patronage. We also offer them a luxury Prestige space, a VIP (very important person) reception and a new queue management system at the checkout level.
You recently introduced a cash register, which is dedicated to national and international transfers, and is now set up for the rapid handling of customer requests. How does this work? And how does it improve upon the bank’s previous transfer facilities?
Any transfer request received by the customer is sent directly to the cash register for support, whether it is a request received by email or by post. The counter manager then checks the additional documents received and notifies the customer’s account manager directly of the receipt of his customer’s request. If the documents are not complete, the customer can quickly update his request. If the file is admissible, it is sent to the competent service for processing. National transfers are differentiated from international transfers.
This allows the bank to handle requests quickly and also the customers to see their requests processed in reduced time. In order to facilitate the customers’ understanding of the documents and information to be provided for each type of transfer’s execution (investment abroad, purchase of goods, living expenses for children’s studies, etc.), we have deployed explicit brochures and prospectuses for this purpose, which are available at the cash register. That information is also freely accessible on our website.
The bank’s on-call Business Assistance Service sounds like an exciting new product. Can you briefly explain how it works?
BICIM has made available to our customers a specific generic mailbox and specific telephone number for the rapid handling of all their requests and their reclamations. The BICIM‘s on-call business-assistance service was created to improve customer-support-need requests as follows:
- Reduction in the processing time for customer requests;
- Identification and anticipation of customer needs (credit statements, advice, SWIFT);
- Detection and promotion of business opportunities using all the tools available;
- Customer questions received by mail or by phone are instantly supported.
Thanks to this service, we can see today a real Improvement in our customer satisfaction, in our image as a “professional” bank, and an increase in our GP (gross profit).
What is the single biggest goal you hope to achieve as CEO of BICIM during your tenure?
My single biggest goal was to change the bank. When I first arrived at BICIM as CEO, I discovered a traditional bank management that was oriented only on business. I succeeded in promoting a new vision of a bank in Mali, a bank more oriented on responsible and social values. The client is, of course, a priority but not the only one. The part of the investment into creating a good place to work has been increased to improve the comfort and security of clients and teams in our buildings.
Secondly, I launched the first art exhibition in the bank, BICIM Amie des Arts, in 2018 and 2019. I also launched the first BICIM Jazz Night in 2018 and in 2019 to promote the music of Mali with a jazz footprint. To complete this achievement, I supported all social activities to help poor people (“help to help action”, which allows teams of the bank to promote several associations for poor people) and provided many funds for associations to help in nutrition, equipment, hospital and so on.
I’m proud to say that our bank and my teams are definitively different and more responsible.
You definitely have much of which to be proud, Mr. Mezine. Thank you for your time today.