AM Bank S.A.L., headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, has been serving customers for nearly 40 years. Guided by the philosophy that “customer satisfaction comes first”, AM Bank can boast of solid exponential growth. The bank was formerly known as Al-Mawarid Bank S.A.L. Today, AM Bank easily claims its position as one of the most awarded banks in the Lebanese market. The bank attributes its success to not only its competitive products and services, which are targeted to customers’ changing needs, but also to the contributions of its talented and dedicated staff. AM Bank has been the first in the Lebanese market to achieve a number of milestones, such as introducing the first revolving credit card in 1995 and mobile banking app in 2011, the first reloadable prepaid card in 2012 and a program allowing youth to access capital to finance their businesses in 2014. The bank claims that how it does business is as important as what it does, and its CAN DO strategy is paying off in spades. It identifies its guiding values of honesty, integrity and customer focus as the cornerstones of its growth.
Welcome, Ms. Bou-Diab, and thank you for answering our questions today…
The bank’s mission statement reads, “We are driven by the belief that, together, WE CAN DO MORE”. To what does this specifically refer the client relationship, internal teamwork within the organisation, or both? And do you have a recent example of the bank doing more together successfully?
The Can-Do motto stems from the bank’s culture, a culture that believes in continuous thinking, continuous exploration of solutions on all levels. The Can-Do motto is a commitment that we will never reject ideas, requests or opportunities before we explore, assess and find solutions that will take the bank to new boundaries. This can-do motto is proven through our continuous innovations. We apply the Can-Do motto internally as we devise our processes, as we manage our employees and as we nurture our culture. We apply it externally as we connect with our clients, as we work with our suppliers and our partners. Can-Do is a way of thinking; it brings a positive philosophy into our work environment.
The bank also states that it is “continuously developing and improving our culture, services and products to ensure greater client satisfaction and loyalty”. Can you name a specific product and/or service that has generated a definitive improvement in customer satisfaction in recent times?
There are multiple examples on all levels. On the product level, we have launched unique products such as the Boost Account, the syndicate card, amongst many others. On the services level, we have introduced to the market delivery services, payment breaks on loans, “save the pennies” on accounts and credit cards, and many others. All product and service innovations stem from a client need that could have been received by us as an issue. At AM Bank, issues become opportunities to innovate!
How competitive do you currently consider the Lebanese banking sector to be? Is it difficult to attract new business and customers in the current environment?
The Lebanese banking sector is very competitive. There are 142 banks serving a small population of bankable customers. It is a solid sector, constantly seeking technology innovation, and the sector has the resources to do just that. On the other hand, we are affected by global competition because of the size of the Lebanese community residing outside of Lebanon. The Lebanese expats are exposed to high levels of efficiency in global markets and expect the same from Lebanese banks.
Can you provide more details about the bank’s involvement with the Financial Integrity Network (FIN)? How does the engagement with FIN provide benefit to the bank?
We believe that to ensure international standards, we must have strong international partners that keep us up-to-date on global changes at all levels. FIN is one of these partners; they are experts in mitigating global compliance risks, and they provide the bank with updates on global changes and new regulatory requirements; they help the bank stay ahead of the game in terms of compliance risk-mitigation policies and procedures, and they provide regular training to the bank’s team. This is important to us, especially as we believe in maintaining a strong compliance culture across the bank and not limiting compliance strength to the compliance department.
AM Bank recently won an award at the “Arab Digital Banking Excellence Award-2018” for the Best Banking Website. What would you say is the particular unique appeal of the bank’s website not commonly found within the sites of other banks?
Everything is linked; when you preach can-do, this means that the bank’s team are encouraged to dream; they are encouraged to do things never done before; they are encouraged to invest their passion in what they do. All limits are removed to allow them to transcend themselves through their work. People dreamed and placed themselves in the seat of the customer; they talked to customers, and they produced a simple, clean-looking, appealing website that has enabled a nice customer experience.
You recently spoke about diversity at The AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery. During your speech, you mentioned that diversity drives “the organisation’s ability to properly perform”. Can you briefly explain what you meant by this?
Learning stems from diversity! Despite the fact that learning occurs in any relationship, the fact is that we learn less from people who are identical to us. Intense learning comes from differences—different genders, different religions, different professional backgrounds. It is this diversity that will intensify learning; it is this diversity that will trigger innovation, and both these characteristics will yield through better performance on all levels.
Last year, AM Bank became the first bank in the Arab world to sign the “WUAB Charter for Gender Diversity”. What does the charter signify? And what positive impact do you anticipate after having become a signatory?
The charter for gender diversity was launched by myself in my capacity as head of women empowerment for WUAB. It stems from a strong belief that leadership for today’s organization requires women to be at the executive level, because they are powerful at creating healthy cultures and collaborative environments—both being critical success factors to manage today’s changing global environment. The bank implemented the concept of diversity many years ago; its signature on the charter only formalises this implementation.
Are you happy with the bank’s current hiring policies, especially with respect to ensuring sufficient levels of diversity within the organisation?
Very happy, because we have removed all biases from our recruiting processes and policies, and the result has been amazing! When you look at the diversity we have achieved at all levels in skills and resources, it has been astonishing.
How would you describe the everyday working culture within the bank? And what measures, if any, have you taken to ensure such a culture is cultivated and maintained on a regular basis?
A total pleasure! I can talk about the management team because I interact with them daily. There is laughter; there is love; there is harmony. There is gratitude for the culture we have, and more importantly, everyone protects it with everything they have.
Ms. Bou-Diab, it’s certainly been a pleasure talking with you today. Thank you very much for your time.