Néji Ghandri was appointed CEO of the 2nd private bank in Tunisia last August. In an interview with Africanmanager, the new CEO member of the executive board looks back on the bank’s performance for the year 2019. He also details the challenges he intends to meet, so that the bank emerges stronger after COVID-19, and gives his forecasts for 2020.
You are now CEO of AMEN BANK. What can we expect from this change for the bank? Continuity or something new?
For AMEN BANK, this change ensures continuity, but will necessarily introduce new features progressively.
Indeed, our objective will be to preserve the assets obtained, such as, for example, the achievements in the corporate segment or the developments in the Capital Market compartment.
But there will also be a new vision for the Retail segment, refocused more on the quality of banking service, increased digitalization and intelligent risk management.
With the help of the “Capgemini” and “Oliver Wyman” firms, we have developed a transformation plan, which is currently being implemented, with the introduction of the concept of a pole, the specialization of branches, regular monitoring of the Bank’s various activities using KPI’s and intelligent reporting, but also and above all the customer advisory service, to assist and support the Bank in its various projects.
It should be noted that we have already introduced investment banking and are soon planning to launch private banking.
At the same time, we are working on the creation of 6 new business centers in the near future, in addition to Mohamed V’s, which is already operational and whose contribution has been particularly appreciated by our corporate clients.
On the other hand, the Retail branches will take care of private and professional customers, but also VSEs (very small enterprises) and will ensure automated management, thanks to credit granting management processes based on scoring systems.
As we are now targeting the liberal professions in a specific way, we are currently working on the preparation of new Pack offers dedicated to this customer segment.
We also want to capture the savings of expatriates in an intelligent and innovative way, by giving them the benefit of interesting offers, not to mention new solutions to enable them to transfer money at a lower cost, via 100% digital platforms.
As you can see, we expect from this change, or rather this transformation, a diversification of the Bank’s activity and sources of income, an adequate response to customer expectations, the assurance of a better quality of services, the guarantee of a fine appreciation of risks and cost control, with a focus on digitalization.
Overall, therefore, we are going to capitalize on all the gains we have made, while seeking change to accompany regulatory and technological changes and market requirements.
We will also innovate for the company, with a “turnaround fund” that will soon be a 1st in Tunisia, offering personalized financial and business advice during the injection of funds.
We also hope that Tunisia will benefit from a political and social lull that will have a positive impact on the business climate in our country.
How do you assess the bank’s results in 2019?
There is no doubt that 2019 was a good year. We continued to rebalance the balance sheet, controlling the volume of loans, while ensuring optimal risk management.
In addition, we achieved an 8% increase in NBI, with a profit of 145 MDT, which is a real performance.
We have been able to achieve this consolidation and have reached a fairly interesting profitability, knowing that the difficulties did not start with COVID-19, but well before…
Indeed, in the summer of 2019, we had noticed the difficulty of companies to manage their activities.
It is true that the growth was timid during the year 2019 and this, despite the relevant policy carried out masterfully by the BCT.
This policy has also borne fruit, with inflation control, increased foreign exchange reserves and the stability of the dinar.
And what are your forecasts, if not at least your feelings for the year 2020?
Our main objective will be to salvage this exercise, in a difficult economic context. To do so, we will seize any opportunities that may arise, such as the one relating to the recovery of some of the outstanding debts.
Indeed, we have called on Ernest & Young to review the process for the recovery of some of our outstanding receivables.
Wouldn’t forcing collection a little, while retaining credit, risk tiring the business customer?
In fact, the collection will primarily concern the relations in litigation. For those that are in operation, we will offer them access to standby credits.
To do this, we were among the first banks to set up the “Near” digital platform, to provide all our support and all our listening 24/7, to the Enterprise customer and be, therefore, closer to this customer segment.
In this context, business centers and business managers are working on it, contacting all our customers.
They will be able to draw on the Bank’s resources, State funds, the refinancing possibility offered by the BCT for support credits, but also on our drawings on external financing lines such as those of the AfDB, the AFD and other lines.
Then, as part of the turnaround, we will first of all ensure that the company is put back on its feet, not just by injecting new funds, but through specific assistance and support in terms of strategy, organization, human resources, management control, etc. In this way, we hope to be able to allow this clientele to pursue its activities with confidence.
So 2020 will not be, as some have argued, a negative year?
Honestly, we don’t think so. Of course, 2020 will not be as profitable as 2019, but we will work to ensure that it will still be a positive year in terms of internal construction.
It is in this sense that we wanted to take advantage of the situation to reorganize the Bank, by improving its processes, its organization, not to mention the implementation of the business centers and the new formats of the retail branches.
At the same time, AMEN BANK demonstrates its commitment, with financial engineering teams within the corporate division, to support the company.
We are also going to develop the Retail axis with the pursuit of our digitalization strategy.
During this year 2020, our objective is to support the Company, while preserving the financial balance and compliance of regulatory and conventional ratios with lenders.
In addition, our transformation plan is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, which bodes well for the coming years.