Magazine article Global Finance

Managing amid Uncertainty: Hashim Shawa, Bank of Palestine

Magazine article Global Finance

Managing amid Uncertainty: Hashim Shawa, Bank of Palestine

Article excerpt

Global Finance: Can you give readers a sense of what it is like to run a bank in the Palestinian territories, and how Bank of Palestine (BoP) has weathered political storms?

Hashim Shawa: Palestine has its own unique set of challenges, given the occupation and the economic constraints that result from it. As a 56-year-old bank, we are accustomed to dealing with challenges and remain responsive to our castomers, shareholders and community responsibilities. The Palestinian people do not like to default and are always eager to pay their debts. This enabled the bank in 2015 to have a low nonperforming loan ratio of 1.7%.

GF: Has the economic situation in the West Bank improved?

Shawa: For the economic situation to improve we need a political horizon. The occupation has to end, and economic resources of the land and people have to be liberated. You wonder somerimes, how can the Palestinian people and small businesses that constitute 90% of the economy survive, sustain their business and meet their commitments? The answer is resilience, their pride and dignity and love of their land.

GF: How has the bank grown In terms of assets, deposits, loans and your branch network?

Shawa: We have grown our branch network to 60 branches and launched a campaign to offer $200 million in loans to micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs). Palestine is underbanked, with 258 branches for 4.7 million people. Most of these MSMEs-almost 60%-do not have bank accounts or financial statements. We have started, in partnership with the IFC, a mini-MBA program for women entrepreneurs offering them training in financial skills, marketing and businessrelated skills.

The bank's loan portfolio was $1.38 billion in 2015, an increase of 20.6%, compared to last year's. Deposits stood at $2.24 billion at the end of 2015, giving the bank a healthy loan-to-deposit ratio. …

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