Magazine article Global Finance

Shock Absorbent: Freddie Baz, Bank Audi

Magazine article Global Finance

Shock Absorbent: Freddie Baz, Bank Audi

Article excerpt

Doing business in Egypt and Turkey is not for the fainthearted. Bank Audi's vice chairman and group strategy director says success in these markets is about being able to absorb short-term shocks.

Global Finance: Is the return to domestic political stability having a positive impact on the Lebanese economy?

Freddie Baz: Political changes have started to sink into the collective subconscious. Consumption and investment decisions are picking up. Since the beginning of 2017, we have witnessed increases in the number of daily transactions over our counters, which is highly correlated with GDP growth.

GF What types of products or services have strong prospects for growth in Lebanese banking?

Baz: Nothing will change in terms of our universal banking offering. We will probably have a more focused approach on retail and on small and midsize companies-with higher amounts of capital allocated-because this is where organic asset growth will be in the coming years. That said, we will also maintain and reinforce our existing relationships with the corporate and commercial sector. We are preparing ourselves to grab primarily whatever opportunities arise there.

At the same time, we are heavily investing in information and communication technologies. We are engaged at a group level in a $200 million IT restructuring plan. It is essential to support growth and to abide by the market's new requirements-not only to provide the customer with greater flexibility for additional acquisitions, but also for better compliance, risk governance and financial reporting.

GF: Where are the best prospects for regional growth and expansion?

Baz: Today we are in "wait-and-see" mode, but we want to become one of the leading regional players. To do that, we must ensure, at a certain point in time, a footprint in at least three markets: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. …

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