It is important for us to accompany our clients when they invest or do trade outside of Bahrain.
As we know, things are changing very fast in Saudi Arabia. We need to capitalise on sudden developments.
Bahrain has an excellent relationship with Saudi Arabia on a commercial level, investment level and political level. So it is important that we can capture business between the two countries.
We have a similar situation in the UAE, where we want to capitalise on the business flows between the three countries.
Bahrain is very well perceived in the GCC.
It is important that we are also growing in the GCC.
The banking sector has many roles to play in Bahrain Economic Vision 2030, as banks are expected to finance the development of the economy. But I think there is a more comprehensive service we can provide to various sectors, and we support the small companies, which are the backbone of the economy.
Of course, we support the large projects of government corporations and their endeavours within the framework of Bahrain Economic Vision 2030. There are a lot of opportunities coming up.
Be need to be able to have the tools to address all these segments: retail, small companies, large companies and governments.
I think it is important to see that the banking market in Bahrain is small, so we need to have investment from outside Bahrain from different sources.
It could be through international banks, it could through credit agencies, it could be through investment from neighbouring countries.
All this needs to be orchestrated. And I think the role of the banks locally is to ensure that we gather all the pieces of the puzzle to support and finance this project, and do advisory roles as well.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a number of effects. One of them was digitalisation, which has accelerated our acquisition of clients and diversified our range of products. We have started our journey with a retail app.
The pandemic has enabled us to review our business model, how we address clients and how we support staff as a national bank.
We had to be close to small companies to help them to overcome the situation.
We have structured some development programmes to support staff and have helped them to gain leadership skills.
The pandemic has helped us to accelerate our environmental, social and governance (ESG) journey. I would say it is a new concept in the region, particularly in Bahrain.
The National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) was the first bank to take it extremely seriously.
Today we are the second bank in the region in terms of ESG. We have addressed all the pillars in Bahrain. We take ESG seriously, and that has been one of the consequences of the pandemic. Banks need to lead in the ESG fields, and be seen as supporting environmentally friendly financing.
I think Bahrain, as a country, is very inclusive. It is a community which has welcomed foreigners for centuries. And if you look at statistics in terms of employment of women in higher positions, for example, we rank very well. Not only in the region, even globally. So there is a natural base to ensure that ESG prospers.
I think an area where we probably need to bring more attention is on the environmental side, for clean energy.
We see other companies are turning into green financing, adopting a more comprehensive energy approach and taking into account all the requirements.
Compared to some other regions the Middle East is lagging a bit behind in terms of ESG, but they are moving fast. And I would say Bahrain is doing well.
We need to support the companies which make efforts in this area to have the best governance possible in line with international standards. So, banks have a role to play because, as banks, we finance. Any initiative we take is seen by the markets.
This is reflected, also, in the way we lend.
For example, we have started lending for solar panels, for electric cars. We include some clauses for financing in terms of the environment, and so on.
We have a role to play to drive the agenda of ESG. These are two very important directions that have been embraced by the banking community across the world, and we want to replicate that here.