PROBLEM SOLVER: MICHEL ACCAD, AL AHLI BANK
Michel Accad took over the CEO role at Al Ahli Bank Kuwait in May 2014. Global Finance met with Accad at his office in Kuwait, where he delineated his mandate at the bank and how he plans to effect it.
Global Finance: You left the Gulf Bank after 30 years and after a difficult period as a result of the financial crisis. What is your mandate here?
Michel Accad: In Gulf Bank the mandate was very clear. The bank had gone through a very traumatic time and was near bankruptcy, and it had to be put back on track.
Here the issue is slightly different because Ahli Bank did not face the same problems as many other banks in the Kuwaiti market. They have been very conservative and avoided most of the pitfalls.
GF: By “conservative” do you mean less engaged in real estate lending?
Accad: Actually there was less appetite for lending as a whole. Maybe not necessarily (just) on the real estate, but also with finance companies. Because they were conservative, they had fewer problems. But when you are conservative, (the downside is) you don’t grow as fast.
GF: There was some criticism of Ahli before you got here that loan revenues were lower than desired.
Accad: Exactly. I think that is what has happened. The good side is, it avoided the problems but at the same time they did lose market share during that whole period. Since 2007‒2008 they had been losing market share. The mandate is to put Ahli bank back on a growth path.
GF: How are you going to do that?
Accad: It is a question first, I think, of redefining your risk appetite. It doesn’t mean that you want to necessarily take more risk in everything that you do, but it means that there are certain areas where you will take a conscious decision to accept more risk.
It means that there are certain sectors, for instance, that the bank may have avoided because it has gotten not such a good experience, although it is mainly a good sector. Think of the contracting sector.
GF: So this is one way in which you are going to work your mandate?
Accad: Yes, in certain sectors (and) in certain business segments. For example we would like to work more with medium-size enterprises on the consumer bank side.
GF: Where do you see the bank in five years?
Accad: What I wish is that you would see a bank that has a larger market share than it has today.
You would see a bank that is probably more relevant and whose brand is much more acknowledged.