Credit Agricole Egypt is adopting a strategy reliant on sustainability and innovation, whilst giving great importance to digital services, according to the bank’s Managing Director Pierre Finas.
Finas told Daily News Egypt that digitalisation, since the emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), is no longer a luxury, but rather an urgent necessity to ensure the comfort and safety of customers.
He pointed out that the Egyptian government and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) have together made tremendous efforts from the very beginning to mitigate the impacts of the virus on Egypt.
Finas sat down with Daily News Egypt to elaborate more on the bank’s strategy and plans, particularly amid the pandemic.
Has the bank rearranged its goals and priorities after the emergence of COVID-19?
To start with, we must admit that the pandemic caused a global wave of change in many sectors, and a general trend towards digital and remote access services.
For Credit Agricole Egypt, our development strategy has not changed because it basically relies on sustainability and innovation, and gives great importance to digital services.
Indeed, our team was directed to accelerate the implementation of some plans to provide new digital services to help our customers access banking services easily and conveniently anywhere. We work through these plans to attract new customers and increase digital services’ users and online transactions.
We also focus on providing innovative solutions for financial inclusion, such as the initiative to turn club membership cards into bank cards, in line with the directives set by the CBE to digitalise banking services.
Does this mean COVID-19 has modified the way the bank works?
There is no doubt that this situation will change the way we live and work, and in turn the way we conduct banking transactions. Digitalisation is no longer a luxury, but rather an urgent necessity to ensure the comfort and safety of customers.
Consumer behaviour, whether of individuals or companies, has also changed due to social distancing rules. The current situation has boosted the demand for digital banking services across Egypt.
Credit Agricole was one of the first banks to adopt digital transformation, and that is why our customers, from the first day of the crisis, have been able to make remote payments safely, smoothly, and without any problems. As we mentioned, this crisis will also stimulate some of our digitalisation plans.
Some digital services were also developed during the crisis, such as “banki mobile”, which would reduce the waiting time for customers and concludes transactions in seconds. The bank will launch, for the first time in Egypt, a new service that allows transferring funds from accounts to mobile wallets.
Another service in the pipeline is “Digital Trade Finance”, which facilitates obtaining letters of credit and authorisation in commercial activities.
Have the bank’s digital products witnessed increased demand in the recent period?
The bank has taken all precautionary measures and to spread awareness among customers about the necessity of social distancing and ways to preserve their safety. We also provided incentives to encourage customers to use our digital channels, such as banki Mobile, banki Lite, and banki Online for individuals, and banki Business for companies.
As a result, the bank recorded 45% and 35% increase in digital transactions for companies and individuals, respectively, in April and May 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. This increase reflects the effectiveness of the bank’s digital services, as one in three customers is using digital services.
What about the bank’s role in supporting the Egyptian economy?
In light of our vision to support clients and society, we are always keen on funding major projects in all economic sectors in Egypt.
We also pay great attention to the energy sector. We have recently participated in a long-term syndicated loan of €30m for MIDOR’s electricity company Midelec. The company plans to use the funds to finance a new gas turbine.
Credit Agricole Egypt played the role of the main arranger and financing marketer, in cooperation with the National Bank of Egypt. The bank’s contribution to this syndicated loan amounts to €12m.
Meanwhile, the bank’s loan portfolio in local currency increased by 10.4% in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, compared to Q1 of 2019, with the loan-to–deposit ratio in local currency reaching 67%.
Does the bank plan to launch new products in the coming period?
Credit Agricole plans to support various sectors of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through an innovative financing solution, which is financing the supply chain, which will be offered soon.
On the other hand, the bank cooperates with the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation to provide technical and financial support to micro enterprises in Egypt.
We have also recently participated in launching the first French-Egyptian competition for start-ups in Egypt to support entrepreneurs and small companies, as well as provide development opportunities for emerging firms in the field of financial technology (FinTech).
As for geographic expansion, Credit Agricole has inaugurated two of its innovative cashless branch series “Banki Store”. These branches offer a new and unique experience with Banki Store’s top-notch banking services and one-of-a-kind design. A third branch will follow very soon.
We also continue to implement our latest new and innovative initiative to convert club membership cards into payment cards. The bank implemented that initiative in Sporting Club in Alexandria, and it is now being implemented with the Egyptian Shooting Club, to serve more than 200,000 members.
What are the initiatives the bank has launched to support pandemic-hit sectors?
We must first point out that the Egyptian government and the CBE have made tremendous efforts to mitigate the impact of the crisis since the very beginning, by taking a set of important measures to support the economy and protect companies and individuals.
Indeed, loan instalments for more than 120,000 corporate and individual clients were postponed for six months, including credit cards, in line with the CBE initiative in this regard.
The bank also launched several social initiatives to help people overcome the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. They included a cooperation protocol between the Crédit Agricole Egypt’s Foundation for Development and the Ahl Misr Foundation. According to the protocol, the bank funded the equipping of an intensive care unit, and the purchase of ventilators and an x-ray medical scanner. This aimed to support the Ministry of Health’s efforts to treat COVID-19 patients.
Credit Agricole Egypt also participated in other initiatives to protect doctors from COVID-19 infection in cooperation with Ahl Misr, as well as to support irregular workers, in cooperation with the Food Bank and the Kheir Wa Baraka Foundation.
With regard to the bank’s workers, who we consider the real capital of the bank, we have taken all necessary measures to maintain their safety since the beginning of the crisis, and to ensure the continuity of work and providing services to customers normally.