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Kuwait: NBK... 68 Years of Leadership and Growth

16.11.2020

There is no doubt that the history of National Bank of Kuwait, which was established in 1952, not only represents a unique and inspiring success story of a bank that rose to success and leadership in the banking business consolidating its position as one of the leading banks in the region today, but also documents the key historical milestones of Kuwait and how the bank contributed to achieving economic and financial independence for Kuwait even before full political independence was attained, and the instrumental role it played in supporting the national economy during critical stages of the country's history.

Today, NBK celebrates the anniversary of opening its doors to the public for the first time in 1952, as the first national bank in Kuwait and the first joint stock company in Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf region.

This year, the celebration is particularly significant as it marks the 68th anniversary of the bank’s actual operation and service provision to customers, which represents a culmination and a continuation of a success journey during which NBK transformed from a small bank that started with a ​​3-store area and a few employees using rudimentary manual work, to one of the largest, most profitable, leading and innovative banks in the entire Arabian Gulf region.

Everyone knows well the history of Kuwait’s political independence in 1960. However, most people do not know is that 1952 saw another kind of independence that is no less important than political independence, which is the economic independence of Kuwait, by launching the operations of National Bank of Kuwait as the first wholly-owned national bank in Kuwait.

 

National Bank

In 1952, a small joint stock company with a capital not exceeding one million Kuwaiti Dinar only emerged under the name of “National Bank of Kuwait Limited”, marking the beginning of a new era of economic freedom and independence for Kuwait, which was under British mandate for a long period, and declaring the independence of the region as a whole, which did not have a single national financial institution at that difficult time in its history, since before 1952, there was only one foreign bank in Kuwait, the British Bank of the Middle East in Kuwait, which was officially inaugurated in February 1942 during World War II.

Since 1949, those in charge of the British Bank in Kuwait have felt that Kuwaiti citizens are not satisfied with its activities and services, and they have also learned that some Kuwaiti merchants have thoughts and a tendency to establish their own bank.

Recently, a number of secret letters written by the British Commissioner in Kuwait to the British Foreign Office, in which he expressed his concern and fear about establishing the national bank and the attempts that were made to hinder its incorporation and continuation of its operation.

 

Incorporation Idea

The idea of establishing a Kuwaiti national bank that basically serves national interests, takes upon itself developing the Kuwaiti economy, boosting the commercial market, and preserving and growing depositors’ savings emerged for the first time in 1952.

To materialize the idea, a group including the following founders: Ahmed Saud Al-Khaled, Khalid Zaid Al-Khalid, Khaled Abdullatif Al-Hamad, Khalifa Khalid Al-Ghunaim, , Sayed Ali Sayed Sulieman Al-Rifai, Abdulaziz Hamad Al-Sager, Mohamed, Abdulmohsen Al-Khorafi, Yousef Ahmed Al-Ghanim and Yousef Abdulziz Al-Fulaij, held a meeting with the late Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who endorsed their idea and promised them support.

Under the memorandum of association of the British Bank branch in Kuwait with the government of Kuwait, it was not allowed to incorporate other banks in Kuwait, and the opinion of the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem at the time was that this does not apply to the incorporating Kuwaiti banks inside the country.

 

Amiri Decree Law

Accordingly, the incorporation of National Bank of Kuwait was permitted on 19 May 1952, by virtue of an Amiri Decree Law to this effect. On 15 November 1952, NBK started official operation as a Kuwaiti shareholding company conducting banking business.

National Bank of Kuwait is the first ever national bank in Kuwait and the Gulf, with all board members and founders from Kuwaitis who have a long-standing business activity inside and outside Kuwait.

The bank was incorporated with a capital of 13.1 million rupees, equivalent to only one million Kuwaiti Dinars, divided into 13.1 thousand shares of one thousand rupees each.

In a small building located on the new street, NBK started operation with a small number of people, not exceeding the number of fingers, and with an area not exceeding 3 stores, and at the beginning, it conducted simple and basic banking activities including LCs, currency exchange, simple bank transfers, deposits and withdrawals.

This was how the beginning was, but as time went by, NBK proved its efficiency and worthiness as a participant and supporter of the renaissance movement in Kuwait, providing all kinds of support to individuals and institutions to finance the construction of infrastructure projects in Kuwait of the 50’s, where it was the only Kuwaiti bank at that time.

 

Replacement of Currency

NBK played a key role in replacing the local currency twice, first in May 1959 when the Indian Rupee notes were replaced by new rupee notes called the Gulf rupees.

As for the second replacement, it was in April and May 1961 when the Kuwait Currency Board issued Kuwaiti Dinars instead of Gulf rupees banknotes. This replacement was a necessity for independence giving Kuwait an independent character and manifesting the country’s sovereignty over its economy and currency.

 

Financing Development

NBK is the largest major financier of all government development projects as well as the private sector. The bank also has a dominant share in trade finance and financing of foreign companies working in these projects. This represents an extension of a long record of supporting economic development and contributing to building modern Kuwait.

In the 1970s, NBK continued to finance infrastructure and development projects in modern Kuwait. These projects comprised water desalination plants, power stations, road networks, construction and development of oil fields, refineries and support services, import services, construction of hospitals and schools, and support for urban expansion in the country, thus opening vistas for the future of Kuwait.

The bank began to develop its real corporate character through development, restructuring and re-organization plans, the period which acted as the basis for NBK’s progress and booming.

 

A Safe Haven

During the 80’s, NBK went through a tough test, when the stock market crashed in the so-called "Souk A;-Manakh Crash” in 1982. However, thanks to the balanced and conservative banking methodology of adopted by NBK during this period, it was the only bank that was not adversely impacted by the crisis.

As a result, it was called "The Sole Surplus Bank". NBK also warned several times in its economic reports and publications from the risk of this crash before it occurred and impacted many institutions.

Then came the crisis of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which was a hard test for the solidity of the bank’s position, as it continued to perform its business from outside Kuwait and meet all its obligations towards its customers and banks abroad, and it also had an instrumental role in financing Kuwait's reconstruction projects.

This outstanding performance of NBK during these two crises has promoted the support and continued trust provided by the bank’s customers as well as strengthened international banks’ trust in it.

 

Continuous Development

During the 90’s and after the liberation of Kuwait, NBK played a leading and essential role in serving the Kuwaiti economy by arranging mega loans, including the loan arranged in favor of the government after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 amounting USD 5.5 billion, which is the largest loan the Arab region has ever known by that time.

It can be said that the 90’s and the end of the 20th century was the golden era of the bank, during which it showed the signs of maturity and banking prosperity and regional as well as international expansion. Today, the bank has dozens of branches in Kuwait, as well as branches and representative offices and overseas companies in New York, London, Paris, Geneva, Singapore, Vietnam, Turkey and China, in addition to Lebanon, Bahrain Jordan, Qatar, UAE, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

With the beginning of the 21st century, NBK succeeded in developing into an integrated financial market for advanced banking and financial services and for all customer segments, including individuals, companies and large institutions. It also consolidated its position as a comprehensive investment and financing bank through many deals in the Middle East region.

 

Digital Transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital banking and electronic payment methods for the future of the banking sector. This proves the success of NBK's insightful and forward-looking vision in its implementation of Digital Transformation Strategy and the development of its digital banking services over the last years, which added greater flexibility to the bank’s methodology and contributed to enriching customers’ banking experience and meeting their various banking needs.

Among all regional banks, NBK was the first to launch a digital transformation map, which contributed to consolidating its leadership in providing the latest digital banking services and electronic payment methods, as the digital culture has become part of the fabric of the bank’s system that is spread across all the group’s business units and different markets in which it operates.

In recognition of these efforts, NBK was awarded the Best Consumer Digital Bank as well as the Best in Mobile Banking in Kuwait for 2019 by the international Global Finance magazine.

 

Expansion and Diversification

Thanks to its founders, employees, customers and all stakeholders, NBK has become a leading Kuwaiti brand that crosses borders and spans 4 continents.

Although the main operations of NBK are concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa region, it seeks to preserve its international character and its presence in many countries which is best manifested in the group's international footprint comprising China, France, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and USA.

The bank’s operations also range from consumer and private banking, corporate banking, Islamic banking through the group’s subsidiary Boubyan Bank, as well as investment banking and asset management through the group’s subsidiary NBK Capital Investment Company.

The diversification of income sources, both geographically and sectorally, represents a key pillar of NBK's strategy to achieve sustainable growth, as international operations have contributed to increasing the volume of the group's business, while focusing on growth in the main markets in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in addition to continuing growth in the Kuwaiti market.

As part of the bank’s efforts to expand in the main markets in which it operates, NBK supports the activities of the wealth management company in KSA and links it to the bank’s global wealth management platform, while striving to increase commercial banking products and services to sell the group’s products and services to the bank’s customers in KSA. In Egypt, the bank aims to expand in the retail market, by focusing on enhancing customer acquisition, facilitating their transactions, and investing in digital banking services.

 

Sustainable Development

NBK has an unwavering commitment to the community to which it belongs, which made it one of the largest contributors to the development of Kuwaiti society, with contributions exceeding half a billion US Dollars over the past decades, with a rich record of social initiatives in all fields and activities.

NBK Children’s Hospital remains an icon of NBK's social contributions, as the bank continued its endeavor to develop this hospital by opening a "Stem Cell Therapy Unit" in Al-Sabah Medical Area three years ago, which is the first of its kind in Kuwait that us specialized in spinal cord transplants for children under 16 years of age free of any charge, for which the bank engaged international consultants specialized in designing children's specialized hospitals.

In appreciation of its achievements in the area of sustainable development, environmental conservation and social responsibility, NBK continues to receive international recognitions, the latest of which was the bank’s inclusion in Refinitiv AFE Low Carbon Select Index for MENA region, which was launched by Refinitiv this October in cooperation with Arab Federation of Stock Exchanges (AFE).

 

Strength and Growth

NBK enjoys a solid financial position based on a diversified and stable deposit base, strong capitalization ratios, high assets quality and comfortable liquidity levels, which reflect on the bank’s solid financial position and the continuous growth of its balance sheet as the growth of the bank’s assets reached about USD 100 billion by the end of last September, supported by the continuous growth in loan portfolio that reached USD 57.6 billion.

NBK is the largest financial institution in Kuwait and has de facto dominance in the commercial banking sector. NBK maintained the highest credit ratings among all banks in the region, from all global credit rating agencies: Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch. NBK is also distinguished by its large local and global network.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the bank has shown its ability to overcome crises and maintain its assets growth and financial strength. When the global financial crisis in 2008 proved the validity of NBK's strategic and investment choices and its ability to deal with unfavorable economic conditions, representing an example to follow at a time when a wide range of financial sector institutions in Kuwait and the region badly suffered.

 

Pride and Leadership

Skyscrapers usually cry for attention. However, in the new NBK headquarters, the bank did not aim at all to construct a building that competes as an ordinary building, but rather wanted to present an architectural icon that reflects NBK’s pride and leadership.

NBK has succeeded in providing an example for green modern architecture through its new headquarters building, which will be an inspiration for all remarkable engineering works for many years to come.

Additionally, the bank’s new headquarters represents an example of a workplace that takes into consideration all environmental and other sides, as it is a green building conforming to the standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, and all the building’s interior details make it not only a workplace but an integrated environment in which the employees feel themselves and their ability for self-realization.



Kuwait: S&P Affirms NBK’s Credit Rating at “A”

28.07.2021

S&P announced that it has affirmed National Bank of Kuwait’s (NBK) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at “A”, and cut the Outlook to “Negative”.

Affirming NBK’s credit rating proves that the bank maintains one of the highest standalone credit ratings among all regional banks, according to all international credit rating agencies.

S&P attributed cutting the bank’s outlook to the downgrade of Kuwait’s long-term sovereign credit rating to “A+” from “AA-”, and maintaining the “negative” outlook, in the absence of a long-term funding strategy due to the failure to adopt the Public Debt Law.

The affirmed credit rating reflects the bank’s high ability to meet its financial obligations, despite the implications of the pandemic on the economy and the downgrade of the country’s sovereign credit rating. It also confirms the bank’s strong franchise, diversified business model, high asset quality, solid capital base, as well as stabile funding and liquidity ratios.

NBK maintains strong capitalization, ample liquidity, as capital adequacy ratio stands at 18.2%; ahead of all regulatory requirements.

NBK also succeeded in pricing its latest bond issues at the lowest rates among conventional banks in the region, which reflects global investors’ appetite for NBK name, despite the current exceptional circumstances, and confirms the bank’s leadership and its strong credit position enabling it to attract international investors.

It is worth mentioning that National Bank of Kuwait reported a net profit of KD 160.8 million for 1H ended 30 June 2021, growing by 44.7% compared to the same period of 2020, and a net profit of KD 76.5 million for 2Q ended 30 June 2021, with a year-on-year increase of 128.8%.



Kuwait: NBK Reports 1H2021 Net Profit of KD 160.8 million

18.07.2021

The National Bank of Kuwait (“NBK”, the “Bank” or the “Group”) has announced its financial results for the six-month period ended 30 June 2021. NBK reported a net profit of KD 160.8 million (USD 534.0 million), improving by 44.7% year-on-year.

Net profit for the three-months ended 30 June 2021 reached KD 76.5 million (USD 254.0 million), a year-on-year increase of 128.8% from the comparable period in 2020.

Performance and operating highlights 1H 2021:
• Net operating income of KD 452.5 million (USD 1.5 billion), increasing by 9.2% compared to 1H 2020
• Total assets grew by 6.4% year-on-year, to KD 31.6 billion (USD 104.9 billion)
• Total loans and advances grew by 5.3% year-on-year to KD 18.5 billion (USD 61.5 billion)
• Customer deposits decreased by 0.9% year-on-year to KD 17.4 billion (USD 57.8 billion)
• Solid asset quality metrics, with NPL/gross loans ratio at 2.45% and an NPL coverage ratio of 152%
• Robust Capital Adequacy Ratio of 18.2%, comfortably in excess of regulatory requirements   

Commenting on the results, NBK Group Chairman, Nasser Al-Sayer, said:
“Macroeconomic challenges and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic continued to create headwinds in the first half of 2021. Despite this, the gradual recovery that we achieved in the first quarter continued into the second, with increased vaccine penetration and some easing of mobility and other restrictions leading to improved business confidence and activity.

We are cautiously optimistic that this trend will continue as the year progresses, which bodes well for the national economy and for the banking sector. The expansionary budget announced by the Kuwait government for 2021-2022, together with higher oil prices contributing more to state revenues, are positive for the business environment. However, the future course of the pandemic and its impact on economic activity remains uncertain and we expect return to normal levels of activity to remain gradual.”

NBK remains committed to supporting the economies where it operates including that of Kuwait, its businesses, citizens, and residents. By delivering on our social as well as economic responsibilities to the country, we are helping to build a stronger future for all. In this respect, we are more committed than ever before to integrating impactful ESG strategies across all aspects of our business.

Our headquarters relocation to a new LEED gold building has led to considerable reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and water consumption. Meanwhile, our support for the vaccination rollout, including for our own staff, is an important part of our social commitment.
The soundness of NBK’s fundamentals, our focus on efficiency, and our institutional strength as a national and regional leader are enabling us to respond effectively to the temporary challenges that we face.

We are maintaining a conservative approach to risk, and to prudent balance sheet management, and focused on continuing to drive excellence in performance against these metrics across our operating markets.”

NBK Group Chief Executive Officer, Issam J. Al Sager, commented:
“NBK’s performance in the first half demonstrated a number of strengths including solid asset growth, driven by increasing loans and advances as business volumes have begun to gradually normalize.

The Group’s net operating income grew by 9.2% year-on-year to KD 452.5 million (USD 1.5 billion). Moreover, the stability and diversity of our funding mix on the other hand proved its vitality to the Group and the trustworthiness embedded in clients towards NBK in such times.

We are seeing positive signs across sectors including buoyant demand for credit by households and a tentative acceleration in project activity in Kuwait, with about KD 2.2 billion (USD 7.3 billion) expected to be tendered in 2021.

Although the low interest rate environment continues to challenge and pressure margins, the Bank proved resilient in preserving margin levels. Moreover, our flagship digital investments, a key pillar of our strategy, continues to be on track and we are effectively managing its related costs.
 
Our strategy remains anchored in the diversity of our operations, with business various segments making strong contributions to bottom line. Our scope to increase digitalization has achieved further success in delivering efficiencies within the organization and improving the convenience and quality of our products and services to customers. We are now focused on accelerating our drive towards digital excellence as we look forward after an extended period of uncertainty. 

We are proud to report that NBK continues to receive international recognition and respected awards, including ranking first among Kuwaiti banks in The Banker magazine’s list of the Top 1,000 World Banks, and 9th in the Middle East, in June 2021.”



Kuwait: NBK Releases Its Annual Sustainability Report for 2020

03.07.2021

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) has issued its annual Sustainability Report for the year 2020 under the theme “Maintaining Course”, underscoring its leading role and institutional approach to integrate sustainability into systems for managing environment, social and governance (ESG) impacts.

In this fifth Sustainability Report, which is aligned with the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), NBK shares its key sustainability-related accomplishments for 2020 through a proactive and comprehensive response to support customers, employees and its community in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as initiatives in environment, healthcare, social contribution, education and sports.

In developing this report, NBK continued to follow a stakeholder-focused and standards-aligned approach to sustainability. Accordingly, the report was developed with consideration given to a range of global and local sustainability frameworks and drivers, including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Kuwait National Development Plan (KNDP).

NBK boasts its accomplishments over the past years towards achieving its sustainability pillars, and looks forward to continued progress in making ESG standards a basis for dialogue with customers, embedding sustainable finance in all its operations, and building sustainability as an integral part of its corporate culture.”

NBK strives to strengthen its position as a leading provider of sustainable banking services, and is committed to maintaining this approach. NBK has always defended the essential role of banking services in achieving the aspirations of individuals and companies, along with its rigorous approach in integrating ESG issues at the heart of its business.

The year 2020 has been one-of-a-kind for NBK, as COVID-19 presented a range of challenges, well-met by the coordinated efforts of NBK staff in every business unit.

NBK’s Resilience throughout COVID-19

The annual Sustainability Report highlights the bank’s response to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic across its functions and operations.

NBK’s readiness and incisive early action helped manage the emerging COVID-19-related risks.  Every department played a role in NBK rapidly implementing and scaling up digital solutions and electronic services for remote work and for security and continuity in financial services provision.  NBK’s IT team supported the transition from on-site operations to a remote access infrastructure, enabling employees to work from home and to serve customers through virtual financial transactions.  NBK also amplified customer support services to aid customers in this forced transition to mobile banking.  Further, NBK leveraged all their social media channels and brand to inform, educate, and motivate both customers and community members regarding pandemic safety measures.

Internal Governance

The report summarizes NBK’s governance structure, Board of Directors (BoD), Board Committees, governance disclosures and compliance processes.  It describes the bank’s ethical and transparent business practices, highlighting its code of conduct, commitment to human rights, prioritization of investor relations, and a range of ethical business areas that include anti-corruption, anti-fraud, and anti-money laundering. 

NBK strengthened its commitment to the highest standards of governance by initiating the process to add two new independent members to the board of directors (completed this year), enhancing the role of the Risk and Compliance Committee in surfacing and managing a wide range of risks, and emphasizing its long-standing commitment to human rights by creating and approving a new Human Rights policy.

Enhancing Business Practices and Building a Richer Customer Experience
In 2020, because in-person visits to branches decreased 44% and use of mobile banking increased 41%, NBK implemented numerous initiatives and programs to build a satisfying customer experience within that new environment, including digital transformation infrastructural changes, local delivery banking, youth programs and discounts, partnerships with popular retail outlets, and social-media-mediated education and support for customers as they navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.  Customer satisfaction remained essentially steady at 93% satisfaction despite the unprecedented changes forced by COVID-19.

Caring for People

Another key sustainability dimension reported for the previous year is the workplace, where the bank exhibits sustainable management of and engagement with its people. Some highlights this year include implementation and achievement of: dozens of leading-edge practices to support the health of employees in the midst of the pandemic; 72.7% Kuwaitization rate; 45.8% female employees’ proportion of the workforce, the highest among all regional banks; 51,924 employee training hours delivered; and the provision of NBK Clinic services to employees.

Impacting Community

NBK has a very long-standing commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen in the community, especially by giving back through contributions, awareness raising, and community engagements.

Social media was a vital tool for NBK in 2020, enabling virtual engagement with NBK’s community by achieving nearly 2 million engagements across their six major social media platforms. 

The report outlines NBK’s social initiatives ranging from healthcare to COVID-19 awareness to education and youth, including the provision of around 375 volunteering hours by staff concerning COVID-19 awareness, and training 32 youth students through “Tamakan” career readiness program for fresh Kuwaiti graduates.

Managing Environment Impacts

The report highlighted the substantial progress made in reducing environmental impacts, including energy, water, waste and resource management, headquarter relocation, and the calculation of NBK’s footprint in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Because of both COVID-19 demand reductions and moving to the new green headquarters building, the bank achieved 70% and 80% reductions in their electricity and water consumption, respectively.  NBK also both reduced paper use and recycled nearly 100 metric tons of paper, lowering their GHG emissions by 615 metric tons just from those two efforts alone.  The bank also was able to recycle over 3,600 electronic devices.

It is worth mentioning that NBK is the first banking institution in Kuwait to issue a sustainability report highlighting the bank’s social, economic and environmental initiatives and the implementation of corporate governance principles in accordance with the standards of Integrated Reporting (IR) Framework and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

The bank’s efforts in this regard over the past years were recognized by inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index and the Refinitiv AFE Low Carbon Select Index in MENA, in which NBK ranked first among regionals banks and Kuwaiti companies in terms of the index’s weight. In 2020, NBK also maintained its MSCI ESG Index rating at BBB.



Kuwait: NBK Ranks First Among Kuwaiti Banks in the Banker’s List of Top 1000 World Banks

30.06.2021

In a new testimony of its powerful brand and solid financial position, National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) ranked first among Kuwaiti banks in The Banker magazine’ list of Top 1000 World Banks, whereas it ranked 9th in the Middle East.

NBK maintained its 9th position in the Middle East rankings, despite the decrease in the number of regional banks in The Banker’s list for 2021 to 64 banks, compared to 68 banks in 2020.

The Banker’s annual ranking of Top 1000 World Banks was based on a set of criteria; basically total assets, Tier 1 capital, profitability, asset quality, return on capital and return on assets.

NBK topped the ranking at the level of Kuwait in terms of total assets and Tier 1 capital criteria, as the bank’s total assets amounted to $98 billion as of end of 2020, whereas Tier 1 capital reached $11.2 billion as of end of 2020.

Thanks to its solid financial position and strong financial results posted, NBK ranked 156th globally in The Banker’s list of Top 1000 World Banks.
The Banker magazine mentioned that the average return on assets (ROA) for the banks of the Middle banks recorded 0.87% in 2020, while the return on equity (ROE) was 7.32%, and the return on capital (ROC) reached 7.88%.

By the end of 2020, aggregate Tier 1 capital held by the world’s 1000 largest banks stood at $9.9tn, the highest total on record, and a 12.7% increase compared to the year before, it added.

The selection of NBK on this list is a testimony of its leadership at the regional and global levels, as well as its strong balance sheet and outperformance of regional banks in terms of many key financial indicators, despite the challenging conditions posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, this listing among top world banks reflects the bank’s profit quality, depending on solid metrics across all its business lines, as well as its unique geographical footprint spanning 4 continents and 15 countries worldwide.

It is worth mentioning that over the past year, and in recognition of its efforts in supporting customers and employees, NBK was one of the few banks around the world to be recognized by a number of prestigious awards in the areas of innovation in digital banking services, and also scored a high rating in customer satisfaction index.

Meanwhile, NBK continues to collectively enjoy one of the highest credit ratings among most major banks of the Middle East from the top three international credit rating agencies: Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. The Bank’s ratings are supported by its strong capitalization, prudent lending policies, disciplined approach to risk management, as well as its highly experienced and very stable management team.

The Banker is a UK-based Financial Times publication founded in 1926. It is one of the most reputable financial intelligence magazines that conducts surveys to select and recognize top performing and leading banks worldwide.
 



Kuwait: NBK Releases the Documentary “The Path Towards A Sustainable Future”

10.06.2021

Underscoring its unwavering efforts towards achieving a future of sustainable growth, National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) has released the documentary narrating the construction journey of its new headquarters, whereby NBK presented a role model of sustainable modern architecture that will become a source of inspiration for all outstanding works of engineering for many years to come.

In the 35-minute documentary, the project executives present all the details, challenges, critical moments and difficult times that the work team consisting of 2,000 workers, engineers and administrators, succeeded in transforming into successes accumulated over 21 million working hours that translated the idea into a reality and a new headquarters for the bank, and gifted Kuwait with an outstanding architectural icon.

All the details of the documentary reflect the main objective of building the new headquarters of the bank, which did not compete to be the tallest and most glamorous, but rather focused on creating a sustainable and green headquarters the bank, bringing all employees under one roof to provide them with a work environment accommodating innovation and excellence    .

With the completion of the works, the bank's new headquarters, which rises 981 feet tall divided into 63 floors, with a total area of 1.36 million sq. ft, has become one of the new landmarks of the financial district in the heart of Kuwait City.

NBK’s management is proud of the completion of the new headquarters, not because it is a high-rise and outstanding building, but because it symbolizes a long history of excellence, a present of development and leading institutional work that provides a role model for modern banking entities, and also reflecting a futuristic vision to consolidate the bank’s leadership and maintaining the course towards sustainable growth.

This edifice is one of the key achievements of NBK’s management, which accentuates its proactive and insightful vision and prudent policies, which make the bank always able to overcome any challenges and sustain growth. It is also a continuation of the sincere efforts started seven decades ago by Kuwaiti merchant families who anticipated the future by establishing a national banking entity that was always an active contributor in promoting national growth and prosperity.

The new headquarters also represents a cornerstone in NBK’s integrated strategy to achieve sustainable development, a beacon for all in the field of modern architecture, and a role model for green buildings, as the building was fully designed and implemented in line with LEED Gold requirements, the leading green buildings standards.

Over one year after the employees moved to the bank’s new headquarters, all energy and water consumption ratio and GHG emission have improved.

Additionally, in line with NBK’s belief that employees are its most valuable resource, and the key pillar for its sustainable success, the bank was keen that all the elements of the building integrate to provide them with a work environment accommodating innovation and self-realization, and to give them the privacy and all the necessary tools for development and increasing efficiency at work.

NBK’s unwavering efforts in the sustainability area over the past years were appreciated by FTSE Russell which selected the bank to be a constituent of its FTSE4Good Index Series, as the only Kuwaiti bank to be included in the prestigious sustainability index. NBK was also listed on Refinitiv AFE Low Carbon Select Index in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) launched in cooperation with the Arab Federation of Exchanges (AFE).

You can watch the full documentary on the following link:

Youtu.be/9po-f2NFXtw



Kuwait: NBK Reports Net Profit of KD 84.3 million for 1Q 2021

21.04.2021

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) has announced its financial results for the first quarter ended 31 March 2021. NBK reported a net profit of KD 84.3 million (USD 278.8 million), compared to KD 77.7 million (USD 256.9 million) for 1Q 2020, up by 8.5% year-on-year.

Total assets as of end of March 2021 grew by 1.5% year-on-year to reach KD 31.0 billion (USD 102.5 billion), whereas total loans and advances increased by 0.8% year-on-year to KD 17.9 billion (USD 59.0 billion), and total shareholders’ equity reached KD 3.3 billion (USD 10.8 billion), boosting by 6.6% year-on-year.

Commenting on the results, NBK Group Chairman, Nasser Al-Sayer, said: “During the first quarter of the year we continued to experience some of the challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic including movement restrictions and renewed closures. Despite these headwinds, NBK was able to grow its profits for the period demonstrating its resilient business model, solid financial fundamentals backed by its prudent income diversification and digital transformation strategies.”

Al-Sayer noted that the variant pace of vaccine rollout and recovery of major economies worldwide has compelled the Group to continue focusing on the conservative approach adopted since the beginning of the crisis.

Al-Sayer emphasized that the Bank is able to meet its customers’ needs and expectations by providing top-tier banking services and supporting them to overcome these exceptional circumstances through financing and advisory services; reflecting NBK’s remarkable capabilities, highly professional cadres and long-standing expertise, which always succeeded in earning and maintaining customers’ trust.

“We are fully committed to our historical and leading roles in supporting the national economy and delivering on our social responsibilities; becoming a key player in supporting community stability and stimulating business environment, and this role is best manifested during the times of crises,” added Al-Sayer.

Al-Sayer also explained that these exceptionally challenging times demonstrated NBK’s successful strategy in compliance with ESG standards considering them a key pillar for achieving sustainable growth in the future, thereby becoming a role model across the region in this regard.

Al-Sayer extended special gratitude to the bank’s employees for the dedication they showed in working during these exceptional circumstances, appreciating their strong sense of responsibility during these difficult times, which demonstrated that NBK’s human capital is the cornerstone of its success and key to achieving its future goals.

On his part, NBK Group Chief Executive Officer, Isam J. Al Sager, commented: “We are proud of reporting consistently healthy quarterly profits since the beginning of the pandemic, while maintaining a solid financial position, strong capitalization and stable asset quality metrics. This ensures a sustainable future growth and ability to meet the needs of our customers.”

In light of market conditions, we will continue to closely monitor costs, optimize operations and our balance sheet, and invest in areas where we believe the greatest short- and long-term impact can be achieved. We are focused on our digital transformation, a program that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and that has proven vital to our response to the crisis. We will maintain our conservative approach to risk, allowing us to withstand external pressures until during the gradual normalization of economic activity, which we are cautiously optimistic will take place in the course of 2021.” added Al-Sager.

 

Al-Sager noted that in light of curfews imposed in Kuwait and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bank’s digital capabilities have been a clear testimony to the remarkable technological capabilities and infrastructure built over years, which yielded top-notch digital banking services and payment solutions that were remarkably well-received by customers across all segments. We will continue to investing in our digital services, enabling the Group to maintain solid progress towards its strategic objectives.

Al-Sager pointed out that the income diversification strategy succeeded in preserving the Group’s leading position and dominant share in Kuwait,  in addition to building strong competitive edges in the key regional markets in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, leveraging the integration and completeness  of the Group’s offerings.

Al-Sager concluded by saying: “Our financial results boost our confidence in being well-positioned to be the biggest beneficiary of the gradual recovery, thanks to our comfortable liquidity, strong asset quality, and our digital excellence.”

 

Performance and operating highlights (Q1 2021):

  • Total assets grew by 1.5% year-on-year, to KD 31.0 billion (USD 102.5 billion)

  • Total loans and advances grew by 0.8% year-on-year to KD 17.9 billion (USD 59.0 billion)

  • Total shareholders’ equity reached KD 3.3 billion (USD 10.8 billion), boosting by 6.6% year-on-year

  • NPL/gross loans ratio at 1.68% and an NPL coverage ratio of 225%

  • Robust Capital Adequacy Ratio of 18.4%, comfortably in excess of regulatory requirements



Kuwait: Eid & Al Saidi join NBK Board of Directors

10.03.2021

Dr. Robert Maroun Eid and Dr. Nasser Al-Saidi were elected by National Bank of Kuwait’s Annual General Assembly (AGM) as independent members for the remainder of the membership term of the current session of the Board.

The appointment of the new independent board members is part of the bank’s compliance with corporate governance regulations issued by the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) and its amendments introduced to the formation of boards of directors and sub-committees.

Dr. Eid and Dr. Al- Saidi have outstanding academic and professional expertise based on years of experience in leading regional and international financial institutions. 

 

Dr. Robert Eid

Dr. Eid has over 40 years experience in the financial industry. He held numerous positions at the National Bank of Kuwait and the Arab National Bank (ANB) KSA, as well as other financial institutions. He held many executive positions in a number of leading financial institutions including Saudi Home Loans Company, Arab National Investment Company, MetLife AIG & ANB Cooperative Insurance Company.

He served as Managing Director and CEO of Arab National Bank - KSA from 2005 to 2021, and as Managing Director and CEO of National Bank of Kuwait (International) plc – London from 1995 to 2005.

Dr. Eid holds a PhD degree in Money and Banking from the Sorbonne University in Paris, having read Economics at the American University of Beirut.

Dr. Eid won the “World Finance” award of “Best Banker in the Middle East” for the year 2016.

 

Dr. Nasser Al-Saidi

Dr. Al-Saidi has vast experience in macroeconomics, banking, and investments. He held many executive positions at various financial institutions in several Arab countries and in Europe. He worked as a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. He was also a lecturer at the American University of Beirut and Saint Joseph University in Lebanon.

Throughout his tenure, Dr. Saidi held several key positions. He served as the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in Lebanon from 1998 to 2000 and the First Vice Governor of Banque du Liban (Central Bank of Lebanon) from 1993 to 2003.

He also was a Member of UN Committee for Development Policy (UNCDP) from 2005 to 2006, and the Chief Advisor to the Minister of Finance - UAE from 2005 to 2006 and the Chief Economists & Strategist and Head of External Relations for Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) from 2006 to 2012. He also served as the Executive Director of the Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance and Mudara Institute of Directors from 2006 to 2012.

Since 2013, Dr. Al-Saidi has served as a member of the advisory board of the Official Financial and Monetary Institutions Forum (OFMIF). He has also been a member of the Regional Advisory Group of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2009.

Al-Saidi holds a PhD and a master’s degree from the University of Rochester in USA. He also obtained a master's degree in economics from the University of London in the UK.

NBK is committed to supporting the best governance practices through setting forth a clear and sound Corporate Governance framework aimed at enhancing accountability and the evaluation processes, including the oversight over the responsibilities of members of the Board of Directors and its sub-committees in line with the best international practices to ensure consistency with the highest possible standard for ethical behavior across the bank and its subsidiaries. NBK also continuously strives to adhere to the highest levels of transparency and disclosure, in addition to its diligent efforts to achieve sustainability.



Kuwait: NBK Participates in Ring the Bell Event Promoting Empowerment of Women

09.03.2021

Celebrating International Women's Day (8 March 2021), NBK participated in Ring the Bell Event, organized by UN Women and in cooperation with the Supreme Council for Planning and Development (SCPD) and Boursa Kuwait to promote the empowerment of women in various fields.

UN Women themed this year's event “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world, in celebration of the great efforts made by women for recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

NBK participated in the event, which was held virtually represented by Mrs. Shaikha Al-Bahar, Deputy Group CEO, and Mr. Emad Al-Ablani, GM- Group Human Resources, who shed light on the bank's achievements in promoting gender diversity and inclusion as a cornerstone of the bank's system.

The event discussed ways to consolidate efforts and visions to promote the seven principles of the empowerment of women launched by UN Women and UN Global Compact. In 2021, the focus was on the third and fifth of these principles regarding guaranteeing the health, safety, and well-being of all women and men workers, and implementing enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women.

On this occasion, Al-Bahar said: “Commemorating International Women's Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on women's achievements and the progress made in achieving gender equality globally. Moreover, it encourages business leaders to act proactively to accelerate realization of this goal in the coming years.”

Al-Bahar pointed out that all organizations and institutions are required to proactively support the principle of equal opportunities in all job roles, and that career progression should be based on key criteria basically skill, experience and competence.

Al-Bahar emphasized that women leaders showed great examples in addressing the coronavirus pandemic and contributed to putting countries on the track of recovery, noting that achieving gender equality in women's leadership and representation is a global prerequisite to create an environment that promotes sustainable development and creates a positive impact on society in the long term.

Al-Bahar added that supporting women to reach their full potential has always been one of NBK’s priorities, stemming from the bank’s belief in the importance of gender diversity and inclusion as critical factors to sustain its success in the future.

“At NBK, we are proud to be one of the first private sector institutions in the region to endorse UN Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs), as we were early to adopt a more systematic approach towards gender equality, which contributed to comprehensive adoption of these principles, and also provided us with a framework to work on the overall UN Sustainable Development Goals including gender equality as one of its key pillars,” she pointed out.

Al-Bahar noted: “NBK follows a unique approach with regards to guaranteeing equal opportunities, as it ensures equal opportunities for all its employees, with no exception, with the aim to motivate them to innovate. This approach is also clearly manifested in having no salary gap between women and men employees in the bank.”

Al-Bahar indicated that gender-diverse workforce gives added value to the bank’s business, operating across 4 continents and 15 countries worldwide. We are proud that women employees represent 46% of the workforce, which is a remarkable achievement across the banking sector and the regional labor market. Moreover, the bank is keen to empower more women through mentoring and offering them career development opportunities.

Over the past years, the bank adopted many initiatives that help attract and retain female talents, in addition to helping working parents create a better work-life balance.

Social media campaigns

Participation in commemorating International Women's Day was exceptional this year, as the bank, through all its social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, intensified the posts highlighting this event, which captures global attention and follow-up.

NBK as a role model
− Women represent 46% of NBK’s total NBK employees.
− Women represent 52.4% of the national cadres holding senior management positions and above in NBK.
− NBK prides in having no salary gap between men and women employees.
− Over the past years, the bank adopted many initiatives that help attract and retain female talent.
− Helping the bank’s parent employees create a better work-life balance.
− The bank is committed to empowering more women through mentoring and providing them career development opportunities.

It is worth mentioning that in 2017, NBK Group endorsed UN Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs), which is a joint initiative between UN Women and UN Global Compact.



Kuwait: NBK’s AGM Approved Distribution of 20% Cash Dividends and 5% Bonus Shares

07.03.2021

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) held today (Saturday, 6 March 2021), its 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), at which there was a quorum of 78.4%. The AGM and EGM approved the Board of Directors’ recommendation to distribute 20% cash dividends to shareholders (equivalent to 20 fils per share) and the distribution of 5% bonus shares (5 shares for every 100 shares owned).

 

Maintaining Course

Mr. Nasser Al-Sayer, NBK Group Chairman delivered his speech at the 2020 AGM and EGM affirming that the Covid-19 pandemic’s fallout affected all global economies and companies, and Kuwait and the Middle East were no exceptions. For the GCC, the impact was especially severe in light of a record-low oil price environment, at the beginning of the crisis, followed by fluctuations, at the same time they are fighting to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Al-Sayer said: “Despite the challenging operational environment that we faced during the past year, we managed to achieve decent profits amounting KD 246.3 million, whereas operating profits stood at KD 530.9 million. These financial results for 2020 reaffirmed our resilient business model and a strong financial position, and showed continued payback of our diversification and digital transformation strategies.”

Al-Sayer pointed out that NBK’s tremendous and well-thought-out investments in developing employees and digital infrastructure over the past years have proven to be prudent. Additionally, Boubyan Bank, the Islamic arm of the Group, along with the bank’s international operations, continued to play an instrumental role in mitigating risks and diversifying sources of income.

Al-Sayer noted that NBK faced the crisis in a solid position, as the size and liquidity of the group’s balance sheet, along with healthy profitability, enabled it to continue to support customers and society. Moreover, during the year, all necessary measures were taken to enhance the strength of the bank’s financial position amidst the unstable economic conditions caused by the pandemic.

"Our ability to sustain dividend policy while maintaining our solid capital base during this uniquely challenging year is a testament to the solidity of our strategic foundations, and a reflection of the trust placed in us by our customers and shareholders," he added.

Al-Sayer explained that the Board of Directors has performed its duties in the best way, providing guidance and advice to the Executive Management to move the Group's operations forward.

Al-Sayer praised the bank’s executive management and leadership team, and all employees who made tireless efforts during working remotely to help customers weather the challenges imposed by the pandemic. He also extended his thanks to the Central Bank of Kuwait for its efforts aimed to enhance the operational environment.

On NBK’s performance of its social responsibility, Al-Sayer said: “We are proud to continue our unshakable approach laid down by the founders for nearly seven decades with regard to our social responsibilities. In this context, we made a contribution to the fund set up to support government efforts in facing coronavirus outbreak, in addition to supporting the efforts of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent by providing ventilators and mobile clinics to help their efforts to contain the pandemic."

Concluding his speech, Al-Sayer said: “Despite the difficulty of forecasting how the year 2021 will unfold, I am sure that the NBK has the strength, stability and operational resilience enabling it to face all possible scenarios and be up to the expectations of its shareholders and customers, as well as to carry on its historical role in supporting the Kuwaiti economy to recover from the impacts of this pandemic."

 

Proactive Strategy

On his part, Mr. Isam J. Al-Sager, NBK Group CEO, said in his speech: “The year 2020 was exceptional, due to the challenging operating environment resulting from the pandemic, which demonstrated the bank's resilient business model, solid financial position, and the prudence of NBK's proactive strategy for diversification of income sources and digital transformation.

Al-Sager stated: “This year was exceptionally challenging, not only due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, but also the concurrent sharp decline in oil prices and historically low interest rates. These factors combined led to a decline in the volume of banking transactions across many sectors in all the markets in which we operate. The pace of project awarding and implementation in Kuwait also saw a significant slowdown due to the challenges imposed by the pandemic, in addition to the government's cutting of investment spending due to the decline in its revenues.”

Al-Sager indicated that these circumstances impacted the bank’s operating results, as interest income was affected after re-pricing loans according to the new interest rates after the Central Bank of Kuwait cut the discount rate twice in last March to reach its lowest historical level. Additionally, fees and commission income was also affected by shutdown of economic activities as part of the precautionary measures to combat the spread of the pandemic, especially in the second and third quarters of the year.

These circumstances, Al-Sager noted, made it necessary for NBK to maintain a conservative risk management approach, by providing for prevailing uncertainty, especially that the crisis is still unfolding.

 

Exceptional policies

Al-Sager indicated that it was normal that the financial results were affected by these repercussions. However, he emphasized that the exceptional policies adopted by the executive management minimized this impact and resulted in posting financial results allowing the Board of Directors to recommend distribution of dividends to shareholders. Total assets also grew by 1.5% to reach KD 29.7 billion, whereas loan portfolio grew by 5.7% to reach KD 17.5 billion, and customer deposits increased by 7.4%, to reach KD 17.1 billion.

Al-Sager continued: “Our profitability, solid financial position and sustained growth of our balance sheets, despite the unprecedented challenges, demonstrate the success of the initiatives and policies we were quick to adopt in order to minimize the impact of the crisis, which focused on enabling our customers to make all their banking transactions without being affected by the lockdown measures, depending on our various digital channels and advanced payment solutions."

Al-Sager said, "We followed a cost control strategy aimed to strike a balance between implementing stringent cost-cutting measures and continuing to inject the necessary investments to achieve our strategic goals."

“We were keen on completing our investments and implementing the digital transformation roadmap, and all our digital initiatives that proved to be very successful in light of our customers’ reliance on our digital channels for 85% of their transactions during the year. Our tremendous digital capabilities were instrumental to ensure smooth flow of our operations, which enabled us to continue making progress in most of our strategic goals," he added.

 

Well-positioned for recovery

Al-Sager mentioned that, in line with its policy aimed at diversifying the financing base, enhancing capital adequacy ratios, and benefiting from low interest rates, NBK issued subordinated Tier 2 bonds; one KD-denominated worth KD150 million, and another USD-denominated worth USD 300 million, and succeeded in obtaining one of the lowest pricing compared to peer GCC issuances. These issuances saw a remarkable demand from fixed-income investors, reflecting the bank’s creditworthiness and internationally leading position.

Al-Sager noted that throughout the year, the executive management placed the safety of customers and employees at the top of its priorities. To this end, it strived to enable customers to make all their transactions remotely, and to apply all precautionary measures at the branches, as well as maintaining a safe working environment to protect employees’ health and safety.

Regarding the outlook for 2021, Al-Sager said: “We believe that our diversification and digital transformation strategies, along with our solid financial position and leading franchise, and the policies and initiatives accomplished over the past year, make us better positioned for a gradual recovery in light of the accelerated vaccination drive and improving oil prices, and that we will be the biggest beneficiaries from the emerging opportunities as we proceed towards recovery in all the markets in which we operate. "

Al-Sager concluded his speech by thanking the members of the Board of Directors for their prudent advice and guidance. He also thanked the Group’s employees for their dedication in performing their job duties during these exceptional circumstances, regardless of their positions, as well as the bank’s customers inside and outside Kuwait, stressing that the bank always aspires to provide top-notch banking products and services in a way that meets all their expectations.

 

Solid foundations

On the sidelines of the AGM, Ms. Shaikha Al Bahar, NBK Group Deputy GCEO, said: “The year 2020 was one of the most challenging years for global economies since long generations, as the rapid spread of the pandemic forced countries to shutdown major parts of their economies to protect their citizens, which led to the worst economic downturn in decades.

Al-Bahar added: “While we could not predict the nature or extent of this crisis, we were fully prepared and well-positioned to provide the support needed by our customers and employees, thanks to our solid foundations in the operational and financial sides, and our continuous efforts over the years to build a solid capital base and focusing on our asset quality, minimizing risks, and enhancing the operational resilience needed to withstand potential economic shocks.”.

Al-Bahar indicated that the record low interest rate environment had an impact on net interest income. However, this was offset by the decent growth in the loan portfolio and prudent cost control, and despite the increased provisioning and the pressure on the bank’s revenues from some sectors, NBK outperformed other regionals banks in terms of key financial indicators, and at the same time, maintained strong capitalization levels, with a capital adequacy ratio of 18.4%, and healthy asset quality levels, as non-performing loans ratio stabilized at 1.72% and loan loss coverage ratio stood at 220%.

 

Digital investments

Al-Bahar continued: “Our geographical footprint and access to markets with great growth potentials are unique factors that give us an edge over our competitors, as our international operations continue to play a vital role in mitigating risks and increasing the diversification of income sources, whereas the growth in Islamic banking through Boubyan Bank, the group’s Islamic arm, remains a key element of our diversification strategy, as the operating income from NBK’s international operations reached KD 206.1 million, which is robust in view of the prevailing circumstances, contributing to 24% of the group’s total operating income.

On the digital transformation front, Al Bahar said: “Despite the impacts of the pandemic, it offered us opportunities to accelerate the implementation of our digital transformation roadmap, which will help us take decisive steps to move forward with our comprehensive and sustainable digital transformation agenda. Throughout its long history, NBK does not hesitate to seize opportunities to consolidate its leading position and meet its aspirations that transcend geographical barriers.”

Al-Bahar emphasized that NBK's digital investments paid off during the crisis, as the bank's digital channels played a key role in customer service, since digital transactions increased to record levels, a trend that continues even after returning to normal levels of economic activities, especially as we continue to introduce continuous enhancements to NBK Mobile Banking App and develop branches to integrate with digital channels with the aim of enriching customer experience

Al-Bahar explained that over the past year, and in recognition of NBK's efforts in supporting customers and employees, the bank was one of the few banks around the world to be recognized by receiving a number of prestigious awards in the areas of innovation in digital banking services from Global Finance magazine, noting that the bank also scored a high rating in customer satisfaction index.

 

International expansion

Speaking about the outlook, Al Bahar said: “As we navigate into 2021, we will continue to focus efforts on leveraging the size and strength of our balance sheet to support our customers. In addition, having a combination of professional human cadres and advanced digital technology will remain a key factor for our success, as this will support the creation of distinguished propositions and solutions that attract new customers, and strengthen the relationships with existing customers."

Al-Bahar continued, saying: “We will continue to give priority to a disciplined focus on managing cost to remain financially and strategically flexible, and we will align our business with our endeavors to create added value for our customers by empowering them and enriching their banking experience. We will continue to simplify and digitize their interactions with us to save time, provide convenience and added value. We will also provide AI-based solutions and enhance the analysis of data and core digital systems to identify and meet their needs and provide them with new and outstanding solutions.”

On the international markets level, Al-Bahar mentioned that the bank will continue its efforts to expand in the retail and wholesale sectors in the Egyptian market by investing in digital banking services and focusing on increasing new customers acquisition and simplifying their transactions. On the other hand, the bank will seek to expand its regional wealth management footprint, by enhancing its wealth management proposition (Watani Wealth Management Company) and linking it to the group's global wealth management platform, as well as increasing commercial banking offers in the Saudi market to gradually boost its presence in the Kingdom and increase this market’s contribution to the group’s bottom line.

 

Positive signs

Al-Bahar stated: "Over the past few months, we have witnessed positive signs and indicators that give us optimism, and we are confident that our strategy will continue to achieve better returns for our shareholders across all of our key markets in the future. We stress that the executive management has a clear mission and an unwavering focus on preserving the bank’s leadership, and this mission is supported by key principles represented in putting customers first, investing in our people and digital infrastructure, and benefiting from our broad geographical footprint, and we are confident that the implementation of this mission will help us sustain stable returns for our shareholders on the long term.”

Al-Bahar concluded: "We are proud of the role we played since the very beginning of the crisis in supporting our country and government’s efforts to curb the spread of this pandemic, and we will certainly be there to support the recovery of our national economy from this crisis."

 

Operational resilience

Meanwhile, Mr. Salah Al-Fulaij, CEO of NBK-Kuwait, announced after the meeting: “The operating environment was exceptionally challenging, as Kuwait was one of the first and most keen countries to impose lockdown measures. This coincided with the slow pace of project implementation, low interest rates and the failure to approve the public debt law and guarantee financing for SMEs, which affected the business sector, as the IMF expected the economy to contract by 8.1% in 2020.

Al-Fulaij pointed out that these challenges demonstrated the bank's resilient business model, which as reflected in the asset growth trends mainly driven by the growth of loan portfolio by 5.7% year-on-year, with the continued support of the Kuwaiti demographics for strong growth trends in consumer lending, in addition to the bank's leading position in financing government, oil and private sectors’ institutions.

Al-Fulaij said: “Our crisis management focused on key pivots that aimed to continue focusing on digital initiatives and developing our digital channels to ensure uninterrupted services, consolidate our digital excellence, and provide the required support to our retail and corporate customers during the crisis, in addition to maintaining the safety of our customers and employees.”

Speaking on digital initiatives, Al-Fulaij said: “We launched advanced payment solutions for the first time in Kuwait at the beginning of the year, and we were the first to launch Samsung Pay in the third quarter. We also continued to invest in enhancing our digital channels, basically NBK Mobile Banking App, to which we added 22 updates. This was reflected in a 38% increase in the number of users and 51% in the number of transactions made using the app. At the end of the year, we opened our new branch at The Avenues Mall, unfolding NBK’s futuristic approach to branches, as part of our digital transformation strategy.

The bank’s digital excellence was recognized by naming it Best Consumer Digital Bank in Kuwait and the Middle East from Global Finance magazine.

 

Local dominance

Al-Fulaij continued: “We defended our market share and maintained our leadership as the largest financier of government projects and the house bank for Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and its subsidiaries. We succeeded in leading the banking sector to conclude a financing facility agreement worth KD 1 billion in favor of KPC. We also preserved our dominant share in financing foreign companies operating in Kuwait and cemented our relationships with most of these companies. Additionally, we signed a memorandum of understanding with Italian Export Credit Agency (SACE) to support and finance Italian companies operating in Kuwait. We were also keen to continue investing in developing innovative banking and treasury solutions and foreign exchange services to live up to international standards.”

These efforts were recognized by winning the awards of Best Private Bank in Kuwait, Best Foreign Exchange Provider in the Middle East, and Best Trade Finance Bank in Kuwait from Global Finance magazine, Al-Fulaij pointed out.

 

Customer support

Regarding the bank's role in supporting customers, Al-Fulaij indciated that NBK and the banking sector launched exceptional initiatives to mitigate the impact of the crisis including a deferral program for the installments of all consumer loans and credit card for six months, without any resulting interest or fees, as well as deferring the installments of SMEs loans and stopping collection of fees on POS terminals and digital channels for three months. The bank also provided soft loans to its corporate and SMEs customers.

Al-Fulaij affirmed that NBK was committed to enable customers make all their transactions, saying: “We launched the mobile branch initiative, and reached our customers in quarantined areas during the full lockdown by providing mobile ATMs. And as part of our endeavors to serve all our customer segments, we opened our new branch at the headquarters of Kuwait Boursa, and were closer to our customers through our digital channels and social media platforms, which reached 1.7 million followers.”

These customer support efforts were recognized as NBK was named Best Retail Bank in Customer Service in Kuwait, according to Service Hero Index.

Al-Fulaij highlighted that the bank’s employees received full support during these exceptional circumstances, and a series of questionnaires were conducted about employees’ awareness and confidence in the measures taken by the bank during these times. This helped create new programs and resources to support them, with a strong focus on their health and safety.

Furthermore, in order to protect our people, Al-Fulaij indicated that the bank has taken all necessary actions to keep them safe, and has not stopped to provide them with training by re-designing all training courses according to virtual reality technology, as the bank organized 71 training programs and workshops that were attended by 1137 participants, and 2,625 employees received mandatory training courses, which are unprecedented levels NBK succeeded to achieve, despite the exceptional circumstances.

 

NBK’s leadership

Al-Fulaij pointed out that while the bank strives to weather the continuing crisis, it is looking forward to the future and focusing on preserving NBK’s leadership and its dominant market share in Kuwait by continuing to implement its digital transformation roadmap that supports the achievement of all the bank’s strategic objectives, basically acquisition of more customers from the youth segment.

“We aim to maintain our leadership in financing development projects, support and finance expansion of the oil and private sector projects. We also seek to continue our strategy aiming to penetrate the medium-sized companies market to increase and diversify our corporate customer base. We are also looking forward to complete the strategy of creating integration between branches and digital services, as opening the Avenues branch was just the beginning of unveiling this strategy,” he added.

 

Thanks and appreciation..

At the end of his speech, Mr. Nasser Al-Sayer, on behalf of all Board members and the Executive Management team, extended thanks to HH Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, and HH Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Crown Prince, for their continued support for the stability and growth of the Kuwaiti economy. He also thanked the Central Bank of Kuwait and the Capital Markets Authority for their efforts to make Kuwait a more attractive investment destination.

In addition, Al-Sayer thanked the shareholders for their trust in National Bank of Kuwait, and also expressed his special gratitude to the bank’s customers in Kuwait and throughout the region and the whole world for their loyalty and continuous support.

Al-Sayer also thanked the Group's Board of Directors for their prudent advice and leadership. He also expressed his appreciation for the relentless efforts of the Executive Management of the National Bank of Kuwait and their constant endeavors to sustain the bank’s progress, and accentuated the instrumental role of the bank’s employees to gain the confidence placed by customers and shareholders in the bank.

 

Dividend distribution date

Cash dividends and bonus shares will be distributed as of Tuesday dated 30.03.2021, for the shareholders registered in the bank’s shareholders’ records as at the end of the due date set to Thursday dated 25.03.2021.

 

Eid and Saidi elected as independent board members

The General Assembly elected Dr. Robert Maroun Eid and Dr. Nasser Amin Saidi as independent members for the remainder of the membership term for the current session of the board, in compliance with corporate governance regulations issued by the regulatory authorities.

Dr. Robert Eid

Dr. Eid has over 40 years experience in the financial industry. He held numerous positions at the National Bank of Kuwait and the Arab National Bank (ANB) KSA, as well as other financial institutions. He held many executive positions in a number of leading financial institutions including Saudi Home Loans Company, Arab National Investment Company, MetLife AIG & ANB Cooperative Insurance Company.

He served as Managing Director and CEO of Arab National Bank - KSA from 2005 to 2021, and as Managing Director and CEO of National Bank of Kuwait (International) plc – London from 1995 to 2005.

Dr. Eid holds a PhD degree in Money and Banking from the Sorbonne University in Paris, having read Economics at the American University of Beirut.

Dr. Eid won the “World Finance” award of “Best Banker in the Middle East” for the year 2016.

Dr. Nasser Al-Saidi

Dr. Al-Saidi has vast experience in macroeconomics, banking, and investments. He held many executive positions at various financial institutions in several Arab countries and in Europe. He worked as a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. He was also a lecturer at the American University of Beirut and Saint Joseph University in Lebanon.

Throughout his tenure, Dr. Saidi held several key positions. He served as the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in Lebanon from 1998 to 2000 and the First Vice Governor of Banque du Liban (Central Bank of Lebanon) from 1993 to 2003.

He also was a Member of UN Committee for Development Policy (UNCDP) from 2005 to 2006, and the Chief Advisor to the Minister of Finance - UAE from 2005 to 2006 and the Chief Economists & Strategist and Head of External Relations for Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) from 2006 to 2012. He also served as the Executive Director of the Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance and Mudara Institute of Directors from 2006 to 2012.

Since 2013, Dr. Al-Saidi has served as a member of the advisory board of the Official Financial and Monetary Institutions Forum (OFMIF). He has also been a member of the Regional Advisory Group of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2009.

Al-Saidi holds a PhD and a master’s degree from the University of Rochester in USA. He also obtained a master's degree in economics from the University of London in the UK.



Kuwait: NBK Reports 2020 Net Profit of KD 246.3 million

27.01.2021

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) posted a net profit of KD 246.3 million (USD 812.3 million) for the year ended 31 December 2020, compared to KD 401.3 million (USD 1.3 billion) for the same period last year; dropping by 38.6% year-on-year.

As of end of December 2020, NBK’s total assets grew by 1.5% on annual basis, to reach KD 29.7 billion (USD 98.0 billion), while customer loans and advances grew by 5.7% compared to the same period last year, to reach KD 17.5 billion (USD 57.7 billion) while customers’ deposits grew by 7.4% to reach KD 17.1 billion (USD 56.4 billion).

NBK’s Board of Directors has proposed the distribution of a cash dividend of 20 fils per share, representing 55.6% of net profit, in addition to 5% bonus shares (5 shares for every 100 shares). The cash dividend and bonus shares, if approved by the shareholders’ general assembly, shall be payable to the shareholders after obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals. Earnings per share (EPS) stood at 32 fils, as compared to 57 fils in 2019, while shareholders’ equity stood at KD 3.2 billion (USD 10.5 billion)

Commenting on the Bank’s results, Mr. Nasser Al-Sayer, The Chairman of the Board of Directors of National Bank of Kuwait, said: “In a profoundly challenging year, NBK performed well and we are pleased with the results achieved by the Group in light of exceptionally challenging operating conditions.

This demonstrates the strength and resilience of our business model, the positive impact of our digital strategy and the dedication of our employees in performing their duties in such critical times.”

“The year 2020 was characterized by unprecedented challenges combined with a high level of uncertainty. NBK held up well in the face of extraordinary market conditions and clearly demonstrated its governance and prudent risk management. Furthermore, NBK reaffirmed its solid financial position alongside its commitment to supporting clients and the communities in which it operates.”

“Besides the growth in Islamic banking through our subsidiary, Boubyan Bank, remaining an important driver for earnings diversification, our international operations proved to play a vital role in mitigating risks and further diversifying our income streams.”

Al Sayer added: “The solid profits of the Bank and its strong capital base provided enough flexibility allowing for a sustained dividend policy despite the operational challenges. Throughout the year 2020, NBK boosted its capital levels by issuing KD subordinated Tier 2 bonds along with USD Tier 2 notes. The issuances being oversubscribed by 1.5x and 3.6x respectively were a testament to NBK’s strong credit profile.”

“Today, our main focus is to strength our operations in our international markets, leveraging the loyalty of our customers, while building a digitally driven culture to be fully prepared for the future.”

“Looking ahead, and although uncertainty continues to dominate the global macro scene, NBK is very well-prepared and positioned for different recovery scenarios, thanks to our flexible operational model and strong financial position.”

Al-Sayer concluded by extending his sincere appreciation to NBK employees for their devotion and commitment in supporting the bank’s customers with all their financial needs during these challenging times.
On his part, Mr. Isam Al-Sager, NBK Group CEO said: “Our 2020 profits is testimony to our dynamic business model and strategy, as well as our ability to adapt promptly to the adverse operating conditions that the pandemic imposed on us.”

Al-Sager highlighted that “the Bank has delivered good performance in 2020 considering the unprecedented operating environment that prevailed following the outbreak of COVID 19, along with the drop in oil prices and low interest rates.”

“The partial and full lockdown of activities that was introduced to limit the spread of the virus weighed heavily on businesses leading to a drop in transaction volumes. Our profitability was also negatively impacted by an increase in provisions that is mostly precautionary in nature as we maintain a conservative approach to risk”, Al-Sager pointed.

Al-Sager also highlighted that looking ahead, “The Group is moving rapidly to enhance fees and commission income streams and will stringently monitor costs, and this discipline has already enabled us to maintain operating expenses at an appropriate level. Moreover, NBK’s regional focus will be to grow organically in key markets, in particular Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where in the case of the former both the retail and wholesale markets offer compelling opportunities, while in KSA the Group’s wealth management proposition has strong momentum.”

Concluding his statements, Al-Sager said: “As we turn our attention to 2021, we have good reason to be confident in our future. We have created a strong position for ourselves through the strategic investments in our employees, operations and digital platforms”. In parallel, supported by a strong balance sheet, healthy asset quality and comfortable liquidity levels, we will be able to withstand the current crisis, and continue to deliver on our commitment towards all our stakeholders and returning to profitable growth”.