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B A N K O F PA L E S T I N E

A distinguished financial institution on both local and regional levels


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Palestine’s Financial

As a leading bank in The Middle East, Bank of Palestine recognises its responsibility to promote financial inclusion, and is subsequently adopting the most agile of innovations to meet this core need Writer: Matthew Staff Project Manager: Stuart Parker

FLAG Bearers he Bank of Palestine is successfully mirroring the region in which it operates as both Company and state seek to exist with a level of vibrancy, entrepreneurship and industry befitting of a recent equality and millennial-driven evolution. As the largest financial institution in Palestine, the responsibility taken on by the Bank to encourage and instil financial inclusion in the region has ensured that the notion is part of its DNA; working towards achieving higher goals on a yearly basis, and raising the bar of financial inclusion across all segments of society through its innovative banking solutions. “The bank has taken its all-inclusive approach at financial inclusion to new heights. This is so because Palestine is still under a regime of lingering occupation that dictates a geographic reality between its different metropolis and countryside with some hindrance to accessibility and movement,” Chairman and General Manager, Hashim Shawa explains. “Therefore, it was incumbent upon the Bank to apply a dual approach of both physical and virtual connectivity to customers

via an extensive branch network and electronic mobile banking; as well as by targeting segments of the population in city centres and remote villages alike. “The Bank of Palestine has also continued to focus on financing and supporting micro, small, and medium sized enterprises (MSME), given the fact it is the engine of growth in an emerging economy like Palestine, and it contributes to reducing unemployment and increasing labour force productivity as a consequence.”

Chairman and General Manager, Hashim Shawa

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AD ICSFS Complete Suite of Business Modules 2015.pdf 1 15/06/2015 12:44:04 PM

AD ICSFS Complete Suite of Business Modules 2015.pdf 1 15/06/2015 12:44:04 PM

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CS Financial Systems Ltd. (ICSFS) provides business and technology solutions for financial institutions across the world. The Company’s success can be attributed to its turnkey offerings, including ICS BANKS® and ICS BANKS® ISLAMIC universal banking and financial software, which is a complete suite of banking business modules with varied functionalities and features addressing business needs and delivering a wide range of professional services to automate and streamline banking services. The software has been the leading and preferred banking application for the MEA region, covering the entire financial services sector, from universal, retail, wholesale, corporate, commercial banking to investment, Islamic, finance lease and microfinance banking.

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Managing Director of ICSFS, Robert Hazboun, comments: “Our Universal Banking Suite has been deployed in the Palestinian territory since 1994, and with our own regional office located in Ramallah, we cater for all our Palestinian customers’ needs and requirements.”

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According to the number of banks listed by The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), ICS BANKS banking users make 67 percent of the total Palestinian banking sector. Hazboun continues: “One of our main references in Palestine is Bank of Palestine, which is the biggest Palestinian bank. It continues to be one of our most successful partnerships, stretching back to the 2000s. Since then, we have been a pioneer in utilising Bank of Palestine with the latest technologies to provide ICSFS’ utmost banking solutions, addressing their business requirements in one integrated and open system software, providing a 360 degree view of the customer’s exposure.

“In addition to our software embedded ServiceOriented-Architecture (SOA), we are proud to say that our banking system is cloud-ready and deployed in a multi-tiered setup that runs in a Thin-Client and best-in-class database solutions.” ICSFS’ success is largely attributed to its market understanding, working closely with customers, advising them to adopt the international banking standards, while addressing their local requirements. The Company’s systems use the latest technologies which provide built-in disaster recovery, flexibility, data integrity and high performance. All modules are fully integrated, which streamlines data flow within the system, providing faster and easy-to-use software. Hazboun concludes: “Today we are banking on a smart planet, where financial institutions and banks are obliged to connect with their customers anywhere and anytime. This is exerting pressure on them to open their infrastructure and push their services to banking and non-banking customers. “This will, in turn, lead to challenges of scalability, performance, security and cost. Our banking application software ICS BANKS helps banks to transform their operational procedures to meet current and future financial industry standards through applying best practices, innovative products and services and customer centricity,” Hazboun adds. “Within the near future, ICS BANKS will announce the readiness of its first Digital Banking System.”

www.icsfs.com


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VISA ELECTRONIC PAYMENTS BRING BENEFITS TO PALESTINE While the idea of a cashless society might sound far-fetched, banks are pushing to introduce it sooner than you think. The rise of electronic payments over the last 20 years - via smartphones and debit and credit cards in particular - has enabled consumers across the globe to pay for goods and services significantly faster and more easily. But not only are remote transactions more convenient than using cash, they are proving to be important drivers of economic growth and financial inclusion, especially in developing countries. Visa has forged a productive partnership with Bank of Palestine to promote and update the country’s banking sector with market-leading initiatives to improve general awareness and access to financial services. Through this strategic partnership, digital and Point of Sale (POS) systems are now being used by an increasing number of people and businesses across Palestine.

Similarly facilitating entrepreneurial growth, enhanced living standards and ongoing business development, the Bank of Palestine’s sophisticated products, services and consultancy status has contributed towards several sectors including commerce, services, industry, agriculture, tourism and construction; while also launching services such as the Business Toolkit Website to support previously unaccounted for sub-strands including MSMEs and female entrepreneurs. “Since women are a core focus of the bank we have created banking products that meet the needs of women. The Felestineya programme offers banking products and services that meet the needs of female clients,” Shawa notes. “These products include a collateral-free loan for women in business, and a loan guaranteed by gold for women. “The Bank of Palestine (BOP) was

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Since women are a core focus of the bank we have created banking products that meet the needs of women

Aside from the obvious convenience, electronic payment solutions provide a variety of benefits for users. Visa Signature, for example, is a fully secure credit card scheme that offers flexible payment terms and rewards for usage. Premium products like this encourage spending and are particularly attractive to SMEs and governments that have regular expenses and need to collect payments. Palestine’s ecommerce Xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx industry is also set to grow as a result of the expansion in accessible platforms for cashless payments. Although we still have a long way to go before cash is obsolete, the many benefits of adopting electronic payments technology will have a transformative impact on Palestine. By Nabil Tabbara, General Manager, Levant, Visa

www.visamiddleeast.com/ smallwins Xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx


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A market-leading 66 branch network BOP, Ibtikar and the entrepreneurs

the first bank to allow women to open children’s savings accounts for their children without needing the permission of the father. The programme also offers a full nonfinancial advisory services programme. “This work has earned us the Best Global Bank Award in Financial Inclusion by the Banker Magazine of the Financial Times in December, 2016; in addition to numerous regional awards as best bank in financial inclusion in the Middle East.”

Agile innovation

Once again emphasising the ethos of financial inclusion, the bridging of advanced banking and corporate social responsibility has been the pillar of BOP’s success since its establishment in 1960; continuously evolving on a backdrop of humanity, friendliness, social promotion, customer care and inclusive banking. Overcoming numerous political and

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...the Bank has remained faithful to the core values of the founders; and as such continues to grow with global standards while remaining local at heart

societal objections and challenges along the way, its unwavering mission and vision has manifested in numerous landmark moments including its presence in the West Bank in the early 1990s, its modernisation into swift service a few years after, and the introduction of ATMs and card processing centres as well. “Despite this growth, the Bank has remained faithful to the core values of the founders; and as such continues to grow with global standards while remaining local at heart,” Shawa emphasises. “The Bank has also put itself on the path to combine agile innovation in finance and banking, with its intrinsic values geared to provide an impact on human and economic development at home and around the globe. “As of 2016, the Bank has assets above the threshold of US$4 billion compared to its asset base of US$400,000 when it started in 1960.


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This growth has provided the Bank with its leadership position in all aspects of the operations.” Compounding these statistics is a market-leading 66 branch network, a capital figure of US$195 million, 1,600 employees, 780,000 customers, confirmed institutionalisation, listing on the Palestine Exchange, and assets in the third quarter of 2016 amounting to more than US$4.2 billion. The reason behind such sustained triumph and growth has been the Bank’s ability to operate effectively in a volatile environment; being tasked with ensuring strong corporate governance and in complying with the stringent regulatory environment in which it operates in some cases. “All of this physical expansion is not enough on its own to keep growing and achieving inclusive banking services of all regions in Palestine; especially if you factor in the younger population and the advent of technology, such as 3G technology becoming available in 2017,” Shawa continues. “The Bank’s foray into financial inclusion via technology was first done with the Bank’s subsidiary, PalPay® – Palestine Payments – which was established in 2011 and which is accepting payments and mobile top-ups on POS and online; especially for the unbanked in Palestine’s hinterland.” “In an effort to also improve customer experience

New Titanium MasterCard through its partnership with Royal Jordanian

This growth has provided the Bank with its leadership position in all aspects of the operations.” Compounding these statistics is a market-leading 66 branch network, a capital figure of US$195 million, 1,600 employees, 780,000 customers, confirmed institutionalisation, listing on the Palestine Exchange,

and assets in the third quarter of 2016 amounting to more than US$4.2 billion. The reason behind such sustained triumph and growth has been the Bank’s ability to operate effectively in a volatile environment; being tasked with ensuring strong corporate governance and in complying with the stringent regulatory environment in which it operates in some cases. “All of this physical expansion is not enough on its own to keep growing and achieving inclusive banking services of all regions in Palestine; especially if you factor in the younger population and the advent of technology, such as 3G technology becoming available in 2017,” Shawa continues. “The Bank’s foray into financial inclusion via technology was first done with the Bank’s subsidiary, PalPay® – Palestine Payments – which was established in 2011 and which is accepting payments and mobile top-ups on POS and online; especially for the unbanked in Palestine’s hinterland.” “In an effort to also improve customer experience

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Madeleine - the first fisherwoman in Gaza, epitomises the kinds of enrichment that BOP strives for in Palestine

and enhance electronic banking, the Bank in 2016 signed an agreement with Royal Jordanian (RJ) airline to issue a co-branded Titanium MasterCard allowing cardholders to earn air miles with RJ every time they use the card. Additionally, Visa Electron cards were switched to Visa Debit cards; helping to further promote more plastic business and improving customer experience via more e-channels and instant digital banking services.�

Full coverage of banking services

A subsequent diversification with PalPay has cemented further mobile banking development over the past

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couple of years, again addressing more modern financial portals, and the younger generations most likely to benefit from such services. This has subsequently led to a more refined strategy honing in on sustained profit growth based around expansion, efficiency and technological advancement. Shawa explains: “With a growth in assets, it allows more expansion and market share as a result of key acquisitions. Today, the Bank of Palestine is acting as a Group with additional resources and full coverage of banking services including Islamic Banking Solutions. “


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“In terms of capital investments, 2016 was highlighted by two important strategic banking acquisition deals: the first deal was a merger deal whereby the Palestine Commercial Bank successfully merged with the Bank of Palestine in a share swap of 3:1 in favour of the BOP share; while the second deal was the acquisition of an additional 31 percent stake in the Arab Islamic Bank (AIB). This share acquisition allowed the Bank of Palestine to become a majority shareholder in an Islamic Banking operation in Palestine, holding 51.98 percent of AIB shares.” Cognisant of its duty to serve more than 7.6 million Palestinians living in the diaspora, acquisitions and partnerships such as these help to instil a sense of trust that the Bank is building for the future in a region in need of financial stability. This same ethos is applied internally too via an employment strategy built around personnel investment, knowledge sharing, life skills, wellbeing and youth development. “We are eager to enhance the internal culture ensuring that this is reflected on business and customer interfaces,” Shawa states. This philosophy fits within a wider mission of providing impeccable banking services to Palestinians at home and abroad; implemented with best international standards and engagements in tow. To achieve this, a plethora of local and international partnerships have been formed, including with the likes of ICS Financial Services, the Arab Islamic Bank, VISA, PalPay, Al-Wasata Securities, and many more; all with a view of expanding the Bank’s network, knowledge base, investment portfolio, and accessibility to innovation.

Win-win formula

From a social perspective, the focus has revolved around supporting the entrepreneur ecosystem, remaining

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Palestinian university graduates will benefit from Ibtikar funding

We compare ourselves to international peers and bring it home to local practice. We do not imitate but look up to good models and good innovators

proactive in promoting the country’s youth population, and creating tangible partnerships once again to add further clout to this mission. “For example, the Bank - along with several like-minded partners has established a $10 million Ibtikar Fund,” Shawa says. “The objective of this fund is to invest selectively in Palestinian early stage innovative

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ventures (focusing primarily in the ICT sectors) that, through active participation of the fund managers and a network of experienced mentors, lead to successful results and enables companies to grow and create returns for investors. “The effects of this fund will go beyond the hoped-for returns to investors and will positively impact the Palestinian economy and create employment opportunities for young Palestinian university graduates. “Social causes and community commitments are dear to our heart as a Bank and as individuals. To this end, we have fostered partnerships with many likeminded value-driven entities and individuals from Palestine and around the globe to help the community in education, in sports, in health, and in culture.” A 12-hour music marathon concert benefiting breast cancer awareness in Palestine, raised more than US$1 million epitomises the kind of events that the Bank of Palestine is involved in; also offering an ultimate example of its key market differentiator to work from the heart and to showcase its commitment to best practice banking. Shawa concludes: “We compare ourselves to international peers and bring it home to local practice. We do not imitate but look up to good models and good innovators. We become members in organisations that are global because of values, we take our customers seriously, we take our community seriously, and we work with our partners in a win-win formula. “That is what sets us apart and in the future we hope to be the number one bank in Palestine; not just in size but in technological innovation, in customer experience and in our ability to help grow the Palestinian economy while deeply entrenched in value banking. “We carry the national flag in our brand and name, and this is a heavy responsibility that we carry with pride every day.”

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BANK OF PALESTINE Ramallah Ain Misbah Palestine T: +970 294 6700 www.bankofpalestine.com/en

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BANK OF PALESTINE  

Bank Of Palestine Business Brochure - EME Outlook Issue 16

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