The Union National Bank (UNB-E) aims to reach a 40% growth rate in it various activities in 2019, according to the bank’s Vice Chairperson, Mohamed Nasr Abdeen.
In his interview with Daily News Egypt, Abdeen said that the bank has an ambitious plan to expand the small and medium-sized enterprises sector (SMEs), targeting multiple social segments.
He stressed that the bank is exerting continuous effort to support serious investors working in the market. The bank has also played a major role in sustaining some of the companies that excavated the Suez Canal.
And onto the interview, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What are the projects the bank will focus on funding to serve Egypt’s economy in 2019?
The (UNB-E) will expand in the SMEs sector to attract more clients to this important segment of the economy and improve training programmes and performance, stemming from the deep belief that this sector directly improves economic development. The bank also knows that these training programmes attract more clients.
The SMEs portfolio in the bank is worth EGP 1.3bn, A certain strategy was specified for the bank to fund SMEs to reach a 137% growth in 2019.
The bank offers funding solutions to various financing of SMEs segment clients and services which meet their needs with the highest quality possible. There is also a specialised administration for SMEs with efficient employees with expertise. This administration is constantly working to develop the sector and provide the best opportunities possible for small-scale investors.
The bank is continuously seeking to improve the efficiency of its employees in the SMEs sector to achieve the required growth in the bank’s portfolio for the sector, given its economic importance and ability to create jobs for the youth. It is also considered the backbone of the Egyptian economy and it plays a vital role in generating jobs.
UNB-E has previously launched several programmes to fund SMEs ,in cooperation with the Micro, small and medium enterprises development agency (MSMEDA). It has also sponsored programmes which aim to raise awareness regarding the basic steps of starting SMEs, including carrying out feasibility studies and managing the projects successfully, as well as offering advice on how to enter the market with new projects and approaching them successfully.
What about the loan portfolio of larger companies? And what are the most prominent sectors that the bank is funding?
That portfolio reached over EGP 6bn and was allocated to fund many projects in several economic sectors, most prominently, chemical materials, construction materials, petroleum, natural gas, and iron and steel.
Additionally, the bank is continuously making an effort to support serious investors who are working in the Egyptian market. It has also been the main source of guarantee letters in favour of companies that handled the excavation operations of the Suez Canal.
What are the new services that the bank is currently offering or plans to offer in the Egyptian market over the upcoming period?
The bank is keen on keeping up with the pace of the developments in the field of financial technology. Within that framework, the bank hopes to offer online banking through a new mobile application. It also provides internet banking through the bank’s website, in addition to a package of banking products such as loans for cars, education, real estate, personal loans, deposits, certificates and bills payment, making sure that these services are suitable for all client segments and that they meet their different needs.
What are the bank’s target growth rates in 2019?
The bank aims to achieve growth rates that reach up to 40% in various activities throughout the year.
What it the role your bank plays in supporting financial inclusion in Egypt?
Since the launch of Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) initiative to support financial inclusion, the bank has been taking rapid steps toward supporting the initiative and following the directives of the CBE.
We have signed a cooperation protocol with Dar Al Ma’aref to raise awareness of financial inclusion.
Generally, the bank is keen on generalising financial services of all kinds to support the Egyptian economy and its financial classifications, as well as to serve the Egyptian economy through facilitating banking transactions of all kinds, and paying attention to the low-income segments. This is in addition to teaching clients about financial products for those who are not using them, as well as helping them understand their rights and responsibilities.
The bank plays that role as an implementation of the CBE’s directives to support financial stability in the banking sector, and is strongly moving towards financial inclusion.
What’s more, during the financial inclusion week of every year, the bank expands the range of its operations to include more clients and it becomes more active in the Delta, Upper Egypt, and the Canal area, providing comprehensive consultation services based on financial needs.
How do you currently see the Egyptian economy and how do you foresee its future as well?
The Egyptian economy is based on several rules and controls. We must realise that it is taking steady steps in very difficult conditions. If we look at the situation of the Egyptian economy for over 30 years and what happened during that past period, we will witness a major leap. Undoubtedly, major projects usually have a positive strategic impact on the future and cannot be immediately seen.
At the same time, the state has been aware of the needs of the people. There are increases in incomes even though they cost the state a lot, in addition to many development projects and international relations that open doors for direct and indirect investments, thereby achieving economic development.
We are confident that the state’s attention to production and sustainable development is usually through vitals sectors, such as industry, agriculture and renewable energy, in addition to funding SMEs, as the SMEs sector is a basic pillar for generating jobs and reducing unemployment rates as well as increasing the GPD and encouraging Egyptian exports, as well as limiting imports of alternative goods.
In your opinion, what are the most prominent challenges that create obstacles for the Egyptian economy especially after a large phase of the economic programme was implemented? How can we overcome these challenges?
The challenges facing the Egyptian economy have accumulated over the years. Luckily, the political leadership is determined to find drastic solutions for these issues. Some measures that were taken to challenge the obstacles were reducing the overall deficit in the general budget, and the gradual decrease of the general and local debt.
Although the repercussions are severe, I’m optimistic, given the important developments we are seeing in the Egyptian market, such as completing major projects, which will leave a positive and ongoing impact on the economy. I must refer to the New Administrative Capital; as well as the new road network of nearly 7,000km; the Suez Canal; reclaimed lands; fish farms;, greenhouses; Sinai’s development; infrastructure projects;, elimination of slums, and more.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Egyptian economy?
Through the reports of international institutions, we can see that there are strengths in the Egyptian economy. It has achieved a noticeable advancement over the past two years.
This improvement included many fields, such as fighting corruption; improving competitiveness; human development;, supporting innovative abilities; developing information technology and communications; seeking to achieve economic freedom; preserving the rights of investors, as well as maintaining security.
The Egyptian economy still holds many attractive opportunities and we must continue to work harder to build this country.
Without a doubt, the Egyptian economy is able to overcome the obstacles it is facing and we cannot undermine its achievements so far.
It must be clarified that major development projects are the road to building a strong stable economy. These projects will provide food, energy, and residence, as well as create new urban communities instead of only the 6% that is urbanised.
We must all realise that Egypt has all success it takes, including major markets and human resources. The state and the people can only work hard to optimise the use of these resources in order to push the production process and drop economic difficulties.
In your opinion, what do we need to do to push Egypt’s economy to grow?
We are over 100 million people living in this country, and each person has expertise and experience and we are all efficient. We must learn to utilise our competencies well through hard work and doubling our production.
Moreover, borrowing from international financial institutions is normal and prevalent as long as the loans are used toward investment purposes, such as investing in major projects based on studied plans. Also, it is acceptable to borrow to support monetary reserves.
What is the role that banks can play to support the Egyptian economy and help it thrive?
The banks working in the Egyptian market are trusted by international financial bodies and government banks, and these institutions have dealt with one another before. Additionally, all banks are ready and willing to fund national projects based on the liquidity available in these banks, especially if these projects have competitive advantages and rewarding revenues.
Also, it is important to stress the importance of attracting foreign investments with technology and expertise in petrochemical projects, ship manufacturing and maintenance, and petroleum products storing and refining. They are all major projects which require major investments.
Noteworthy, the bank has already launched a campaign to encourage Egyptian remittances, specifically in the Emirates, for free, which greatly contributes toward improving the local economic situation.