What specific services does BankMed offer to its clients in the Kurdistan Region?
We provide both retail and commercial activities to our customer base. On the retail side, we offer the choice between a variety of payment cards with distinctive features and personal loans characterized by fast approval and competitive interest rates. On the commercial side, we offer high quality trade-finance services including foreign exchange, letters of credit, letters of guarantees (LGs), and documentary credit. The bank also provides for corporate commercial lending and our Financial Institution Division offers international clients, through their respective banks, the issuance of all types of LGs in order to bid on and, hopefully, execute projects in both Iraq and the Region.

To what extent is BankMed well suited to meet the needs of the business market here in the Kurdistan Region?
With its continuous introduction of unique retail products, its dedicated international banking corporate entity, its commercial and brokerage services, its state-of-the-art technology, and its distinctive customer-oriented culture, BankMed Iraq has been able to successfully cater to and meet the requirements of individuals and corporations in the business market. In addition, BankMed Iraq is also backed by one of the strongest banks in Lebanon. Last year was our first year of operation in Iraq, and I am confident that we will constantly upgrade and enhance our capabilities (specifically in terms of technology and human resources) to further capitalize on the great potential of the Iraqi economy and the Kurdistan Region in particular.

How would you describe the current state of the banking sector in the Region?
The banking sector in the Kurdistan Region is still under-banked, and therefore offers significant investment opportunities for interested parties. Corporate banking activities are expanding as a result of two elements: the presence of a greater number of banks and the increasing number of both Public and Private sector projects. Furthermore, Iraqi regulators are enforcing new banking regulations to instill confidence in the sector. The current reforms that are being implemented will help to support banks and other financial institutions, and encourage them to invest in the immense opportunities here.

How competitive is the banking industry in the Kurdistan Region?
The Region is home to over 14 state-owned banks and more than 30 private ones; clearly, the marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive. Therefore, banks will need to implement new systems and offer unique products in order to be differentiated from their rivals. Although personal banking remains in its infancy, banks are looking to expand beyond trade finance. As a result, we are witnessing the introduction of new retail products and specific services tailor-made to the individual needs of the customers.

Where do you see the main opportunities for the banking sector?
Many opportunities in Commercial Banking and Capital Markets exist in both the Iraqi and Kurdistan Markets. Commercial banking business varies from the traditional Trade Finance to the more sophisticated Project Finance transactions. As a result, a number of multinational companies are pursuing project financing in Iraq. Since the deals from such companies are growing in terms of both number and size, banks will continue to see plenty of incentives from such projects. So, overall, the potential growth is very attractive.

What level of growth does BankMed project in 2014?
We are looking for significant growth in our business lines. We believe this will be achieved by introducing more sophisticated retail products to further expand our client base. BankMed Iraq will also seek to take advantage of new innovations and technologies in order to better serve our customers. We have achieved remarkable growth in our business thus far and, with further expansion, expect that progress to continue unabated.