How would you characterize the potential of the banking industry in the Kurdistan Region and how does İş Bank’s long-term vision fit into the future of the sector?
Overall, Iraq’s banking sector is still underdeveloped. Past and current perceived political instability has translated to the country’s banks being relatively isolated from the international financial system. As such, banks within Iraq and the Kurdistan Region tend to operate on a limited, local level, and capital accumulation in the country and Region has been limited. However, this is changing with the entrance of foreign banks like ourselves, as well as the expansion of local banks in the Region. Capital is returning to the Region, and financial infrastructure is being developed. İş Bank has major advantages in entering the Region, in that we are based in Turkey and therefore nearby. We understand the business practices in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the broader Middle East, and moreover, we bring expertise that will benefit the Iraqi and Kurdish banking sector. We predict that conditions in Iraq and the Region will continuously improve, and that growth will continue on track. As such, we are excited to become one of Iraq’s most vital financial institutions.
What strengths does İş Bank bring to the local banking sector?
As the Iraqi financial system is relatively isolated, İş Bank is unique in that it is able to bring an international network of services to multinational and domestic businesses and individuals. İş Bank provides a broad range of services, drawing on cutting edge financial technologies. We are constantly innovating, as well as increasing the breadth of services we offer.
What specific services does İş Bank offer to its clients? What demands have you seen from corporate clients, and to what extent is İş Bank well suited to meet those demands?
We offer a broad range of services to our clients. Perhaps most in-demand in the Kurdistan Region is our personal debit card service, which is unique in the Region. Also in personal banking, we will offer online banking to clients in the Region soon. Underpinning all of our services is our efficient and high-quality customer service, which abides by worldwide standards. For our commercial clients, we offer foreign trade transactions, cash and non-cash loan transactions, as well as international financial transfer services, using our global financial network.
How competitive is the banking industry in the Kurdistan Region, and what kind of trends have you been witnessing in banking sector?
At this point, the sector is not very competitive—there is still plenty of room for expansion and entrance of new banks. That said, we are certainly witnessing a rapid increase in the number of banks coming to the Kurdistan Region. Given its quick economic development, we are aware that the Region is garnering more and more interest from major international banks, and we are aware that competition will increase. However, more major international banks in the Region will lift the banking standards in the Region broadly—overall, the transition to a more competitive and globalized banking sector is good for the economy as a whole.
What are İş Bank’s goals in the Kurdistan Region for 2014 and beyond? Does İş Bank have any plans for expansion in the Kurdistan Region?
In March of 2014 we opened a branch in Baghdad, and we plan to open a branch in Dohuk by the end of the year. Beyond this expansion in capacity and reach, our strategy is to increase the volume and efficiency of our services in international transactions and intermediation, for both our local and multinational clients.